If escape room design had a school, homework questions would probably be things like “how can you make an adequate sequel to Lance of Longinus”, “what can you do to make the entire length of an escape game as close to a tense finish as the last 5/10 minutes of an hour-long game”, and “is Babbage really a garrulous chrome sphere or is he just chatty”. The answer to each of the above is found in the Celestial Chain. Frenetic, flawless, and fun in a way that pushed the boundaries of live action games.
Team Pig made its way back to London Fields for our second encounter with Luna and Aubrey on a sunny May evening with high hopes. Last year we just about scraped through rescuing the Lance of Longinus with a few minutes before the portal closed. Tonight, reactivating the Celestial Chain was the mission to contain a vengeful goddess.
They do like briefing people in lots of detail, do Time Run. Part one of the explanation came from our host in the little study, where we also got to lock up our possessions in a nice chest. We then decamped to the (bathrooms followed by the) black briefing room for part two, before the video briefing from Luna followed.
The story here is that we needed to rescue a number of objects from a series of different times in history, so that we can use them to reactivate the Celestial Chain. These objects will be released by the solving of several puzzles, in the customary way, but because of the instability of the time portal, you only get a very limited time in each area (about 12 minutes). This means that every second counts: you only have a limited amount of time to get through each segment and you’ll either succeed or not.
As we’ve come to expect from Time Run, theming, construction, and operations were impeccable. The separate rooms’ puzzles each followed some sort of theme, and it was (mostly) non-linear. The three of us needed to work independently but still be aware of what the others were doing – my more normal “manager” role of directing proceedings was quickly sacrificed on the altar of necessity, because the puzzles weren’t going to solve themselves. Nearly every time we entered the next portal, it was with the feeling that we had the solution of the next puzzle on our fingertips but had just failed to get to it. Which means that the difficulty was well-calibrated as well.
With a new team entering every 15 minutes, there is virtually no margin for error and the reset team must be on top of its game. Hints came via recorded message from Babbage at mostly opportune times, although a few were repeating stuff we’d just figured out.
A dramatic interlude and the finale were once again examples of Time Run’s peerless stage management – it’s a show as much as it is a game – and I would be doing them a disservice not to also praise the video production, special effects, and build quality, many of which needs to be seen to be believed.
The result of this game is measured in a scorecard rather than time. We got a very respectable score for ourselves of 96%. We were probably worth a few more points but bottled one puzzle in each zone.
In the same way as The Lance of Longinus, The Celestial Chain is a surfeit of excellence somehow shoehorned into an hour (or so) of fun and games. As I mentioned at the outset, it has perfectly answered the question of how to keep the excitement and adrenaline levels up for the full duration.
We did, however, feel that one or two puzzles were too much of a stretch of logic or action. One was designed not to be solvable but to create a time sink, as was one of the “segments”. It felt like quite an anti-climax when we got to the finale.
The hint system wasn’t to my liking either: without a screen or walkie-talkie, it was limited to pre-recorded messages from Babbage, and when we messed up a puzzle in an inventive way, there was no means for the host to set us straight.
This shouldn’t stop you playing it (and quick, it’s got less than three months to run) and it doesn’t stop us declaring The Celestial Chain a Generally Awesome game.
Full disclosure: We were not charged for this game. This does not affect our review in any way; see our policies for more.
Accessibility: Good, but not excellent. I think a wheelchair user could just about manage. At least two group members will need to be fully ambulant. At least one group member will need to be able to read English to a high level (e.g. native speaker or semi-fluent) to experience the game fully.
Alerts: Sustained (5 minutes +) time in a dimly-lit area. Theatrical smoke effects. Mandatory lockers for phones and personal belongings.
Capacity: The Celestial Chain takes 3-6 players at a time. Games start up to every 15 minutes. We recommend a team of 5-6 players. 4 is probably fine if everyone’s experienced.
Cost: Tuesdays & Wednesdays £30 per player, Thursday to Sunday £42 per player. Closed Mondays.
Photo: Taken afterwards with a mirrorless camera.
Getting there: London Fields station (London Overground) is five minutes away on foot.