2022 Golden Lock Awards

With an expanded team of prolific escape room players, it’s our pleasure to share with you the 2022 Golden Lock Award winners.

Since 2015, we have been honoring our favorite escape experiences of the year, calling special attention to them with the Golden Lock Award.

This year’s collection of winners in the real-life category come exclusively from North America, as travel has been challenging. We have, however, dedicated much of our collective travel time to visiting parts of the United States that we hadn’t covered over the past 8 years, and found many gems to share with you.

Additionally we added a category to honor tabletop escape games (something we probably should have done a few years ago). We know there are tabletop games in our queue still that will likely be future winners. The tabletop escape room scene has expanded a lot of the past few years and we’re excited to continue to recognize creatively and ingenuity in this category as well.

2022 Golden Lock Award Ribbon, text reads, "44 Escape Games You Must Play"

Changes To The Award

This year we made a number of changes to account for how much larger our team is, and allow all of our wonderful and dedicated reviewers to nominate games for the award.

Additionally, we adjusted the publication schedule by 3 months, so this year’s award accounts for games played in the past year and a quarter (we have only skipped 2021 in number). April is now the home of the Golden Lock Award. These changes are all reflected in the rules.

Rules

  1. We established no arbitrary minimum or maximum number of games that could win the award.
  2. A company could only win once per year, per category.
  3. A REA reviewer had to play the game between 1/1/21 & 3/31/22.
  4. To be eligible for the “Virtual” category, games had to be playable from home, without any shipped components.
  5. To be eligible for the “Real-Life” category, we had to visit the venue in person to play the game.

2022 Golden Lock Award Winners

Category: Online

Listed chronologically in the order that we published the reviews:

Isolation

Escape Room Melbourne – Melbourne, Australia

Isolation has plenty of puzzles, but what makes it stand out is the commitment to immersion and narrative. Even the initial onboarding is done in a way that fits the story. The narrative is deeper and is more successful at stirring complex emotions than most other remote games even attempt.

Escape from the Science Lab of Shifting Rules

SCRAP – Japan

Escape from the Science Lab of Shifting Rules used the limitations imposed by the remote format to create delightful and magical moments that would be impossible in person, while keeping a tight focus (literally) on puzzles.

Escape From Escape Island

Trapped Puzzle Rooms – Minneapolis, Minnesota

Illustration of a bank, a mansion, and a nuclear bunker sitting beside one another.

The name of the game gives you a tiny glimmer of the kind of slapstick yet deeply funny moments that the game is built to produce. Players who have tried other audio-based live escapes will marvel at how it pulls off a seemingly impossible feat of gameplay.

The Travelers Guide to Little Sodaburg

Meridian Adventure Co

The Travelers Guide to Little Sodaburg was absolutely delightful. Building on hilarious writing and plentiful internet culture references, this game used its online format to full advantage.

The Keeper & The Fungus Among Us

Headlock Escape Rooms – United Kingdom

The Keeper & The Fungus Among Us was an escape room rock opera with puppets. The puzzles were brilliant, the puppets were clever, and the music was fantastic. Few virtual escape games have done more with the format, or for the format.

Hallows Hill

Wolf Escape Games

With excellent atmospheric graphics and an audio score composed specifically for the game, Hallows Hill feels like a playable movie. Narrative moments (many of which are built into puzzle solves) convey a solid story without obstructing the gameplay flow.

Inscryption

Daniel Mullins Games

Inscryption is much more than initially meets the eye. Escape room-esque puzzles and clues to an overarching ARG combine in an ever-changing environment. There are seemingly infinite secrets to explore and unsolved mysteries, melding both fantastic gameplay and intriguing storytelling.

Category : Tabletop

Listed chronologically in the order that we published the reviews:

Solve Our Shirts: Escape from the Maze of the Minotaur

CU Adventures in Time & Space – Champagne Urbana, Illinois

The creativity and care that went into Escape from the Maze of the Minotaur produced the most thrilling version of “escape room in a shirt” imaginable. It’s at the top of my list for at-home escape games in any format—plus the shirt becomes a souvenir to relive the magic.

Cantaloop

Lookout Games

Cantaloop distilled the essence of classic point-and-click adventures into book form, transforming nostalgia into something surprisingly fresh. Its story, scenarios, and humor do justice to the genre, walking in the footsteps of Space Quest and Monkey Island.

The Light in the Mist

PostCurious

Elegance and beauty sum up The Light in the Mist. Held within this tarot deck was a magical journey told through puzzle, prose, and magnificent illustration.

The Vandermist Dossier

Diorama

The Vandermist Dossier hides an impressively layered and elaborate story in a set of fairly unassuming documents. The puzzling was polished and full of narrative ahas.

The Initiative

Unexpected Games

With equally strong strategy, story, and codebreaking elements, The Initiative is everything a puzzle fan could ask for in a board game. Its engaging co-op gameplay is full of mystery and just the right amount of challenge. The plentiful bonus content only makes it more endearing.

