Buried Treasure – Treasure Hunter @ Lockin Escape Manchester

Please note this review refers to a visit in May 2015. I’m playing catch up over the next couple of weeks.

Those are genuinely disappointed faces.

Those are genuinely disappointed faces.

After a couple of ‘fifth time’ visits it was time to head to less familiar ground. We’d been to Lockin Escape before and had a great time in Mission 60, and some of the group had been back to play Jail Break since (without me? How rude!) and reported back positively, so expectations were high for their hardest room Treasure Hunter:

Here at our world renowned Lockin Museum, we take pride in since showcase our collection of valuable and scarce treasures, guaranteed to make your challenge an unforgettable and breathtaking day in your life

Le Espoir is the world’s most valuable piece of jeweling. This magnificent diamond necklace, unknown to others, is said to have mysterious power that could change the fate of the world.

Reliable sources have disclosed that a number of top criminal enterprises have plotted to steal this jewel. Concerned for the future of the country, the State has teamed you up with group of treasure hunting talents to steal this extraordinary necklace before it’s too late.

Your mission is to break into the chamber where Le Espoir is and to decode the series of high security systems guarding the jewel to find the greatest treasure in history.

The security cameras are now temporarily disabled. Would you and your team be able to accomplish your mission within 60 minutes?

Grammatical errors aside (please, Lockin Escape, sort this out) this sounded very exciting. I know that ‘break into the vault’ isn’t a particularly unusual theme, but it’s the first time that I’d had chance to play it. On entering the room I encountered something else that isn’t particularly unusual, but was a first time for me; a lazer maze! I was stunned for a moment by how impressive it was. But a few minutes later I was agreeing with many of my fellow reviewers from Canada; it wasn’t actually much fun. We stood there and tried to guide Selena through it, then when she made a mistake we stood there and tried to guide her through it again. In a Crystal Maze scenario, where negotiating the maze is the entirety of the game for three minutes, I think it would be good. In an escape room, it just causes a delay and one of my pet peeves; some of the group not doing anything. Anyway, a few minutes later the maze was deactivated and we were into the room proper.

When we opened the first cupboard (it isn’t locked so doesn’t count as a spoiler) I was surprised again. There were two things in it. Now I’m not suggesting that finding two things in one place is groundbreaking. But in our previous Lockin Escape visit, and in similarly styled rooms elsewhere, there was a very linear progression. Yet this pointed us in two separate directions. And neither of the directions gave us a lot to go on.

Herein lay the next problem. Throughout this game I was never really sure what I should be working on. With an open room I’m happy to go and look around and see if there’s something I’ve missed. In a linear room I expect to concentrate on a single puzzle until the answer reveals itself. This was somewhere in between where my concentration was distracted by “what if I should be working on the other thing?” Especially as a lot of the time I should have been working on the other thing. Or I should have been working on something else entirely, which I hadn’t considered, because there was no real indication it was relevant now. Confused? I was.

I’m sure some will argue that a bit of misdirection and/or your expectations of a room working against you is fine in what is intended as a hard room. And I can accept that (to an extent). But what I won’t accept is the ‘difficulty’ level of some of the puzzles in this room. One was almost unsolvable, and I’m only qualifying it with ‘almost’ as one of the team seemed to think it was solvable after being told what to do. Another was completely unsolvable; a leap of logic that you usually only read about it in scare stories, that even now none of us really understand. This is not fun difficulty; this is just making something impossible without hints.

We took the hints and we carried on. We experienced some brilliant bits, especially with the use of technology. We experienced some bits that could have been brilliant had they been experienced as intended, but because of the lack of flow to the room unfortunately we didn’t so they weren’t. We got through to the end but we didn’t have smiles on our faces. We opened the exit but had one more puzzle to solve to ‘successfully’ escape. This was a genuine 5/5 difficulty puzzle that would have been a worthy adversary on another occasion, but here just added to our already significant frustration. We left empty-handed and downhearted.

I do think there’s a chance that someone will review this room in the future, be fully in tune with Lockin Escape’s thought process and score it favourably. But that won’t be me. If you’re in Chinatown I recommend you try one of their other rooms.

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