Outside the room
I grew up in Warrington, and the only reason that I haven’t played an escape game there previously is because I’m too scared of Clue HQ’s fearsome reputation and would only have attempted their games with one of my usual teams. When Lock Down Escape EG came along, it was obvious I’d head along to try their games at some point so, when I saw a Wowcher deal appear, I booked myself in to find out what they’re all about.
The venue’s just outside the town centre, not far from Clue HQ’s venue and, as a bonus, has free parking. Lock Down is located in an old industrial building and, inside, the place is absolutely huge – high ceilings but also a warren of corridors before you finally get to reception. Again, the reception area is really big but I was impressed to see that it was tidy and well organised with plenty of separate waiting space and a reception desk plus a monitor showing previous escapees.
As soon as we arrived, the receptionist came across and greeted us. I was impressed by both his and, later, the owner’s, confidence – they were instantly saying the right stuff to put nervous people at ease and generally giving you a nice introduction to the venue. Before long, the owner arrived and ushered us into the room.
According to the website, you are a Paranormal Investigator who has been trapped in a VORTEX of LOST SOULS. You have 60 minutes to piece together evidence, find a trace and solve the puzzles before your soul is forever TAKEN to the other side…
In the briefing, there was a little more – little Michael Myers had been taken from his bed by some sort of supernatural being and you needed to investigate where he’d gone and escape before being lost in the Vortex forever.
Inside the room
After being given the briefing, we were asked if we wanted a free clue to start or whether we’d like to just jump right in. Given it was just two of us and I’d heard a rumour that their rooms sometimes had some leaps in them, we decided to take the clue. I’m glad we did because the first puzzle involved what I think was a destructible element. Admittedly, I’d probably have noticed the clue and not moved it just in case, but it wasn’t a great start to the game.
The room itself was a pretty sparse rendition of a child’s bedroom. It’s a really hard balance to make a room that looks authentic without putting in too many red herrings, but I felt they needed to do a little more here to really convince me. As the game progressed and moved into paranormal mode, things would improve significantly.
We started making our way through the game, with it all being pretty universal “find a hidden number” or “find some hidden numbers and work out how to arrange them”. None of the puzzles was very exciting. The highlights were probably a couple of riddles along the way. That said, it was usually logical and, when we asked for clues, I generally felt a little bit stupid afterwards for not having spotted the things he pointed out.
And clues are a big thing in this game. In theory, you’re only allowed to ask for clues three times. You do this by putting a thumbs-up towards the camera and then waiting for them to come into the room. Any keen reader will know that I hate that mechanism for clues because it totally breaks the immersion. The clues he gave also tended to go further than necessary – basically telling you exactly how to solve the next puzzle rather than just pointing out the element you’d missed. I guess that’s necessary, because he doesn’t want to have to come in three or four times to give you those clues piecemeal. On the positive side, they did come in and check on you from time to time, if you hadn’t made as much progress as they expected, and offered hints to help you along. It wasn’t clear to me whether they counted as one of your three or not.
The finale to this game was a little strange: when you think you may have finished, you get one final puzzle to solve, which is just a series of maths equations. I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority in enjoying algebra, so I was really surprised to have a pure maths problem to finish. As Mrs Logic pointed out – it’s different at the very end of the game when things are frantic. In the middle of a game it would be a slightly tedious intrusion but, under time pressure, there’s an element of excitement. I’m still not convinced, though.
We got out at 59:59. At least in theory. I’m deeply suspicious that we actually got out after the 60-minute mark, but they took the timer out when they gave us the final clue. Now, it’s possible that they did that so that they could get the exact time when we crossed the threshold, but the cynic in me thinks that it would be good for them to make the escape as dramatic as possible – a one-second escape is about as good as they come and easy to fake by just stopping the timer at the relevant time (or resetting it). That said, we were certainly within a few seconds of 60 minutes and, given that it took them thirty seconds to come in when we asked for clues, I’m not going to quibble over whether this was a true escape or not.
I’d liken this game to a physical manifestation of an online escape game. It’s all about simply finding numbers in the game and very little in the way of puzzles to solve. Most of the steps made sense, although there was one that seemed very questionable and another where you literally had to brute-force a whole load of combinations until you were successful. If you’ve never played an escape game before, then you’ll probably have fun – the intrusion for clues won’t seem strange and the charisma of the hosts will probably win you over. If you’ve got any experience (and in particular, if you’ve played round the corner at Clue HQ), then I think you’ll find the game two-dimensional rather than trans-dimensional.
