Leicester Escapologic: Chronos

A terrible virus has wiped out much of humanity. Who does Theresa May call on in this time of great need? There was only one choice… but David Tennant wasn’t available, so me, John, and Matthew, that’s who. Oh and John was working ,so it was actually just me and Matthew.

Our only hope is to go back in time to discover some old research on the disease which could not be found when the virus hit. Perhaps it’s too late at this point, given that the survivors are likely immune already, but when a world leader with the power and authority of Theresa May tells you to go time travelling, you don’t argue.¬†Unless you’re John and scheduled to work that day, I suppose.

Our host for this one already had the virus and had lost her voice, but would be sending notes back through time to assist if needed. She did manage to tell us that the room would cause arguments, although given that today’s team was just me and Matthew, we felt this was unlikely. But we were going back in time so perhaps she already knew something we didn’t.

After a short (and rather quiet) health and safety briefing we boarded our time machine – which was surprisingly much¬†smaller on the inside – and set it to Victorian London. While the opening is short, it’s a nice bit of scene setting and we were hyped for the main game.

We arrived in a small 19th century science lab, surrounded both by genuinely scientific items, and quackery including phrenology charts. There were several larger machines around the room, not all of which were useful to us, and various bottles of unidentifiable concoctions and potions. go all out on their decoration and Chronos is no different.

Unlike many escape rooms, this one isn’t linear. As there were only two of us, we spent a lot of time working on seperate puzzles, and by sheer chance, or maybe good game design, we were each able to find puzzles which suited our skills best. That said, you’re definitely going to need a teammate who is good at logic and working through puzzles one step at a time, and a team without this ability will find progress difficult. The initially divergent puzzles eventually start to feel more linear, although we could have solved them in a different order, but there’s one long, overarching puzzle that requires a lot of cross referencing between different charts and items. This is where Chronos gets the difficulty from – it is not an easy puzzle, and it spans most of the room.

That one lengthy puzzle is both a strength and a weakness. If you struggle with any aspect of it, you’re going to find the room incredibly tough. We got stuck several times and each time needed hint after hint to progress – one hint wasn’t enough. Whether this speaks to the difficulty of the puzzle or to poor hint design, I’m not sure.

The surrounding puzzles were very good, and there was plenty else to do in the room. I spent several minutes on one particularly enjoyable puzzle which was entirely physical, in the sense that it involved moving items around in a particular way, and meanwhile Matthew started on the main puzzle. One drawback to this was that as we started to put all the clues together, we needed to work together on the main puzzle, which was tougher when Matthew had been working through it by himself to that point.

That overarching puzzle mentioned earlier ends up giving the solution to another puzzle in the room, which you’ll understand right away. We realised that we could solve the final piece without actually finding the answer in the room, which is never ideal for any puzzle in this sort of game. So, having not even found the clues for it at this point, that’s what we did.

At this point our host’s voice magically returned as she yelled at us over the microphone for “cheating”. Yes, out of all the people to survive the deadly plague, we got the one who wanted us to play fair in the search for a cure. She made us put it back together and solve the clue properly, finding her voice to berate for the rest of the game. This was an unusually badly designed puzzle, as it was simpler to guess the final piece of it than to find and solve the clue. We could have solved the puzzle without any of the clues at all, were we to really play outside the bounds of the game, and I’m sure people have done so in the past, but guessing the last piece felt “fair” in a way that guessing all of it would not.

We also realised the host hadn’t meant the room causes arguments between the players, but between the players and the gamemaster, as she was absolutely adamant that we weren’t allowed to progress this way and remained sassy with us for the rest of the game. Immersion was perhaps a little broken at this point, although it was funny to keep hearing clues such as “I’m not helping cheaters anymore and you’re doing that all wrong anyway.” has the most talkative hosts we’ve seen so far, although in fairness that’s a small sample size. But compared to the Nottingham location, both hosts we had in were much quicker with hints over the microphone, or to outright tell us when something was wrong or slightly off. This is not a criticism, as we needed the help, and it made the room so much more enjoyable. Back in Heistakes we received almost no help at all, even when we were totally stuck and frustrated, and although this might be more immersive it’s a lot less fun.

Anyway, we got back on track and found the clue to solve the puzzle “fairly”.We finally did find the research on the virus, and as our time in the lab was almost over, took what was left of it with us to the present in the hope that a cure could be made. Turns out the original research was stolen mysteriously in 1891, with the lab having no visible signs of entry, it was like someone just appeared out of thin air and… oh. Oops.

I was pleased that both the goal and the ending to the room were obvious and made sense when we reached them. A common criticism I have of Escapologic rooms is that they lack a clear start or finish, but Chronos has both, and is a better room for it.

I wouldn’t really recommend this for a team of two unless you are exceptionally competent and confident. We beat the room in 52 minutes, but with many, many hints. If you get stuck in Chronos you get firmly, resoundingly stuck. Our host clearly wanted us to win the room, and we wouldn’t have had any chance otherwise. There are so many puzzles to get through, through I wonder if the cross-referenced chart was just a little bit overused, as so many solutions to other puzzles lead back to it. Having that theme throughout the game did tie things together, but given the difficulty, not everyone is going to find it fun.

None of this takes away from the fact that Chronos is a great escape room. It’s not quite a “must play” but we had a great time.

On our way home we saw Theresa May and her entourage, apparently relieved we’d saved the world, but still determined to ruin it if she could.

“Theresa is looking tired,” I whispered to her secretary as we passed…

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