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I recently published an analysis on the Master Lock 4 letter combination locks. They have an unusual letter distribution and I was curious how many English words could be generated with those locks. It turned out that those Master Locks could create a lot more words than I had anticipated.
This lock seems to have fewer clichéd words, but there are a few that pop up a little too often including:
This analysis is focused on the most current 5 disk WordLock model, the PL-004. There are 3 older models with somewhat different letter distributions and WordLock has other 4 disk products.
The fixed-disk WordLock uses the following letter configuration:
Disk 1: L S W B P F M D T A
Disk 2: A P O R I L C E T N
Disk 3: S E R I L A N U T O
Disk 4: E L D A O S K N R T
Disk 5: R L S N T H Y D _ E
There are two particularly interesting things about this letter distribution.
First, the blank spot on the fifth disk (represented above with an underscore) cleverly allows the WordLock to represent 4 or 5 letter words.
Second, the lock has asymmetrical disks that, when all aligned, defaults 7 of the 10 lines of the lock into words:
While the remaining three lines are gibberish, it’s still a nifty and thoughtful feature as the lock looks cool with all of those words on its face.
Here’s the spreadsheet. The left-most column contains 1,652 core English words. These are the best words that the analysis found. The further right you move, the less useful the words generally are (and the farthest right is mostly nonsense).
Absolutely everything about this analysis and its outputs conforms to the same information presented in the last letter lock analysis, so I won’t rehash it. It’s on the Master Lock post if you’re interested.
After publishing the last analysis some members of the room escape community proposed a hypothesis about the odd letter distribution on those Master Locks:
It seemed like Master Lock may have been trying to make it impossible to spell curse words.
This seems like a valid answer for both Master Lock and WordLock’s letter selection. I cannot prove this one way or another, but you cannot generate the most popular American English swear words with these locks… so that’s probably not a coincidence.
Nevertheless, sifting through the wordlist revealed a few “vulgar” or degrading words… and I’m including them because my inner 10 year-old thinks this list is hilarious:
ANAL, ANUS, BALLS, BONER, DORK, PANSY, SISSY, and PENAL (That last one isn’t at all vulgar, but it sure feels like it should be.) You can also generate the word MOIST… which apparently is a word that a lot of people hate.
There are also TONS of innuendo-y words that I didn’t include… because I’m an adult.
Buckle your handcuffs for safety.
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Date Played: February 3, 2018
Team size: 4-6; we recommend 4
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $30 per ticket
On the far side of Brooklyn we found a strong SAW-esque horror escape room. This is an often-attempted theme that doesn’t usually hit the mark. While some of the experience was unevenly executed, Element Quest made it work. This is an escape room for people who can handle uncomfortable situations.
A serial killer with a preference for elaborate torture machines decided to make us his “apprentices” to instill in us a greater appreciation for life, if he didn’t kill us first.
Split up and restrained, we were given a brief window of time in which to prove ourselves worthy of life.
Half of our team began in a bloody murder bathroom, the other half in dim, furnace-lit space. We were all handcuffed to the floor in a crouching or sitting position.
The detailed spaces were compelling and made our more squeamish teammates feel a bit on edge.
Element Quest delivered the kind of puzzles and challenges that we’ve come to expect from both split-team and Saw-esque escape rooms.
We were put in situations where we had to overcome fears, discover, communicate, and solve puzzles. The Taken played well.
The split-team, handcuffed beginning added dramatic tension to an already dark and foreboding environment.
The Taken startled us, in a good way.
We were impressed with one shockingly pointed, tech-driven interaction. It was nifty and freaky.
The set was well padded, as appropriate for a required action.
The Taken provided a good variety of puzzles and fostered collaboration.
While there was a lot of crawling, most of it was well-padded.
The set was neither polished nor clean. Given the starting positions on the floor and the lack of player mobility early on, we couldn’t help but zero in on this.
One prop was constantly in the way. We recommend Element Quest modify this so that players stop bumping into it before someone gets hurt (or the prop gets destroyed).
We struggled with a weak handheld light.
One puzzle necessitated unclued trial and error.
The Taken was unbalanced. One group of players solved along, triggering opens for everyone, while the other group solved nothing. They couldn’t; they had no inputs for much of the first act. Furthermore, given the distribution of key props, The Taken required backtracking, toward only one starting area. The players who started there felt inadequate, but they hadn’t had the tools or knowledge earlier to have played the game any differently.
We communicated over walky-talkies. These crackled the entire game, which added unnecessary challenge and annoyance to the experience.
Disclosure: Element Quest comped our tickets for this game.
We spent almost all of our 24 hours in beautiful San Diego locked in giant puzzles. Regrets? None.
It’s a fun, puzzley escape room market. It has a surprisingly different feel from Los Angeles, considering how geographically close they are.
