2019 Golden Lock Awards

2019 Golden Lock Award Ribbon

We played and reviewed 161 escape rooms in 2019.

Our own playing slowed a bit this year as we worked to grow the community from other angles: reviewing more at-home escape games, running two different Escape Immerse Explore tours, and launching the Reality Escape Convention (RECON) which will take place in Boston in 2020.

When we traveled, we actively sought out the most interesting and unusual games. We raised the bar for the games we chose to play.

We tapped into the community and sought escape rooms that refined the traditional notion of escape rooms or pushed the industry in a new direction.

As “wry cheerleaders, critics, and ambassadors of the escape room world” (Rachel Sugar, Vox, 2019) we want to share the stories of people, companies, and games that are driving this frontier of the experience economy.

Changes

For our fifth annual Golden Lock Award, we’ve made a few changes to the award:

New Name

We decided to drop the wordplay of “Golden Lock-In” after the fire in Poland. Locking players inside of an escape room hasn’t been acceptable for a long time. While our 2019 Escape Room Safety Report demonstrates that locked doors are a thing of the past, we didn’t want this award to encourage it in any way.

Rules

We’ve changed, and so has the industry. We added a rule about safety and dropped a rule that both of us had to play each contending game:

  1. We established no arbitrary minimum or maximum number of rooms that could win the award.
  2. A company could only win once for the year.
  3. We had published a safety rubric at the start of 2019. To be considered, a room had to achieve a safety rating of A or A+ for both emergency exits and physical restraints.
  4. We (either of us) had to play the room during 2019.

There is no such thing as the perfect escape room, but these are the ones that we wish we could play again. Here are our 16 favorite escape rooms of 2019.

2019 Golden Lock Winners

Here is the recording of the awards show livestream.

Listed chronologically in the order that we played them:

The Legend of the Skull Witch

Enchambered – Sacramento, California

In-game: an effigy hanging from the wall with fire projected onto it.

From its imposing opening scene, through each moment of exploration, there was something intriguing – and a bit unsettling – about The Legend of the Skull Witch. Enchambered built creative mechanisms that made the world that much more magical… and the solving that much more heroic.

Castle Adventure

Escape Room Family – Cincinnati, Ohio

In-game: An assortment of puzzles and armaments in Defend The Castle.

The magic of Castle Adventure came from the gameplay and puzzles, set in bright and friendly containers. With a specific audience in mind, Escape Room Family invested in the right details, upping the energy level and the fun factor. It might not have looked like much, but it had it where it counted.

The Night of the Wolf and the Serpent

Codex – Laval, Quebec, Canada

In-game: A campfire burning under the stars in the middle of the autumn woods.

In our first adventure through Norse mythology, Codex crafted a lovingly homemade aesthetic with exquisite polish, delivering a historic land like no other. The Night of the Wolf and the Serpent had us solving our way through a story right up until we sealed our destiny.

The Wizard Four and the Rise of Lord Thulsa

Escaparium – Dorval, Quebec, Canada

In-game: Bottles of magical ingredients.

Escaparium bestowed magical powers upon us and set us off on a quest to battle a mythical beast. Through an unusual set and tech, The Wizard Four and the Rise of Lord Thulsa fostered teamwork and moments of individual heroism.

Wrath of Poseidon

Sauve Qui Peut – Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada

In-game: A periscope in a submarine.

What began as a cliché aboard a submarine opened up into a spectacularly vibrant second act. Wrath of Poseidon carried a subtle message, made all the more memorable by Sauve Qui Peut’s breathtaking style and craftsmanship.

The End

DarkPark – Zoetermeer, Netherlands

In-game: a rundown scifi-esque wall-mounted logo that reads "END"

DarkPark’s newest experience was a twisted thriller about endings… in so many different ways. The End was about its story, a futuristic cautionary tale that delivered an unimaginably epic conclusion.

The Dome

Escape Room Nederland – Bunschoten-Spakenburg, Netherlands

In-game: The entry way for The Dome opened, a sign reads, "Butterfly Safe Zone.".

