What the melon?
What starts as a simple task of helping contractor Joey Beamish with some network tests soon explodes into a time travelling romp through the true stories of the Thames Tunnel.
Guess who’s back? Back again. Deadlocked’s back, tell a friend! Roughly one year after releasing The Insiders, a much-needed ray of sunshine at the start of lockdowns across the globe, Deadlocked have returned with a brand-new game. But as with The Cyphstress, and Movember, Tunnelling Through Time is a collaborative effort – this time with The Brunel Museum.
Let me be frank – I loved Deadlocked’s first two games, and enjoyed the third, hence the opening of this post. But there’s nothing worse than overhype to set you up for disappointment, so I shall do my best to avoid that. But what did I think of this latest offering? Bearing in mind that The Cyphstress is still one of my favourite play at home escape games, even 200+ games later, and The Insiders is Gord’s, we fully expected this to be excellent (and it didn’t disappoint). However, Tunnelling Through Time felt like a very different sort of game to Deadlocked’s first two, and it doesn’t feel right to compare them (although I will anyway). I loved it, but for different reasons than I loved its older siblings.
Different isn’t bad though, and the differences ensure that Tunnelling Through Time is both highly enjoyable for enthusiasts while still being totally accessible for escape room newbies. In short, Tunnelling Through Time is just plain fun. I mean, how often do you get to experience a digital coconut shy?
Bonus History Lesson
The Thames Tunnel was constructed in the 19th century by Marc Brunel, and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The tunnel runs beneath the Thames and is a feat of engineering – at one point it was described as “the Eighth Wonder of the World,” and is, in fact, still used today as part of the London Overground. The Brunel Museum is located in the original Engine House on the Rotherhithe side of the tunnel. The Museum’s mission is “To preserve and share widely the ground-breaking stories of the Thames Tunnel project and the outstanding achievements of the Brunel family and their relevance to our lives today.” Due to the current lockdown situation in the U.K., the Brunel Museum hasn’t been able to share those stories in the usual fashion, so instead, they’ve decided to bring them to life and straight to people’s homes, which brings us back to the game…
The game begins as we answer a call for help from Joey Beamish. Of course, things go a bit awry, and what should have been a simple fix instead sends us on a time-travelling adventure, utilising the true stories of events throughout the history of the Thames Tunnel to drive the narrative forward. Along the way, we meet other characters, of course, including Isambard Kingdom Brunel himself. The story unfolds in a pretty linear fashion, but with each jump through time, players will find that the structure of the game opens up quite a bit in their quest to help Joey get back to the present with many tasks that can be tackled in any order.
With each new game from Deadlocked, we see something a bit different. Tunnelling Through Time is an entirely digital adventure (no printing this time, I promise!) built on the Unity platform, and embraces a point and click style of play to a far greater degree than any of the earlier Deadlocked games. What sets it apart from others in a similar class, though, is just how much it lives up to the promise of being their “most cinematic game yet.” With 12 minutes of video in the game, the film portions comprise a significant amount of the game. Aside from driving the story forward, and providing a fair amount of entertainment along the way, the video clips highlight exactly why the Thames Tunnel was a massive tourist attraction when it finally opened to the public in 1843. However, one limitation of Unity is that although you will be able to log into the game from up to six devices, these game sessions won’t be linked, so you’ll either want to make sure your communication is on top form if you’re playing remotely, or make use of your chosen conference calling software’s screen-sharing capabilities. If your team is all in the same household, my recommendation is to make this a truly cinematic experience by hooking your laptop up to the largest screen in the house if you can.
When we think of Deadlocked games, we tend to think of immersive ARG-style experiences. Tunnelling Through Time deviates slightly from this format, but don’t despair if that was your favourite aspect of their earlier games; while it’s less expansive than The Insiders, Cyphstress and even Movember, there’s still a healthy amount of internet sleuthing to be done, however, social media haters will be pleased to know that you won’t actually need any accounts for any of the platforms to play. (Although the YouTube app will very much enhance your experience for one particular puzzle.) Pro-Tip: Unlike us, I suggest you actually read the intro, and remember that this is not a traditional escape room. Since you’re playing online, you are encouraged to use the internet for a bit of extra sleuthing if you find something that might require some further information outside of the game, even if it doesn’t feel like you should.
Tunnelling Through Time feels a bit like an homage to physical escape rooms, with many of the same styles of puzzles that we come across in physical games (there’s even a padlock or two, and a cryptex!). So expect logic, observation, searching, pattern recognition, and lateral thinking to all come into play, not to mention the digital escape and ARG standbys of internet sleuthing/stalking and social engineering. There’s even a test of skill (that coconut shy I mentioned earlier.) However, what made the puzzles so enjoyable for me was the unique way in which they were presented as well as how you interacted with certain components to reach a solution. As we’ve found with most (possibly all) puzzles from the minds of the Deadlocked team, the puzzles throughout Tunnelling Through Time were challenging, but ultimately fair, and oh so satisfying to solve.
The point and click style of the majority of the game means that it’s not just entering passwords into websites; the game, and therefore the puzzles, are far more interactive, as you navigate through the game, including one or two “machines.” (these machines are far less fiendish than the infamous Insider’s server.) Deadlocked have also used everything available to them in their puzzle designing arsenal, from colours to audio, but have still taken the time to make the game as accessible as possible, with accommodations for colourblind players and subtitles for those that need/prefer them.
Clue systems have always been one of the areas in which Deadlocked excelled themselves; whether it’s Wexie coaching you through a repair in The Time Machine, or the conversational chatbots that can guide you through The Cyphstress, the goal is to have hints fully integrated, and almost part of the story, rather than ever feeling like you’re receiving an outright clue.
With Tunnelling Through Time, the clue system has evolved to be more like those of Deadlocked’s live games – with the voice of Joey chiming in either periodically, or at your request, to nudge wayward players back in the right direction. There may even be another character or two to give you a nudge as well, often without you even realising you’ve been nudged. But wonderfully, the system recognises what you’ve done, and where you are in the game, so you rarely receive information that you are likely to already know. But my absolute favourite part of the clue system was Joey’s assistance with the coconuts, as “cheating” became just as much fun as successfully knocking a coconut off a stand.
Based on actual(ish) events, Tunnelling Through Time combines a bit of time travel with pleasing puzzles, and the magic of the movies to deliver a digital escape like no other. With 100% of the proceeds going directly to The Brunel Museum, I can’t think of a better way to have fun, learn something, and support a great cause; can you?
- Desktop/laptop computer with an internet connection (and sound turned on)
- Materials for notetaking
- Optional secondary device – YouTube App highly recommended
|Value for Money|
Team: 2 players
Time Taken: Approx. 90 minutes
*Disclaimer: we weren’t charged for this experience, but this has not influenced our review.