We wanted to love this game, and parts of it we did, but an inattentive game master and a bad puzzle ruined it for us.
This game gets a lot of love in the reviews, and we get that. The set design is fun and nostalgic. Many of the puzzles are very enjoyable. However, as others have mentioned, there is a maze puzzle that needs to be done twice and the second time is more difficult. It’s a time suck, for sure.
Besides that frustrating puzzle, our game master was either not good or very distracted. Before each game they inform you that the game masters run two games at a time. So their full attention is not on your group. In my opinion, that’s a bad system even if it saves the company some money. Secondly, the game masters are in the hallways with customers walking by them to use the restroom or get to their games. So the game masters are constantly being distracted. With the three games we played prior to Time Machine we needed little to no help, so I have no idea if they were focusing on our game. Each game we played had a different game master.
With Time Machine we had a few issues that could have been avoided with an attentive game master. On two different puzzles we had the correct solution. In the first puzzle the opening of the triggered item was not clear. In the second puzzle the lock was stuck and needed some finagling. In both cases we didn’t realize our original solutions were correct, so we tried the puzzles over and over until we asked for help. Our game master would ask us what we did and then give us instructions on how to do it correctly, which we had already done. In both cases we wasted over 5 minutes of our time. A good, attentive game master would have seen we’d gotten the correct solution the first time and stopped us from trying to re-solve the puzzles.
Because of that and the horrible second version of the maze puzzle, we did not finish. On top of that, our game master would not show us the final puzzle (which is the only puzzle we had left). She said we’d have to come back and play the game again to see it. We had just played 4 games and 3 of those games were with five people. We spent A LOT of money here, but she couldn’t show us the last puzzle. It was a bad way to end our day at Countdown Games.
I will say that our game master was friendly. The way the company has the game masters run the games (two at a a time in a distracted environment with only 15 minutes to take a group photo and reset for the next game, and not allowed to walk players who didn’t finish through the rest of the game) sets them up for failure when it comes to being effective.