A lot has changed at TimeTrap Escape Rooms since our last visit. After starting as a small one-room operation by a pair of University of Reading graduates, the independent, made-in-Reading business has expanded. They’re currently building their third experience, Station X, and have just opened a unique pop up game at 58 King’s Road. Created in aid of Launchpad, The Divide aims to not just give you a fun, puzzling experience but also raise your awareness of the growing economic gulf in our society.
What hasn’t changed at TimeTrap though is the quality and creativity of the game experiences, so when the team invited me to return and try out their second game room, Imaginarium, I jumped at the chance.
One thing that instantly sets TimeTrap apart from other escape room experiences is their time period-themed games. Their first game, Rebellion, is based around the The Anarchy, the Norman England civil war created by Henry 1’s death. Imaginarium takes us back to Victorian England, and specifically to the world of Lewis Caroll.
Upon arriving, my team of four are again given a video briefing by their time doctor, Professor Potch, who explains that on his last time travel mission, he created a glitch in history. In 1863, he caused Lewis Caroll to be caught up in a horse and cart accident, suffer a head injury and memory loss so he’s unable to write his masterpiece, Alice in Wonderland. Our mission is to step back in time, be shrunk to miniature size and enter the brain of Lewis Caroll to restore his memory and bring Alice in Wonderland back to the world.
The time travel story is a slightly tenuous link to the brain experience, but it’s delivered with a sense of fun and cheekiness that means we embrace it.
Once inside the room, it’s an impressive, well-designed, onslaught of the senses. Unlike the dark, castle-like space of Rebellion, Imaginarium is a fluffy delight. Design is all pinks and soft blues, fairy lights, gentle music and Victorian charm. It feels almost like being in a nursery and is a good way to make us feel inside the head of someone with no memories.
The first room sees a series of tasks all built around the senses and parts of the brain (cognition, creativity etc), which each result in a puzzle that connects the brain together. We have to do word puzzles, maths puzzles, follow patterns, solve riddles and use all of our own senses. The really quirky puzzles come in when you have to smell, or touch things to solve the next part of the journey. If you get stuck or appear to dither at any point, the voice of the brain will talk to you, which is a fun and easy way to get clues, as you don’t need to keep picking up a phone, or reading an iPad while trying to do something else.
The second room is also impressive with an Alice-in-Wonderland theme. There’s books hanging from the ceiling, a tea party on the table and a Cheshire Cat Mural on the wall, with a riddle to solve, naturally.
Just as with Rebellion, each puzzle leads on to the next, but don’t always have to be done in complete strict order, so if you’re in a group of four or more, half the team can work on one puzzle, while the others solve something on the other side of the room, and it will all come together in the end.
Only a couple of the puzzles in the second room left us stumped at first, and I would have liked these to have had slightly more signposting to get us to the first step on the way before we needed a clue. But most are balanced to trigger different types of thinking, which works really well in a varied group.
Imaginarium features some truly original games and puzzles, none of which I’d seen before at other escape rooms I’ve done. The TimeTrap team continue to deliver creative and imaginative game experiences with such a high level of detail they become immersive experiences. I may have felt the Lewis Caroll brain connection slightly tenuous when I went in, but I came out excited to have saved Alice in Wonderland with seven minutes to spare!
TimeTrap Escape Room, 11 Friar Street, RG1 1DB | Open 12-10pm Wednesday- Sunday | £18/person | Book here
Explore Reading was invited to try Imaginarium by TimeTrap Escape Rooms.
Hello! I'm Claire, the founding editor of Explore Reading. I'm a Reading native and former digital director of Time Out Shanghai. I founded Explore Reading so no one can say, ‘there’s nothing to do in Reading’, again. When not editing Explore Reading, I'm probably drinking a Manhattan.