Present, December 2019, were: Aunty Ant, Lioness
Christmas shopping can be a bit of a chore, so The Lioness and myself decide to switch it up a bit by exploring a new city – Cambridge – and adding in an escape room at the end of the day. Lots of boxes ticked …. easy park & ride system, pretty parks and interesting buildings to look at, good selection of shops, long overdue catch up, my second Pizza Express lunch in two days. We nearly fell at the first planning hurdle though, when arriving at the P&R we realised that the last bus back on a Sunday was at 6.17pm, when we had the room booked at 5 …. just to add to the pressure of escaping, we would need to escape in good time to make it back to the bus stop……..
Fortunately the team at LockHouse were super-accommodating, we got there early (which for me is a miracle, the last three rooms I’ve done with The Ant I’ve been late for!) and they turned the room round as soon as the previous group finished, so we were in 10 minutes before our time.
I blame some of my habitual lateness on some rather obscure locations, tucked round the back of a parade of shops, a poorly marked doorway, down an alley, etc etc – but there is no danger of that with LockHouse, it is a big, bright shop front on the main road and it’s also a treat inside. The reception doubles as a shop of games and puzzles, with plenty to try and play with while you wait, or for waiting parents. Appreciate this wouldn’t suit every location but it feels like it really adds an extra element to the business and certainly adds to the overall experience.
We picked Egyptian Tomb as there was just the two of us, Armageddon is a good room for large groups and Secret Agent is the hardest room, so it seemed our best option despite The Lioness’s reservations about the ‘crawling’ section! As it is, it isn’t the biggest of rooms and I think more than 4 people would have been tripping over each other. However, more people would have saved us several trips back and forth through the tunnel section although that probably speaks more for our game play organisation than the structure of the game!
Given the ‘crawling section’ warning, it’s no giveaway that there is more than one room here. We had a slow start in the first bit – the theming is excellent and there is lots to look at without there actually being many pointers where to start. A little nudge from the GM and we were on our way. We did fudge one puzzle – even the GM confessed afterwards that she didn’t really know how to do it (annoying!) – but it wasn’t so difficult to guess. The great staging follows all the way through the game and all the puzzles and challenges are on theme. There is a nice mix of more challenging puzzles and some pleasingly tactile simple little tasks and although it’s linear to start with everything comes together for the final escape.
I haven’t given a nod the GM yet, who was both pleasant and professional sorting out our timings and wonderfully tongue-in-cheek in character when it came to introducing our room.
Overall LockHouse does bring escape rooms to the High Street in every way – bright, prominent location, a real treat of a lobby, good customer service, strong theming, and a fun environment with lots of props and enthusiasm.
If there is one (small) criticism, it is that some of the game play felt a bit cheap – also a bit ‘high street’ if you like – for the masses rather than bespoke. Although the decor and theming was good, we were collecting dog-eared laminate pictures and some of the game furniture we were interacting with seemed a bit homemade and unfinished. It didn’t affect our enjoyment of the room, but looking back the quality of some parts of the game doesn’t quite match up with the excellent overall impression of the venue.
This isn’t enough of a problem to put me off trying the other rooms though, I’m confident I would have a thoroughly good time. I’ll just make sure I check the bus time table first ………
- Storyline: Standard ‘missing archaeologist’ narrative, with a final puzzle to solve to avoid being entombed forever…..
- Theming and Set: Strong theming and excellent set, although it starts better than it finishes.
- Searching: Not for keys and physical clues, but good observation required.
- Puzzles: Bit of a mixed bag, couple of really good ones, a few nice fun little tasks and a couple with slightly fuzzy solutions
- Physicality: One of the more physical games I’ve done, as well as the crawling section as couple of the puzzles involve a bit of agility
- Scare factor: Mild, unless you are claustrophobic!
- Company Age Guidance: LockHouse say they allow children of all ages in their rooms. Children aged 12 or over can go in the rooms themselves, younger children require a supervising adult (they give a free place to an adult supervising a kids group, which is a nice touch).
- Age suitability: A group of tweenagers did the Egyptian Tomb just before us and came out buzzing. I would think the guidance above is spot on and LockHouse is obviously well set up and marketed for kids’ parties and groups.