BBC Sherlock Escape Room: 19 Questions with Time Run’s Nick Moran

I loved Time Run. I enjoyed Sherlock. Earlier this week, we were finally able to announce that these two incredible worlds are about to collide in Sherlock: The Game is Now.

I asked Nick Moran, Creative Director at Time Run, more about this collaboration. It sounds to me like a trip to London will be in order. Read on and decide for yourself.

1. Room Escape Artist: Tell us about your new project.

Nick Moran: Sherlock: The Game is Now is our next project, which has just been publicly announced this week. It’s a collaboration between the Time Run team (Josh Ford, Director, Sheena Patel, Producer and myself) and Hartswood Films, the creators of Sherlock. It’s a live game, set in the world of the TV series. This is not a pop-up, or a small-scale temporary event; this is a proper, full-scale escape room experience. We’re excited!

A silhouette of Sherlock Holmes flanked by profiles of John Watson & Mycroft Holmes. A yellow spray painted overlays the image.

2. How did this come about?

Incredibly organically. Steven Moffat, Sue Vertue, and Mark Gatiss came and played Time Run. Conversations started… and it just seemed to make sense. I wish I could say it was some grand orchestrated plan, but honestly, it was just a project we were all excited by. Naturally they love puzzles and mysteries – and have created a show bathed in them. Our business is puzzles and mysteries. It was a natural fit.

3. What was it like working with writers Steven Moffat & Mark Gatiss? You can be brutally honest. There is no way that they read Room Escape Artist.

Steven and Mark are great! Obviously, you hear stories about all sorts of projects and collaborations, but honestly, Hartswood Films is an absolute dream to work with. They’re fun and unbelievably clever. They understand we love and respect the show, and that we’re trying to create an experience that exemplifies everything that’s great about the show, but in a live environment. To that end, they’re up for anything. They’re open-minded, generous, and enthusiastic about the available possibilities. It’s been such a satisfying creative process. They really got into the mindset of this alien format. They’re cinematic thinkers – and yet suddenly they were working on something entirely new – and they were totally game, no pun intended.

So, hopefully we’ve come together to make something really cool.

4. Is this ‘alien format’ a traditional escape room? Or more akin to Celestial Chain? Or something else?

This definitely plays more like a traditional escape room than Celestial Chain.

In-game: a large and mysterious metal vessel. It could be a submarine or a space ship.
Celestial Chain

5. Without spoilers, what can people expect from Sherlock: The Game is Now?

So, when you arrive, you go to W- Oh… without spoilers. This is difficult.

You are at the centre of your own episode of Sherlock. You’ll get to step into the shoes of Mr Holmes and be the protagonist in your own adventure. You’ll experience amazing gameplay, beautiful environments (both familiar and unfamiliar) and journey through a world that doesn’t break from the moment you enter until the moment you leave. And (spoiler alert) – you’ll have a whole lot of fun, or at least, we damn well hope so!

The living room of Sherlock's cluttered London flat. The wall is graffitied, "THE GAME IS NOW."

6. Is this set in an existing Sherlock episode? Or is it inspired by an existing Sherlock Holmes story?

It’s an all-new adventure in the world of the show. It’s not set in an existing episode. Telling you any more… well, obviously, that’d be telling.

7. Do people need to have seen the show or read the books to enjoy the experience?

If you haven’t seen the show, it’ll be a great experience, but if you have seen the show, you’ll get a lot more from it. The show has dedicated fans worldwide and we want to respect them and the legacy of the show that they love. So, to answer your question succinctly: no, not at all. But it sure helps to have seen it, otherwise you’ll miss some of the fun details, references, and Easter eggs!

8. Since Holmes, Dr. Watson, Mrs. Hudson, Inspector Lestrade, and Mycroft are all characters in this game… who are we, the players, in this experience?

Naturally, you are… you. Once you have signed up, you are willing recruits of the Network. What’s the network? Well, it’s Mycroft Holmes’ web of recruits that seep out under the skein of the world.

Now, as the trailer says – and Mycroft says it better than I do – many of these particular agents suffered rather unfortunate ends. Sadly it’s time to turn to the public, as numbers are low (and the great unwashed are quite expendable). He doesn’t find this a particularly savoury thought, as you can imagine.

9. Many escape room players are over Holmes. They’ve played so many Holmes-themed escape rooms at this point. What are you doing to make this experience really capture the world of Holmes and set it apart?

Well, Sherlock and the works of Conan Doyle are as different as any adaptation can be! The show is the product of two writers who were utterly enamoured with the source material and set out to create their own, unique universe. The usual escape room fare is just slap-on-a-deerstalker-and-hope-for-the-best.

