TimeTrap Escape Rooms – Station X

Summary
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.

Review
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.
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Escape Plan Ltd – The Battle for Britain

Summary
Launch the Battle of Britain by mobilising the RAF from a secret air base and make sure you save yourselves.

Review
Team Amaze made the trip back to Elephant & Castle, where we had previously been for “The Adventure Begins” (now moved to a new venue in Shoreditch). The chilliness of the evening evaporated inside – if anyone has ever found an escape room too cold, please send us a postcard.

The genial Brendan welcomed us and offered to explain the game at hand. Our members not having arrived all together, we were instead offered some 1940s postcard puzzles (of the “spot the internal inconsistency” type) to try out whilst we waited.

Once everyone was in place, we had the briefing and were underway. I very much liked the setting and how they had striven to obtain (or at least make) props that were appropriate to the period.

The room is very non-linear and whilst finding one’s way out at the other end is an important feature, the actual goal is to gain entry into the RAF bunker and then determine which planes to send where. The first aspect we achieved without major incident, and it was then back to splitting everyone around the room whilst we dealt with a huge range of cues and clues.

The puzzles varied in construction, style, and difficulty without ever becoming insurmountable or boring.

Without getting too trivial, this really was a case of getting on with it. Things went too smoothly for me to call out any area where we felt stuck, and managing a team of 6 was not complicated enough to interfere.

Hints came by way of prerecorded audio and were timely without being giveaways.

One puzzle was counter-intuitive enough to admit several solutions, and when we fed this back to Brendan he immediately agreed, mentioned a couple of teams had said the same, and undertook to change it.

Outcome
We got the maximum possible score of 71 in 58 minutes. We did spend about the last 5 minutes checking and rechecking that we’d done everything right before launching.

In numbers
Overall: 9/10
Difficulty: 5/10
Theming: 8/10
Host: 10/10
Wow: 8/10

Escape Plan has done it again with a very solid game. They’ve steered away from padlocks and towards a range of ingenious mechanical, electronic, and other tricksy puzzles whilst staying very much on theme. Best of all, the scoring system means that there’s plenty to do for teams who have the skills and/or the numbers to do more, whilst you can still get a reasonable result even if you’re starting out or having a bad day.

The little touches such as the contemporary puzzles to play whilst waiting, the finale, and the painstaking avoidance of anachronisms in the room make it clear that they attend to every detail.

We also had an email from the owner beforehand asking us if we were sure we wanted to bring a team of 7 (we ended up with 6) – he knew me from the booking address – and I was able to confirm that most of the players were new and it would be fine.

Other details
Accessibility: Stairs to main room, narrow corridor and confined briefing area. Toilets in a separate building entrance.

Alerts: None

Capacity: The one room takes 2-7 players. I can imagine two experienced enthusiasts doing well (though see below about price), and the non-linearity makes a larger team feasible too.

Cost: There’s a flat rate regardless of the number of players, which is £89 on weekdays and £120 on weekends, except that teams of 2 pay £65 weekdays and £89 weekends. American Express is accepted.

Photo: Taken with a DSLR and emailed promptly. Dress-up gear available.

Getting there: The room is a short walk from Kennington (Northern) and Elephant & Castle (Northern, Bakerloo, and National Rail) stations. It is in a quaint little gated-off business park type of affair; gates are often closed in the evening but you can ring the number on your booking confirmation and they will come down and get you.

Website: https://escapeplanltd.com/

Do Stuff Escape Games – Pie & Mash Shop

Summary
A nice little game which starts deceptively simple. A missing person case in a pie shop turns dark and you have to go and find what’s going on.

Review
Team Amaze took six players to Do Stuff Escape Games, with three each to play the older Hostage Hideout and the new Pie & Mash Shop. We were welcomed by the very pleasant hosts and closed up our stuff in the lockers before setting off back outside – this room’s got an external door in the car park.

There was a fair amount to do once we got going. A relatively high level of locks proportionately but several non-lock puzzles too, and what we needed to do was sensible.

Build quality was high, with some new puzzle concepts we had not seen before, and several good pieces of engineering. The story was a bit threadbare but with no red herrings or silly searching we could let that slide.

Hosting was good and our host was proactive in offering the option of a hint when needed. She knew how far along we should be at a point in time and played a straight bat.

One thing that caught us out a bit last time and is worth mentioning again is the communications system. There are microphones throughout the room which the host listens in to at all times, and whilst you’re issued with a walkie-talkie, it is only for the hosts to use to communicate with you – no need to push the button to talk back.

As mentioned in the previous review, do make time for the excellent burgers in the pub. A special offer is available to Do Stuff players.

Outcome
We escaped with a minute and a half on the clock and having had four hints. I can’t say it was devilishly difficult, but it was definitely paced well and the hosts are excellent and on top of their game.