Here are a few of our favorites broken out by category.
You are always welcome to contact us if this recommendation list doesn’t answer your specific questions.
There’s something precious in this mine.
Location: Park City, UT
Date Played: January 8, 2018
Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-6
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $37 per ticket
Mine Trap started off strongly and escalated to an explosive conclusion. While it dragged in the middle, the beautiful set design kept us engaged.
We were on a tour of Park City’s old silver mines when a tunnel collapse sealed us in. Could we find the tools and information necessary to find daylight before running out of air?
We entered a surprisingly detailed mine shaft filled with wood, stone, and tools. With the notable exception of some carpeting, the set looked phenomenal.
I wish that I could show you a photo or two, but they were forbidden. Don’t let the logo fool you… Escape Park City’s Mine Trap had a set worth seeing.
Mine Trap had three acts to it.
The first act was a basic search-and-puzzle beginner’s on-ramp. It was smooth, well designed, and approachable.
The second act was pure puzzles and combination locks. Escape Room Park City played with interesting concepts, but due to some design decisions, the Mine Trap dragged here.
The final act brought in a little physicality and a ton of innovation. Come for the set, but stay for the third act.
Mine Trap opened gently with a puzzle on-ramp. While it was more challenging than Escape Room Park City’s other game, Travel Room (review to follow), the approachable start opened it to players of all experience levels.
With Mine Trap, Escape Room Park City leveled up their set design. This set would look great in any US escape room market. It’s especially impressive in a city without competition.
We enjoyed the final act. The puzzles were inventive, thematically appropriate, and well clued.
The conclusion blew us away.
I cannot overstate how much I respect Escape Room Park City’s approach to pricing. Mine Trap cost twice as much as their other game, Travel Room. It was worth it. Mine Trap was twice as interesting, twice as complex, twice the size, and more than twice as detailed.
At any given moment, we confronted a lot of locks, primarily of the same digit structure. While it eventually became apparent why certain codes went to certain locks, for much of Mine Trap we felt like a solution could go anywhere. Dropping 4-digit numbers into half a dozen locks quickly became boring.
We found one common escape room prop far too early. We had to use it senselessly from that point onward. Escape Room Park City’s band-aid for this problem was a rule that they declared before the game, “Don’t turn off the lights, it won’t help you.” We still lost a lot of time and fun on this prop. A better solution for their gameplay problem could be MacGyvered using some of the existing items in the room.
A few of the puzzles involved pixel hunting. We had to find nit-picky details with minimal clueing to derive solutions. While these puzzles were fine, when mixed with the aforementioned digit structure and prop, the game simply dragged when it could have roared.
There was carpeting in the middle of our silver mine, which was confusing.
Book your hour with Escape Room Park City’s Mine Trap, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” -Sherlock Holmes
Location: at home (in our case, a hotel) in Salt Lake City, UT
Date Played: January 5, 2018
Team size: 1-8; we recommend 2-4
Duration: 60-90 minutes
Price: $45 per crate for a 24-hour rental; plus a $50.00 fully refundable deposit (per crate)
Lockbox Mysteries crammed a ton of gameplay into a crate and briefcase. We’re always a little cautious when approaching a new game format, and Sherlock Holmes and the Great Charade made us believers. While we wished that the props felt just a little more of the era, Lockbox Mysteries delivered excellent puzzle content. We loved playing this game from the comfort of our own
home hotel room and the price could not be beat.
It was 1910 and Scotland Yard was stumped. With a dead woman and no leads, they hired the greatest detective in history, Sherlock Holmes, to crack the case. Wearing the hat of Mr. Holmes, we explored evidence and interrogated the behavior of a number of suspects, puzzling and deducing our way to a conclusion.
We drove out to a Salt Lake City suburb and retrieved a large box and a briefcase and brought them back to our hotel room.
When we opened the box we were greeted by a binder that explained the game in careful detail. This included everything from what an escape game is, to the hint system, to basic lock functionality.
We started the included timer and investigated the initially available evidence. From there on it was all puzzles and locks.
Our Lockbox Mysteries experience essentially played like a low-tech escape room without the set. There were lots of locks sealing all sorts of boxes and bags shut. There were even more puzzles.
We needed to deduce the particulars of the murder case before us and rule out suspects. Each suspect had their own branch of puzzles that provided a piece of the overall picture.
All of this culminated in a final deduction puzzle that emphatically punctuated the game with a challenging, creative, and elegant conclusion.
Sherlock Holmes and the Great Charade played like an escape room. It was less immersive than (most) on-site escape rooms, but more physically interactive than (most) at-home escape rooms that come in the mail. It straddled these subgenres. More importantly, it played well.