Category : Legacy Tabletop

Listed chronologically in the order that we published the reviews:

Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment

Mattel / The Wild Optimists

Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment introduced us and our community to the concept of a tabletop escape room. When we played the pre-production prototype, we never believed that we would enjoy a tabletop escape game, and in less than an hour it thawed our hearts and won us over. The Wild Optimists helped grow our world in so many different ways.

Escape The Room: Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor

ThinkFun / Blue Matter Games

ThinkFun’s Escape The Room: Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor was the first tabletop escape game to reach store shelves, and it’s remarkable how much this game accomplished as a first of its kind. From “locked” envelopes to a solution wheel, Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor set the standard for what mass market tabletop puzzle games should be, and few have hit its standard all of these years later.

Root of All Evil

Crack-A-Nut Mysteries

Strange and bold, Root of All Evil focused less on puzzles and more on storytelling. The more we explored the beautiful and strange items in this crate, the more haunting it became, culminating in a climax that has stuck with me in ways that I never imagined a tabletop puzzle game achieving.

The Emerald Flame

PostCurious

From its art direction to its gameplay, The Emerald Flame has been in a league of its own. PostCurious created the tabletop escape game community’s first masterpiece.

Hincks Gazette

Blue Fish Games

Blue Fish nailed the subscription style by combining humorous writing with surprising puzzle-play. They succeeded at delivering inexpensive production that didn’t feel cheap, and provided quality content repeatedly over time… and when the product had run its course, they stopped producing it.

Witchery Spell

DarkPark Games

Witchery Spell stands out from the crowd of play-at-home escape games by combining story, puzzles, and design into a polished, cohesive experience. DarkPark Games managed to conjure a self-contained experience that’s magical from start to finish and makes you feel like part of the story.

Box One

Theory 11/ Neil Patrick Harris

An aura of magic is instilled into every twist and turn of Box One. The reveals and misdirection will have you guessing what’s next until the captivating narrative reaches its satisfying conclusion. The care and the craft put into Box One make it nothing short of prestigious.

Category: Real-Life

Listed chronologically in the order that we published the reviews:

Magic Lamp

Gnome & Raven – Richmond, VA

Magic Lamp took us into the ornate dwellings of a genie, where we were filled with the childlike wonder of visiting a fairytale-esque far-off land. If we had an extra wish, it would be to re-experience this sort of untethered escape from the mundane.

The Inventor’s Paradox

Enter the Imaginarium – Pittsburgh, PA

The world of Enter the Imaginarium is captivating. In The Inventor’s Paradox, incredible transitions linked unlike scenes, with each creating a new sense of urgency, energy, and wonder.

Wong’s Chinese

The Perfect Escape – Arlington, TX

Wong’s Chinese made restauranteuring into an adventure. The creators transformed their family’s experience operating a Chinese food restaurant into an extensive sequence of immersive, goal-based puzzles within an authentic set, balancing realism with whimsy and delight.

Ghost Patrol

Trivium Games – Emeryville, CA

Ghost Patrol told a heartwarming story through brilliantly designed puzzles, a beautifully constructed set, and well-timed audiovisual effects. We especially loved a tangible metapuzzle that perfectly translated the essense of a puzzle hunt into an escape room environment.

Frost Base Z

Rabbit Hole Recreation Services – Louisville, CO

Frost Base Z was a chilling journey to a magical cavern and an Arctic research base, constructed in a satisfyingly sturdy style and filled with tactile, diegetic puzzles.

The Salutem Medicina Institute

Immersia – Boisbriand, QC, Canada

Cinematic, magical, and surprising, The Salutem Medicina Institute was physically small, and did some big things, using space and technology to build tension and pull us into that tension, questioning our actions and motives.

Train Robbery

Cyber Raccoon – Falls Church, VA

With so much happening beneath the surface, The Train Robbery surprised us in more than a few ways, and the nuance in its design filled us with joy.

8-Bit Escape

Escape Room Herndon – Herndon, VA

This is a mega-dose of 80s gamer nostolgia with details that felt impossibly on-point. We’ve played a lot of 80s pastiche escape games, but this one honestly felt like my 80s experience. I treasured the experience of playing 8-Bit Escape.

The Attraction

Palace Games – San Francisco, CA

In The Attraction, Palace Games combined mind-boggling mechanical engineering and a thought-provoking meta message into a touching homage to immersive gaming. Going into The Attraction, the less you know about the experience, the better.

Rain Corp.

Escaparium – Laval, QC, Canada

The sheer expanse of an utterly massive, post-apocolyptic set combined with the most lovable sidekick imaginable made Rain Corp. unforgettable.

Undercooked

Omescape Sunnyvale – Sunnyvale, CA

Undercooked served up a smorgasbord of culinary-themed puzzles in a whimsically detailed restaurant kitchen. With a thoughtful approach to nonlinear gameplay and numerous delightful moments, we enjoyed every last bite.

