“Make him do a handstand!”
You have discovered the enigmatic Cybortek corporation has been developing a formula, known as secret formula X-13, which they plan on using to genetically engineer normal people into killing machines for mercenary groups around the globe. You have discovered the president of the Cybortek has formula X-13 hidden in his office. Can you sneak into the high security headquarters, avoiding the alarms and lasers, to blow up his wall safe with C-4 explosive to get the formula while there is still time?
Whenever we’re planning an escape room trip, one of the most important things in planning was gathering recommendations for companies and games to determine where we might travel to next. With the development of remote-play escape games, an entire world of possibilities has opened up, and the choice is almost overwhelming, especially now that you don’t even have to leave home. However, armed with the high praise of being “...by far one of the best overall [remote escape room] experiences we’ve had”, from our friends over at ESCAPETHEROOMers, we were confident that Operation X-13 from Trapped! Escape Rooms would be one not to miss.
We once again teamed up with Charlie and James, of Deadlocked Escape Rooms fame. At the appointed time, we logged into the system to meet our GM, Wayne and receive our briefing, including the inventory tutorial. With the formalities out of the way, we were patched into the Recruit, and our mission began.
There have been a number of games we’ve played remotely that after completing, I had wished that we had had the opportunity to play in person. Operation X-13 was perfectly suited to online-remote play, and I’m honestly not sure how the live game could have possibly been better than the remote version.
When I play an escape room, the great ones that stand out to me have a strong story, with a semi-plausible reason for why we’re there, and what we’re doing; when I play, I want to spend that hour being fully immersed in the world that has been created, and I have found that, for me, this is even more important with the virtual experiences. Without it, yes the games are fun, but they don’t stand out as great. Operation X-13 has woven an explanation for why we’re working remotely into the story, immediately drawing us into the world, and with the interaction between the team and our Recruit, the game was almost something closer to virtual immersive theatre, with a few puzzles for fun.
We’ve played a few remote escape rooms over Zoom now, some with inventory systems, some without, some with 360-degree views and some without. They have all been a little bit different, and while we admittedly haven’t played tons, the inventory system in Operation X-13 was one of the slickest. We were responsible for entering items using a very simple code given to us by our recruit. One of my favourite aspects of the system was that there were certain items that could be manipulated within the system, which were clearly marked. While we’ve come across a similar concept in other games, this one was very smooth.
Sometimes you get rooms where the puzzles are the star of the show, and everything else fades into the background as you work your way through a complex sequence of challenges, codes, and at first baffling images. Operation X-13 was not one of those rooms. In fact, it was almost exactly the opposite, and the puzzles became of secondary importance, fading into the background, becoming natural extensions of the story. Yes, you’ll need to search a bit, observe your surroundings, decipher some codes, and even help your recruit do a bit of hacking, but the tasks themselves felt more like the natural progression of things you might need to do if you were actually enacting a Mission: Impossible-style moment of espionage.
With many physical tasks, codes to keypads to uncover, lasers to avoid, computers to hack and even some roleplaying, teams are sure to find something for everyone. The beauty of this game is the non-linear structure. Playing in person, this would allow the team to split up and work independently. With the remote version, teams are slightly limited in this aspect, but with the inventory system, we were easily able to solve a puzzle while still simultaneously continuing to search the space.
With any game, the skill of your Gamesmaster goes a long way towards your experience while playing. This is especially true in rooms where your GM is an active part of your game as a live actor, and even more so when they become an integral part of your team as your eyes, ears and hands in a virtual escape experience. Operation X-13 utilised two GMs: Wanye, behind the scenes, removing things from the inventory as needed, and presumably for any emergency technical support, should it be necessary, and our “Recruit.” I never did manage to catch the name of our Recruit, but he was certainly the star of the show.
In the guise of a brand new recruit, straight out of Spy School, the Recruit skillfully walked the line between allowing us to direct him at what to look at, and subtly guiding us towards things we had perhaps not yet investigated yet, or had forgotten about. Had we ever needed a clue with a puzzle, I have no doubt that we could have asked his opinion on what something might be needed for and we would have received a helpful, in character nudge back on track.
As with anything, you get out of it what you put into it, and with a Recruit that never broke character, even when asked to do some of the silliest things imaginable, Operation X-13 swiftly became one of the best hours I’ve spent on the internet.
Trapped! Escaped Rooms have locations in Nevada and California, and have been told they are able to reopen to the public following the Coronavirus Lockdown. Don’t despair – they are still taking virtual bookings for Operation X-13, and if you’re looking for a great room to play from the comfort of your own home, we have to agree with the recommendation we received: This game is definitely one of the best we’ve played.
GOOD TO KNOW
- Number of connections: No Limit (Recommended Max. 6)
- Price: $59 for two connections, $15 for each additional
- Devices: Desktop/Laptop for best experience. Secondary device/split screen may be useful for inventory
- Platform: Zoom
- Inventory: Yes
- 360º View: Yes
- Time Zone: PST/PDT
|Value for Money|
Team: 4 players
Time Taken: 52:00 (approx)