Wellingborough, Nov 2018
I have to hand it to Trapp’d – most companies wouldn’t even think of attempting to build an escape room set in an underwater city. If the result falls short of being properly convincing, they still get points for trying. From one perspective their undersea city is a bit bare and small; the imagination runs away with what they could have done and the reality falls short by comparison. On the other hand, by any reasonable standard the set is pretty gorgeous, combining two distinct styles each well-realised and with a clever transition between. I really like the way that Trapp’d sometimes have layouts where you can see areas that you can’t yet access, building anticipation and giving more of an emotional pay-off when you finally get through.
This game has you discovering long-lost Atlantis at the bottom of the ocean – just in time too, since Poseidon is about to wrathfully destroy England with a tsunami unless you can find a certain object. This backstory is long even by the standards of Trapp’d games, but is worth reading through beforehand because the game makes more sense that way, and because they’ve put a nice in-character spin on the hint system.
I’ve had a good time in most of the Trapp’d games I’ve tried, but it sometimes feels like their puzzle design adds little speedbumps and friction points that make the rooms harder to enjoy. Instances include one where the specific example used to define a puzzle seemed deliberately chosen to mislead players about how to approach it; and another where there were different reasonable ways to apply a solution, only one of which worked. A third was a late-game puzzle which made perfect sense, but only once the operator had told us what length of answer we were looking for. Some information just makes a puzzle easier to solve, but other times it’s needed to properly constrain it, and without that information the puzzle is ambiguously open-ended. This was a case where information that should have been part of the room was instead provided by the gamemaster as a hint, and the puzzle was a bit too ill-defined until they did so.
Each of those grumbles feels too minor and petty a point to quibble over, and all are things which I imagine the majority of teams happily take in their stride, but which accumulate to make the game a bit less smooth than it should be. That aside, it’s a lovely set with a clear narrative and broadly decent puzzles, and both our two groups picked it as our favourite at the branch.