Room Lockdown (Essex): Prison Break

Outside the room

Our second game at Room Lockdown was that standard staple of escape rooms everywhere: Prison Break. We were running a little ahead of schedule so, while we waited for it to be reset, we chatted a little with our GM. It turns out that they refresh each room every six to eight weeks. When I queried, he confirmed that they replaced ALL the puzzles and sometimes reconfigured the room. Specifically, in one of the games, the order in which you move through the sub-rooms changed.

It’s an interesting philosophy – at a time when most games are still trying to iron out the final kinks in their games, Room Lockdown is about to replace them entirely. On the plus side, that means locals get access to a whole new game every two weeks or so but, on the minus, it means they can’t afford to invest in the props and puzzles to the same extent, and the sense of discovery is significantly reduced when you return to play the new variant.

Background

You and your teammates are locked in a maximum security prison and are awaiting your execution. You were framed by a notorious serial killer and you are now facing charges for a murder you did not commit. There have been multiple attempts to escape from this maximum security prison but many people have failed and most inmates were either ​shot or recaptured while others disappeared without a trace, giving hope to inmates that there are ways to escape!

The Warden and prison guards are holding an important meeting, you have sixty minutes to escape from the prison and free yourself before they return.

Inside the room

Prison Break is a split room (and, for the record, played with handcuffs) so the first thing we had to do, given there were three of us, was decide who would be going solo. No prizes for guessing that it was me. In terms of team separation, this was one of the best setups I’ve seen: it made communication a challenge but absolutely one that you could handle. All too often the separation is either token or a major frustration in the game. Here it walked the line beautifully.

Decoration-wise, it was probably the best of the three games we saw at Room Lockdown. It’s a prison, so obviously it was never going to be a glamorous location, but they’d put together a solid set of cells and an interesting space that they looked out onto. That standard of décor wasn’t quite as high throughout, but it was good enough for the game.

On the puzzle front, they’d stepped up from the Possessed Doll and delivered a decent array of challenges. The opening physical puzzles, where they’d managed to convey the sense of a real escape, were definitely the highlight for me. Beyond that, it was mainly the typical “spot the numbers around the room” challenges, one of which was so well hidden that we took a while to find it even when we were told where it was afterwards…

There was some level of parallelisation to the room with the result that players rarely felt blocked by their team mates. Unfortunately there’s one thing I consider a design flaw in that parallelisation. There’s one particular puzzle that, if you don’t solve it, can leave some players with nothing to do for an extensive period of time. Worse still, it wasn’t obvious which puzzle that was so I was left watching on as my teammates completed several puzzles…

The game faltered a little as it progressed towards the finale, with the final puzzle breaking a rule that we’d been given for another room as well as involving a dull combination of searching and random logic. The beauty of these games is that you tend to make the end of the room with only a few minutes remaining, so you will at least get the excitement of the clock running out to keep you engaged even if the puzzle doesn’t.

Result

We escaped with 2 minutes left, having taken our full allocation of clues.

Verdict –
 

This game started out well, with some really fun physical puzzles that kept me engaged. That isn’t guaranteed, though – the separated room left one part of the team with little to do at times, and a skill challenge may become too frustrating for some players. As we progressed, the puzzles became a little uninspired, and the finale left me feeling a bit frustrated.

I’d suggest playing with four players – the split start rewards having that number, although you’ll likely feel a little crowded towards the end of the game.

Detailed Room Ratings

Venue
Host
Wow! factor
Immersiveness
Difficulty

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