Lockbox Mysteries surprised us. With each open, we uncovered substantial game pieces… and more puzzles.
Sherlock Holmes and the Great Charade had a lot of puzzle content and the puzzles flowed well. They also broke into parallel plot threads. There was a lot of game and it branched such that it could keep a large group entertained.
The hint system worked. It didn’t give away too much, unless we wanted to get to the solution. Then we could see the solution.
We understood the characters, story, and mystery without working at it. We took it in by way of solving the puzzles. Consequently, the puzzles felt purposeful and the sleuthing felt natural.
The mystery wanted to be solved. It didn’t resolve to some crazy unforeseeable twist. We could play along like detectives, making hypotheses and working towards a conclusion.
Everything was self-contained. We didn’t need an internet-connected device to facilitate the game.
Sherlock Holmes and the Great Charade leaned heavily on decipherments. A few of these overstayed their welcome. Long after the aha moment, we were still deciphering the information.
While we appreciated the many tangible locks in this play-at-home escape room, we would have liked more varied digit structure. At times we’d derive a code that could have unlocked any one of a number of locked items.
Sherlock Holmes and the Great Charade was aesthetically uneven. Some props felt of the era, while others felt far too modern or geographically incorrect.
Book your rental with Lockbox Mysteries’ Sherlock Holmes and the Great Charade, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Disclosure: Lockbox Mysteries provided a media discounted rate for this game.
As we write this blog, we continue to meet new people who love escape rooms and other types of puzzle adventures and entertainment.
Our hope with this event is to help our most avid escape room players find fellow teammates.
We are looking forward to hosting our first NYC Room Escape Fan Shindig!
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
7pm – 10pm
Shades of Green Pub (125 East 15th Street, New York, NY between Irving Place and Third Avenue)
Last week we had to change the venue, unexpectedly, as our original venue permanently closed its doors. Luckily, Shades of Green Pub is happy to host us instead!
We encourage all escape room fans in NYC to come, hang out, and purchase your own food/ drink there.
Please RSVP so that we can provide a headcount to the venue.
RSVP on Facebook or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For more information, read the FAQ.
If you’re looking to meet potential escape room teammates, give/ get escape room recommendations, or just talk about these games, we hope you’ll join us and many of our friends on March 7th. We look forward to seeing/meeting you there!
We won… and we’re glowing.
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Date Played: January 4, 2018
Team size: 4-20 (2 copies of the room, each for up to 10 players); we recommend 4-5
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $22 per ticket
Reactor Room had a great set as well as dramatic and memorable moments. Getout Games could refine this experience by improving the puzzle flow and eliminating some unnecessary confusion that inflated the difficulty of an already challenging escape room. This was a fantastic escape room for experienced players; it wasn’t a yellowcake walk.
With Salt Lake City’s nuclear power reactor in meltdown, our crew was summoned to stop the chain reaction before we crossed the point of no return and all would be lost.
Reactor Room was a lab setting built around a glowing reactor. Glass walls and doors made the space feel large, while restricting movement and adding intrigue.
Lighting, practical effects, and hilarious sound cues made Reactor Room feel like it had stakes.
Reactor Room combined heavy searching with substantive puzzles. It was a challenging escape room.
While most of the gameplay centered on searching and puzzling, a few aspects turned up the adventure. These made Reactor Room memorable.
One prop transformed… This was a reaction we’d never seen before. It was nifty.
Our gamemaster delivered an amusing introduction. It set the tone for the escape room.
Throughout the Reactor Room, we received timing updates by way of hilarious bits of story.
Detailed set and effect considerations elevated the drama of Reactor Room.
As we entered the room, we were warned not to move a particular prop because it could be messy. Thus we approached this item too cautiously. It turned out to be perfectly safe – and even recommended – to move it.
At one point, we had to search a large space for faint clues. While this worked conceptually, it was frustrating to play though. Getout Games could refactor this segment to deliver a more fun and dramatic reveal.
The puzzles in Reactor Room almost flowed. At times the escape room lacked clue structure. In these instances, our gamemaster readily provided hints. We recommend that Getout Games determine which hints they give most often and incorporate additional cluing for these into the environment.
One prop felt all too random considering the well-themed gamespace and the story of the escape room.
Book your hour with Getout Games’ Reactor Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
It was great to be back at the New York Puzzle Party yesterday. We spoke about the state of escape room in 2018.
Please note the venue change for our NYC Room Escape Fan Shindig on March 7th. This event will now take place at Shades of Green Pub.
From our trip to Salt Lake City in January:
Prison Bus Escape at Alcatraz Escape Games took place on an actual bus.
Dracula’s Castle at Mystery Escape Room had an off-stage and in-character gamemaster.
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: Jack the Ripper & West End Adventures was a wonderfully challenging tabletop mystery game.
