Present, June 2018, were: The Ant, Teenage Avenger, Aunty Ant, Jack Jack
You’d maybe think that being shut in a confined space, racing to complete mind-bending puzzles while a clock ticks ominously down is a stressful enough challenge to take on. Try adding in the presence of a toddler with a precarious command of potty-training and you take it to a whole new level of jeopardy. I have, in the past, slightly bemoaned the fact that many escape rooms now don’t actually lock you in. But I was extremely glad that ‘Locked In A Room’ (ironic, no?) is one of those elf ‘n’ safety types. So when Jack-Jack’s piteous cries of ‘I need the toilet’ started up, it was a relief to just scoop him up and sprint to the bathroom, without having to crack a combination lock first.
This was the only time I’ve left a room mid-game, and it does feel weirdly transgressive. But if you are going to do it anywhere, L.I.A.R. is a good place. Most venues, you would leave your lovely immersive room and be jolted straight back to reality by the mundane warehouse walls, the roar of the traffic and the suspicious glares of the next group hanging about in the lobby. Here we sailed from our beautifully themed room, into a beautifully themed corridor, through the beautifully themed waiting area and into … well, it was just a toilet, but you get the idea. A few steps too far for Jack-Jack’s soggy pants and he had to spend the rest of the game going commando, but I was grateful for the minimal impact this little excursion had on our gaming experience.
This was our first time at a ‘Locked In A Room’ and the set-up does make for a fun, communal event. The Milton Keynes venue has eight different rooms, running copies of three different but complementary stories. Instead of the usual ‘only team in the world’ sensation, this was a mass start akin to the London Marathon (ok, slight exaggeration), with all the teams heading to their rooms simultaneously after a joint briefing. We were in a race against five groups of strangers, which gave the day an added competitive edge – and I imagine that would be amplified considerably if the rooms had been block-booked by a large party of friends or a work outing. We’d bonded slightly with our fellow contestants while waiting for some minutes after our official arrival time outside the (locked) door to the venue, and there were plenty of smiles and cheers during the communal results/debrief/photo session.
The ‘You’re On A Game Show!’ feel won’t appeal to everyone, but it was certainly distinctive from all other rooms we’ve done.
Which is more than I can say for the puzzles themselves. I was blaming my hazy recollection of the actual gameplay on Jack-Jack’s little diversion, until Aunty Ant admitted it was all a bit of a blank for her too. There were some nice steampunk items to play with, a few red herrings, and one real ‘ooh’ moment that stood out, but the rest? We had to double check with the booking to find out even what the story was called.
Clearly, the game itself was, although enjoyable at the time, just not that memorable.
The delay in our start time aside (lucky it was a nice day to wait outside in the square), the organisation was slick and friendly, if maybe lacking the personal touch of smaller companies – inevitable when dealing with such large numbers at once. In general, the L.I.A.R. set-up is great, and in an ideal location of 12th Street, with restaurants and bars next door. We had lunch at TGI Fridays and post-game analysis at Kaspars Desserts, both just a few steps away. Perfect, with the simultaneous rooms, for a teen’s birthday party, a youth group like Scouts or Guides, or even for a treat school outing. Just make sure they all go to the toilet first.
- Storyline: Quite well done and followed through, from what we can remember.
- Theming and Set: Nice throughout the venue. Room a bit 1st gen.
- Searching: Genuinely can’t remember. Teenage Avenger enjoyed it.
- Puzzles: Conventional, I guess?
- Physicality: Minimal.
- Scare factor: Zero jeopardy, Jack-Jack sat peaceably with Cbeebies.
- Company Age Guidance: “1 responsible adult (18+) for each room if there will be Escapees younger than 14.”
- Age suitability: Very family friendly, under 10s would be fine.