Outside the room
Sherlock Unlock opened to the public just before Christmas in a small business park in the Docklands. The location wasn’t great for us so we’d opted to play both games in one evening and save ourselves a return trip. In fact, I’d had so much interest that I’d booked both rooms for both slots. While there were obvious benefits, it did leave me a little nervous that they’d feel under pressure to rush the resets with us hanging around, and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s a mis-set room.
The first challenge was finding the place… Fortunately, the team jumped into action: one of us spotted the Sherlock name on the list of businesses which gave us a unit number, another found a map to convert the unit number to a location, and another worked out where that was relative to us and led the way. On fire before we’d even arrived!
We were quickly met by a friendly host, taken to a large waiting room and after a few minutes chatting while people used the facilities headed up to the rooms.
Something about time travel. They didn’t even bother to read the story out to us – but just gave us a laminated A4 sheet for us to crowd round. I’m not sure whether the backstory was sublime or ridiculous – I’ll let you judge yourself:
“You knew something was wrong… Your memory is hazy… Somewhere near the Jurassic you remember a massive collision… Was it an asteroid, a massive T-Rex… Or something even worse? Nobody knows quite where Walter Spiegel has disappeared to… Life on Earth hangs in the balance… It is down to you to solve this knot in the fabric of time, and save life as you know it!”
Inside the room
As we walked into the room, my first feeling was of being underwhelmed. It was spacious, although that was mainly caused by the fact that there was very little in it. There were a couple of things of interest which we quickly searched and some laminated paper stuck to the wall.
With the room having been searched we could turn our full attention to the puzzles, which were… disappointing. Let’s gloss over one that required you to either have external knowledge or brute force a solution, and jump to one that looked like it might be quite impressive. It was hand made, but when I actually got my hands on it, it turned out to have been hand made in a cheap and nasty way. That was pretty bad, but when we worked out the solution, we realised that it was utterly, utterly pointless. They could have stuck the clue to pretty much anything and had a similar effect.
Or, in fact, just had a different clue, because, like many of the clues in this room, it was just a bit rubbish. I lost count of the times that I tentatively tried a combination in a lock. You almost never had that satisfaction of solving a puzzle and being confident that the code was right.
I’d like to break down more of the puzzles in the room, but truth be told, I remember very little about them (and as will become apparent from my next review, I might confuse some elements with the next room).
Were there any redeeming points? Well there were some good puzzles, but wherever I found an aspect that was good, there would be another part of the puzzle that let it down.
Oh, wait, I remember something good! The exit door had a really impressive lock on it, built into the actual handle (as in where your hand goes). It was totally at odds with the cheapness of the rest of the room, but it was still pretty cool!
My team got out with 29 minutes, which, disappointingly, was four minutes slower than the other half of our group. I was hoping that was down to us playing a more difficult escape room, but when they played the same room they got out in 26 minutes…
We weren’t even sure at first that we had escaped, because we exited into a small kitchen, which we thought (reasonably since it was <30 minutes into the game) might be the last part of the game…
What can I say? This was a dire room. Some rooms come across as being cynically cheap, but my feeling here was that they’d not been cynical about it. They’d just tried to put together an escape room on a budget and not done a very good job. If they’d replaced all their laminate cards with printed boards, used more expensive props for some of the clues, and themed the room more then… well, it still wouldn’t have been great. This room needed better puzzles, better props and a better set.
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