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