Following a recommendation as one of the scariest but high-quality escape rooms in Athens, three of us headed along to Reality Ripples to play Deadlock knowing very little about how that scariness might manifest itself. On arrival, it seemed a pretty innocuous setting, and there was nothing to hint at what might lie ahead as we were taken through the briefing by our games master.
The experience gets off to a flying start with a fun transition to the game that sets the scene for what’s to come. Scariness ramps up quickly, but there’s a good cadence here: each time we got used to the level they’d reached, they’d move it up another notch. I remember one particular moment late on in the game where I threw myself through a doorway, which perhaps indicates the level of adrenaline you can expect to experience.
From a set design point of view, things were reasonable. The nature of this game is that there’s no need to create a gorgeous backdrop, but they’ve done enough that it didn’t detract from the experience. There was one part that I found a little more off-putting, but that was more about what we thought might be involved with the puzzles than about the set design itself. Where the set design excelled was in the layout of the game. The creators have done a good job with what they had, managing to give a sense of exploration while leaving you feeling quite vulnerable at times. On top of that, they have made good use of the space within the challenges to heighten the fear experienced by players.
While the challenges work well in that sense, I really didn’t enjoy their puzzle design. When we escaped and looked back on what we’d encountered, every major puzzle seemed to have a significant flaw. Some felt like they required leaps in logics, some had inelegant solutions that left us lacking in confidence when we finally overcame them, while others suffered from ambiguity – in the worst case with several different sources of ambiguity that made working our way through the combinatorial solutions more than a little tedious.
Strangely, that frustration didn’t detract from the game too much, and we were still excited right to the end. That was good because, as with the start, they draw the game to a conclusion in a fantastic (and incredibly unusual) way. Sometimes games peter out or end abruptly. Here they bring the narrative to a logical conclusion and leave you with a final memorable moment to cherish.
Deadlock is a game that lives on its start, finish and scares. It starts the game with a bang and finishes it off in an equally impressive style; and, in between, your heart will spend most of its time pounding in your chest. They’ve created an interesting set to explore and used that along with the puzzles to heighten the fear factor. Unfortunately, those puzzles had many, many flaws, which makes me feel that this game will really only be of interest to people who enjoy being scared. Having said all that, we still came out having really enjoyed ourselves, so go in with your eyes open and I’m sure you’ll have fun too!
We played as a three and escaped reasonably comfortably. Having said that, it all comes down to how much fear will incapacitate you, and I think that’s what should drive the ideal team size.