Outside the room
After a short bite to eat, it was back to Trapped In, this time to play Air Traffic Control. If you’ve read my first review, you’ll have got the teaser trailer that things might have been a little broken when we left. Indeed, throughout the morning it seemed like things were going wrong – unfortunate timing over the Christmas break, and I felt very sorry for the host. The upshot was that when we arrived back we found the reception was looking somewhat mistier than you might expect because a fog machine wasn’t switching off properly.
While the host was fighting that fire, so to speak, we sat down to wait. As is almost de rigeur now with escape rooms, there was a small pile of puzzles in the waiting room to pass a few minutes with, or you could take a trip to the bathroom which allowed you to experience the faux grass carpeting in the rest of the building – nothing quite says “relaxed environment” like pictures of sheep and grass on the floor!
Before long though, everything was back on track and the three of us were ready to begin. Once again it was the briefest of intros before being thrown into the game proper.
The air traffic control tower has been attacked by terrorists who’ve damaged the equipment and kidnapped the air traffic controllers. You’ve got an hour to break into the tower and get the system back online before (presumably) the planes start running out of fuel.
Inside the room
As you walk into this room, you immediately know you’re going to be spending a lot of time searching. There are so many hiding places to choose from that, to be honest, it was slightly daunting that we only had three people to search them all. It wasn’t particularly frustrating though; most items were easy to search and so you were pretty confident you hadn’t missed anything. That said, there were three tricky hides that I remember – one I found because I’d seen the same hide used in a couple of other games (experience counts at last!), one that two of us had searched and were flabbergasted that we’d missed it. The third was hidden in plain sight, but we’d really have struggled to find without a hint. In short, if you’re a keen searcher, you’re going to have a great time. If you hate searching then you’ll probably need to ask for a clue or two, but I don’t think you’ll get too frustrated.
The good news is that, unlike the time machine, this room had a mechanism to give clues without the host entering the room. Hallelujah! The bad news is that our host still needed to come into the room to give us a clue at one point because he didn’t know what stage we were up to. Once again, frustratingly, this was because the room hadn’t been reset properly. One lock hadn’t been closed and the item that should have been protected by that lock had been hidden in entirely the wrong place. In spite of those two mistakes, the game wasn’t massively affected, except that we got a subtle clue for the final puzzle far too early in the game. Subtle clues are great, but not if you have to remember them for half an hour.
Talking about subtlety, there’s one particular puzzle that would have required a painstaking search of the room to find a visual clue. I’m all for getting us to search a room, and hiding things around it, but this just felt beyond reasonable for people to find. It wasn’t quite up there with Time Machine, but it was a similar sort of issue. I always feel a room’s difficulty should not be defined by its single most difficult puzzle, but by the aggregation of a series of tricky puzzles that together make the room really hard to solve without clues.
The finale was pleasing, and while not quite reaching the heights of Time Machine in set design, was still a thoroughly good setup that really felt at home in an air traffic control escape room. There was a slight let down in that you still had a conventional escape room exit – with a corresponding code – which didn’t really fit with the story line, but that’s really being very picky.
One final word of warning: when you see the sign that says “watch the step” do pay attention to it. I didn’t. Twice. Yes, I’m an idiot.
We got out with eighteen minutes remaining having asked for one clue (and been given another one). As far as I can see, the mis-set of the room didn’t affect our time.
This was a fun game with a couple of frustrating parts. As I said in the Time Machine review, I don’t like hosts entering the room. While I’m tempted to let them off on this occasion, because it was partly caused by a mis-set, I also think that it’s telling we had two separate mis-sets on our two games, which suggests better training/a better reset script is required. The other frustrating part was the puzzle mentioned above that required an unrealistic level of searching. I think that could easily be fixed if the owner/designer wants, but it probably comes down to a matter of personal taste.
As strongly hinted above, this room will suit people with a penchant for searching, but I think it’s also a reasonable room for beginners and experienced players will come up against some novelties too.
Detailed Room Ratings