Pandora’s Box

Trapped! Escape Room Las Vegas – Las Vegas, NV

Pandora’s Box was marvelously inventive, creating chaos with concepts that left us wondering, “why have we never seen this before?” The elegance of this game felt effortless, which only serves to show how much thought and craft went into it.

Rattlesnake Bend

Bust Out Escape Room – Albuquerque, NM

Blurring the line between realism and cartoon, Rattlesnake Bend brought a wild west town to life, captivating us with a strong opening sequence and a number of novel, layered puzzles.

Super Secret

New Mexico Escape Room – Albuquerque, NM

Super Secret did justice to the superhero story, cleverly casting us in a role and environment that worked as an escape game. From the local setting, to the humorous story and campy interactions, we loved being sidekicks to Captain Secret.

Time Machine

Not Another Escape Room – Brea, CA

Time Machine stood out not for an expensive set but rather for its scrappy ingenuity. We were transported through a dizzying kaleidoscope of worlds as Not Another Escape Room sneakily pulled off a magical effect more times than should have been possible.

Return of the Pharaohs

Paragon Escape Games – Mesa, AZ

In the Arizona desert exists a unique Egyptian tomb. Return of the Pharaohs broke from tradition to bring us an adventure that was as goregous as it was engaging.

The Last Supper

Quest Tavern – Pomona, CA

This actor-driven Dungeons & Dragons-meets-escape room experience set our group of adventurers on a quest to outwit a malevolent Lord over dinner, and the experience was delicious. You get what you give at The Last Supper.

Hope End

The Ministry of Peculiarities – Azusa, CA

The Ministry of Peculiarities beautifully blended escape rooms with immersive theater in a dark, quirky, and thoughtfully crafted experience that started when we entered their front door, and continued until we exited.

Mogollon Monster

The Nemesis Club – Phoenix, AZ

The Nemesis Club sent us on an adventure to capture proof of an Arizona Bigfoot… but in the end, that monster captured our hearts. The deliberately rustic setting, dramatic moments, and practical effects pulled us deep into the Mogollon Monster’s forest.

The Area 51 Adventure

The Secret Chambers – Arlington, TX

A large red futuristic bomb with a. 60 minute countdown timer.

The Area 51 Adventure stands out for its challenging collaboration, communication, and dexterity puzzles, all embedded among a stunning set, bountiful sci-fi Easter eggs, and story surprises. These elements gelled into an uncommonly intense yet playful adventure.

INVASION!

60 to Escape – Milwaukee, WI

INVASION! put an adorable twist on a neighbor-next-door story. 60 to Escape’s Wisconsin location shows a commitment to unexpected reveals and quirky characters, and we especially fell in love with the protagonist of INVASION!

The Lost Expedition

Steal and Escape – San Diego, CA

The Lost Expedition was a tech-filled adventure into the past. With individual player roles, a unique approach to time management, and a densely layered set, Steal and Escape excelled at creating interesting interactions we’d never before seen in an escape room.

Game Night

CU Adventures in Time & Space – Champagne Urbana, IL

Closeup of a dragon's head.

Game Night was able to deliver four vastly different escape experiences and mash them together into one masterpiece that took me back to the days of playing dungeons and dragons in my college dorm room. Their attention to detail shined through with the infinite nerdy references and larger than life interactions.

Save The City

City 13 – Milwaukee, WI

Save the City was an epic 5-hour superhero adventure that was truly greater than the sum of its parts. Combining City 13’s 4 individual hour-long rooms into a single continuous adventure in a warehouse-scale city, tied together by ample bonus puzzle content in the city streets, this was one of the most ambitious escape room projects we’ve seen anywhere in North America.

The Nest

Scout Expedition Co. – Los Angeles, CA

The Nest is a compelling tour through a relatable, heart-wrenching lifetime with inspiring technical and gameplay novelties to guide us along our journey.

Congratulations to the
2022 Golden Lock Award Winners!

Past Golden Lock Awards

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4 thoughts on “2022 Golden Lock Awards

  1. Wow, so other than Train Robbery, there was nothing on the east coast (nothing in NYC or Boston, etc.). We better up out game!

    1. To be fair, when we visit a region that we have never played before, we see the top games that have been made over many years.

      There are some really fun new games that we have (and will cover) in Boston & New York City, but these regions have also had longer lockdown periods than a lot of the country… so the companies in the area have been a bit slower to open new games until.

      Also, Level99 outside of Boston is amazing… and we don’t really have a way to cover an amazing venue with the Golden Lock Awards (it’s a thing we’re thinking about for the future).

  2. No Wardrobe for Sale? I’d have thought that was a dead cert for inclusion.Looking forward to seeing European games reappearing in your lists.

    1. No, not the version we played. But we expect it to win in the future when we play the game the creator was intending for us to experience. We know there’s something very special waiting for us when we get to Montreal.

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