Weston-super-mare, Aug 2017
Breakout! is Lock and Code’s third game, the first in their town centre branch, and the most ambitious of their three so far. It’s set in a future dystopia with post-apocalyptic overtones, with more than a few sly nods to the Fallout computer game series. You’ve been captured whilst on an intel gathering mission, and must break out of your cell, steal critical information and arrange for an evac pick-up to get you safely away.
It therefore starts with a prison break sequence. Before the game starts you’re warned that at intervals an alarm will go off, and you have thirty seconds to make sure you’re obediently in your cell before a guard comes in to make an inspection. If the guard catches you outside the cell then you’ll be herded back in with a time penalty.
It could potentially be immersion-breaking when the scary guard walks in and turns out to be the friendly host with whom you were chatting a few minutes beforehand, but Lock and Code use costume to avoid that problem.
It’s interesting seeing how different games each do their own take on an ‘escape your cell’ puzzle: you’d expect it to get repetitive, but each version I play impresses with how distinct it is from all the others. Without giving too much away, this one makes clever use of the environment and situation, though you may want to bring at least one player with a strong stomach.
Proceeding from there, Breakout! is a quite linear game with good narrative progression. It makes plentiful use of modern technology which could seem unsuitable for the futuristic setting, but the Fallout-style theming means a mixture of tech from different eras works perfectly well.
Sci-fi themes are often very visually impressive. This one isn’t particularly, and there were points where ‘infiltrating the army base’ strayed towards ‘rummaging around in someone’s spare room’. But if you’re willing to engage a bit of suspension of disbelief then it works well, held together by the immersive element of the guard, the clear story, and many little nods to the setting in the design and decor. One clever touch I really liked was that the hint system changed partway through the game, as a logical consequence of the progress we’d made.
All those things made the game work for me despite the quite simple decor and the tendency for the technology used to be recognisably present-day. I’d love to play the same game in a Hollywood level set, but it manages to do a lot with what it’s got. Playing all three Lock and Code games in order back to back made it obvious how the venue’s designs have evolved, with increasing sophistication and emphasis on story, and Breakout! was unanimously our favourite of the three.