Reading, Aug 2018
Quite a number of escape companies use a time travel premise for their games, and the first game I played at TimeTrap demonstrated a stronger than average grasp of historical detail. So it was a surprise to find that in Imaginarium, although it theoretically sends you back to the year 1863, the setting is more whimsical and fantastical than Victorian. But then, this is a game based around Lewis Carroll and Alice In Wonderland.
The other Alice-themed games I’ve played have all cast the players as visitors to Wonderland. Imaginarium takes a more unusual tack, placing the players inside Lewis Carroll’s own head, effectively combining two different themes in a single game. While this means you shouldn’t expect a full-on Wonderland landscape, it also allows it to include a whole other set of ideas. And frankly, while the Alice elements in Imaginarium are good, it was the other parts that I found most charmingly original and bonkers creative.
However, it is highly decorative and decorated throughout. In place of the slick patina of props commissioned from specialist suppliers, TimeTrap’s designs have the beautiful polish of handmade components made and painted by skilled in-house artists. (I have no inside knowledge of their build process, but that’s certainly the impression their rooms give!)
The game starts with an intro sequence that’s cute, though could do with a touch more razzmatazz. Despite the time-travelling premise and a good number of physical puzzles, their design style struck me as quite thoughtful, not action driven. Nothing is obnoxiously mathsy, but there’s a slightly academic tone in places that may just reflect a focus on good puzzle design. From start to finish I didn’t notice anything that I’d class as even a minor ambiguity – the closest was a wordy puzzle that seemed a bit subjective, but which in practice resolved neatly enough. Our biggest sticking point was, naturally, failing to find something – but it had a fairly clear clue nudging players to look in the right place, so that was entirely our error.
As well as being impressively solid throughout, it’s just very charming. It would be a great one to play as a family, not because it’s short on challenge but because it’s a lovely theme with very accessible puzzles. I struggle to imagine any team playing Imaginarium and not enjoying it.