The Duke – Locked – Luton

Present, in December 2021, were: The Ant, Teenage Avenger, Aunty Ant

I’m going to start by saying that I really don’t know what to make of this room. I’m also going to say right away that I feel bad for not giving the venue more direct feedback about our game; maybe this whole review could be a little unfair as Locked haven’t yet had a right to reply. It is a new-ish addition to Locked (I think it opened in summer 2021), so there might be further tweaks they are going to make.

All of which might sound like I hated this game. I didn’t. But, but… First things first. The Duke refers to both a person and a pub. The rather fabulous Luton Locked building has been repurposed from a previous life as a city centre boozer and the game takes inspiration from that. Licensed originally in 1779, after a few name changes it became The Duke of Clarence, before permanently being closed as a pub in 2015, due to “crime and disorder”. The pub’s most famous namesake, George Plantagenet, was no stranger to a bit of crime and disorder himself, convicted of treason against his brother Edward IV, and allegedly executed by drowning in a butt of Malmsey wine. History lesson over.

The Duke (the game) uses some of this history by being set in a pub – you have to retrieve the hidden deeds to take ownership. A Duke (although not a real one) does feature in the storyline, as he appears to have been the one who has hidden away the document you need. First impressions are great – while the set is not an actual pub it definitely captures the vibe and there are many intriguing elements to examine. There is some really cool engineering at work here, which adds a fun and unique dimension to the room. It isn’t too padlocky and uses some nice theatrics. We enjoyed most of the tasks and were kept busy for a reasonable amount of the running time.

But, but, but…this game still frustrated me. It felt like there was a really great game here, just waiting to catch fire, and it never really did. Beyond the initial set, the room theming faded somewhat; one area in particularly is very bare and the pub theme never felt fully realised. There wasn’t an awful lot of logic to some of the clever mechanics and more than one of the puzzles had ambiguous solutions. At one point we had a keyhole and were looking, obviously, for a key, only to find that the object was unlocked, just difficult to open as it had no handle. We couldn’t decide if that was a broken puzzle or just an oddity. Other puzzles we solved, only to then be stumped as to what that had achieved and why – finding what we had managed to open was almost more difficult than any of the tasks. Overall, it lacked flow for us, and the main saving grace was our smart young GM Rayana, who was able to neatly nudge us back on track whenever we felt the room was too annoyingly illogical.

Verdict then? This isn’t a very helpful review without one. For kids, it is maybe not the most appealing room simply because of the theme, but it would be fine difficulty-wise for tweens and young teens, with no scares or major adult content. Others may find the game has more flow for them, we were definitely guilty of some overthinking. But it did bring to mind the fate of the Duke of Clarence – choosing execution by drowning in a vat of wine might sound like an original, memorable idea. Yet, like the creative ideas in this room, it all ends up as a bit of a sticky, drunken mess.

P.S. If anyone ever finds out what they are meant to do with the spoon, please let me know.

  • Storyline: A sweet love-story gets kind of mangled.
  • Theming and Set: Some is great, some is just odd.
  • Searching: Only for whatever it is that just clicked open.
  • Puzzles: Some really clever ideas. Some poorly executed.
  • Physicality: Needed to use more force than we were comfortable with to open a couple of objects.
  • Scare factor: None. It was chilly though, take a coat in winter.
  • 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: You could have non-playing little ones in here. For this game, 10+ would probably be able to get involved.

Locked website

Also at this venue: The Chocolate Factory

Other games by Locked: The Great Train Robbery; Strange Things