Trapology in Boston is running an immersive puzzle event set at a wedding, entitled Keep Up Your Garter on April 29. I wish we could attend this one.
Our friends over at No Proscenium have an interesting post on consent in immersive experiences.
We’re trying something new: highlighting an absolutely fantastic comment.
This comment is from J Cameron Cooper on our post ULTIMATE MOBILE ESCAPE ROOMS: Patent Troll?
In the post we look into one company’s claim that they have filed a patent for mobile escape games and examine the legitimacy of such a move.
J Cameron Cooper added:
“Prior to patent issuance, a third party (“3rd party”) can anonymously (1) submit prior art in the form of a preissuance submission, (2) file a protest of an application, or (3) request a public use proceeding.” http://www.bskb.com/news/articles/documents/MAA_ETP_JPAAArticle-AttackingaUSPatentorApplicatio.pdf
While whatever claims one is likely to make in such an application are likely laughable, the Patent Office is in a pretty laughable state and has approved stupider things. Anyone with an interest in this should look carefully at a Preissuance Third Party Submission (37 C.F.R. § 1.290) to inform the examiner of prior art. Even that should be done carefully, however.
I have searched published US pending applications and there is no such thing among them. You can go directly to the USPTO (http://appft.uspto.gov/netahtml/PTO/search-bool.html), but https://patents.google.com/ is pretty handy. Since it isn’t yet published, anyone interested should set up an alert at https://www.uspatentappalerts.com/index.php
It’s not particularly my business, but I’ve set up an alert for this one just because I hate patent trolls.
Oh, and if anyone else is interested, “Die Hard” is a 20th Century Fox property, “Twilight Zone” appears to be CBS, and “Da Vinci Code” is Dan Brown. Large properties don’t seem to care much for enforcing their rights against escape rooms (I think they’re too small) but perhaps one of them would like to hear of this company.
This was a fantastic addition to what we wrote. Thank you, J Cameron Cooper.
In the future, we’ll continue to feature comments on our posts that spread knowledge and drive discussion.
Professor Holmes’ final exam.
Location: New York, NY
Date Played: January 29, 2018
Team size: 2-5; we recommend 2-4
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $40-$50 per ticket (depending on team size) on weekdays; $50-$60 per ticket (depending on team size) on evenings and weekends
In the beginning, Sherlocked struck all the right notes. However, Komnata Quest’s interactive style vanished in the latter half of the experience, fizzling into a paper-based observation-and-deduction exam. What started off fun turned into an agitating and frustrating mess.
A politician has been murdered and our dear friend Sherlock Holmes has been framed for it. We broke into the legendary detective’s home at 221B Baker Street in search of evidence to exonerate him.
The flat of Sherlock Holmes was a bright Victorian study. Parts of it felt lived in; other areas seemed sterile and staged. Most of the critical props and set pieces showed signs of wear.
Sherlocked’s set was unusual for Komnata Quest because it was well lit.
Sherlocked felt like two games in one escape room.
Initially we played a traditional escape room filled with searching, puzzles, interesting interactions, and a lot of reading.
When we reached the final puzzle, the tone and gameplay shifted.
The final challenge was a multiple choice test regarding the facts of the case. The correct answers would secure our freedom as well as that of Mr. Holmes.
The opening puzzle sequence struck a chord with us. It was well clued and soundly executed.
The early detective work. The interactive investigating was pretty nifty.
The first portion of Sherlocked, which included about 75% of the gameplay, flowed really well. These puzzles were a ton of fun.
The final 25% of gameplay felt like a standardized test. The gameplay moved away from the environment onto a few sheets of paper. There was far too much to read and some of the questions had ambiguous answers or observational nitpicks. This wasn’t conducive to escape room-style gameplay and it wasn’t fun.
The culminating puzzle sequence involved almost no player action and offered no feedback. Our gamemaster had no means to follow our progress. Any help was clunky at best. (This wasn’t his fault; it was due to the game’s structure.)
The set showed a lot of wear, which was amplified by the lighting. We always try to be respectful players, but especially given the state of the set, we played particularly cautiously… and we got burned by that decision.
An incredibly important moment didn’t reveal emphatically. We didn’t even know that we had triggered something. Komnata Quest could make that open pop so that players don’t miss the moment.
One puzzle invited MacGyvering… but only as intended by the game designer. We were chastised for finding another similar “tool” within our environment.
Sherlocked cost between $40 and $60 per ticket depending upon team size and day of the week. For an escape room with maintenance issues and a lengthy, weak finale, that was too much money.
Book your hour with Komnata Quest’s Sherlocked, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you using the coupon code escapeartist to receive 10% off.
Disclosure: Komnata Quest comped our tickets for this game.