With unrivaled set design and technology, The Dome led us through a series of hallucinations, administered without any chemicals and entirely through Escape Room Nederland’s commitment to their craft. With each mind-boggling transition we were that much more amazed that this escape room even exists.

Neptune’s Curse

Hidden in Hamburg – Hamburg, Germany

In-game: A wooden ship's comaptment with unusual crates and storage containers built into the walls.

Hidden in Hamburg built their seafaring adventure into a real ship. As we traversed the decks of this actually floating escape game, we experienced puzzles that could only work in the unusual environment of Neptune’s Curse.

Below Zero

Crypto Escape Rooms – Newmarket, Ontario, Canada

In-game: Wide angle shot of a control room.

Crypto Escape Rooms crafted a fully realized narrative and puzzles that were as integrated into the story as they were fun to solve. With a blend of compelling storytelling and dark humor, Below Zero will thaw the heart of the most jaded escape room player.

The Aurora Society

Decode Ypsilanti – Ypsilanti, Michigan

In-game: wide shot of the room, a strange game sits on a table in the middle of the room.

Every prop, puzzle, and inch of the beautiful world of The Aurora Society was justified and came together to tell our story of harnessing the magical properties of the aurora borealis. Decode Ypsilanti created a cohesive world from the front door through every inch of their facility and our experience in it.

The Infirmary

Michigan Escape Room – Clinton Township, Michigan

In-game: A wide shot of the Infirmary. It's heavily weathered and worn.

With an intense and eerie set, The Infirmary was a shining example of a classic escape room. Michigan Escape Room added novel interactions to stellar, traditional gameplay, reminding us of why we fell in love with these types of games in the first place.

Plight of the Margo Part 1 & Part 2

ConTRAPtions Escape Rooms – Fort Collins, Colorado

In-game: The ships helm beside and iris door.

The Plight of the Margo was an epic Star Trek-inspired mission in two consecutive 90-minute installments. ConTRAPtions used the extended clock to build an intense story within an impressively engineered starship.

ConTRAPtions is for sale, for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of their product. They have a special game and we want it to find a good home. If you are interested in buying ConTRAPtions, please reach out to them directly.

The Last Defender

Denver, Colorado

We played The Last Defender in Denver, but it was originally launched in Chicago and is currently running again in Chicago.

In-game: 3 players in orange flightsuits working at the Operations cabinet.
Image via The Last Defender

The Last Defender was a dark political comedy exploring cold war nuclear deterrents. For 16 players, it blurred the lines between escape room, theater, and puzzle hunt, presenting equal doses of challenging puzzles and thought-provoking moments that balanced on the razor’s edge between tragedy and comedy.

Paradox

Rabbit Hole Recreation Services – Louisville, Colorado

In-game: 4 tubes protruding upwards from a glowing console.

If Doctor Who’s Tardis and The Room game series had a baby, it would look like Paradox. Rabbit Hole Recreation Services created a monument to tangible gameplay delivering puzzle after puzzle with unusual and engaging interfaces.

Captain Spoopy Bones And The Magnificent Quest For Some Other Pirate’s Treasure

Doldrick’s Escape Room – Kissimmee, Florida

In-game: the brig inside of a wooden ship.

We laughed our way through Captain Spoopy Bones And The Magnificent Quest For Some Other Pirate’s Treasure. Doldrick’s Escape Room uses their unique voice to build fully realized worlds. We were giddy accomplices in Captain Spoopy Bones’ tale. Through 75 minutes of tight gameplay and stellar reveals, they made us feel like kids again.

The Storyteller’s Secret

Boxaroo – Boston, Massachusetts

In-game: A beautiful old writer's desk with a journal and a quill pen.

The Storyteller’s Secret was a serene adventure through the mind of a novelist. Boxaroo’s escape room wasn’t just built; it was thoroughly designed, delivering gameplay reminiscent of classic LucasArts games.

Congratulations to the 2019 Golden Lock Winners!

Past Golden Lock Awards

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