CU Adventures In Time & Space (Based In Urbana, IL, USA)
◣ GAME'S SPECS
💪 Difficulty not specified by company.
⏲️ 60 to 120 minutes time duration as suggested by company.
🔢 For 1 to 6 players as suggested by company.
💬 Hints available for all unlockable elements. Hints guide players step by step, to the right track, until final solution.
📝 Game requires optional printed media (PDF file), optional scissors, internet connection, or more. Check for details.
🛒 If you PURCHASE GAME due to this blog, please give EscapeMattster.com a shout out! ;)
◣ MATTSTER'S TAKE
💪 Difficulty: For Mattster's team of 1, fairly easy, a 3/10. Only 1 puzzle towards the end has slightly confused me.
🔢 Ideal Team Size: I enjoyed playing this solo; it'll probably support up to 2 or 3 easily with its group play function.
🤷♂️ Best Fit For: I rec this to every single escape-game-loving fans out there who wanna stay in for the night. It's an incredibly well-done product that imitates the experience of a real escape room fairly well for a fraction of the usual price!
😍 Overall Takeaway: Slickly designed and adapted specifically for web distribution, superbly produced with beautiful visuals and great accompanying audios. A collection of well-written but moderately easy puzzles, backed by a nicely paced, capably narrated 1930s supernatural tale that reaches near perfection--if only the ending offers a better sense of closure!
...WHOA! LOVED IT.
THIS JOINS 🏆 "MUST DO!" 🏆 RANK!
It's the 1930s and your professor has gone missing! Follow his research, discover the mystery of The Lost Temple and save the world! Explore maps, read through journals, decode cyphers, and examine photographs to solve the challenges of an escape room from the comfort of home. Use a blend of digital documents, print and play elements, video, audio and more in this immersive cooperative game.
A TEMPLE REBORN
Champaign-Urbana Adventures in Time and Space, or CU Adventures for short, is an escape room company located in Urbana, Illinois, currently featuring 3 to 4 live, in-person escape adventures. But not that long ago, there was one more escape room that you could book, which has since retired, named "The Lost Temple".
The game I'm reviewing now is based on that very room. But of course, it's been updated and accordingly converted into a multimedia experience readily consumed via internet so you can safely and leisurely enjoy from the comfort of your home. (Even for any returning adventurers, there is a dozen of brand new puzzles included.)
All right, geared up in my sweats, (or no pants required, really, since I'm at home), I am headed for "The Lost Temple"!
BUT IT STARTS WITH SCHOOL
Except... Eh? This hardly looks like a temple at all. This looks like... the Midwestern Miskatonic University?
That's correct! I've misjudged the game by its title from the very beginning. Fully expecting this escape room to set in an "Indiana Jones's Temple of the Doom"-esque site from start to finish, it caught me by complete surprise when I landed in the office of Professor Knightly. The occult studies professor's gone missing for days, his classes left unattended, and all that's left behind is a handwritten note... begging for help save all of humanity?!
Set in the 1930s, the first half of "Temple" has players canvass through the academic's workplace for clues of his whereabouts. The mention of a mysterious portal from a regretful Knightly suggests he's crossed over to another dimension, and as to where--the game title is an obvious giveaway. After a magical encounter in the nearby faculty lounge, the latter half grants players access to the titular location through an otherworldly gateway.
Having completed the entire game in roughly 2 hours, it seems the most logical to evaluate this virtual escape room by its two halves: the university section, and the temple section.
A CURIOUS START
The first section of the narrative focuses on Prof Knightly's university office and its neighboring faculty lounge. Even though the story is straightforward and offers little surprise initially, it's still an intriguing tale that sets up suspense nicely. Yes, I might've guessed correctly that supernatural-obsessed Knightly has been transported to a hidden temple somewhere in space and time, but I still want to uncover exactly how? And why?
Though the narrative department holds its own, what really pushes the first half into high merits is the puzzles themselves, and they way they are presented. To summarize concisely, this feels very much like playing in a traditional escape room--which tells me this is a winner. Just like the in-real-life rendition of "The Lost Temple", you will rummage through the professor's desk, filing cabinet, and of course, many padlocked compartments. Correspondingly, you'll discover clues, keys, combos to unlock them.
Really, once you play, you'll see--it really feels like an authentic, almost tangible escape room!
