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.
Duration: 4 hours (5 hours with cutscenes, breaks, etc.)
Price: $75 per player for full 4 hours, $45 per player for 1 hour, $60 per player for 2 hours
Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock
Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints
Save the City was monumentally greater than the sum of its parts. With up to 4 hours of continuous gameplay in a warehouse-scale facility, we emerged truly feeling like superheroes.
During lockdown, City 13 undertook an ambitious project: designing a mega escape game that would combine their 4 individual hour-long rooms into a single uninterrupted experience, targeted especially at escape room enthusiasts. To accomplish this, they designed the wide hallways between rooms to look like graffiti-covered cyberpunk streets, built out an entire track of bonus puzzles throughout these alleyways, and created an additional fifth room. They also wrote a story that tied all the gameplay together, seamlessly interweaving the individual chapters into the overarching narrative.
Of City 13’s four original rooms, Neon Light Diner was the standout, both in originality of set design and creative puzzle flow. The other three rooms all contained some fun moments though overall felt a bit more dated and showed wear. But the real standout of Save the City was all the new puzzle content added in the streets, and the ways in which it managed to recontextualize and elevate the content of the individual rooms. We especially enjoyed a multi-stage puzzle sequence that progressively granted us superpowers, and audio-based cutscenes that provided a clear narrative trajectory and introduced us to a cast of memorable characters. If this is reflective of City 13’s current design sensibilities, they are truly a company to keep an eye on.
I first heard about Save the City in November 2020 from fellow REA writer Richard Burns’ interview with City 13’s owner Nick Timber, and I was instantly intrigued. I can now strongly attest that Save the City is an epic adventure worth traveling to.
Game Night was a fantastically unique Dungeons & Dragons adventure lovingly brought to life, full of nostalgia and delightful moments. With the help of an energetic in-game “dungeon master” (gamemaster), our experience was hilarious and whimsical from before the game even began.
Escape rooms usually stick to 1-2 styles of gameplay and ride that out for a full 60-minute experience. In Game Night, CU Adventures was able to incorporate an homage to unique and vastly different styles of escape room design, curating gameplay for all types of players. Each section of the game was a varied “type” of escape room, whether it be interactive and fast paced, split team, or inclusive of immersive character interactions. CU Adventures brilliantly designed each portion for the overall storyline to flow seamlessly while also tailoring to different player archetypes. They wrapped all this into one coherent experience.
Even without having a background knowledge of tabletop role-playing games (RPGs), this game can be an absolute blast for every adventurer. CU Adventures is spinning up some incredibly unique and exciting experiences, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for the future.
The Lost Expedition was filled with unique interactions, innovative tech, and a multifaceted narrative. Steal and Escape went the extra mile in designing this room, and it paid off big time.
Nearly every element of The Lost Expedition was painstakingly designed and constructed from scratch, even when it wasn’t immediately obvious on the surface. The set was an impressive self-standing structure with numerous well-concealed details. There was a ton of tech in this room that worked reliably and facilitated the room’s most memorable moments. Each player was assigned a unique role that meaningfully translated into personal goals and skills and a sense of narrative purpose. Furthermore, fuel management — operating a control panel that actually turned the lights and power on/ off in the various areas of the game — provided an in-world approach to timekeeping.
The Lost Expedition was a challenging, narratively-driven, and densely-packed game that managed to flow remarkably well and avoid ever feeling too chaotic. This is quite a tricky balance to achieve, but Steal and Escape nailed it. This room had clearly adapted to a range of player feedback and gone through many iterations — reflected by thoughtful signposting and adaptive difficulty throughout the experience. A mission objective screen reminded us about our high-level objective(s) at any given time, and each of our roles focused our attention on a subset of the available tasks.
The Lost Expedition was one of the strongest offerings in San Diego and a must-play if you’re in the area, especially for puzzle-loving players with at least some escape room experience.