Lockout – The Room [Review]

 Old asylum, fresh blood (available in English, well, kinda)

Location:  Antibes, France

Date Played: September 30, 2018

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 20-35 € per person depending on team size

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Room was an old-school puzzle room. The weathered and detailed set gave it a creepy feel that never turned into horror.

Lockout could fix a few missteps in assembly that currently hamper the flow of this otherwise interesting and challenging puzzle-focused game. While there was plenty to like in this escape room, especially for puzzlers, we walked away wishing that some of the details of gameplay had received as much attention as the set design.

If you play escape rooms for the puzzles and you find yourself in Antibes, France, this was an interesting game, but I’d recommend playing Lockout’s Europa instead.

In-game: A dingy, bloodied white-walled asylum.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Some interesting layered puzzles
  • Dramatic opening set

Story

We conducted an investigation of an old, abandoned asylum in search of evidence regarding the disappearance of a patient.  

In-game: A bloodied and worn medicine cabinet in a dingy white-walled asylum.

Setting

The asylum set of the room was grim and weathered. It was clear that something bad had happened within these walls. 

The level of set detail put The Room on the upper end of what we saw from escape room sets in southern France.

Gameplay

Lockout’s The Room was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, and puzzling.

Analysis

➕ The Room’s initial set was well-detailed and established a grim tone. It staged the experience well.

➕ We enjoyed a few substantial, layered puzzles with satisfying solves. Lockout built some excellent puzzles into The Room.

➖ One puzzle required order preservation. Our gamemaster interrupted us to tell us not to move these particular props, which were not just easy to move, but seemed like they should have been moved. We recommend Lockout glue these down.

The Room included multiple locks with identical digit structure and no indication of which puzzle resolved to which lock. Varying the types of lock inputs or connecting locks with puzzles would facilitate smoother gameplay.

The Room was mostly in English. There were a few critical clues that weren’t translatable. Having translations on paper would have been helpful for those of us who were less-fluent in French. (Lisa was fine.)

➖ We uncovered quite a lot of reading material as we solved The Room. In the end, those who spoke French had their noses buried in papers. While it wasn’t necessary to read everything in order to escape, the reading contributed to additional win conditions focused on the plot. We would have liked to see this part of the game more integrated into the physical gameplay.

➖ The ending was anti-climactic. We had finished all of the puzzles, but we stayed in the room to try to solve additional plot questions. This conclusion had no energy and seemed meaningless.

➕ The Room was a solid, puzzle-focused, older-style escape room. We had some lengthy criticism, but most of these things were fixable and none of them destroyed the game.

Tips For Visiting

  • Note that while this game is playable in English, you’ll miss one major component of the game with you can’t play it in French.

Book your hour with Lockout’s The Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

I Lock You – La Chambre de Nicolai [Review]

Nicholai’s Room (available in English)

Location:  Nice, France

Date Played: October 1, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 90-144 € per team depending on team size

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

La Chambre de Nicolai was a traditional, old-school escape room. It was entirely focused on puzzles, with a lovingly made but simple set. That isn’t to say that I Lock You lacked creativity.

Some of the puzzle design within La Chambre de Nicolai was unique and inspired. We were particularly impressed with the opening puzzle sequence, which took an escape room trope that we have long despised, and made it smart and fresh.

If you enjoy puzzle-focused escape rooms and can either speak French or are comfortable taking a little gamemaster assistance to work through an untranslated puzzle, then pay I Lock You a visit. They are centrally located in Nice. 

In-game: Nicolai's pirate themed bedroom. There's a treasure chest locked in the middle of it.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Interesting puzzles
  • Great transition
  • Fun aesthetics

Story

We were the house staff for Boris and Natalia Povanovitch and they had tasked us with babysitting their little angel Nicolai. This gifted, spoiled, and possibly sociopathic child loved making our lives difficult. This night would be no different. He had locked us in his bedroom. We had to find our way out before his parents came home and fired us.

Additionally, if we found the report card that Nicolai had hidden from his parents, we might be able to… convince him to leave us alone in the future.

In-game: The outside of Nicolai's bedroom warning not to enter in a childish manner.

Setting

La Chambre de Nicolai was bright and vibrant with a decidedly childish aesthetic. It looked like a spoiled kid’s bedroom, complete with toys.

As the game pressed on, the set became darker with muted colors and less detail. 

In-game: A Playmobile pirate ship on a table under a painting of a pirate ship.

Gameplay

I Lock You’s La Chambre de Nicolai was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: Nicolai's bunk bed and air conditioner. His ceiling is painted blue with large styrofoam clouds.

Analysis

➕ We appreciated the humorous setup. Nicolai was a fun nemesis.

➕ The hint system – finding candy within the room to bribe our child captor – was thematic and effective.

➕ We enjoyed the aesthetic of Nicolai’s bedroom and how I Lock You turned children’s toys into puzzles.

➕/➖ La Chambre de Nicolai looked homemade. This mostly worked well, given the set up, but at times it felt amateur and messy. 

➖As the game progressed, the aesthetic quality plummeted. Near the end, the attention to design detail went from bad to worse.