Also helpful is the decision to stick with gen-1 style challenges. Every single riddle necessitates either a combo solution or a key to undo a lock, and these classic and simple problems translate very well across web media. Though gen-1 is at times considered old-school and therefore out of favor, it works impeccably here on a 1930s stage, because the 30s IS old-school. The puzzles themselves are cleanly written with a difficulty more catered for beginners, but are fun to play for players of all experience levels.
THE LOST TEMPLE (AND A BIT OF MOMENTUM)
The second half of "Temple" takes place in the actual temple, though depicted more as one long dark cavern. (Is this what a temple is? A bit strange to me!) At this point, I feel the game has somewhat lost steam, and does not play as smoothly as the on-campus section. One possible explanation, purely my conjecture, could be that the first half is more faithfully adapted to an once existent room, while the latter half is heavily reimagined and expanded exclusively online.
In any case, there is a palpable direction change, to say the least.
The puzzles still remain to be gen-1 idea based, though the game makers put in a conscious effort to avoid padlocks, and instead substitute in their places with magical tiles, doors, and altars. Though technically not as realistically grounded, we've just been transported through a miraculous portal, so it checks out. Carved all over every stony surface are hieroglyphic symbols, which we use to decipher majority of the puzzles in the temple half--and it gets a bit monotonous. Puzzles are still clever enough, just a tad dry in comparison.
Perhaps what I really wish the finale to deliver, but it hasn't, is a full explanation of what exactly happened to the professor and several other pertinent characters. The temple exploration does offer some insights to what has transpired, though the story never explicitly gives a definitive answer. The game actually does a great job in building up tension for a potential stunning conclusion reveal, though sadly, it never quite ties all the loose ends together.
STILL ONE HELL OF AN ADVENTURE
What's common and unchanging to both halves, however, is nearly perfect execution of of the designers' vision. This success lies primarily with an interface that is easy to pick up and even easier to fall in love with.
Upon logging in, I am immediately immersed into the story universe of "Temple". This effect feels both prompt and organic, as the experience opens with delightful background jazz music that helps set both the time period and the mood, immediately followed by the game premise narrated by an excellent voice actor. His outstanding voice performance will continue throughout, sparing most reading responsibility from the customers, which 1) is great news for those who dread text reading, and 2) gives the experience an extra layer of mystique from his dark, almost ominous tone.
The visuals, mainly composed of sepia-tone photographs, fit the theme well and are great to look at. Solution input systems are equally well designed: elegant to the eyes, intuitive to the hands (or rather, the mouse cursor).
As one progresses throughout the game, a particular scenario may prompt players to refer to specific pages of the print-and play assets, aka the PDF file. Often, this would require the patron to start cutting papers to create specific props to help solve related puzzles, though ingeniously, this is never 100% necessary: There is a second, separate "printer-less" PDF file that provides the same information, modified slightly, to bypass the printing requirement.
Digital + Print & Play Version: affordable option, frankly a clear steal for its value
This is a major game changer, because the print-and-play aspect is a true extension of what appears onscreen, not a demanding requirement that must be fulfilled. Should one decide to complete the game entirely online, there is the option to, and the experience would already be reasonably immersive and awesome. Should one desire more, then cut away! If not, skip it! The choice is YOURS.
Ultimately, while I do agree that playing with the print-and-play pages as intended creates a more fulfilling and engaging experience, having the power and freedom to modulate the degree of participation most fitting to my own liking is magnitudes more liberating and satisfying. My untalented fingers, unfit for heavy crafting, are ever so grateful.
Also available is a feature for remote group play, with 1 person designated as leader, and 5 more companions can join and help solve the mystery. I can't comment much on this since I am a one-man, lone-wolf operation, but it's worth mentioning and seems useful for those who enjoy the luxury of friendships. (...What's that like?)
Deluxe Printed Edition: if you wanna splurge a little for the ultimate at-home experience
As a whole, "The Lost Temple" is an escape room that every self-respecting escape artist should try, especially those who have not yet gamed with CU Adventures in Illinois. Available in 3 variations basing on financial preference ("Print Yourself", "Print For You", and "Deluxe Edition"), "Temple" is an insanely inexpensive option to experience, with an entertainment value far trumping some competitors costing twice or even thrice the admission price.
★ Certain elements look different in the game interface than in the PDF file; in such cases, treat those in PDF as official.
★ Should any boxy shapes baffle you so, try thinking a bit less analog, and a bit more digital.
⤻ Full disclosure: Complimentary game access was generously provided for review purposes.
⤻ All media credited to and provided by contents owners. No copyright infringement intended.
⤻ Speed code for on-site search: CUATemple