London, Jun 2017
Locked In A Room are the highest capacity escape venue in London, with 13 rooms capable of letting 78 people play simultaneously. That’s 13 rooms consisting of duplicate copies of each of two game designs, and of the two Timelock is their easier room.
This is an almost completely linear game. It consists of a series of puzzles, each of which when solved provides a clue for the next, plus any necessary objects. Most puzzles result in a four digit code for a numeric padlock. Within that framework, Locked In A Room do perhaps the most typical escape rooms I’ve seen – as in, they exemplify the traditions and the tropes of the genre. That’s sometimes a good thing and sometimes bad. An example of the bad is needing to search a broad area with a single UV torch shared between the team, which – inevitably – flickered due to low batteries or some weak connection. I’ll skip over examples of the good for spoiler reasons, but if you imagine some of the things that you take for granted now but which make you think, ‘cool!’ the first couple of times you encountered them in a room, you’re probably along the right lines.
I found the hosting to be the strongest thing about this game, and the whole venue. Good hosting can make a world of difference to an escape room, but it’s rarely a factor in the rating I give a game – because different teams may get different hosts, or happen to catch a host on a good/bad day. As a general rule, enthusiast owners who’ve set up their own room or rooms for love of the games are lovely people and skilled hosts, while larger corporate venues with many employees occasionally have issues with staff who run games less well. That’s not the case here though – Locked In A Room clearly put a lot of effort into the game introduction and post-game cool-off, trying to make sure the team goes in excited and leaves contented.
Most of this game will be straightforward for an experienced team. There’s plenty of variety in the puzzles, but not much unusual or stand-out. I did find it a relaxing, pleasant game to blitz through though. There’s a clear starting point and path of progression, and an indication of how far you’ve progressed. There are a couple of minor gotchas but broadly all puzzles are very fair. There are too many identical locks, but usually we could guess which one was intended to be opened next, and the puzzles resolve well to a single clear answer.
There may be a problem with sound leaking in from adjacent rooms. The multiple copies of each room are arrayed next to each other along the length of a corridor, and I suspect not very effectively soundproofed. We didn’t have any other teams playing in the same time slot so weren’t affected, but since adjacent teams are playing the same game, overheard noise could be not just distracting but a source of spoilers.
That’s something I’d hate. However, for their core audience of large corporate groups it could even be a positive, where teams in adjacent rooms all know each other and would enjoy shouting back and forth, or whispering codes to make sure they’re not overheard. For everyone else, I recommend booking a time slot that looks as free as possible, so that you can play without any noisy neighbours.
Timelock is a pleasant game that doesn’t offer much to experienced players: it’s on the easy side, with not much that’s unusual or stand-out or memorable. However, it’s a thoroughly good choice for first-timers. The game structure makes it easy to get to grips with, the puzzles aren’t too intimidating, and the hosting will make sure everyone enjoys themselves. If you want to try to get your entire office hooked on escape rooms en masse, this could be the place to take them.
Full disclosure: we received discounted tickets for reviewing purposes; and I’ve played escape rooms elsewhere with one of the Locked In A Room staff.