In-game: Nicolai's closet door is painted with a tropical island, a parrot, and pirate treasure.

➕ La Chambre de Nicolai challenged us with some interesting, layered sequences.

➕ While we usually dislike overlocking one item, I Lock You made it work using a series of transformations. In this implementation, the act of solving gave us new information. This created an excellent puzzle sequence.

➖ One late game sequence was not well clued. It was a nifty concept that needed a bit more iteration.

➕ One critical transition worked beautifully.

➖ The ending was anticlimactic. It was easy to brute force and we escaped without having even attempted one of the puzzles.

➕ The idea that we had to find Nicolai’s report card so that we could blackmail the brat into letting us do our jobs was pretty damn funny. 

Tips For Visiting

  • The English translation worked pretty well. There was one late-game puzzle that didn’t translate. It wasn’t a problem. 

Book your hour with I Lock You’s La Chambre de Nicolai, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: I Lock You provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Blackout Room – Chambre 1408 [Review]

Room 1408 (available in English)

Location:  Nice, France

Date Played: October 1, 2018

Team size: 3-5; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 25-32 € per team person depending on team size

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, Chambre 1408 was a slightly spooky escape room in a simple, elegant set. Blackout Room balanced puzzles with elevated intensity and provided some cinematic moments.

Chambre 1408 had an unusual approach to cluing that threw us off for the first few puzzles. Additionally, when we solved puzzles we frequently didn’t know what had triggered as a result of our success.

If you’re in Nice and your escape room preferences lean more heavily towards immersive set design, Chambre 1408 would be a solid escape room to visit. 

In-game: The living room of 1408, an old space with large, dated furniture and a television.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Strong puzzle game
  • Homey yet haunted
  • Dramatic final scene

Story

We sought a room at The Dolphin Hotel. The man at the front desk had told us that the hotel was full except for room 1408, a cursed room where strange things happen and no one leaves alive. We really wanted a room, so we took it, of course.

In-game: The cracked door to room 1408

Setting

Chambre 1408 looked like the living room of a large hotel suite. It had bulky (and comfortable) old-fashioned furniture and a generally creepy hotel vibe.

It was missing many of the items that one would expect from a hotel, most notably a bed or even a door to a bedroom. That nitpick aside, the set of Chambre 1408 was more immersively designed than the other escape rooms that we encountered in southern France.

In-game: The living room of 1408, an old space with large, dated furniture and a television.

Gameplay

Blackout Room’s Chambre 1408 was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, making connections, and puzzling.

In-game: The living room of 1408, an old space with large, dated furniture and a television.

Analysis

➕ The gamespace looked homey and inviting, in a haunted sort of way. It was quite spacious. The set looked pretty good and periodesque.

➖ Chambre 1408 took place in a hotel room, but the set lacked a few hotel essentials, like a bed. It felt more like a parlor.

➕ The puzzles varied. Chambre 1408 included both association solves and meatier puzzles. It worked well.

➖ Chambre 1408 didn’t fully clue the gameplay in the environment. It wasn’t immediately apparent – even to experienced players – what would be relevant in this escape room. As players, it took us a little while to understand the unusual clue structure of Chambre 1408.

Chambre 1408 illuminated some fun puzzle sequences.

➖ We frequently didn’t know what a solve had unlocked. More feedback from the set – when puzzles solved and set pieces pop open – would dramatically improve the experience of Chambre 1408.

➕ The dramatic final scene upped the intensity of the experience. It added urgency and excitement.

Tips For Visiting

  • Chambre 1408 is available in French, English, and Russian. There is one puzzle, however, that is only solvable if you understand French.
  • If you have asthma, other breathing conditions, or scent allergies, talk to Blackout Room before booking Chambre 1408.

Book your hour with Blackout Room’s Chambre 1408, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Blackout Room comped our tickets for this game.

Lockout – Europa [Review]

By Jupiter’s moons! (not available in English)

Location:  Antibes, France

Date Played: September 30, 2018

Team size: 3-5; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 20-35 € per person depending on team size

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Europa was a puzzle-focused escape room that offered some unusual interactions and puzzles.

At times this mission felt futuristic and spaceship-y. Other times, it felt like an escape room of locked boxes.

While I enjoyed many of the puzzles, as we escaped, I found myself wishing that the concluding story beats, puzzles, and interactions felt more like they had belonged on this spaceship.

Overall, if you’re in Antibes, France, and looking to play an escape room, this would be a fun choice with interesting puzzles.

In-game: A pilot's chair in front of a computer station in a spaceship.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Interesting and varied puzzles
  • Nifty moments

Story

The European Space Agency had received a signal from a missing ship that was returning with samples from Jupiter’s moon Europa. We had to board the ship and return with the samples.

Setting

Europa was set on a futuristic spaceship.

The set was uneven. Most of the game had a steel and space-y look. Some segments looked like a traditional lock-and-key escape game.

In-game: Closeup of a steel floor.

Gameplay

Lockout’s Europa was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, and puzzling.

Analysis

➕ Lockout designed some excellent, layered puzzles.

