Outside the room
I’d heard good things about Lucardo from a couple of sources, so I was excited to find out first hand what their games were like. I’d parked up across the road (£4.50 for a day’s parking) before heading into the centre to play in the Mind Gamers tournament and then come back out for a couple of games here. They’re located on the second floor of a grand old building and have a pretty large waiting space (although, with five rooms, they need it!).
The pair who run the business were great fun to chat to and gave me confidence in the games we were about to play. One of them is a massive escape room enthusiast, having played over a hundred games, while the other is a relative novice with just a handful of games to his name. I liked that combination – someone who’s seen the lay of the land and knows what good and bad escape rooms look like and a second person who’s got less experience and so might feel a little less constrained by what other companies do. More than anything, I just got this tremendous sense of enthusiasm from them – they took pride in telling us about their games and I could see they cared.
The Dream was their final game to launch and had only been open for a week or two, so I wasn’t sure whether it would have settled in. Well, it was time to find out…
Your dreams are always happy and delightful, but tonight something is going wrong. Your wildest dreams of finding the magic numbers are slowly slipping away, through a whirlwind of riddles, puzzles and illusions. Can you solve your way out of this dream before your chances get lost in the subconscious forever? Be aware, things may not be as they appear…
Inside the room
My first impression on walking into the room was of a bright and beautifully laid out space. It was almost cartoon-like in its construction: clear spaces between everything, oversized imagery, bright colours. Having played clueTrace in London a few weeks before, I could see a similar concept here in trying to express being inside someone’s dreams or mind. While that brightness isn’t present throughout the game, when the game isn’t as bright it’s very a deliberate and very clever use which worked incredibly well.
We split up and started ransacking the room. It seemed like there was plenty to look at and little in the way of red herrings. With four experienced players in the room, that was critical – we weren’t treading on each other’s toes and we each had the opportunity to have some wins in the open start to the game before inevitably starting to focus in on the last remaining puzzles. And yes, it was a very open game – right from the start there were plenty of puzzles to work on.
One of those early puzzles involved what could have been a really cool piece of technology but for me it ended up being a negative in the room because it was too fiddly. It took three people trying it before we eventually got it to work. That wasn’t entirely the room’s fault. One player gave it a cursory attempt before giving up and assuming someone would try again. I was that next person but, knowing that the first attempt had failed, I wasn’t inclined to persevere. When I hit initial failure, I gave up and figured we’d come back to it if we got entirely stuck. A third player was successful. You can probably chalk it up to some of us being useless (especially since the instructions were really very detailed and clear) but, while it was a cool idea, the actual use of the technology was pretty mundane, so overall I think it took away from the game more than it added to it. I chatted to another enthusiast who played a few weeks later and they said the same.
That aside, this felt like a robust room – they didn’t mess around with what you were or weren’t allowed to move. If they didn’t want you to move it, they screwed it down. While that might harm the aesthetic slightly, it also gave me faith that this is a room that will stand the test of time, even when it’s visited by the inevitable Saturday night stag dos.
From start to finish, all the puzzles were logical and, aside from the tech puzzle mentioned above, there was only one case where I felt they need to make an improvement. It’s not a spoiler to say that this room contains a directional padlock and, as is usual with this type of lock, they’ll warn you beforehand and give you a demonstration. But they fell into the trap that makes me hate the existence of these locks – making the puzzle ambiguous as to directions. With most combination locks, you can verify that you’ve entered the correct sequence and even get a teammate to do so. With directional locks, you have to trust that you’ve not under-clicked one of the directions or injected an extra direction or even just misheard the sequence. Your teammates can’t verify your answer without repeating the sequence and falling into that same uncertainty. You can get away with that if the answer is absolutely clear, but here it was ambiguous in several ways, which introduced the matrix effect: several people using the padlock to inject several different sequences multiple times. I always say that, when you find the solution to a puzzle, you should feel absolutely confident in your answer to get the maximum excitement from the game, and it always felt like we were inputting sequences in hope rather than certainty.
I loved the way this game built throughout. As I mentioned above, it started off with plenty of puzzles that we could work on but then slowly pulled us together as a team, partly because we were using up the puzzles but partly because they’ve engineered a more linear ending to the game. There’s a fun mechanic in the room which acts as a kind of progress meter which, again, played nicely in the lottery theme. In addition, those closing, more linear segments also encourage plenty of communication across the team, which is a great way to end the game.
We got out in 28:33, although you have to take into account that the rookie in the room had over 70 games under his belt and we totalled some 500+ games between us – this didn’t feel anything like a 30-minute game. Aside from the help with the piece of technology (which consisted of telling us to try it again), I don’t think we received any clues whatsoever.
This was a fun, logical room with plenty of puzzles to get stuck into from the beginning. Considering that we took in a team with so much experience, we didn’t just rush through it, and I didn’t feel like I was having to work round other team members as I might in a more linear room. The range of interactions with the room was fun and, while I personally found the piece of tech in the room a bit gimmicky, others will undoubtedly love it.
It’s one of the few rooms I’ve played where I think you could happily take four experienced players and have them reasonably well occupied while still being a plausible room for beginners.
Detailed Room Ratings
Oooooo so for a couple who are complete novices looking for a great first experience in Manchester would you recommend this one or Breakout? Both come highly recommended by different friends. I’d love to know your thoughts
Definitely Lucardo. As a beginner you’ll have fun in both but Lucardo is hands down a better experience.
If you’re worried then Breakout is probably easier. Also, themes might be relevant – Breakout tends to be darker which may be attractive or put you off. Depending on your preference.