Paris, Oct 2018
Despite the name this is nothing to do with the 1997 movie starring Russell Crowe. The L.A. stands for Lock Academy, the detective school that provides a common setting for all this venue’s games, and your task is… to relax in the Academy’s recreation room as a well-earned rest. You might speculate that there’s more to it than that, but you’ll have to play it to find out what.
Similarly to their game Heist of the Century, L.A. Confidential kicks off with a specific task that you’re instructed to complete before tackling anything else in the room. An in-character briefing finds a creative way to deliver those instructions and kick off the story at the same time.
Video clips advance the story, as with all the Lock Academy games we played. In fact L.A. Confidential uses video more extensively than that, in a way that I thought was one of its weaker parts – a clever and narratively suitable use of technology but one which became a little repetitive, and which began to feel like a bottleneck. Providing information via video can be very immersive, but is more passive for players than most parts of an escape room; unlike written information they can’t skim it, and if they want something repeated they usually need to rewatch the whole thing. Still, the system used here minimises those problems by keeping video clips brief and interspersing them with other puzzles.
L.A. Confidential is another game that’s hard to talk about in detail without spoilers. but it should be safe to say that there is more than one stage to the game. My teammates’ opinions of the theming of the first stage were split, with some loving it and others left unimpressed. Personally I liked it but thought it suffered from having some search targets that went beyond a reasonable level of difficulty, and in one case quite some way beyond.
But that’s not what you’ll remember about this game. What you’ll remember is the drama and the visuals in the bits that I’m going to completely avoid talking about. All three of the Lock Academy games I tried included, to varying degrees, cool use of technology and creative puzzles that blended seamlessly into the narrative. That sometimes has more of a computer game or Crystal Maze feel than typical escape room fare, for example tasks where the challenge is partly working out what to do and partly doing it quickly enough – but that’s by no means bad, providing some cooperative solving under conditions of high adrenaline.
A spectacular, cinematic sequence was the highlight for me, one which also successfully created the illusion of a more complicated environment than the venue could possibly contain. That was one of those outstanding moments that stands out in the memory and that makes me willing to forgive smaller faults, such as the nasty searching needed earlier on. Lock Academy’s Heist game was perhaps more consistently impressive throughout than this one, but on its best moments L.A. Confidential hits it out of the park.