Outside the room
It just so happens that one of my fellow escapers from London grew up in Bury, not very far away from where my parents live, so when Trapped In opened, it didn’t take me long to suggest a meetup. This being a fellow escape addict, it wasn’t long before playing one room had become playing both, with the supposedly harder game, Time Machine, the first installment.
Interestingly, unlike most locations that I’ve visited, the games don’t start at the same time – there’s a half hour offset between the start times, which I suspect is to allow them to run two games with one host. That’s one way of cutting down on costs, but I was a little nervous about what would happen if both teams needed help at the same time.
The escape rooms are housed in a large office block, a few minutes’ walk from the centre of town, with an on site car park, so it’s incredibly easy to reach and, in a novel twist for an escape venue, there are clear instructions on the front door telling you what to do when you get there. Good start!
The host greeted us at the front door and brought us through the twisting passages to the escape rooms. After telling us how to use a directional lock, he quickly took us through to our first room, where, almost as an afterthought, he gave a somewhat uninspiring two sentence briefing.
In Time Machine you take the part of a group of human guinea pigs, recruited by a mad professor to test out a time travel machine. Intriguingly, the website suggests that you can choose your time and place to travel to, which seemed like an interesting idea. As you might have expected, there was a limited window for this time travel trip – we had to be back inside 60 minutes, or the energy reserves would run out and we’d be trapped in history for ever…
Inside the room
First impressions were very good. I’d not really thought too much about what the room would look like, but it was a very plausible time machine. This was definitely the strongest part of the game. Activating the time machine was a truly impressive experience and showed that this wasn’t just a room where they’d throw some locks and puzzles together and leave you to it.
A good start, but one big concern with this room is that there’s quite a steep learning curve. Granted, it’s rated as the more difficult of the two rooms, so the theory says you shouldn’t play it first, but I’d still expect a few easy puzzles to get you warmed up and let any newbies see how it’s meant to work. We quickly got past that though and on to rest of the puzzles.
There weren’t a huge number of puzzles, but there were enough, with a variety of different mechanisms. While they weren’t worked seamlessly into the room, they were at least partially on theme. Pleasingly, they avoided one of my pet hates, where you spend your time finding random numbers hidden around the room, and there was certainly a decent amount of searching. The puzzles were in general reasonably straightforward once you saw where they were going, and we only got stumped by one.
And oh did we get stumped. We knew we had to unlock two remaining locks, but we just couldn’t see how. We had just one clue which didn’t seem to help with either lock and after ten minutes of fruitlessly re-searching the room, discussing the puzzle and generally racking our brains we succumbed to pressing the big yellow clue button.
And then we waited. And waited. And waited. And waited some more. Now, outside an escape room, waiting four or five minutes wouldn’t be a long time. If I turned up and they were taking photos of the previous escapers so I had to wait five minutes to talk to them, then that would be just fine. When you’re in a room though, waiting five minutes is pretty frustrating, especially when you’ve already waited ten minutes before you even asked for a hint. This is why you need a host for every game, and not one split between two different groups of people.
Eventually a side door from the room opened and our host walked in. I’ve never, ever had clues delivered by the host coming into the room before and I hope I never have to again. Perhaps I’m being an escape room diva (HT Errol Elumir for that concept!), but if I’m meant to have traveled back in time and I’m desperately trying to get the time machine working again so that I can save my skin, it somewhat ruins the experience when someone opens the door and walks in. Worse still, the host didn’t really know what we were up to, so took a minute to work out where we had gone wrong. Which should have been obvious because it’s where everyone in this room goes wrong…
Yes, there’s a puzzle in this room that’s next to impossible to solve without a clue. Maybe a team’s done it once, but I very, very much doubt it. It’s a subtle clue, in a hard to see place, that’s made harder still by poor lighting. Hint: when your play testing shows that people always ask for help on that puzzle, you should probably consider changing it. When we got our clue, we were told exactly where to look and still it took us a minute of searching before one of us spotted what it was. Yes, five people looking at exactly the right spot, knowing there was a clue there and we still struggled. Good luck for finding it without a clue…
One thing that made it difficult for our host to know where we were up to was because a lock that secured the final stage of the game was open and the contents of the container clearly visible. How was that possible when we were still only partway through? Well, the room had been mis-set. Grrr. Fortunately the two of us who were more experienced had spotted that it was a mis-set lock and had refused to follow the clue within. That was incredibly fortunate, because if we hadn’t the game would have been over in around fifteen minutes…
The finale of the game was just as impressive as the intro, let down only marginally by the exit door not working automatically, and the computer crashing… but that’s me being picky. It was genuinely impressive none-the-less.
We broke the escape record for the room with around 17 minutes remaining on the clock. Judging by the state of the room when we came back to play Air Traffic Control later, we might well have broken the room as well as the record… but more of that in the second review.
This could have been a very good room. The puzzles, while not exciting, were reasonable and the theming was very good, particularly at the beginning and end. It was sorely let down by the hosting, which I think mainly came down to having one host dealing with two rooms. They’re talking of opening a third room, at which point they’ll presumably need two hosts, and some of these problems may be resolved.
I’d still recommend it though, because it was a very atmospheric game, with some really nice touches, generally sensible puzzles and we were a little unlucky with the mis-set and the game breaking right at the end. Fingers crossed that you don’t get that experience.
There were relatively few options easily accessible, so we opted for Pizza Express. Maybe not exciting, but nice, and close enough for a return journey in the gap between rooms…
Detailed Room Ratings
We escaped with no clues so unless we were properly amazing that day they may have removed the nearly impossible puzzle.
We enjoyed this room but spent too much time deciding where we wanted to go and I had to wash my hands straight away as it was filthy.