Reading to be one of first towns to get a Doctor Who-themed escape room

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EHBristol DrWho

Reading is getting one of the first-ever Doctor Who themed escape rooms. PHIL CREIGHTON locks himself out

FORGET being behind the sofa, a new interactive experience opening in Reading next month enables Doctor Who fans of all ages the chance to be in their very own live action episode of the famous TV show.

The BBC has teamed up with Escape Hunt to launch the world’s first Doctor Who-themed live escape game called Worlds Collide.

Teams of up to six play companion to the Doctor in a battle against the Cybermen.

There is only 60 minutes to work out how to defeat the fearsome foe before the universe is upgraded.

And it’s not just for die-hard Time Lords. The action has been carefully worked through to fit in with the show’s mythology and also work for the casual gameplayer.

An escape room is a puzzles where teams work together to solve clues and find the keys to escape. It’s a bit like The Crystal Maze, but all taking place in the same location.

For Escape Hunt’s Doctor Who game, players take a short trip in the Tardis to land in a dystopian future where eccentric billionaire Alastair Montague’s efforts to develop commercial time travel have caused a tear in the fabric of space and time.

The teams are sent to the offices of ChronosCorp HQ where they have to figure out how to close the tear before the Cybermen break through and take over.

What is the significance of this glove?

To do so, they have to use what remains of Montague, his prototype time engine and the extensive collection of time-related artefacts acquired over the course of his experiments.

If they run out of time, the human race will become Cybermen themselves.

It’s not the first time that Doctor Who has had an interactive game, but given that the previous efforts were all Dungeons and Dragons-type kits for people to play at home this is certainly the most impressive.

The game has been designed by Escape Hunt’s Brad Wynne, who worked closely with BBC Studios. It manages to fuse elements from nearly 60 years of Doctor Who mythology with the escape room format.

Brad says: “There’s so much content from the brand. We build the game from the ground up – what we’ve created is great. We worked with BBC Studios very closely.

“You’ll really feel like your interacting with Doctor Who.”

Is this picture a key to escaping?

When he’s designing the rooms and the puzzles he says that the story-led angle is important, especially as some of the people taking part won’t be hardcore Whovians who know their sonic screwdriver from their astral maps.

“The game is very robust and it has a wide appeal, you don’t need to know anything about Doctor Who. It still stands up as a storyline and you can grasp what’s going on.”

And Brad has also had the challenge of creating a game that lives up to the children’s programme that adults adore.

“The game is suitable for all ages, family audiences and all in between,” he says.

Like all escape rooms, solving one puzzle will “take them to the next puzzle” and Brad promises the right amount of clues are in the room to make the game solvable within the 60 minutes.

Who is giving this mysterious message?

Mat Way from BBC Studios is excited about the team up.

He says: “We felt we had a really good synergy with the Doctor Who brand and the way in which players work as a team. From our point of view, it’s a rich tapestry of content to find engaging storylines that would interpolate to an escape room.

“It’s really interactive and immersive and affordable. It’s good for a team and it’s obtainable.

“We were attracted to Escape Hunt because they have the capacity to have different locations: fans don’t have to go to Cardiff [as with the now-closed Doctor Who Experience], there are six locations.”

This could be the start of a new line of games for the BBC, although it’s unlikely that we’ll see Dragon’s Den or Question Time escape rooms any time soon: Mat is looking for the right type of game.

Mat said: “We like the Escape Hunt format. One of the reasons why the Doctor Who brand is here is that it has great synergy with the format. We’d love to look at other brands. Does it really fit with the format? It’s got to feel organic [with the show we’re linking it up with].”

A puzzle over a puzzle

For now, the Escape Hunt Doctor Who room is the perfect day out, as rather than being stuck behind the sofa passively watching the show, you’re part of it.

Mat said: “It’s about treating people to a good experience.

“Any experience, anything I do with my daughter or my Mum, that’s more memorable than sitting around watching it.

“We love the show, and people will be going to an experience that is really special”

And what did the test audience make of it?

“People coming out of the Escape Hunt Doctor Who escape room have been really enthusiastic, it’s very rewarding for us,” Brad said. “So far, 65 minutes has been the average time [to solve it]. That’s pretty good.”

There’s a hole in the wall: will it allow the Cybermen to find a way in?

Reading’s Escape Hunt is based in the Kings Walk shopping centre in Kings Road. Its Doctor Who game opens on Friday, March 8 and bookings are now being taken.  For more details, log on to Escapehunt.com/DoctorWho

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