Outside the room
Manchester’s LockIn has been on my radar for a long time but, with a minimum player number of 3, we needed to find a friend to take along if we wanted to get locked up. That opportunity finally presented itself, so we headed over to the city centre location for a couple of games on Christmas Eve. As I’d read in a couple of other people’s reviews, it’s a strange venue – hidden up above a Chinese restaurant. That isn’t in the sense of “in the same building” but “you actually have to go through the restaurant”. Once you’re through that test (warning: make sure you don’t book around lunchtime or you may find your concentration lacking), it’s like any other venue – receptions, toilets, lockers and waiting room.
The staff were incredibly polite and helpful and, while there were only two on duty when we visited, I’m not sure if the third room was actually booked, so I can’t tell whether there’s a 1-1 ratio for staff and teams. We certainly never saw any other players during our time there, although we did hear one other team playing. After being welcomed by one member of staff, we were handed off to the second employee for a very comprehensive and practised briefing. I get the feeling that it might be a 1-1 ratio but not necessarily with a dedicated member of staff per room.
After weeks of intensive investigation, the security forces remain unable to locate the whereabouts of the President’s son, who has been secretly abducted a month ago. This is regarded as being highly confidential by the government and the intelligence agency has supressed the flow of information to general public. As time passed with no word from the kidnappers, the President is becoming increasingly nervous and is losing patience. The President has instructed you and the Hostage Rescue Team to take on this rescue mission and to reveal the plot behind it. Time is getting tight. After 60 hours of careful investigation and analysis, you successfully identified the location of the hostage, in Flat 60. You are the President’s only hope. With 60 minutes in hand, you are now ready to storm into the flat…
Inside the room
We were sent into the room with a single torch between the three of us. That’s obviously frustrating, but we were quickly able to retrieve additional torches, so it wasn’t a problem. Talking to other enthusiasts, it sounds like the number of torches you get varies – some had just a single torch between three players, others had two between four. For the avoidance of doubt, I think every game should have a torch per player unless there’s a very, very good reason not to.
Once we had a torch, we could start investigating the space. It’s effectively set in a squat with plenty of graffiti and a rundown look. Personally, I found that worked quite well and liked what I saw, but my teammates were less impressed. The room itself was pretty bare – it felt like we spent a lot of time not really getting anywhere. There just aren’t many puzzles in the game and they’re quite linear, so there’s a tendency for players to find themselves not doing very much if they miss a critical clue.
If you do miss something, then the staff are on hand to give you a push in the right direction via walkie-talkie, which seemed to fit well with the theme. It’s clear they’re watching reasonably carefully, because they knew what stage we’d got up to in the game and were able to focus our attention on the right next step without having to ask questions. One of those nudges was for something that we’d already investigated but chosen not to play with too much because it seemed like it might break the game. I’m certain we’re not the first players to fall at that hurdle, so it’s a shame they’ve not done something to fix the problem in the two years they’ve been running the game. Certainly, when I went on to the next game, I was a lot less gentle with their set…
As I said above, there aren’t many puzzles, but I thought the ones they had were good and probably a little harder than average. I loved the feeling of building up the solution to one particular puzzle where I think all three of the team got in on the action. That contrasted significantly with a particular point in the game where there’s a pretty tough skill challenge. I can’t see how you can realistically involve more than two people in it at a time and, given that it’s sufficiently difficult that I could see teams taking several minutes over it, there’s a danger that some of the players could get bored if you played with a large team.
As you head towards the end of the game, there are a few nice touches that make the game a little more interesting and fit in with the storyline, but the very last puzzle which gives you the key to escape was odd – it just didn’t fit with the rest of the room.
We escaped in 43:32 having had a couple of nudges along the way.
I had fun in the game, primarily because the puzzles seemed to be more challenging than most, but I felt that a big chunk of the time I was wandering round in circles not really knowing what to do. This game would have been significantly improved if they’d added in a few more puzzles along the way and allowed some of the puzzles to be solved in parallel to avoid the blocking issues that we encountered. It’s worth noting the age of this game – it’s been around for a couple of years, and back then it would have been way more impressive than it is now.
I think three people is the perfect number here – I wouldn’t take along more even if you’re inexperienced.
Detailed Room Ratings
Don’t take my word for it
Have a read of Really Fun’s review for a second opinion.