A lovingly made room with oodles of narrative
The Wexell Corporation have designed a Time Machine, but unfortunately the first group to head into it never returned. Their actions have left rifts in time, altering history and the future in ways that we cannot fathom. The only way to save the world as we know it is to fix the Time Machine, but you’ll only have one minute to do so. If you fail, the machine will need to charge up before you can try again. Your only help is a small friendly robot called Wexie, and the Time Machine herself, who will try to spit you out in different timezones to try to teach you how to fix her.
Having previously visited Deadlocked in Reading and enjoyed their other offerings (Phoenix Research and The Testing Chamber), we had high hopes for The Time Machine which we were told was a step up from their other games.
If you’re driving to the venue then finding it is possibly the first challenge, the car park (behind the building) is down a rabbit warren of one way streets and then into a very tight car park – but the parking is a free bonus.
When we arrived we were greeted by Charlie (one of the owners) who as before was enthusiastic and straight away on character. After a briefing in their comfortable waiting room we were led down into the basement where the time machine was located.
We’re used to doing rooms where we have a 60 minute time limit to complete our mission so it was strange to hear our time limit for this room was 60 seconds! Of course when you’re fooling around in a time machine it is surprising how long 60 seconds can really last.
With our digital notepad in hand we entered the time machine and set about our mission, saving the world by fixing time rifts, no pressure then.
We found that although there was a very clear journey through this room the puzzles played out in a multiple linear fashion so we were able to work independently for the most part. However, there were ‘choke points’ where the puzzles converged and brought us back together as a team.
There was a mix of puzzles here, a little bit of maths, observation, and logic. The most notable exception to puzzle type was probably the search puzzles; this is not a search heavy room (which will likely please many people), so your time really is focussed on the problems in front of you.
Communication will certainly be useful in The Time Machine if you want to complete your mission in time, as will your memory skills. The notepad was crucial to us and we’d have struggled without it, although it would have been nice to have two of them.
We struggled with one puzzle that we found to be a bit too finicky and it caused a fair amount of frustration in our team. Whether it was us or technology having a bad day we’re not sure, but it damped our experience slightly as we felt we were doing everything right.
Deadlocked have looked at their current rooms and obviously thought “how can we improve on them?”, and they have. Their Testing Chamber room is a tech heavy room and it’s clear that they’ve learned from that game and applied it here. There is no doubt about it, this is a tech heavy room. Despite heavily utilising tech there are also more traditional escape room puzzles which strangely still managed to fit in with the theme, and there was also decent signposting to give you just enough of an indication as to what you needed to do to continue your mission.
Deadlocked have created an entire world for their rooms which are all based around the fictitious Wexell company, and this story is intertwined into everything you do, including your interactions with the Wexell spokesperson/robot, Wexie (more on him later).
There is a great use of space and very good set design which does enough to keep you guessing as to what you may find next. If you’re a fan of sci-fi films then you should particularly enjoy some little sci-fi easter eggs in the room; if you’re a fan of a certain TV Doctor then you’ll be in your element! The soundtrack that plays along while you’re in the time machine cranks up the pressure and really gives you a feeling of urgency (much better than a silent room).
You can’t help but notice that the Deadlocked rooms have a homemade feel about them (you may notice a repurposed coffee cup holder from Greggs), but that is part of the charm. We’ve done much more refined rooms that fell flat on puzzles, but The Time Machine has clearly been built with passion by enthusiastic owners who are all about story and puzzle design.
The climax of the room was clear and we knew we were about to end our mission. Unfortunately we had what we thought was another minor tech gremlin here that caused us issues, in retrospect, Liz probably shouldn’t have had the notepad, she has a habit of copying things down wrong, and that was likely the real issue. It was minor and just meant our escape took a little longer, the perils of technology/Liz!
All clues for the room were delivered via Wexie who was in the room with you for the whole time. He’s a lovely little robot and I’m sure if Deadlocked wanted to they could do a killer business in Wexie merch!
This is a 90 minute room which we had forgotten when we went in, but there is no timer in the room so the concept of time is non-existent in this room (I think that’s the point).
We did this room as a team of five which is one more than the recommended team size of four. Although the space didn’t feel too small with that many people there, we’d recommend sticking to four as a maximum just so you get to experience everything in the room.
Team: 5 players – escaped in 55 real minutes (200 seconds)
Address: 122 Castle Hill, Reading RG1 7RG
*Disclaimer: we weren’t charged for these tickets, but this has not influenced our review*