With its huge production values, Time Run is widely regarded among the escape game community as one of the country’s Holy Grails. So our anticipation was at fever pitch when we were invited down to the opening night of Time Run’s brand spanking new game, The Celestial Chain. While we had a brilliant night, a word of advice: don’t have expectations.
If you’re not aware of what an escape game usually is – it’s a physical adventure game in which you and a group of friends are locked in a room and have to use elements of the room to solve puzzles, codes and locks, and escape within a set time limit – usually 1 hour.
First thing we should say about The Celestial Chain is that this is not the escape room as you know it. And in fairness, you’re told as much prior to arriving with the email underlining the fact this is a brand new game format. Naturally, this did nothing to temper our expectations!
The plot for or The Celestial Chain is actually less complicated on paper than it feels during the game; ‘A rogue goddess, once imprisoned, has broken free of The Celestial Chain. Now, liberated from her shackles, she moves through time, spreading destruction from era to era.’ Essentially you and your fellow gamers need to travel through five time periods, playing games and solving puzzles to gather artefacts that will save the world.
Easy, right? WRONG. We’ll go on record as saying this is the most difficult escape game we’ve ever played. And while much of that is probably down to our incompetence, we do think the brand new game format comes with its problems.
The great thing about standard escape games is you’ve got time to run around like a headless chickens before calming and figuring out your process. There is none of this in The Celestial Chain. And that’s because there’s essentially only one task to perform in each room, and virtually none of them require much searching for clues. It needs teamwork but unlike other games, you all need to be focused on the same task.
Then there’s the problem of time – something you’d expect a game called ‘Time Run’ to have locked down. The sense of danger and tension a clock in regular escape games brings is completely taken away by The Celestial Chain. You have no idea how long you’ve got. And worse than that, as soon as you get to grips with a task, you’re out of time. Frustration is an emotion we’ve come to terms with during previous escapes but this was something else!
The sense of achievement you can feel from escaping a room in the regular format is also taken away. To combat this, the Time Run team give you a score card at the end of your adventure, highlighting strengths and weaknesses of the team. While we appreciate the idea, it was hard not to feel flat after the experience. We escaped but we’re almost certain everyone does – we only bagged one of the three required artefacts! It does also seem like a ploy to get escapees to come back and beat their score.
But we don’t want to get too down on Time Run. The Celestial Chain was frantic and it was undoubtedly fun. As hoped, the production on set was extraordinary at times, and your initial host Aubrey is by far the best we’ve ever had – being welcomed by a host in character always heightens your senses. The tasks themselves were also innovative, and baring a couple of forgivable first night teething problems, they were exciting to play.
Time Run – The Celestial Chain is by no means a bad escape game and it’s even less of a bad night out. It all boils down to your expectations. As serial escapers, turning over the room for keys and clues is path for the cause – and expecting as much in The Celestial Chain – at one point one of the more forceful members of the crew accidentally opened a door which shouldn’t have moved and consequently walked in on fellow escapers in another room. The moral of the story is temper those expectations – this is not the escape game you know and love. More akin to The Crystal Maze, it’s something new and exciting in its own right.
Located a couple of minutes’ walk from London Fields Station, Time Run – The Celestial Chain escape game is open now with prices starting at £25 per player for Off-Peak times and rising to £35 for Peak times. Head over to the Time Run Website for more details.