Date completed: June 2017 (2 players). Succeeded escaping!
Creativity: 8; Difficulty: 6.5; Atmosphere: 8.5; Fun: 8.5.
- 90 minute room
- Fluent English
- Acute senses
- Full mobility
If you are a real state agent with paranormal skills, would it be ethical to sell a house that you know is haunted? Trapspringer and I often discuss hypothetical scenarios, and that one once came to the table while we were visiting some allegedly haunted places during ghost tours in Victoria. (Btw, our answer, independent of belief, was “no, try to solve the ghost issue first”).
To our complete surprise – and somewhat amusement – an escape room in Dandenong created a game with the exact same premise! In Time is Key’s Bradshaw Manor, a family wants to sell an old house but are having doubts, as they believe the place may house the ghosts of former owners. You play the paranormal investigators hired to find out if their fears are real or not, before the place goes into auction. Without spoiling the end, I’ll just say I had the biggest jump scare of my escape history within the walls of Bradshaw Manor.
The game has an interesting start: as the house is about to be sold, the keys are not there any more and you have to begin your investigation outside. It also means you will have to find alternative ways to get inside! Once that is done – which can require some level of mobility – you start uncovering the old stories of Bradshaw Manor. And boy, that place has seen things…
It becomes clear that the original residents of Bradshaw Manor were not a happy lot. The game designers and owners of Time is Key, Jayson and Leesa, spent a lot of time developing the background story of Samuel Bradshaw and his wife Lucy, and it does unveil beautifully along the game. There is a lot to read, and although it is not mandatory to finish the game, it is very interesting to know more about each one of the characters who lived there. The dates and descriptions contained in the letters and books were true to the dramas of people who lived through the Boar War era and a lot you can tell that there was a lot of care was invested into the narrative.
Bradshaw Manor is not overly decorated, which makes sense as is it being sold, but the objects in there fit the story. Old wooden furniture and toys are scattered around, some under dusty, dirt pieces of fabric. In the dark, the broken toys do increase the level of creepiness, but it is the texts, rather than the objects, which make the place feel eerie. How was the Bradshaw’s life there? Is there really something lingering around the manor?
We searched the rooms thoroughly for clues on the old Bradshaws. The place was creepy, but not as incapacitating as The Apartment in Singapore. I believe most people can probably go through most of the room with just a few chills. There is only one moment meant to cause a jump scare… But what a moment! I was very focused in one of the puzzles, and as Murphy never fails, I was just in the worst location possible when SOMETHING horrible happened. I yelled, fell on the floor and curled into a ball that went spinning through the room until my senses came back to me. It was probably an awesome moment for our gamemaster Leesa, who watched all of this on camera. It was also a great moment in the game, and my best dive/flight in a escape room to date. Trapspringer, being the ultra-centered person he is, was not affected much by the “thing” and cuddled my head until I calmed down, so we could go on with our investigation.
A fair amount of puzzles within Bradshaw Manor are of the association type, but presented in many different ways. There were some puzzles with interactive physical elements that did required out of the box thinking and then there were others which really tapped into the haunted setting. Every time you are exposed to a new piece of the story, you realize what to do next and many times your senses will be put to test. There is search and lots of props to put your hands on while you walk around the house, and they all fit the scenario well. Some of them will give you the chills, and if you are playing the room in winter, as we did, it can be quite literal.
The owners of Time is Key also found a very creative solution for the game’s emergency exit: you just push the entire front wall of the house out! We chuckled when they told us, imagining people blasting through the wall due to fear of the things inside!
We exited Bradshaw Manor in 45 minutes and with a very good idea of what had happened in there. We took off our investigator vests and could confirm what was written in Time is Key website: “while we don’t know what’s in Bradshaw Manor, we can guarantee – You won’t find any ghosts.” Beware of what you do find, though.
Out of the room
Service: Jayson and Leesa were super nice and accommodating (we arrived a bit too early and interrupted their lunch, sorry guys!). Briefing was very well explained and we could wear investigator vests. In the end, our GM Leesa explained the mechanics behind the game, that were quite cool, extremely foolproof, and interestingly built.
There is a box for personal belongings. Time is Key also has the cutest support staff team: Winston and Cleo, two cats who will not escape from cuddles!
Communication: A walkie-talkie radio is provided to facilitate communications with the GM.
Surroundings: Time is Key is located in Dandenong, a 40min train ride from Melbourne CBD. We took the train at Flinders station, stopped at Yarraman station and made a 10 min walk through a nice park to get to the escape room.