This review is for the original version of the Invitation. All the puzzles have now been replaced so I recommend reading the new review.
Outside the room
Time Race is housed in the same location that used to hold their cross-town neighbour, Trapped In. It’s an interesting old mill building, a large part of which has been taken over by an Arcade facility so, if you fancy gaming your day away, you’ve got more options right above your head.
They’ve clearly gone after a different market segment with this new venture, describing their offering as experiences and putting a significant amount of work into an intriguing backstory. The reception is adorned with sewing machines, presumably echoing the history of the building, which is another example of where I feel they’re trying to create something that stands out from the crowd.
Talking to the owner, Daniel, it was clear that he has big plans for the place. More games are heading this way, probably with an even darker theme. I’m curious to see what he comes up with, because he’s certainly got some interesting ideas.
Every child from the village of Chattesbury knew the name of Lord Everest Flitterwood. He’s the village’s very own Bogeyman, a monstrous old man who would steal the souls of the mindless and reward the hard working and intelligent. To the adults, he was far more of a hero. A Nobel Prize winning Physicist, who helped to establish the village of Chattesbury. Lord Flitterwood was seldom seen in the village in recent years, adding to the children’s gruesome playground talk of the madman atop the hill.
Despite his lack of day to day presence, every day the villagers would see the lights in The Old Manor atop the hill go on with the sun and off with the moon. As many suns and moons passed, the rumours of misdeeds spread away from the playground and into the minds of the adults of the village. Now in modern years tales would circle of families who went missing atop the hill. But to many these tales were seen as just that…stories.
Now for the first time, Lord Flitterwood has sent a letter to a household in the village.
Inside the room
The first impression you get on entering the room is good – a large, opulent space. Your opening task is kind of cheeky but also quite in keeping with the theme and, while I wouldn’t usually approve of what happened when we didn’t make a great job of it, it worked in this particular narrative.
As you move a couple of puzzles into the game, you find out what the neat thing about this experience is and why it’s probably fairly popular among first-timers. The room uses a particular idea which, while not presented in the most polished way, is still a fun addition to the room.
There’s a clear focus on immersion, with a story that’s well developed and continually reinforced along the way. Each puzzle comes in the form of a note from the master both setting a vague challenge and pointing out how others have failed before you, which really helps with the theme. The clue system is similar, with hand-written envelopes delivered on request. If you make a common mistake, you get a beautifully presented letter that nudges you in the right direction while entirely sticking with the immersion. Unfortunately, the immersion broke a little when we went in an unusual direction, whereupon we would – after a short pause – receive a hastily scrawled message. I’m guessing that, as time passes, they’ll get a more complete set of clues and that issue will fade away.
A few puzzles along the way relied on mechanisms that were a little bit dubious, in my opinion. One, for example, was made incredibly difficult if you either tried to be careful with their equipment or you weren’t very tall. Another felt like it had been broken and therefore lacked the feedback you’d expect when performing the required action. Most of the puzzles felt a little bit unpolished in some way.
The big problem, though, by a long, long way is the finale. This was, in my opinion, the single worst puzzle I’ve ever seen. I’m strongly of the opinion that it’s physically impossible to complete properly and that only because it’s manually triggered do people get past it. If this was automated, I believe the room would never have been escaped. It’s a neat idea, one that I have seen in several escape rooms, and would have been a fun finale were it not for the fact that it has been taken to an extreme and then quite a bit further.
We failed to escape this room having used two of our three clues. Well, sort of. In fact, we’d opened the exit door with fifteen minutes to go, but only because there was a way of moving the padlock protecting it that allowed us to slide open the bolt. But, in my listing, it’s going down as a failure.
This review originally rated the room at 1.5 stars. I recommend reading the new review to find out what I think of the newer version.
I went into this room knowing that the final task was meant to be almost impossible and expecting to fail. In spite of that, I’d hoped that we would at least have a chance – perhaps it would be a particularly tricky marble maze or a test of reactions that required a series of impressive responses. But what we saw was just terrible and desperately needs to be rethought.
In its current form, I can’t recommend you play this game.
We ate in La Dolce Vita, an Italian restaurant in the centre which I’d happily recommend.
Full disclosure: We weren’t charged for these tickets. That doesn’t influence the review – you can read more on the About page.