TRAPPED IN TIME - Puzzle Workshop
This is Matt's game No. 6.
Venue: Puzzle Workshop
Address: 18003 Sky Park Cir, Bldg 53, Unit F2, Irvine, CA 92614
Game: Trapped In Time
Here is a carbon copy of my Yelp review, posted originally on 01/19/2018:
TRAPPED IN TIME // Grade: B+
Pre-game "Trapped In Time", I thought:
1) From other reviews, this venue is just an office space turned escape room location, so visuals must be weak. 2) "Trapped" is the easiest game of the 3 they offer, so I, who had done 5 escape rooms with ease in the past, would zoom through this one. 3) I am playing with my friends who were beginners; they'd probably struggle. 4) Puzzle Workshop prides itself with creative puzzles, so I must be in for a treat!
Well, most of the above is wrong. :)
Quickly: "Trapped" is a game that transports players back in time via a time machine, so we can help bring our inventor friend, who's stuck in his 80s dorm room, back to our present.
Visuals! It is true that this venue gave a bland office space a makeover into an escape game, which took place in an 80s dorm room. The look/quality of the dorm room did not compare to the escape rooms I'd been to in the past. Could you still tell this was an office space? Yes. However, does a typical dorm room look boring to start with? ALSO YES. So, it kinda worked! (Of note, the time-traveling aspect was weak. This could've been a dorm in the 70s, 80s, 90s, or now with slight variations. Solid dorm, though.)
I don't think visuals is something to truly complain about for "Trapped", and I could tell the makers took great attention to details. Things that were meant to stay put, were fastened, nailed down, or glued on securely to walls and floor. Things that you needed to interact with, moved easily. This seemingly simple but helpful feature was not always addressed in all escape room venues. This time, it felt organized and meticulous. And I loved that.
While immersion wasn't the strongest suit of this game, the somewhat average back story gave just enough for us to work with, and to have a clear objective, and that was enough for me. What's refreshing was that this plot did not involve a crazed serial killer or maniac of some sort, so that's kinda plus, too! While I did not get lost in the atmosphere, I got lost in what Workshop is most proud of--the puzzles!
These. Puzzles. Were. SO. CREATIVE!
Walking in all high and mighty, I was cocky. I thought having solved several escape rooms in the past made me a strong player--not so. This actually worked against me. Having seen the same format of puzzles over, and over, and over, my brain was ready to plug and chug. So what happened when I was thrown a dozen of puzzles that were innovative that I hadn't seen before? I shut down.
My friends, who were novice at best, had a blank and fresh brain canvas, and their noggins worked super well to solve these puzzles as they came. While I was horrified at my own poor performance, I was pleasantly humbled by my failures, and was truly amazed at what this game could open my eyes to. (Well, I wasn't 100%, totally useless; but I did not fare as well as I expected. Shucks.) The puzzle variety was more numerous than I imagined; the locks ranged from combo/padlock to fancier tech based ones. Such a wonderful mix bags of different formats, and all fit into the dorm theme pretty well.
If I could grade this game based on the puzzles alone--A+, honor roll, a graduate with summa cum laude!
You can't go wrong with these puzzles. You'll have loads of fun. Trust!
Let's talk about the clue system a bit. If you need a hint, which we desperately did, because I was an idiot, you just need to yell it out. Text/clue'd come on a tv screen. (The count down timer was also on the same screen.) Not the most sophisticated clue system, nor the most well integrated, but it worked out just fine. Neither a pro nor a con.
Unfortunately, we did encounter a hiccup or two in our game. One of the padlocks did not seem to work, so our lovely game master Mikaela had to stop the timer, come inside, and give us assistance. (Btw, Mikaela was professional, polite, and helpful. This enhanced our experience.) While I appreciated the fact that we didn't lose time while she helped us move our game along, this did break the fourth wall. Immersion was effectively destroyed. This actually happened twice when another item didn't work as it intended to. I was truly ambivalent--I was happy to get assistance because time was running out so quickly, but... it's still better if the illusion of the storyline stayed intact.
But I get it. Puzzle Workshop's true stars are the puzzles. The immersion and atmosphere are somewhat secondary. So I honestly rather have the timer stopped and the props fixed. Truth be told though, all in all, I didn't really mind! I had a great time still.
While the minor mishaps should bring the ratings down to 3 or 4 stars, the excellent and courteous customer service I received compensated for the negatives. Factoring in the surprisingly good puzzles this room provided, "Trapped" earned my utmost respect. Since Yelp only allows full stars, I settled on 4. Will I be back for Puzzle Workshop's other 2 rooms? Oh, you bet ya!)