Time Run – The Lance of Longinus

Summary
Well-renowned as London’s top escape venue, Time Run has it all. Theming, technology, puzzles, settings, media, interactivity, staff attention, and everything else are out of this world. This room is simply amazing. Go and play it already.

Review
Time Run was on my radar from shortly after I discovered escape rooms in 2014. It was a clear favourite of the reviews I’d read. I was saving it for a special occasion, and that actually started to drag on a bit.

I inaugurated Team Pig for this room, and we selected Time Run out of three choices that I gave. There are more salubrious places to spend a Saturday night than the wrong side of Hackney, and better dinners than the pizza we had, but we’ll leave that aside. The confirmation email warned to ring the bell precisely on time and not to arrive more than five minutes early, so we did.

Entering for the briefing, we knew we were in for something special. We were greeted fully in character by Luna’s assistant Aubrey, who took us through the usual things, including no physical strength, explaining our mission, and telling us about Luna Fox, whose video message we’d had by email. This was also the opportunity to sign up to the email list, and, uncommonly, have our photo taken, along with the other team playing at the same time, a group of four ladies who were newer to escape rooms.

Truth be told, the briefing went on a tad too long, and Aubrey occasionally drifted across the line from funny to a little rude. We got over that pretty soon though – but were happy to get through the next door 20 minutes after entering the building. Not too fast, though: a further video briefing from Luna herself and her adorable assistant Babbage was to take up a few more minutes before we wound up our charming little analogue timer and got going.

The production values were breathtaking throughout. Very little expense had been spared preparing videos, interactivity, tech, and theming. The story made complete sense, and once we got going it was also clearer why the delay getting started – with teams entering every 45 minutes, there’s clearly a very tight schedule being operated, and indeed a very careful reset scheme.

The puzzles were also well-conceived and easy to operate. There was no doubting when we had done the right thing, and the directions were on the money. There was a fairly solid flow of hints when they were needed to start, but these eased off and became much more limited and directed when it was clear we knew what we were about. There’s no way of communicating back to base – walkie-talkies don’t really work across the space-time continuum anyway – but there was clearly a host behind the scenes who knew exactly what was meant to happen when and how we were progressing towards it. There were several orders one could do things in, so it was possible for us all to go off doing a few different things at a time. Indeed, it was necessary to do all that, because otherwise we wouldn’t have a hope of finishing – some of those puzzles are really time-consuming.

Tech was first class as well. Everything was there for a reason, nothing just for the sake of looking good. Everything puzzle-wise was logical; no random codes, no cheap shots, and certainly no ill-conceived time wasters. Also important were clues that used more than the usual senses, with audio coming into play regularly. Here, again, it was clear someone designing this had thought things through, specifically the benefits of brevity. No need to listen over and over to several minutes keeping one’s ears peeled for a clue.

Whilst it was a frantic rush throughout – not for nothing is it called Time “Run” – we were absorbed in both the games and the themes. Over and over we marvelled at the amount of effort, attention to detail, and TLC that had gone into the room. Not for too long though. We were challenged as a three-person team and had no time to waste.

Besides one long and somewhat frustrating puzzle, I think we did really well overall, so it was sad that we’d eaten up around 25 minutes doing that, albeit in parallel to other tasks at the time and rotating through so we didn’t get frustrated. I don’t think we could have gotten bored or distracted, in any case – there was simply so much to do – and I was very worried of leaving behind my 18-game winning streak with five minutes to go. Nevertheless, we contrived to pull it out of the bag. Just.

Outcome
We retrieved the Lance of Longinus in 58 minutes and 11 seconds, having used 13 hints (I think – they didn’t mention how many, and my nerves were far too frayed to keep count). Our grade was “The Competitors”. The level of hints, whilst high, keeps the pace up and ensures players progress at an appropriate rate. The parallel challengers sadly couldn’t release the lance.

The debrief was polite and honest. The host recognized that we were fairly established as escape gamers, and congratulated us but left us in no doubt about what might have been. The opening question was “How did you think that went?” and our reply “we really made heavy weather of [redacted]” was met with “Yup. You could have been a sub-50 minute team…” And that’s right. We could. Darn. Nevertheless, we and our nominal rivals had been the 29th and 30th teams to play that day but only the 5th to succeed. We’ll take that.

In numbers
Overall: 10/10
Difficulty: 10/10
Theming: 10/10
Host: 10/10
Wow: 10/10

We came out absolutely buzzing with excitement and achievement. Pig, Emmy, and I discussed this on the train back and we have come to the conclusion that this needs to be all 10s. Time Run sets the bar for escape rooms everywhere, right across the board. Just don’t make it your first or second escape room, because (1) you’ll be disappointed with everywhere else for the rest of time, and (2) actually, it’s really challenging. A Generally Awesome award-winner and jumping to the top of our league table.

Other details
Accessibility: Looks good for groups with a wheelchair user, but the majority will need to be ambulant. Several audible clues so at least one time runner will need to be able to hear.

Alerts: Dark in places.

Capacity: We were amongst the final groups to play whilst they still had two copies of the same mission, The Lance of Longinus, which is a 3-6 player game. I reckon that accomplished escape game players should look to bring a team of 4; newer folks would want 5 or 6 (but realistically would want to play some other games first; this is too good to play first). The new mission, The Celestial Chain, is due to launch in mid-November and that’ll take up to 5 players.

Cost: Time Run is a premium experience, no doubt. Price is per person: £30 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and £42 otherwise; it doesn’t get proportionately less for larger groups. Yes, that’s £252 in a group of 6. Yes, it’s worth it.

Photo: Yes, taken before the run with a decent camera and lighting, and added to their Facebook page. If I were to be a bit pedantic, I’d suggest they should upload photos by week rather than by month because there’s an awful lot to scroll through in the albums!

Getting there: A very short walk from London Fields (London Overground).

Website: time-run.com

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