In Sherlock: The Game is Now you step into the world of high-octane, fast-talking, high-functioning sociopath, Sherlock Holmes and his sneering, supercilious brother, a world dripping with humour, pathos, action, and adventure. This game will be so much more than some loose, Sherlock theming: a battered pseudo-Victorian study, assembled from bric-a-brac, as you see in some poor escape games. Here, you are at the centre of an amazing adventure, in not just *a* Sherlock Universe but *the* Sherlock Universe. The show has become a cultural totem in and of itself. It stepped out of the shadow of Conan Doyle the moment it was born. It’s that world in which you play, which is markedly different from the typical escape room fare.

10. You have such a well-defined mythos of your own at Time Run. Is this connected in any way to the Time Run verse?

Haha, sadly no. Babbage and Luna are off gallivanting through time and space, alone. Although, as we’ve poured ourselves into the game, if bits of us didn’t seep in there somehow, I would be shocked.

Time Run’s lobby.

11. Will people experience the same level of world-building that we’ve come to expect from Time Run?

100% yes. Time Run very much had our game design ethos: a world that never breaks, from beginning to end. A world that makes sense. Games with logic, internally and externally. We try to maintain this ruleset across what we do because it’s our design ideology. It’s all about losing yourself inside a experience, one that just happens to be a game. It just wouldn’t be a Time Run game otherwise.

Lance of Longinus

12. Compared to the high level of detail you had in your original two games, how does this measure up?

Experiences live and die in the detail. Naturally, the same team is behind all of our games, so we sure hope it will measure up. However, these are, naturally, real world environments. There can’t be the same flights of fancy that Time Travel allows. It’ll feel similar in detail, but different in emphasis.

Before we close, let’s expand on a few of the details from the announcement:

13. When do tickets go on sale? When does it open? How long will this run?

We’re currently selling tickets from October 2018 through January 2019 and will open more dates further down the line.

14. Where will this experience be located? (And please let the answer be Baker Street.)

Oh, it’s a top-secret location. Or at least, mildly secret. Well, alright, it’s just a bit secret. But we won’t tell you where yet. That’ll spoil the fun.

15. Your facility will be 17,000 square feet. That’s is huge! How is that space being used?

There are five copies of Sherlock: The Game Is Now. There are also elements we can’t reveal just yet. Let’s just say it’s an immersive experience from beginning to end…

16. Your official announcement mentioned plans for a worldwide roll out over the next 5 years. Can you give me any hints on timing or location? Can I put in a request for New York?

I can’t answer, sorry.

17. What does a ticket cost? Private group booking? Minimum/ maximum group size?

Tickets cost £54 (~$72) per person. You have to book as a group of 4-6 players. And yes, all private group bookings.

18. £54 is a considerably higher ticket price than escape room players are accustomed to. What do you say to someone who’s looking to choose between playing two escape rooms at the more typical price or visiting Sherlock: The Game Is Now?

This isn’t for me a question of “or;” it’s a question of “why.”

When you want to create an experience based upon an existing show – and a premium one, at that – there’s a choice. Do you treat the programme with respect, or not? Do you invest in making it full of beautiful environments, and experiential touch points? Do you ensure that there’s enough staff so that every group has the best possible experience – a ratio over and above that of pretty much any escape game?

I’ve not been to any of the previous brand tie-in events, but I’ve heard tales of experiences that did not do justice to the shows or films concerned. That saddens me. When we say it’s a 90-minute adventure, we’re not lying; you’ll be in the world from the moment you arrive. The entrance will surprise and amuse. There’ll be actor-led elements. We’ve included AV content from the cast of the show. The lovely sets – some small, intimate and detailed, others straight from the series – are created primarily as a gift for the audience. There’s other elements we haven’t revealed, too.

I would say to an enthusiast: trust us. We’re enthusiasts, too, all of us. We are determined to do justice to this show and this experience. If you don’t find my answer convincing, I understand, but it’s the truth. Enthusiasts are smart people. They get that doing this kind of thing well isn’t easy. When you factor in everything – from the A/V elements from the cast of Sherlock to the large-scale production – you’ll understand. I’m certain you won’t be disappointed.

19. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask: Time Run closed in April. Are there plans for a new Time Run facility in the cards?

Oh, Time Run is just sleeping – and nothing sleeps forever, does it?

Time Run Presents Sherlock [Announcement]

The game is on.

