Outside the room
Time Trap really hit the ground running with their first (permanent) game, Rebellion, so I was excited to see what they had produced with their second experience. They’re in a very central location but down a side alley, which was a little less inviting on a grey December day. No matter: a quick ring at the bell and we were inside the Time Travel establishment in a warm and welcoming waiting area.
As with their previous experience, there’s a video introduction from Professor Potch, the man behind the time machine. This time we were heading back to the 1800s to fix up a problem he’d introduced that would result in Lewis Carroll never writing Alice in Wonderland. Given that backdrop, I’d originally assumed it would be a pure Alice-in-Wonderland-themed game but they’d taken a more interesting angle. We’d be plunging into the mind of the author, where we’d need to work our way through his brain to help get Alice back on track.
And so it was that we found ourselves in the shrinking device which, after 30 seconds, would make us small enough to head inside Lewis Carroll’s mind.
Professor Potch has made a mistake with his calculations on a previous mission. It was only small but the shift in time has resulted in a terrible incident further in the future…
In 1863, Professor Potch’s favourite author, Lewis Carroll, has been caught up in a horse and cart accident in Bucklebury market, and is now in hospital suffering from a head injury that has caused some funny goings-on, most dreadfully, memory loss! And the worst part – Lewis Carroll had just begun writing his masterpiece, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which Professor Potch now fears will never be published!
To make up for his mistake, Potch has been working day and night to develop a new machine, and is now looking for volunteers, not only to go back in time through his time warp, but to be shrunk down and sent deep into Lewis Carroll’s brain to put things right!
Inside the room
Once you’ve exited the shrinking machine, you’re greeted with, well, the inside of a brain. I’ve played one other game that went down the route of throwing you inside someone’s head (Mind Crime at ClueTrace in London), and it was interesting to see how different the approach here was. Where the other game was effectively just trying to recreate a memory store, this one went down the route of re-imagining various parts of the brain of which memory was just one aspect.
They made great use of a background audio track and a particular set of puzzles to create a feeling of rifling through someone’s mind but also backed that up with a set of props, puzzles and decoration that were much more geared towards a sort of scientific representation of the brain. That wasn’t all, though: as well as recreating the brain in an abstract form, they’d brought the Alice in Wonderland story to life with tactile puzzles that had plenty of visual references to the story.
Before you enter the experience, you’re handed a leather satchel that contains a notepad, a writing implement and your timer. Now, they could easily just have these inside the room itself, but they’ve tried to make them fit within the storyline as much as possible. Even then – they could have just put them into your hand, but the presence of that satchel adds a little gravitas to the experience. It’s not that important in itself, but I think it’s representative of the kind of care they’ve taken in the game. It’s in the details that you see the true artistry on offer here.
It’s clear that they’ve been evolving their craft since the initial launch, with a variety of puzzles that make good use of tech to make magic in the room. More importantly, it was used well – I never felt it was tech for tech’s sake.
And what of those puzzles? Well, as you’d expect in a room designed for 4+ people, there were plenty on offer. They’d made utilised the brain theme to create good, varied puzzles. There were a couple that I’d categorise as instructional – you were basically told the steps you had to take and then just needed to follow them (albeit with some searching on top), but they’re probably a good way of making the game more accessible for novices, and the search aspect of things meant that it still wasn’t trivial.
Elsewhere there were some really nice puzzles that rarely felt like standard escape room fare. Where they did seem more familiar at their heart, they’d generally added some twist to make things a little more interesting. If you like physical interactions, there are several that either require physical manipulation to complete or involve you physically interacting with the set to input the solution.
As the game moves on, there’s a clear goal that gives you a sense of progress during the final set of puzzles. It’s perhaps not quite as good a barometer of how you’re getting on as I would have liked (the parallel nature of the game means that you could legitimately finish several stages in quick succession), but it did help build up the tension and ensure an enjoyable finale to the experience.
We finished in approximately 52 minutes having been given about six hints. It’s worth remembering that this is really a game for 4+ people – it’s not as hard as that time/clue count might suggest. All but one of those felt like observational failures on our part.
Imaginarium is a beguiling room that takes two very different styles of decoration and fuses them to create a game that is very different from your average experience while still managing to be coherent. Considering we played after just a couple of weeks, it was looking remarkably polished.
The only issue I had related to a puzzle that they’re planning on refining (EDIT: They’ve now confirmed in the comments that they’ve updated this puzzle).
Although we played as a pair, it’s rated as a game for 4-8 players. My advice for enthusiasts is to go along as a four or, if you’re happy to pay for the extra ticket, a three. For less experienced players, I still wouldn’t want to max out the space – it’d be pretty crowded in there with a full complement and numerous though they are, I still don’t think there would be quite enough puzzles to satisfy everyone.
Full disclosure: We weren’t charged for these tickets. That doesn’t influence the review – you can read more on the About page.