Tonbridge, Aug 2017
Every once in a while I find myself in the odd position of having not enjoyed playing a game, and yet still thinking it was a good game that I’d be happy to encourage other people to play, and that was the case with TimeQuest’s Camelot game.
TimeQuest are based on Hop Farm near Paddock Wood outside Tonbridge, a location which boasts a variety of other attractions as well as the distinctive turret-shaped buildings that I now know are called oast houses, and which provide an unusually interesting space in which to host an escape game. The venue is a family-run operation and the very friendly owners give a particularly warm welcome to enthusiasts.
Their three games share a linking time-travel theme, where you are agents of an organisation tasked with preventing changes to history, particularly those caused by mischievous entities known as sniglets. This didn’t play much of a part in the actual game we played, though it was a convenient excuse for the one hour time limit and the walkie talkies that would otherwise have been out of place in a King Arthur themed room.
The high ceiling and circular space provided by the building are ideal for the theme and give it a visual appeal that’s complemented by the simple and elegant decorations. It struck me as a clean design with few potential hiding places – so it was a surprise to realise that the game is actually remarkably search-heavy, and we repeatedly ground to a halt only to find yet another concealed clue tucked away somewhere.
That wasn’t our only incorrect assumption. It felt like we kept approaching the room in the wrong way, with solutions turning out to belong a different category of puzzle style to what we’d been trying. Some of it may have been tiredness, since we played it at the end of a day of driving and escaping, and some of it may have been too much reliance on our assumptions about how we expected the game to work, where a beginner team would have had more open minds and done much better. But mostly I think it was just that we failed to gel. Sometimes you’re in the zone and everything flows, and sometimes the opposite happens. We ended up failing the room by a few seconds and stumbled out exhausted and frustrated.
Very little of that was I think the fault of the game, at least if you don’t mind needing to do a very thorough search. The other points we got stuck on were fair and reasonable, and indeed good fun puzzles – we just failed to think outside the box enough. One near the end was perhaps the exception, where we took a hint and still didn’t know what to do, and which I think could do with more signposting.
It’s a game that involves lots of search and plenty of lateral thinking. As such, if you scour the room carefully and if your brain jumps in the right directions you’ll probably consider it a satisfying, clever and original game. If not, you might find it frustrating (though hopefully not as much as we did), and think it’s lacking in flow. On balance I think it has a lot to recommend it and most teams will enjoy it considerably more than we did, so I’m rating it accordingly; though I’m a lot less confident in my rating than with most games. (Have you also played it? Comment below and let me know how you found it!)