➖ Europa presented us with a mission and detailed steps to follow to achieve it. It wasn’t clear, however, which puzzles fit with this series of objectives. We played a decent amount of this game in the dark because of this confusion.

➕ We especially liked the use of augmented reality in one puzzle.

➕/➖ One interesting puzzle concept missed a beat. We liked the inventive concept, but the solution was only partially clued.

➕ Lockout executed standard escape room puzzle concepts to facilitate teamwork. This worked well.

➖ Europa was a heavily padlocked spaceship containing a lot of locked boxes. It felt overly locked with props and locks that didn’t aesthetically match the game concept. This contributed to a general feeling that too many items in this game didn’t belong on a spaceship.

➖ The win was anticlimactic. Solving a complex puzzle yielded yet another key. We would have liked to see that solve integrated contextually into the story of this spaceship and our escape from it.

Tips For Visiting

  • You must be able to read and understand French to play Europa.

Book your hour with Lockout’s Europa, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Heyou Escape – La Terrible Affaire Bambell [Review]

The Terrible Bambell Affair (available in English)

Location:  Le Cannet, France

Date Played: September 30, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 24-30 € per person depending on team size

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

I keep telling people about La Terrible Affaire Bambell.

Heyou Escape’s horror thriller was one of the most interesting escape rooms we’ve encountered in our travels. 

All about story and fear, La Terrible Affaire Bambell relied on traditional escape room gameplay to facilitate the narrative and the feelings it created in players.

This escape room worked because of creativity, hard work, and commitment. 

La Terrible Affaire Bambell wasn’t a good or a bad escape room. It was theatrical. It was terrifying. It was a weak puzzle game… hell, it was barely a puzzle game. It was an intense and interesting experience. 

If you’re looking for traditional, puzzle-driven, non-threatening escape room gameplay, do not play La Terrible Affaire Bambell. If you’re in the south of France and you seek something unique that might shift your perspective on what an escape room can be, then Heyou Escape’s first outing is a must-play.

In-game: The hallway of the apartment complex that housed the game.

Who is this for?

  • Horror fiends 
  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Frights
  • Worldbuilding
  • Thought-provoking conclusion

Story

We were new police recruits on a risky first assignment. Our sergeant had tasked us with investigating the apartment of a suspected serial killer. 

This man had been monitored by police for some time; they were confident that this was the guy. We need to inspect his residence to determine if he was the killer and how many people he had murdered.

There were two catches: 

  • He had a photographic memory. We had to put everything back exactly as we had found it. Because… 
  • He could return to his home while we were investigating. If he returned, we had to hide. 

Given the dangers, our sergeant would be on the radio supporting us the entire time. 

In-game: A "special police" badge.

Setting

Heyou Escape led us to an apartment in a real apartment building. En route, he improvisationally melded the real life environment with the game world. 

Once our sergeant had “picked the lock” to the apartment, he left us in a dark, creepy living room lit only by a few flashlights (that were chained to the wall). 

In-game: a globe in a dark room.

Gameplay

Heyou Escape’s La Terrible Affaire Bambell was an unusual theatrical horror escape room with a higher level of difficulty (more on that in the analysis).

Core gameplay revolved around searching, making connections, and enduring the tension. 

In-game: A skinned stuffed animal in a dark room.

Analysis

➕ La Terrible Affaire Bambell was unique. Its story, rules, and approach to gameplay were unlike anything we’d encountered in more than 650 escape rooms. 

➕ Heyou Escape established their story and world by integrating the real world into the experience. This was brilliant and immersive. 

❓ La Terrible Affaire Bambell was scary. This was the first game that we had ever played where one of our teammates quit in the middle of the game (and no, that wasn’t Lisa!). Heyou Escape told us that 30% of teams have at least one player abandon due to fear. Whether this is amazing or terrible is up to you.

➕ Heyou Escape introduced a game mechanic that I spent more than half of the game thinking was stupid… until it turned into my favorite aspect of the game. I cannot say more without ruining it.

➕/➖ The mediocre puzzles only worked because of the heavy gamemaster involvement (which was well integrated into the game). That being said, the puzzles were never the reason to play La Terrible Affaire Bambell.

➕/➖ The set was creepy. It established the right tone, but it didn’t look incredible. It also lacked believable hiding places (which really were critical to this narrative).

➕/➖ The hiding from the serial killer was intense even if I couldn’t believe that we were effectively hiding ourselves from the killer.

➕ The actor/ gamemastering was fantastic. It made this world feel real, even when we could see the seams. We further commend Heyou Escape for delivering all the dialogue in English. (We later received a behind the scenes glimpse that demonstrated just how hard the staff had to work to make this crazy experience work.)

➖ The ending came too late… or the climax came a little too early. By the time that La Terrible Affaire Bambell had come to a conclusion, the story had begun to unravel. 

➕ Heyou Escape left us with an interesting question about the game… and the more I thought about it that evening over dinner and wine… the more I appreciated the uniqueness of La Terrible Affaire Bambell.

Tips For Visiting

  • This is truly a horror game. Be prepared to be scared.
  • Players need to be fairly mobile.

Book your hour with Heyou Escape’s La Terrible Affaire Bambell, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.