Paris, Oct 2018
This game is not available in English.
First of three games I tried at Lock Academy, Heist of the Century was also the first escape room I’ve tried playing in a different language. Due to a complicated series of booking problems that were entirely my fault, I ended up having to find a substitute for the game I’d originally intended to play, and the only one with a slot available at short notice was Heist, which (at least for now) is only available in French. That’s not a matter of a handful of words, either – it has quite extensive use of language, both written and as audio, to advance the story and also to give clues. Fortunately, one of our group of five was fairly fluent in French and only too happy to take on the role of interpreter. While relying on him so much introduced an artificial bottleneck, it still worked surprisingly well.
All of Lock Academy’s games have a shared setting, a school for super-detectives run by one Professor Lock, whose arch enemy Jim Key is a recurring villain. In this game your mission is to foil a theft at the school’s museum, a museum that’s full of artefacts from famous historical detectives. While the bulk of the story is provided by a series of video clips, at the start and at key moments throughout the game, our host also provided the briefing in character in a way that tied into the game’s start cleverly.
I always count it as a point in a game’s favour when it helps make sure players hit the ground running, and that’s something Heist does well, with a initial objective to start players off and then a well defined structure to the set of puzzles that follow after. In fact it has a clear structure throughout, where at every point in the game you know what you’re trying to achieve and why. That’s partly thanks to good game design and partly due to the video clips that punctuate each stage, tying everything into the unfolding narrative.
There’s an incongruity about many escape room puzzles, such as (taking a made up example) where placing some stacks of notes causes a vault door to open. Suspension of disbelief goes a long way, but it’s still deeply pleasing when the steps required to progress in a game match your supposed role and let you do something straight out of a movie. Heist does this superbly. In fact, they use one cool trick twice in a row, and I didn’t even mind because it meant more of our team got to have a go at it. Another task seemed to suffer a bit from unclear directions, but given the translation issues I’d give it the benefit of the doubt; and, again, was sufficiently thematic to be worth a bit of confusion.
Lock Academy also seem to have a fondness for including some tasks that are closer to physical games than traditional escape room puzzles, involving cooperation under time pressure. These are a short but memorable part of Heist, and whether you like them may affect your feelings about the game. One of our group found the finale less engaging and weaker than the rest; but personally I thought it was a great way to end the game, though for spoiler reasons I won’t go into detail.
Either way, it’s an excellent game with an action movie feel, and some very distinctive highlights. We escaped with only a minute or two remaining, and although that was partly because the language limitation slowed us down, there’s a good amount of content to challenge you. Just make sure your team includes someone with a good level of French.