A TV screen fizzes with static and the figure of Professor Potch, ‘inventor of the time warp’ emerges through the crackle. All white coat and wild hair, he briefs us on our mission: once we enter the room next door we must crack a succession of puzzles and games to complete our mission and escape. We can’t spend longer than 60 minutes inside the time warp or we won’t be able to return to the present.
We’re at TimeTrap, Reading’s new escape room activity game, and our team of three are about to embark on Rebellion 1136, the first permanent game designed by two recent Reading University Graduates, Andrew Ingle and Katie Falco-Uff.
TimeTrap started life as a pop-up experience in the basement of the Purple Turtle for Reading Fringe Festival 2016. Since then the duo have opened their first permanent location, squirreled away behind a locked door at the end of the alleyway by Walkabout.
The unique twist at TimeTrap is the historical ‘time travel’ theme. Wanting to give their game a connection to Reading’s culture, Andrew and Katie hit on Reading’s own fascinating slice of historical intrigue, the aftermath of the death of King Henry 1, who is buried under Reading Abbey.
Rebellion 1136 centres around his daughter Matilda’s claim for the throne. Players are Matilda’s rebel army and it’s your job to steal the crown from the illegitimate King Stephen. (Handily, that rebellion is also the plot behind Reading Between the Line’s November production, ‘Matilda the Empress’, if you want to dive into that story a bit more).
Lots of escape rooms describe themselves as ‘immersive’ but this is one of the few we’ve tried that really is. Attention to detail is high, with an impressive castle dungeon set up designed and made by the pair themselves.
The game itself is also very well plotted. There’s a good balance of word puzzles, lateral thinking, physical challenges and riddle solving, meaning each of our team gets a chance to shine and take charge.
Nothing feels impossible, but is challenging enough to give our brains a decent workout. And if you do get stuck down a cryptic dead end, the team can send you the occasional helpful notification through your communication device (it’s an iPad).
Every puzzle also blends seamlessly into the historic theme, ensuring we stayed in character for the whole hour. This puts TimeTrap ahead of some bigger London games we’ve sampled, where clues can be tenuously linked, or even crowbarred in.
The only downside at TimeTrap is the size. For now, there is only one game room available, so they get booked quickly. However, two more rooms with Victorian and WWII themes are set to open later in the year.
TimeTrap is fun, endearing and an exciting addition to our choice of things to do in Reading. Prepare for some competitive debate, a bit of head scratching and a surprising rush of adrenaline – with a Reading history lesson thrown in.
And if you’re wondering, Explore Reading managed to crack the final puzzle and secure the crown after 58 minutes 32 seconds. The current record is 33 minutes. We need some more practice.
TimeTrap Escape Room
11 Friar Street, RG1 1DB | Open 12-10pm Wednesday- Sunday | £17/person | Book here
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.