Mystery of Time and Space: Level 20
For room escape fans, Jan Albartus, the grand-daddy of all room escape games, has added an all-new level to his continuing series, Mystery of Time and Space (MOTAS). Fans of the genre will already know that this series has been around since 2001, quite a lot longer than most people have even known about room escape games.
For the uninitiated, MOTAS is the original, the blueprint from which so many (too many?) others have tried to follow. What sets MOTAS apart from most, however, is that its puzzles are generally original, rooted in logic and not in exasperating pixel-hunts.
But why are we repeatedly placed into the scenario of being in a room with no apparent escape? To unlock the mysteries of time and space, of course! You see, in order to perceive the mysteries of the universe, we must first be stripped of our own memories and experiences so that we may see the bigger picture. That's the role you play in MOTAS: a human with unique abilities capable of seeing parallel universes and who has agreed to help further our understanding of life as we know it.
Analysis: The interface and graphics remain much the same as they were back in 2001, and yet resemble much of what we've come to expect from the genre even today. The interface has grown over the years to include some pretty tasty features. For example, the new "full screen" feature scales everything to fit the size of your monitor, filling it to the brim with escape-the-room goodness. This feature may also help solve some puzzles, so be aware that it's there. Graphics and interface aside, though, the appeal of MOTAS is definitely the puzzles.
One significant shortcoming is the lack of an integrated level select that allows you to skip past levels. Jan explained to me that he purposely does not provide this capability because he wishes everyone to play through his rooms in sequence. After you solve a room, the next room is unlocked for you, and you can skip directly to it next time you play by clicking on the floppy disk in the game's menu. However, for those of us who have already played the game a long time ago and who may not have the saved game files still present on our computers, or for those who get stuck on one room and wish to just skip it rather than have to resort to a walkthrough, cheats, or to stop playing entirely, a level select feature is sorely needed. In other words, don't expect to pick up the game and play only the latest level unless you have all 19 completed MOTAS levels still saved in your Flash local storage; you'll have to play through them all again first.
And one slight disappointment is with the newest level itself, Level 20. Although it continues along the same logical path of the others to come before it, I felt the level was just a little too easy and fell into the trap of including puzzles that feel all-too-familiar. Innovation and originality were clearly not the motives for the latest level of MOTAS. It was, none the less, enjoyable to play as is the case with the entire series.
Still, MOTAS continues to entertain and delight puzzle fans to this day, and continues to be updated periodically by its gifted and loving creator. Fans of room escape games simply can't go wrong to