Time Run has teamed up with Steven Moffat and Mark “Mycroft Holmes” Gatiss to create an escape room experience in the world of the BBC’s Sherlock.

A silhouette of Sherlock Holmes flanked by profiles of John Watson & Mycroft Holmes. A yellow spray painted overlays the image.

Wow… I feel better having typed that. I am so happy that this isn’t a secret anymore. A lot of owners and designers tell us about their secret projects, but not one of those secrets has been as burdensome to keep as this one.

It’s been a challenge because prior to this, Time Run produced The Lance of Longinus and The Celestial Chain, two of the most impressive games that I’ve played to date. I’ve been so excited about this next production from this company that pours so much into unbreaking worlds, storytelling, puzzles, and epic adventure.

Here’s what you need to know

SHERLOCK: THE GAME IS NOW is not simply licensed; it was co-scripted with Sherlock creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss.

The game will take players through detailed recreations of Sherlock environments in a 90-minute escape room experience.

The living room of Sherlock's cluttered London flat. The wall is graffitied, "THE GAME IS NOW."

Groups of 4 to 6 players will solve puzzles, challenges, and mysteries across a 17,000-square-foot production space where they will encounter some of the most-loved Sherlock characters in new, specially recorded video and audio sequences featuring original cast members.

This isn’t a popup. Sherlock is here to stay.

Tickets go on sale (today) 5th June and cost £54 (~$72) per person.

SHERLOCK: THE GAME IS NOW opens in October 2018 in London, with plans for a global roll out over the next 5 years.

More information to come…

If it seems like I know more… It’s because I do.

We have an interview with the Sherlock creative team in the works. We will publish it as soon as possible. 

While SHERLOCK: THE GAME IS NOW certainly isn’t the first licensed escape game, it is, to the best of our knowledge, the first escape room co-scripted by the creators of the property.

This production will rightly capture a lot of attention for escape games, bringing in new players and additional corporate interest. If this escape room experience is anything like Time Run’s previous creations, this should be a game to remember.

We won’t know how this game plays until it opens, and there will be a lot of pressure to deliver.

In the mean time, check out the official website, and stay tuned for our upcoming interview.

Time Run, RED, & Club Dross… Experience These Games While You Can

These three experiences will be around for only a limited time. You should play them if you can.

In-game image of a the ornate Club Drosselmeyer stage witha swing band and a floor full of people dancing.

Club Drosselmeyer 1940 (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

Last year’s Club Drosselmeyer was set in 1939 (review). This massive spectacle merged puzzles, swing dancing, performance, and actor engagement into one giant extravaganza.

This year’s sequel is set a year later in 1940 and features all new content.

The dates are December 17, 20, & 21, 2017. We will be attending Sunday the 17th.

Come team up with us… or puzzle against us.

Also, wear a costume.

RED - Eve

RED (New York, New York)

RED is not an escape room and it’s not immersive theater; it’s an immersive game.

Staged on a large set and filled with actors, you and your friends can enter an apocalyptic West World-esque scenario. There are characters to meet, an environment to explore, mysteries to sort out, and a journey of self examination to uncover. When we played, we became ourselves in crisis mode… and it was so cool.

The first time we played, we didn’t survive and we had a fantastic time.

When we returned for a second time, we did so with a plan. While we may not have stopped the apocalypse, we all survived. We had just as much fun as the first go around.

The final showing of RED is on December 5th. The company behind it, First Person Xperience, will create something new, but it certainly won’t be this. This is one of a kind.

We loved this game so much that we featured it on our Tour of NYC. If you like actor-driven experiences and gameplay, RED is a must.

press shot 1 landscape

Time Run (London, United Kingdom)

Time Run has grown into one of London’s most renowned escape room companies. Their games, The Lance of Longinus (review) and The Celestial Chain (review), are insanely detailed and interconnected. They are a joy to play.

Time Run will be closing sometime in the near future because their building will be leveled and the site turned into housing. They will be open through the end of 2017 and maybe into 2018… It all depends on a fluid construction calendar. I know that they have plans to create new games, but those plans do not involve their original two experiences.

Please go play them if you can.

Time Run – The Celestial Chain [Review]

Time crunch.

Location: London, United Kingdom

Date played: October 25, 2017

Team size: 3-6; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: £33 – £42 per ticket depending upon timing

Story & setting

The vengeful goddess Nemesis broke free from the Celestial Chain. Could we travel through time and gather all of the components needed to bind her once again before she unleashed her retribution on the world?

In-game: An intricate and aged tomb or temple.
This is really what the game looks like.

