Lockhill – The Sanatorium [Review]

Hell-o Nurse

Location:  Athens, Greece

Date Played: March 1, 2020

Team size: 1-5; we recommend 4

Duration: 2.5 hours for Midnight Mode (reviewed here), 1.5 hours for Night Mode or Day Mode

Price: from €64 per player for teams of 1 to €30 per player for teams of 5 in Midnight Mode (reviewed here)

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating:  We’re unsure what fire escape measures there were, if any. More Info.

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Sanatorium was the best kind of bonkers. It was big, beautiful, menacing, and loaded with surprising sequences.

In-lobby: A building's entrance lit by lantern light.
Image from Lockhill’s lobby

The actors (and I’m not sure how many there were) were scary, yet smart. They quickly zeroed in on the players who were willing to engage with them, and eased up on those that were overtly afraid.

Traversing the environment and interacting with the actors felt like living a video game.

As a community we talk about escape rooms being “immersive experiences” and “feeling like real-life video games…” but few of them honestly achieve deep immersion or feel like real-life video games. The Sanatorium did these things, and sustained the immersion for 2.5 hours… which flew by.

If it’s not clear, The Sanatorium was a must-play. However, I think that if you aren’t playing Midnight Mode (full horror & full puzzle), you’re doing yourself and this experience a disservice. If you’re scared, find teammates with the nerve to help you through The Sanatorium.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Horror fans
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Heart-pounding gameplay
  • Intense actor interactions
  • An incredible set
  • It was a truly immersive experience

Story

Professor Nathan Jones had asked us to investigate the abandoned sanatorium. The word was that the facility maintained an inhumane standard of living for their patients… and that’s why it had been shut down. But recently, there had been multiple reports of screams coming from inside.

In-lobby: A stone wall covered in orange leaves beside an old door.
Image from Lockhill’s lobby

Setting

Lockhill was a fully themed facility from the moment we entered the front door… which was a strange moment because we were in a nondescript office building. The transformation was jarring.

The lobby and all of the games within this facility were in the Stephen King-meets-HP Lovecraft-esque New England town of Lockhill.

The Sanatorium was set on the grounds of the asylum. We began in the courtyard and the world slowly opened up to us, like a video game. As new areas opened up, so did new obstacles. We found ourselves traversing the large set repeatedly… all while we were beset by menacing nurses and a “maniac” who never missed an opportunity to startle.

In-lobby: a storefront labeled, "The Yellow Sign."
Image from Lockhill’s lobby

All of the images are from Lockhill’s lobby, which is a bit unfortunate, but they were representative of the build quality found within the game. I think the game looked even better than the lobby did.

Gameplay

Lockhill’s The Sanatorium was an unusual escape room with a high level of difficulty.

We had to avoid or distract the nurses and maniacs who roamed the gamespace, interrupting us as we worked on the puzzles.

We played in Midnight Mode which combined Night Mode (horror elements) and Day Mode (challenging puzzles).

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, puzzling, navigating the gamespace, and avoiding or distracting nurses and maniacs.

In-lobby: a shuddered building at night.
Image from Lockhill’s lobby

Analysis

➕ The Sanatorium was an intense, high-energy, adrenaline-pumping escape room. It was engaging and fun from start to finish.

➕ The set looked great. It was weathered and polished. It was appropriately dramatic.

➕ Lockhill used space expertly, to create a real-life video game feel.

➕ At the onset, there were a lot of game mechanics to comprehend. We used the introductory scene to take in all the rules. Then, before the experience kicked into high gear, our gamemaster checked our comprehension of the mechanics. He did this seamlessly in-character.

❓ The complex mechanics were challenging to intuit and remember, especially in the intensity of the moment.

➖ As The Sanatorium approached its conclusion, the story became difficult to follow.

➖ We couldn’t hear the audio logs over the ambient noise of the escape game. We would have had a richer experience if this audio had been delivered through the regular sound system over softer ambient noise.

In-lobby: closeup of an old, weathered door.
Image from Lockhill’s lobby

➕ The puzzles were tactile and fun to solve. Even with the existence of different modes of play, the puzzles felt like part of the experience.

➖ In a few of the tech-driven props, the tolerances were too tight. We solved a puzzle correctly, but the prop wouldn’t trigger the solve state.

➖ In some instances, The Sanatorium relied on paper-based clue structure. There was an opportunity to further integrate cluing into the environment.

➖ One late-game challenge offered no feedback.

➕ The actors were outstanding. They controlled the pace and challenge of the gameplay with their presence at different places and times. We had free will, but they were in control of our experience. Additionally, they expertly read the group, understanding which players were more comfortable engaging with them.

➕ Missteps had consequences. With its 2.5-hour game clock, The Sanatorium could penalize players without sacrificing too much of the experience to penalties. In this aspect too, the actors had additional control of the experience, and used this mechanic to heighten our fear.

➕ The effects added to the intensity. When the fog intensified – much like music in a horror movie – it put us on edge.

➕ The intensity of the gameplay ebbed and flowed. The emotional rollercoaster was effective.

Tips For Visiting

  • There are 3 modes of play: (1) Night Mode is more horror and less puzzles, (2) Day Mode is more puzzles and less horror, and (3) Midnight Mode is all the horror and all the puzzles.
  • This review is for Midnight Mode.
  • During Night and Midnight Modes, thick smoke and strobe lights are used.
  • You may want to bring an extra pair of shoes and socks with you.
  • There are segments involving crawling, balancing, and climbing.
  • This game is available in Greek or English.
  • Review our tips for playing escape rooms with actors.

Book your session with Lockhill’s The Sanatorium, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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