Locks and Puzzles – Western Bank Heist [Review]

Tick, tick, boom.

Location: Lakewood, NJ

Date Played: January 27, 2018

Team size: up to 5; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $22 per ticket

REA Reaction

Western Bank Heist was a ton of fun. It was inclusive, but not overly simple. It was unrealistic, but it didn’t try to be more than a game. We road off into the sunset smiling… having played our 500th escape room.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Western fans
  • Any experience level
  • Families
  • Players who can cooperate

Why play?

  • The adorable props
  • Solid puzzles
  • Team experience

Story

Our band of bandits arrived in a small frontier town in search of food, water and supplies. We also found the town quiet and the bank full. It was heist time.

In-game: sign for an old western back beside the skull of a steer.

Setting

We entered a collage of an old western town. The walls were painted with murals, each one representing something different. Tangible props lined those walls.

There were more tangible interactions in Western Bank Heist than in Malus the Elf, but at the same time, the focus on the murals made the set more abstract.

In-game: ACME Dynamite

Gameplay

Western Bank Heist had a unique style of play where most of the puzzles came together at once, even when we were doing lots of different things.

Western Bank Heist most readily rewarded observation.

Standouts

Western Bank Heist was adorably thematic. It didn’t try to be realistic. The set and props were playful and fun.

Western Bank Heist could engage less puzzle-minded players. It was easy to get involved.

One larger, layered puzzle required different types of observation. This too helped engage different types of players in a collective solve.

Locks and Puzzles incorporated technological puzzle elements well. These were interactive and gave feedback.

Shortcomings

It was frustrating to get started. Locks and Puzzles abundantly clued the opening interaction, but the layout of the set – more thematic than realistic – buried the opening thread of the gameplay.

The scale and details of a crucial prop were a bit off. We struggled with a puzzle simply because we didn’t realize what the prop was supposed to be.

Western Bank Heist teeters on the edge of outside knowledge. While it would be possible to solve this escape room without these specific skills, it would certainly be much more challenging.

Tips for Visiting

  • Locks and Puzzles has ample parking available out front.
  • There are plenty of food options nearby.

Book your hour with Locks and Puzzles’ , and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Locks and Puzzles provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Locks and Puzzles – Malus the Elf [Review]

“Malus the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”

Location: Lakewood, NJ

Date Played: January 27, 2018

Team size: up to 5; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $22 per ticket

REA Reaction

One month late, we happily embraced the spirit of Locks and Puzzles’ charming Christmas escape room. Malus the Elf was a challenging puzzle-driven escape room. It could have benefitted from a little more drama, but it offered excellent puzzle value.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Christmas aficionados
  • Players with a least some experience

Why play?

  • The Christmas spirit
  • Challenging puzzles

Story

When Santa rejected Malus the Elf’s request to become a toymaker, the mischievous elf became determined to prove the big guy wrong. Malus created a series of puzzles and toys to show Santa what he could do, but in order to secure Santa’s attention, he also stole something that Santa would need to do his job.

Could we puzzle through Malus’ game and help Santa save Christmas?

In-game: a drafting table with toy designs, mounted to the wall above are toy tools.

Setting

Malus the Elf was a puzzle-focused game set in a small room within Santa’s workshop. The set felt like a festive dungeon with most of the scenery either painted or hung on the walls.

While it wasn’t an awe-inspiring room, it was a well-themed, cleanly executed setting with some playful details.

In-game: a wrapped christmas present labeled "To Santa"

Gameplay

Puzzles, puzzles, puzzles. Malus really liked puzzles. This was a challenging game that required a fair amount of deduction to piece the right components together, and then a bit more to work through to the correct conclusion.

There were no gimme puzzles in Malus the Elf.

In-game: multiple strands of christmas lights.

Standouts

Malus the Elf was a charming Christmas-themed adventure. Locks and Puzzles used simple props to create a cozy, winter-dungeonland theme.

Malus the Elf offered serious puzzles. These were balanced with other less complex puzzles, but none of them were cakewalks. The puzzling worked well.

We enjoyed the ending. It was on the nose, but it wasn’t as straightforward as it had originally appeared to be.

Locks and Puzzles have a great game for their price point, which makes it easy to recommend Malus the Elf to puzzle-minded players.

Shortcomings

Malus the Elf lacked a clear starting place. The most inviting props and set pieces weren’t in play yet and the initial puzzle was relatively complex. We recommend that Locks and Puzzles start players more gently so that teams are engaged before they stall.

One puzzle seemed a bit too ambiguous. It was layered – which was cool – but it wasn’t clued quite clearly enough.

Malus the Elf was emotionally level. It lacked a story arc as well as a surprising or climactic moment that could deliver an emotional rush to the puzzlers.

Tips for Visiting

  • Locks and Puzzles has ample parking available out front.
  • There are ample food options nearby.

Book your hour with Locks and Puzzles’ , and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Locks and Puzzles provided media discounted tickets for this game.