Outside the room
We’d had such a good time escaping earlier in the week, and with the realisation that Summer holidays were going to get squarely in the way of much escape activity during August, we decided on a short notice trip to Lock’d. In fact, such was the short notice, and the number of holidays that had already commenced, that there were just three of us on the journey down to Bermondsey. Don’t think this was a weakened team though – with almost forty escapes between us, we were ready for the challenge ahead.
I’d read many reports of Lock’d being hard to find, so, before heading out, I diligently checked the instructions, looked at Google map and even went on to Streetview. In truth, it wasn’t hard to find, although getting in did feel a bit like an escape room. First we had to get through the pedestrian gate, which looked very solid and closed, but fortunately only by a sliding bolt, then we had to head for the building with the large “B” marked on it. After that it was circling the building checking all the doors, to see if they were the right entrance (and, as is typical of my style of escape game play, I dragged the team in totally the wrong direction at first…). Finally, when we reached the entrance door, there was a sheet of paper with a series of names and codes, with a keypad next to it.
The complex itself is called the Biscuit Factory and plays host to a variety of businesses (aside: one of which is the soon to open AIEscape!). It’s a wonderful higgledy-piggledy, mish-mash of industrial buildings, just south of Bermondsey station. And being ex-industrial buildings they’re full of concrete, iron girders, interesting spaces and high ceilings. This isn’t the sort of site where you can just drop in a pre-made escape room, but fortunately, Lock’d design their own games, so they can work the layout into the game. Certainly they’d made good use of the space.
Speaking of space, in contrast to most escape rooms, the waiting area here is a big airy room. Perhaps that’s a good thing because, based on their website, they’re looking to expand significantly in the not too distant future. That big airy room might not seem so big in the future!
The host was friendly, welcoming us to the venue and chatted to us about the escape rooms we’d done. Yep – overall, everything was going well. There was even more than one bathroom (separate ladies and gents in fact), so there wasn’t the usual hanging around as people went one by one! Always eager to get on with the game ;-).
You’re MI5 agents and have discovered a plot to steal priceless artifacts from a museum. Your task is to break into the museum, find three statues and restore them to their rightful place. The guards come by every hour, so you’ve got 60 minutes before you’ll be caught red-handed.
Inside the room
With the door locked behind us, we turned on our torches and set to work. I have to confess that I was really scratching my head to begin with, totally unsure of how to proceed. There were some clear puzzles to solve, but an absolute lack of clues. Eventually we spotted the clues, but got utterly stuck on how to use them. And then it clicked, and we were off.
The further we got into the room, the more it flowed, and the more fun I was having. Communication wise we were on fire – talking to each other all the time and bouncing around ideas. The puzzles were good fun, and left you with that pleasant feeling of being difficult without being too frustrating. There wasn’t a single puzzle where I felt it required massive intelligence, a huge leap or a clue in order to progress, which is probably the gold standard that all but the most specialist escape rooms should be looking for.
As it typical, I made the biggest screw up, totally failing to decode one of the clues correctly, in spite of spotting that there was something that seemed wrong. Fortunately one of my team mates read things properly and sorted it out. Phew!
The word that keeps coming back to me when I think of this escape room is “fun”. I’ve been mulling over why that is for the last couple of days, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because the room is incredibly well structured. I talk a lot about the linearity/non-linearity of games in my reviews, where I have a strong belief that linearity is bad unless you’ve got a way to involve all the players in several of the puzzles.
What this game did really well was break the puzzles up into several non-linear sections. So we’d all be trying to solve puzzles in parallel, but then once we’d individually solved our puzzles, we’d have a central puzzle we’d need to solve (or one of the individual puzzles with which we were particularly struggling). The result of that is that we didn’t end up stepping on each other’s toes (figuratively or literally!), but still spent plenty of time discussing how to solve puzzles. It’s that balance that makes for a really fun escape room. Too linear and you don’t get involved enough, not linear enough, and you might as well be playing separate games. This was the Goldilocks of linearity. Just right!
We escaped in 35 minutes, which might sound very quick indeed, but is apparently ten minutes off their record! We were pretty focused though, and with a wealth of escape room experience, we raced through much of the room, so I wouldn’t read too much into the fast escapes. We did need a single clue, right at the start – we thought a puzzle had broken, but it turned out that it was working just fine. Slight criticism that they could have told us that it was working fine without giving us a clue, but it’s a minor point.
A very solid escape room. I had a lot of fun playing, and there were plenty of interesting puzzles. If you’re not a fan of keys and combinations then you might find they were a bit too numerous, but it always felt reasonably clear which thing to use where, so it certainly wasn’t a case of trying a combination/key in several different locks.
The lack of real “Wow” puzzles left me feeling a little bit unsatisfied, but the puzzles were varied throughout, so it kept my interest from start to finish.
A combination of the game start times, a shortage of restaurants in Bermondsey and a decent weather forecast pointed us towards a picnic in Southwark park. We headed down to the lake and watched the local wildlife while some local football training blasted out music to get us in the mood. “Eye of the Tiger” set just the right tone, although I question whether “I Will Survive” was the right send off.
Beware the locals though – they seemed very keen to steal our food. I mean, the crows held back, but the pigeons surrounded us :-).
Detailed Room Ratings