YouEscape – A Twist of Time [Hivemind Review]

A Twist of Time is the 13th game in a collection of avatar-led games created by YouEscape in Athens, Greece.

A blue table with a few locked boxes, a 75 minute timer, strange art with labels, and an odd transparent box.

Format

Style of Play:

  • Online native experience (can NOT be played IRL)
  • Avatar controlled by the players
  • Light puzzle hunt

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, pen and paper

Expect to have multiple tabs open, plus Zoom, and to be switching back and forth between everything. Multiple screens would also be helpful.

Recommended Team Size: 2-4

Play Time: 70 minutes

Price: $30/month for a YouEscape Patreon membership which includes 1 game per month

Booking: book online for a specific time slot

Description

Once connected to Zoom, players get a brief introduction from the gamemaster. Then they are given a link to a Google Drive folder as well as a camera feed of boxes to unlock and props to interact with. The game begins by examining the contents of the folder, solving the puzzles within (sometimes by using outside internet resources), and following the puzzle path from there.

Editor’s note: YouEscape recommends players start with their easier games and progress through the games in order. Here are our reviews of some of their earlier games. I elected for REA to jump to a later game to see more of the series. Some of the writers contributing to this piece had more experience with YouEscape than others.

Hivemind Review Scale

REA's hivemind review scale - 3 is recommended anytime, 2 recommended in quarantine, 1 is not recommended.

Read more about our Hivemind Review format.

Andrew Reynolds’ Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

YouEscape has been in the online escape game world since before it was cool, and the games they offer have been both challenging and original. A Twist of Time set us up as travelers bouncing around through different timelines in a competition to collect the most art.

Like their other games, this one is played in two main areas: props and locked boxes on the hosts desk, and internet resources. Because this game was themed around art, most of the sites we had to explore were art-focused. There was a strong reliance on resources from Google Arts and Culture, an interesting if not well-known service. YouEscape asked us to use these sites to solve puzzles, some of which were on the “difficult but still fun to play and solve” side of things. Answers to these puzzles either gave us a code to open a lock on the gamemaster’s desk, or told us how to have him manipulate the props there.

This game has such a simple setup (you get a link to a Google Drive folder and a camera pointed at the desk) that it’s kind of amazing how deep this game can go. It’s tough but fair, and a great example of what can be done with a limited amount of physical space.

Cindi S’ Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

A Twist of Time is the 13th game in YouEscape’s online series, and in this game your team needs to travel across time to collect missing works of art before other time travelers find them first. However, the story quickly faded to the background as we worked our way through an intense 70-minute puzzle-focused game. The main components were seemingly random objects positioned on a table and links to websites and numerous files containing additional puzzle content. As this was my first YouEscape experience, I was unfamiliar with the game mechanics and found it difficult to simultaneously update links, read through files, search artwork and solve challenging puzzles, all while staying in sync as a team. (We later learned YouEscape recommends starting with earlier games in the series, as they help you become familiar with their game format.) Eventually we found our groove, and actually solved the very last puzzle with less than a minute to go! A Twist of Time is for experienced players who are looking for a puzzle-heavy challenge, but I recommend playing one of their earlier games first.

The Lone Puzzler’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

This was a very unique game with a high level of usage of the Internet and delving into interesting online content. It was at times pretty impressive and also frustrating. Our review was of the most recent game in a series and the gamemaster recommended players consider starting on earlier (and easier) games in the series to understand the style of play. The game’s focus on time travel was a bit lost on this reviewer, but the puzzle content was special enough to make me recommend this game. if you love traditional escape rooms, this might not be your style. If you want a different experience and are ok with needing some guidance (freely given) from the gamemaster, this game has some highlights that are memorable. The game is also better if the group has one or more players with some tech skills to recognize certain web address conventions. Our team ultimately seemed to split up the puzzle-solving duties and technical exercise of finding the applicable content. The game, at times, was a struggle for our team, but was more challenging fun than it was tedious reading or searching web content, things that have bogged down similar games.

Kate Wastl’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

YouEscape’s The Twist of Time (#13 in the series) was a thought-provoking online experience that pulled together elements from Google Drive, websites, and avatar-guided items into an online riddle experience. This experience would best be enjoyed by 2-3 people, especially those that have played similar games from this creator in the past. I had not played any previous games in the series and can confirm that there is a steeper learning curve (for the game mechanics, not the puzzles themselves) to progress through the first third of the game until acclimated to what the creator is looking for. In short, this is not an experience that I would recommend to those new to escape rooms. Experienced puzzlers might find the variety of challenges interesting, especially if earlier episodes had been tackled first.

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

I enjoyed playing the first 4 YouEscape games last spring, so when the opportunity to jump forward to game #13 arose, I was eager to see how the series’ design style had evolved. I was not disappointed – A Twist of Time embodies many of the positives of the earlier games, implemented with increased confidence and cleverness. What stands out to me about this particular game, and the YouEscape model as a whole, is its idiosyncratic approach to puzzle structure and flow. A loose time travel theme was mostly just an excuse to get us to interact with some really frickin cool websites in interesting and unexpected ways. The puzzles were moderate in difficulty, with an excellent range and balance of puzzle types. One art-related website was a particular highlight of this game and successfully served as a structural motif tying the game together. On paper, a loosely connected chain of mostly non-diegetic puzzles shouldn’t make sense – yet this game somehow makes it work.

The other notable feature of YouEscape games is their hybrid of digital and physical elements. Over video chat, you’re presented with a table of various objects and some locked containers. Most of the game, though, is communicated through a series of Google Drive folders filled with documents and images, including reproductions of some, but not all of the objects on the table. This leads you to a myriad of websites and eventually to a combination for one of the physical locks. Most of the gameplay takes place unmediated through this ARG-esque chain of website interactions, yet it’s interspersed with enough small but satisfying physical interactions to justify this unique live structure.

YouEscape has been around since pre-pandemic, and YouEscape #1 was actually the very first remote game I played during lockdown. I’m impressed by how after all this time, it has retained its unique flavor within the global market. Yet as the remote escape room market has matured, I found myself wanting this game to take even better advantage of the remote medium. Physical gating could be more interesting than combination locks, the video feed could make use of forced perspective, and puzzle trails could be more regularly interspersed with live interactions. Nonetheless, I had a blast playing and believe a wide range of enthusiasts would, too.

Click the button below to back YouEscape on Patreon and play A Twist of Time.

Disclosure: YouEscape provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.

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