Apologies to the hosts for making somewhat of a mess and to you readers for taking months to type this up.

In numbers
Overall: 9/10
Difficulty: 7/10
Theming: 5/10
Host: 10/10
Wow: 7/10

Whilst there’s no special reason that you happen to be locked in a room at this point in time, I’m actually OK with letting that slide. The game hangs together well, there’s some innovative puzzles, and nothing falls into the irritating bucket. We had an enjoyable game even if it got a bit tense towards the end.

Other details
Accessibility: Steps to the briefing area but flat throughout the room. I expect the staff would be more than happy to come out and brief you outside. One element will require a fully-mobile adult.

Alerts: Mandatory lockers. Some fake blood.

Capacity: Pie & Mash Shop, like the older Hostage Hideout, takes 2-5 players.

Cost: We paid £55 for each of our teams of 3 using a special discount code. Normal price is £80 for teams of 2 at any time or any size team on weekdays up to 5pm and £100 for 3-5 at peak times. American Express is accepted.

Photo: Taken on a tablet; they asked our permission to upload to Facebook and it appeared promptly that evening.

Getting there: It’s 5-10 minutes walk from Battersea Park and Queenstown Road Battersea (both National Rail).

Website: dostuffescapegames.com

The Escape Rooms Newport – Torture Corp

Summary
A room that left us disappointed and frustrated. Innovative and faithful to its theme, probably a fun experience for those new to escape rooms, but enervating, unexciting and frustrating to veterans.

Review
I don’t normally back Kickstarters, but something about Escape Rooms Newport made it look like it stood out from the crowd. I went in for the top-level package entitling me to play the game in a team of up to 6 and then act as the game master for another team. I gave the room a month and a half or so to get into gear before coming down from London for the day to try it all out.

I recruited eight members of Team Judge to come and play across two attempts – playing myself in the first round, and acting as the host second time around for my friends. The experience started the day before, somewhat intriguingly, but to say more would be a spoiler.
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Operation Escape – The Ops Room

Summary
A great example of how a low-tech escape room need not be written off as “Gen 1”. The Ops Room is a great first escape experience and tied its puzzles together wonderfully.

Review
Living in south-east London, it’s a bit of a surprise that I hadn’t been out here much earlier.

I’ve probably reached that stage that I need to stop booking rooms out of my London Escapists email, because our host welcomed us having read the site and knowing “the reviewers are in” – maybe I’d prefer it to be a surprise. She was in a period uniform and very welcoming and friendly.
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TimeTrap Escape Rooms – Rebellion – 1136

Summary
TimeTrap have found themselves a new permanent venue in Reading and opened up quite a good room – a non-linear game good for beginners and with a pleasing mix of puzzle types.

Review
To celebrate a Team Judge moving-house party, we booked into TimeTrap’s new game soon after it opened. The theme of the room is, as the name suggests, acting as rebels after the death of King Henry I who was laid to rest in Reading Abbey – and the goal is to enter through a time portal and obtain the crown, which has been stolen, to restore it to the rightful monarch.
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Lucardo – Espionage

Summary
I’d heard a lot of good things about Lucardo and so when I knew I’d have a Saturday evening free in Manchester it was top of my to-do list. Espionage is a World War II themed room with very little linearity and mostly straightforward puzzles, great for beginners.

Review
Espionage is rated as the least difficult of Lucardo’s five rooms. A new subset of Team Judge was playing, with a total of two games’ worth of experience between everyone other than me, so it seemed a sensible choice. I had hoped to play The Dream on recommendation, but as we booked so late it wasn’t available.
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Modern Fables – The Escapist

Summary
In a warehouse in the deep depths of South Bermondsey lies The Escapist, a rough speakeasy where you can get rough drinks and meet rough people. Lavinia, one of the operators, has turned up missing. We needed to go and discovery what on earth was going on.

Review
I’ll try not to over-egg the pudding in terms of travel, but you could scarcely believe this venue is in Zone 2 – we took a bus to South Bermondsey station from whence it was a 15 minute walk, but it felt like we were much further out. We arrived just on time and after getting through the gate found ourselves in, well, a very rough-looking room with board walls and a bar in the corner. And Alfie, Lavinia’s assistant.
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Escape this Room – London Bank Heist

Summary
Quite a crop of pop-up escape games in London these last few months. Escape this Room has gone to a lot of effort to build something for a month-long run and London Bank Heist was a good example of attention to detail and had something for everyone in terms of puzzles.

Review
Team Judge hit Escape this Room in its final week of operations. As it’s now closed I’m potentially going to be a little looser than usual in terms of spoilers, though only a little as I have a feeling that they will turn up again.

The story here is that you are entering the bank in the role of engineers to sort out some problems with the vault.
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Time Run – The Celestial Chain

Summary
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.

Review
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.
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