For a £10pp Groupon/Wowcher offer, it’s reasonable value but at full price I’d have been disappointed.
Detailed Room Ratings
disagree with pretty much everything said. tbh LD has only 5* reviews across the board in both of the rooms and nothing but positive and praise from all customers how amazing lock down is and especially how nice and helpful the manager is. thumb ways of doing things changed after the first few months of being opened, everything has changed since you obviously came. been open 1 year now and all has been a great start to a fantastic successful business. coming from a guy who had nothing to becoming the person he is today he deserves a lot more credit, most places are franchises and have lot of money backing. this guy sold everything he has to take a risk on being successful. 5* doesnt even cut it how amazing this place is, Not one place changes codes or puzzles lock down does, not one place does special effects and sound effects the way lock down does. Lock down is the only place that sponsors rugby teams boxers, gives to charity and also fits the rooms to peoples needs, e.g birthdays puts chocolates and sweets in boxes for kids, special occasions gives customers free champagne to celebrate a bday or engagement. Also Lock down sell t-shirts,key rings, dog tags, mugs etc i haven’t seen this any where else.
You judge the room on your opinion only, but not one other person has your view. everyone that has been has said how it’s so much better than any where else they have been. over 10,000 people can’t all be wrong and you the only one that’s right hahaha.
Disgusting review and untrue, and also you can’t say whats in the rooms to spoil it for others that’s a breach of the terms an conditions and you can be prosecuted because all puzzles and layout of the games are all copy righted and owned by the owner.
Lock Down is 2 words btw.
Thanks for taking the time to offer your opinion. Let me respond to a few of your comments.
Craig was a lovely person – as I said in the review, the hosts have plenty of charisma. I’m not knocking the effort he’s put in and while I don’t deny that they might sell t-shirts, dog tags and mugs, that’s not really anything to do with the review. I try to review the overall experience and the above is, in my opinion, entirely fair. Rereading it, I may even have been generous.
You say “I judge the room on my opinions only” and that’s true (more or less – I also talk to my team mates) but I absolutely am not the only person who shares those opinions. Go read TripAdvisor and you’ll find another group who think the same way. Go talk to other enthusiasts and you’ll generally find the same. The people who rate this five stars are, I suspect, people who haven’t played other escape rooms. As I said in the review itself – first timers will likely find this fun.
Re: copyright and spoiling the room. I really don’t feel that I have. If the manager wants to get in touch and ask me to remove things that he considers genuine spoilers then I’m happy to do so. Writing a review of an escape room is incredibly difficult – giving people a feel for the room without giving away too much. Having looked at the Ts&Cs, I think you’ll find that no mention is made of describing the contents and I’m pretty sure that even if there was a mention, I’d be well within my rights to write what I’ve written.
Thanks for pointing out that Lock Down is two words. I’ve updated the article.
host should get 5* not 3. difficulty 5* as you admitted you didnt get out in time hahaha.
Thanks Matt. Re: difficulty – it’s a difficult rating. Clearly, throwing me in a room with no puzzles or keys would make it impossible to get out but I wouldn’t rate that as five stars of difficulty. I consider difficulty to be five stars only if it’s a difficult game in a fair way for a fair sized team. I very rarely give five stars for difficulty.
As for hosting – again, it’s complicated. As a person, I found Craig (I think that was his name) very personable. He definitely added energy to the experience. The hosting is more than just the personality though – it’s how well the hosting interactions work. Coming into the room breaks the immersion, so that immediately brings things down. How well those clues are delivered also matters. Are they “here’s the solution to the puzzle you’re stuck on” or are they “here’s a nudge in the right direction”. His tended towards the former which takes away the feeling of achievement.
We played here recently and granted some things have changed. The main one being that the host doesn’t come into the room now and clues are given on a mobile phone. A vast improvement! The end puzzle is no longer a maths based one. Sadly we agree a lot with this review. We hadn’t heard great things from others so avoided going for a long time but we still like to play and see for ourselves. The theming is sparse and not creepy/scary as was made out before we went in though this did step up a bit in the second half.
As for Penny saying no other place does sound effects/special effects like Lock Down does, I hope Penny has now been to some top quality venues and seen the difference. Other venues do take on feedback too and it’s great that Craig has here. It’s true that a fair number of chain escape rooms put out below average rooms and take no notice of opinions. I’d nearly always prefer to play an individual venue than a chain.
Newcomers to escape rooms are often guilty of giving 5 star reviews, I’ve done it myself on a very mediocre venue but after you’ve played quite a few you start to see big differences in quality.
I think this review is actually quite fair.