The Celestial Chain was split into segments. Each segment was set in a different time and place within history. In each segment, we could earn up to 5 resources. We needed to gain at least 1 resource from each era in order to bind Nemesis. Earning at least 3 from each granted us access to the top win condition. Anything beyond 3 was essentially bonus plunder.

Additionally, each segment had its own game clock. The Celestial Chain was more like 5 Wits for adults than a traditional escape room. As a result of this structure, multiple teams were playing different segments of The Celestial Chain at the same time. We could not hang back in an era once that segment’s game clock expired.

As with Time Run’s first game, The Lance of Longinus, the sets were among the finest that I’ve encountered. The Celestial Chain spanned many different periods and places and each looked and felt distinctive. Furthermore, the beautiful sets felt lived in.

Puzzles

Time Run built unique sets with puzzles that tied to each room/ time period. Every era in The Celestial Chain had a cohesive and related set of puzzles. They had established this design with The Lance of Longinus.

In-game: A concrete Soviet bunker with concrete walls, a PA system, and a photo of Stalin hanging on the wall.

In The Celestial Chain, however, the individual set game clock created a continual time crunch not felt in their other game.

Standouts

The first room was an especially smart on-ramp for the game. It had a fantastic core mechanism that really lifted the experience.

The Celestial Chain’s sets were amazing. The variety of spaces that Time Run created was dumbfounding. In nearly any other company, this one game would have been 4 or 5 separate escape rooms.

The varied yet cohesive puzzles were entertaining and felt at home in each segment of The Celestial Chain.

The pacing was intense. When we gained access to a new area/ era, I wanted to dash into it.

I knocked The Lance of Longinus for not having a climax. Oh my, did Time Run go the other direction in The Celestial Chain. The final moments were memorable and impressive.

A lushly decorated office filled with artifacts.
This is the lobby for The Celestial Chain. The lobby!

I mentioned this in the last review, but it bears repeating: Time Run built a whole world to explore. The entire facility – front door, lobby, gamemasters, and both games – were all part of a beautiful Time-Run-verse.

The Celestial Chain concluded with us receiving a detailed score and assessment of our team’s ability and style of play. This was as funny as it was accurate.

Shortcomings

Time was a precious and limited resource in The Celestial Chain, even more so than in most escape rooms. The constantly resetting game clock drove the pace. Not all challenges were equally fun and we would have rather apportioned our time differently, but we didn’t have that luxury. Additionally, it was kind of heartbreaking to have to leave a challenge seconds away from completion.

In The Lance of Longinus, Time Run instituted a standard aesthetic for time travel. This was essentially abandoned in The Celestial Chain (probably for spatial reasons). Consequently, the transitions from era to era were a little harsh. It was a small detail, but I missed walking through portals.

While especially cool, the conclusion was a little chaotic. We nearly missed some key details. We’d also earned more components than we needed, which added some confusion. (As Ikea will teach you, extra parts are always a bit confusing.) When all was said and done, we collectively felt like we had failed. It turned out that we had achieved one of the highest scores ever, but in the moment that was undermined by our confusion. We got over it.

Should I play Time Run’s The Celestial Chain?

Yes, you absolutely should play The Celestial Chain, but only if you’ve already played The Lance of Longinus. Time Run has a particular style and approach. You will enjoy The Celestial Chain so much more if you learn the ropes in their more relaxed first game.

From set, to puzzles, to facility, Time Run is comfortably sitting among the best in the business. The Celestial Chain was their sophomore game and it pushed a lot of boundaries. Some of those boundaries cracked a little, but none of them broke. The pacing, intensity, and beauty of this game was remarkable.

In-game: a large and mysterious metal vessel. It could be a submarine or a space ship.
Look at all of the details. Just look at them.

The Celestial Chain can be enjoyed by players of most experience levels. We dissuade true newbies from booking it; this game will be hell if you are clueless. It operates under the assumption that you have at least a basic idea of what goes on in an escape game.

Depending upon your skill level, you’ll have to adjust your expectations. If you’re moderately experienced, shoot for 3 resources per era. Trust me when I say that 3 per era is par… and quite a good performance.

The Celestial Chain is one of those rare games that will make even the most experienced of escape room players scramble. Don’t go in cocky. No team has earned a perfect score in The Celestial Chain. We came pretty close, but fell short. Remember than any resources gained beyond 3 of a kind are for vanity and not needed in the finale. We were told this by our gamemaster and forgot it in the heat of the moment.

Enjoy the world that has been created within this facility. The Time Run world is so fleshed out that it could be made into a novel, movie or television series. I think that it would be a hit.

