Present, in December 2021, were: The Ant, Teenage Avenger, Aunty Ant”
“Chocolate Factory” is such a lovely, family-friendly theme, I was surprised that this is the first game of the type that we have played. There is potential for so much variety and pure fun to be involved – do you go steampunk? Cartoony? Sciency? Full-on Willy Wonka? – and we were really intrigued to see what the Locked venue in Luton has to offer.
The host building is huge, from a former life as a pub, although it has been turned into a bit of a maze in the course of transformation to Escape Rooms. This venue, one of three* for the burgeoning Locked brand, has three rooms at present and I’d like to think they have room for more, but it is a little hard to tell. The reception and waiting area is definitely utilitarian rather than welcoming – I don’t mind that when it shows they are putting their efforts into room design instead, but it was very cold. Fortunately, after our first game (The Duke), the staff had swung into action with a portable heater to take the edge off our trip to The Chocolate Factory.
This room was definitely easier to heat than the set of The Duke, I imagine this must be the smallest of their games (we didn’t play Prison Panic). It is a dinky, jolly space, more of a mad toy inventor’s lair than a sweet factory, but with plenty of frankly quite wacky things going on. I wouldn’t say it is particularly beautiful, and it does feel quite rough around the edges, but there is a lot in here that is fun.
If we were just reviewing the game here, I might not be terribly enthusiastic, although Teenage Avenger was quite positive. As in The Duke, there is some clever tech used, and some of the tasks are entertaining (and occasionally silly) to do. We got to eat sweets (!) and there was some cute humour mixed with a couple of interesting puzzles (and every room is improved by adding ducks, no matter how off-theme).
Unfortunately, this was marred by more than one ambiguous answer, a logic leap or two, and a set piece that didn’t work, for whatever reason. Again, as in The Duke, we were occasionally stumped by “what have we just unlocked?” syndrome, which does take the gloss off a solve, and there aren’t actually that many puzzles – you are following a task list with added elements of a scavenger hunt – which made our needing several clues even more frustrating. We couldn’t get in to any sort of rhythm.
However, needing clues was basically the saving grace of this game. Normally I feel like the GM is doing a perfect job if you don’t really notice them during the hour. But in this case, our GM, Khushi, was more or less the fourth member of our team and this was definitely a good thing. Her chat and jokes and overall enthusiasm, plus occasional utter randomness, kept us smiling and generally lifted the game into a much more fun experience. I wouldn’t want every game GM’d like that, but her infectious bubbly sweetness was a perfect fit for this theme.
Ultimately, although we were somewhat disappointed that elements in the room weren’t as interesting as they seemed at first glance, we did enjoy this game, which is testament to the power of good staff, free sweets, and ducks.
*Dunstable, Luton and St Albans. They also have a mobile game that can be played either at home or in The Peahen bar in St Albans.
- Storyline: Find the (rather unappetising) ingredients for the recipe and get the machinery working.
- Theming and Set: Small, and quite bonkers.
- Searching: Only for whatever it is that just clicked open.
- Puzzles: Not intellectually challenging, just not always completely logical.
- Physicality: Someone has to ride a bike (told you it was random). Nearly scuppered us, as neither I nor TA can. Thank goodness for Aunty Ant’s spinning class.
- Scare factor: None, very family-friendly.
- Company Age Guidance: “Whilst we don’t have a specific age limit on our rooms we do recommend the games to ages 13+ due to the complexity of the experiences. Under 13’s must be accompanied by an adult”.
- Age suitability: Younger kids would enjoy the environment, although I’m not sure how much they would be a hinderance. Not really room for passengers or large groups.
Also at this venue: The Duke