TimeTrap Escape Rooms – Station X

Like a good wine, TimeTrap improves with age. This, their fourth escape game, demonstrates a provider that has built on success, learned from errors, dreamed up new ideas and concepts of how an escape room should work, and put on an extremely enjoyable experience. You should go. Yes, you.

Whilst I’m certainly nowhere near the escapades of some of the more prolific players and bloggers, I’m approaching my 50th game. That tends to mean that most of the puzzles I come across are variations on something similar that I’ve seen in the past, some executed well, some less so. Not here. No tropes are allowed through the ticket barriers. We were invited for a preview the day before they opened.

There are two identical copies of the room. If both are booked for a given time slot, there is a bit of a contest between the two sets of players. It is still entirely playable with only one room going.

On arrival, we got sent away until our exact booking time to allow for reset, which I guess is fair enough. We had 5 players – we planned for 6 but one was ill – and divided into two vs three by nationality: English vs Irish. One of us with dual nationality sided for Ireland. The waiting/briefing room was a mark 1 British Rail carriage. Mind the gap whilst boarding. Our hosts, dressed in period clothing, ran through the goals, which are several: identify a spy who has been feeding information to the enemies and locate decrypted intel which they have stowed around the room. And then it was time to get going.

Straight away we needed to think outside the box. Like I said, escape room tropes have no place here; it is certainly puzzle-solving, but assuming it’ll be like a “normal” escape room, to the extent one exists, is foolhardy. There was plenty to do, with an amount of parallel work available before converging onto the single door, physical or virtual, separating you from the next phase. Virtually all the information you receive is of use somewhere along the way.

Automation was aplenty, despite the setting. It was clear when you had completed a puzzle, and it was usually clear what you next needed to do. There was a very pleasing mix of puzzles to solve, with a range of different styles. Searching would pay off, but was never a chore. Only a single frustrating element, in a visual puzzle, slowed us down a little. With two railway enthusiasts on the team, the telegraph and signal levers were welcome distractions. Throughout, it was difficult not to take time to marvel at the new ideas and tech that TimeTrap had deployed.

We made steady progress throughout – it is up to you to decide when you’re confident with the identity of the spy and ring a bell to summon the host who will tell you whether you’ve got it right. We got it first time; it was unclear what might happen if you got the answer wrong.

Hints were delivered over the station tannoy, with custom wording.

Both my team (Ireland) and Team England claim victory. Ireland finished with 9 minutes and 13 seconds left on the clock and collected 13 decrypts. England finished half a minute or so faster than us but had a mere 7 decrypts, and I suppose I need to acknowledge that they also had one fewer player. I leave the reader to determine whom you think is the winner. We had 4 hints along the way.

In numbers
Overall: 10/10
Difficulty: 6/10
Theming: 9/10
Host: 10/10
Wow: 8/10

Numbers don’t quite do this game justice I think. As I said at the start, this game breaks, or at least bends, a couple of traditional escape room ideas. It’s refreshing without being confusing, and moreover it was rare that we did not have a clear line of enquiry as to what we were going to do next. A preview it may have been, but it had all the polish of the finished article and makes an art-form of the escape room concept.

This is by a clear margin the best Time Trap room, but on top of that it’s the best room I’ve played to date outside of London, and the best room I’ve played to date anywhere that’s not gone and closed. Go and play it already – but if at all possible, do it with two teams, because it’s more fun. Make sure you listen to the briefing and generally pay attention.

We therefore give this game our Generally Awesome stamp of approval.

Full disclosure: We played this game before opening in a preview and were not charged for our tickets. This does not affect the review; see our policies.

Other details
Accessibility: Up 3 flights of stairs; no lift.

Alerts: Sound-based clues.

Capacity: The two copies of the same room (with or without the versus option) can be played by 2-5 players each. I think 3 is about right for most people, though playing with 2 is no handicap.

Cost: As mentioned above we were not charged for our tickets; prices range from £54-115 depending on team size and time of visit. American Express is accepted.

Photo: Taken in the waiting room (a British Rail Mark 1 carriage compartment) and uploaded promptly to Facebook.

Getting there: A 5-10 minute walk from Reading station (National Rail).

Website: timetrapescaperooms.com/

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