If you haven’t already, go play Time Run’s games. They will be open through the end of the year and maybe into 2018… but eventually their building will be leveled and turned into housing. It’s only a matter of time, so run and visit them while you still can.

Book your hour with Time Run’s The Celestial Chain, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Time Run comped our tickets for this game.

Images via Time Run.

Time Run – The Lance of Longinus [Review]

94% infallible.

Location: London, United Kingdom

Date played: October 25, 2017

Team size: 3-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: £33 – £42 per ticket depending upon timing

Story & setting

Inventor and adventurer Luna Fox created a time machine and uses it to yank powerful and mystical artifacts away from those who would use them to distort history. While Ms. Fox was off on one of her missions, her steampunk robot Babbage summoned us to complete a quest of our own: acquire the Lance of Longinus before its legendary messiah-killing powers could be used in the service of evil.

A massive circular door with an elaborate hourglass engraved. The right side reads, "The Laboratory."
Literally Time Run’s front door.

Time Run’s experience ran from their massive front door through the escape room’s conclusion. We were greeted by an actor in a beautiful set, introduced to the lore of Time Run, and then seamlessly sent off upon our journey through time.

A steampunk office with a map of England and a massive collection of metal and wooden parts.
Time Run’s lobby was more detailed and aesthetically pleasing than most escape rooms.

The Lance of Longinus spanned multiple time periods. Each new period involved a completely different set, feeling, and experience. The various settings were all magnificently executed; they stood in stark contrast to one another.

Puzzles

Each time period within The Lance of Longinus had a completely different feel and style of puzzling that fit with the era.

Throughout the escape room, the puzzles felt tangible and chunky. The props and puzzles were large and part of the environment. Solutions involved physical action. This design connected the entire experience.

Standouts

Damn near everything within The Lance of Longinus as well as Time Run’s facility looked and felt perfect. When we entered their grounds, we entered their world.

In-game: An ornate Greek tomb filled with statues of gods.
This was just one room of The Lance of Longinus.

The puzzles and challenges were inspired by each time period. Every segment felt like its own individual escape room. In fact, with a few more puzzles, any one of those segments could have stood on its own as a complete escape room.

There was a series of puzzles involving many large components and an even larger gamespace. The scale gave this whole run of challenges a gravity that I’ve rarely felt in an escape room.

An illustration of steampunk robot Babbage and inventor / adventurer Luna Fox.
Babbage & Luna Fox

The audio and video portrayal of Luna Fox and Babbage sent them though time with us, while keeping us consistently within the experience.

The actors that we encountered before and after the escape room were fantastic.

Hints were timely, useful, and well embedded. Babbage delivered them.

At the conclusion of the game, we received a card assessing how we had played. It was funny… and accurate. It was clear that someone had watched us intently.

Shortcomings

The climax of The Lance of Longinus was not particularly thrilling, when compared to the journey we took to arrive at it.

For anyone with a short attention span, the volume of introductory content would likely be a bit much. I found it entertaining, but there was a lot of it. Then there was a little more.

While absolutely not a shortcoming, there was a minor cultural difference that Americans might want to keep in mind. This caused a significant slowdown for us:

Very minor spoiler

Europeans write dates as DD/MM/YY. We knew this, but didn’t think about it at the time.

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Should I play Time Run’s The Lance of Longinus?

Yes… if you’re in London, you should visit Time Run.

Everything in Time Run was consistent, interrelated, and part of a larger story. The front door, lobby, hallways, gamemasters, and both of the escape rooms (review of The Celestial Chain coming soon) were part of a larger time-jumping, artifact-nabbing world. It was impressive and delightful.

Plus, if you’re a tourist visiting London, I cannot think of anything more authentically British than Time Run’s premise: “We’ve invented a time machine and we’d like you to plunder ancient artifacts. It’s for everyone’s own good that we hold onto these things.”

Time Run operates its games through a private booking system. You need a minimum of 3 players to attempt The Lance of Longinus.

If you’re a newbie, The Lance of Longinus will be a steep but doable challenge. This was, without a doubt, the more approachable escape room at Time Run. That being said, I strongly encourage you to play another escape room or two before attempting Time Run. You will be so much happier playing The Lance of Longinus with a basic understanding of escape room gameplay.

Experienced players will find a lively, ever-changing, and beautifully constructed world of actors, puzzles, and set design all loaded with nuance and detail that will stick with you long after you’ve returned to the present day.

Book your hour with Time Run’s The Lance of Longinus, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

All images via Time Run.

Full disclosure: Time Run comped our tickets for this game.