Don’t Get Locked In: Return To The Rock

By | December 28, 2022

Bedford, Sep 2021

Rated 2 out of 5
Toby says:

At Don’t Get Locked In, I found the hosts friendly and enthusiastic, the venue nicely presented with a little bar and lounge area – and the games quite disappointing, at least the two that I tried. I actually played their double-header experience Audacious, which consists of the games Return To The Rock and The Vault combined to make a two hour experience. The two games’ stories are stitched together: you’re escaping from Alcatraz for a second time, and also robbing a vault on your way out. Although it’s a combined experience with a transition directly from one game to the other, the main effect of that is that you have a single time limit (and hint allowance) – it looked like there were only minor differences in game content to playing them as standalone games.
Prison games can be forgiven for looking grim; it would be more accurate to describe Return To The Rock as plain. But I don’t want to dwell on the simple decorations, because that wasn’t what I found frustrating about the game – those were the puzzles.
There were certainly points where we struggled for reasons that had to do with insufficient initiative on our part. But this was also a game that provided us with a whole variety of clue info that was open to reading in many different ways, where we spent plenty of time trying random groups of digits we’d found in the vague hope one of them would work (and once in a while one did). There was a logic to the solutions, but of the sort that requires mind-reading the designers’ intentions. And it also had the dubious distinction of being the only escape room I’ve seen that used a particular puzzle type that’s famous for being impenetrable to those not used to it.
In retrospect all of that shouldn’t have been surprising: the company has a ‘Kudos’ prize system based on the number of hints taken, where any team that completed a room with three or fewer hints wins a bottle of gin. That system is only sustainable if the default expectation is that most teams won’t be able to make it through without a considerable number of hints.
Don’t Get Locked In is not a cynical venture – the staff are clearly eager to look after players and make their visit enjoyable. The rooms look built on a low budget, but had some fun ideas. The problem is I think an approach to puzzle design that expects players to need plentiful hints to push them through, and which assumes that ambiguities and distraction information are a reasonable, enjoyable way to increase the difficulty level. I should note also that of the two games I tried, I liked the other somewhat more than this one, and secondhand reports of the company’s other three games also suggest that I may have accidentally started with the game at the venue that was least well suited to my tastes. Bottom line is, if you’re planning to play here and are tempted to go straight for the two hour experience, I suspect you’d actually be better off choosing one of the other options. 2 / 5

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