The Unlockables – The Escape [Review]

Escape the crates.

Location: San Diego, CA

Date played: December 3, 2017

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket, minimum purchase of 4 tickets

REA Reaction

This was an escape room for enthusiasts by an enthusiast. We had a ton of fun.

The Unlockables chose the right theme to build up their escape room knowhow: the homemade, hacked-together construction, combined with a dramatic opening, large gamespace, and puzzle-driven gameplay, fostered the adrenaline and urgency of a serial killer escape. While the gameplay in The Escape didn’t quite evolve enough to support the narrative shift, this didn’t dampen the energy or excitement of the experience.

Who is this for?

  • Players with a least some experience
  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Horror fans
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle
  • Players who are not claustrophobic

Why play?

  • Dramatic opening sequence
  • Intensity
  • Hacked-together serial killer vibe
  • Fun puzzles

Story

While attending a lavish Southern California party, we were invited to the VIP area. Tragically there was no VIP area. We were kidnapped, blindfolded, handcuffed, and locked in a grim place.

In-game: A massive blood covered maze and a gory circular sawblade.

Setting

The Escape felt like a serial killer’s warehouse. The space was unadorned, hacked-together, foreboding, and just a bit creepy. As we opened up more of the gamespace, it felt more homey, but not comfortably cozy.

Gameplay

Incorporating both solo and collaborative puzzling through non-linear gameplay across a large gamespace, The Escape hinged on successful communication.

The Unlockables built some puzzles into the physical gamespace and they’ve worked to convert their more paper-based, layered puzzles into larger, more interactive challenges. The effort showed and was well worth it.

In-game: A series of red, orange, and blue switches with strange letter/number codes beneath.

Standouts

From the first moments, The Escape built up adrenaline. We don’t see many escape rooms where blindfolds make sense. In The Escape they were both necessary and handled well. The blindfolds added intensity to the opening puzzle sequence and set the tone for this kidnapping escape.

The Escape balanced individual thinking with collaborative puzzling. The time and space allotted to these different types of challenges were deliberate and logical throughout.

The puzzles in The Escape flowed well.

In-game: A wooden wall lit with a light bulb. The wall has a bloody handprint.

The Unlockables created a space that continually instilled an urgency of escape. As it became familiar, it never felt fully discovered or comfortable.

The Unlockables had complete control over the technology in The Escape. When one interaction malfunctioned during our playthough, they manually overrode their system and triggered it to occur differently. We never knew they’d had a problem.

Shortcomings

The Escape had a hacked together feel. While this unpolished look generally worked for the scenario, it didn’t function seamlessly. The Escape suffered from wear on their less sturdy construction.

The Escape included a number of paper-style puzzles. While The Unlockables had made strides to remove paper or better integrate their puzzles into the set, they still had a ways to go. Particularly for this adventure-style escape room, we’d love to seem them continue to shift toward more physically interactive challenges.

One puzzle suffered from reliance on color perception in low lighting.

When the straightforward narrative shifted dramatically later in the escape room, it felt forced. The Escape couldn’t support its narrative arc. To achieve this, The Unlockables would have to shift the late-game aesthetic and gameplay from what had come before.

Tips for Visiting

  • The opening sequence varied considerably for each player on the team. Some players will have more challenging beginnings than others.
  • Note that The Escape involved some crawling, small spaces, low lighting, and color perception. The Unlockables made this abundantly clear on their website. Contact them if you have any concerns about booking.
  • The Unlockables is located upstairs, in a plaza with plenty of parking.
  • There are plenty of dining options nearby; we enjoyed the Dumpling Inn & Shanghai Saloon.

Book your hour with The Unlockables’s The Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: The Unlockables provided media discounted tickets for this game.

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