Updated: Sep 13, 2020
My son James, now 10, has helped me out with many a Board's Eye View review: his reaction to games helps shape mine. As it happens, he's a big Escape-Room-in-a-Box fan, having played over 20 Unlock!s (Space Cowboys), all the Deckscapes (dV Giochi) (multiple times), several EXITs (Kosmos), as well as others reviewed here on BEV, like MacGyver (Pressman). Suffice to say, when he heard we were getting Golden Bear/Fantastic Factory's Trapped series for review, he was excited... then moved up to exuberant when he realised he could play one with his friends for his birthday. This is our experience...
B minus 20 days - Acquisition We picked up the Trapped escape room games from BEV Supremo Selwyn Ward, and James checked them out straight away: three slender cardboard cases in bold colours with silhouette art - The Carnival (easy), The Art Heist (medium), and The Bank Job (hard). Each is recommended for 1-6 players, age 8+ and have scoring according to age, clues and time taken.
B minus 19 days - Research Given that the target audience is five 9/10 year olds, I thought I'd best do some actual parenting and research the games. They're sold as resettable (unlike the EXIT series) but can involve folding and cutting, and each consists of several non-linear puzzles. BoardGameGeek had no reviews - which tells me these are more mass market than 'niche' hobby games - but Amazon had some for each which praised the simplicity of Carnival for kids, The Art Heist for families, and The Bank Job for teens and up: one lone reviewer was strongly negative. Learning the premise, James was disappointed he would not get to literally lock his friends into a room (we, however, are quite thankful!). B minus 18 days - The Bank Job
We decide The Carnival is the best candidate for the party, but we need to know what to expect, so decide to play The Bank Job as a duo. While the other two can be played competitively - comparing scores in teams or singles - this one's recommended as a co-op.
The components for each Trapped vary quite a bit; sealed envelopes, posters, leaflets, booklets or other documents to place as instructed, as well as other miscellaneous bits and bobs: they're quite imaginative.
Each component should be placed appropriately and it was a nice touch to find a 'shredded document' in the bin: this aspect really benefits from someone in a gamesmaster-type role and adds an extra element to the ERiaB schtick, in that you simply might not be able to locate the clue you need because you can't physically see it. This is both a plus and a minus: simple puzzles can be made impossible by missing key evidence; but it really does enhance the thematic aspect of the game at times. Low-tack tape is provided for sticking some of the components to the wall, though this isn't strictly necessary and the rules are considerate of parents' wishes not to leave marks on the walls!
Unlike the EXIT games, you might not know at the outset how many puzzles you have to solve in a Trapped game; there is no 'order' to the puzzles, though in The Bank Job, one is thematically 'locked' away and you need to solve the others before accessing it. Leaving aside the physical nature of finding the puzzles, the difficulty level here was medium (EXIT 3 star or Unlock! 2 Padlock), and all made sense, especially as - to keep things ticking along - we did use a couple of clues. Speaking of which, the clue system is good, though not flawless: a 'decoder' highlights words in a Clue Book and conceals others, but this does mean you can make out some other clues if your eyes wander. Some cutting of components was required (copies were made), which wouldn't necessarily hinder another team playing the game afterwards apart from reading the instructions and clue references on the reverse. Overall, The Bank Job would certainly suit older teens or gamers; my son was chuffed when he solved puzzles by himself, but it was mostly down to me.
(Review by David Fox)