Clock N Lock: Virtually Touring A Closing Escape Room Company

Escape rooms have a lot in common with theater. One major similarity is the impermanence of it all. When these games close, that’s it. The magic is gone. There is often very little evidence that the game ever existed except for a review on this website, or sites like ours.

While we never had a chance to play these games, we are taking the opportunity to preserve a little piece of them.

The Invite

When Paula Norder, the owner of Clock N Lock Escape Rooms in Kalamazoo, Michigan, sent us a message saying, “I’m going to be closing, would you like a video tour of my games?” we were honored.

Over the years we’ve gotten to know Paula at various escape room conferences. When we took a trip out to Detroit (a stellar escape room market, by the way) in 2019, Paula and her husband Doug drove out and we spent a day playing games together.

A baby unicorn in a cage.
Unicorn Rescue

She’d told us, “My games aren’t the best, but they are good for where I am. I feel like I could write your review of my place.” And honestly, we’ve long had respect for companies in small markets that serve them well, even if they aren’t producing the world’s most renowned games. It was our intention to return to Michigan, and take a trip to Kalamazoo to play a game or two at her place.

Sadly that won’t happen, but we did get a chance to see what Clock N Lock was all about, and I’m going to share a bit of that with you.

Clock N Lock Games

Clock N Lock games were traditional mom & pop escape rooms. Each one was a lovingly designed, classic-style game, with limited tech, and an emphasis on themed puzzles. They each had a unique mission and objective. They felt like many of the games that made Lisa and me fall in love with the escape room format back in our early years of Room Escape Artist.

In-game: a code appearing un Christmas ornaments.

These games weren’t changing the industry, but they were representing it with care.

UFO Diner

Clock N Lock’s first game was a UFO Diner that – spoiler – had ties to Area 51.

In-game: View of a diner with a 60s UFO theme. In the center of the frame is a podium that says, "Welcome. Please seat yourself."

The experience began outside of the room, and involved solving a short puzzle sequence in a phone booth to gain access.

Amelia’s Attic

Amelia’s Attic explored the story of Amelia Earhart, and not in a crass way.

In-game: an attic with exposed beams, and assorted objects covered in sheets.

While it really was a standard escape room, there was a unique vibe to what we saw. Sometimes it’s the little things.

Baby Unicorn Rescue

This was Clock N Lock’s newest and most ambitious game, and I think that shows from the photos.

A wizard's study with sigils on the stone wall.

I love the Baby Unicorn rescue concept. It’s super clever, and the execution was adorable.

Tough Decisions

For all the avatar adaptations of real-life escape games that we’ve played during the last year, many facilities have sat empty, like Clock N Lock. These games leaned into the tangible – both in puzzles and in customer service – and wouldn’t have adapted easily. For some many owners, a digital adaptation isn’t the right answer. We respect the difficult decision to close a business (in many cases, one that had been healthy before 2020) rather than commit to a digital adaptation and risk the debt. We know many folks are facing this struggle as we cross the one-year mark.

Closing Thoughts

We truly appreciate that we were given a chance to see these games, and share a little piece of them with you.

Paula, the owner of Clock N Lock in the unicorn cage.

If you are closing down your escape room company, and you have something that you’d like to share, please let us know. When someone has put their heart into their games, we want to document what was while we can.

Get the F Out – The Experiment [Hivemind Review]

The Experiment is a real-life escape room livestreamed and played through an avatar, created by Get the F Out in Los Angeles.

Sadly this company is closing soon. Book now if you want to play this game.

Room Escape Artist played this game in real-life in August of 2018.

In-game: torn ship's mast.

Format

Style of Play: real-life escape room livestreamed and played through an avatar

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, maybe a pen and paper for notes

Recommended Team Size: 4-5

Play Time: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per person

Booking: book online for a specific time slot

Description

The Experiment is a straightforward avatar game livestreamed over Zoom. The inventory system for this game consists of password-protected files that are emailed to you beforehand. The host gives you the passwords to unlock them as you progress through the game.

This is described as a “meta-escape room” so it’s like an escape room about an escape room. It becomes more and more clear as you progress through the game.

In-game: The Experiment teaser, reads, "The Doctor Will See You Now."

Hivemind Review Scale

Level Games – The Menagerie [Reaction]

We were booked to travel to Los Angeles back in mid-March… before the apocalypse shut everything down.

Level Games’ The Menagerie was on our list of top games to play on that trip.

We have generally avoided playing escape rooms in avatar mode if we thought that we would play them in real life eventually. When we learned that Level Games was closing, however, we booked The Menagerie immediately.

Shelves covered in jars and filled with animal specimines.

Should I play Level Games’ The Menagerie?

Let’s get this out of the way: yes. Yes, you should play The Menagerie while you can. It is only open for a few more weeks before the company closes completely.

An unusual wooden box covered in metal sockets.

Why should I play Level Games’ The Menagerie?

As an avatar game streamed through Zoom:

  • The streaming and avatar character were narratively a part of the game.
  • It managed inventory better than most.
  • The puzzles played particularly well through the camera.
  • The unusual structure of The Menagerie lent itself to interesting online play.

Beyond all of the mechanical elegance of The Menagerie, the biggest factor for me was how much fun I had while simultaneously wishing that I had had the opportunity to experience this game in real life.

Zoom view of a workbench with a model house, a statue of a lion, and a strange mechanical contraption.

In the end, I am honestly glad that I got to play it at all, in any form. This is a game and a company that will be missed.

Great Escape – Survivor [Review]

“We’re going to talk about this game forever.” -Dan Egnor

Location:  Athens, Greece

Date Played: March 3, 2020

Team size: 2-7; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: from €50 per team of 2 to €105 per team of 7

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating:  We’re unsure what fire escape measures there were, if any. More Info.

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Survivor was one of those rare, unforgettable games… one of those games that left me amazed that it exists at all. Survivor was a game that – as one of my travel companions said – I’ll be talking about forever.

In-game: A man sitting on a rock in a cave.
Image via Great Escape

This game took place over 2 acts.

The first act consisted of a reasonably traditional escape room experience. The set was lovely and the puzzles were mediocre, but the weak puzzle flow was smoothed over by a helpful character who swiftly jumped in front of otherwise obvious flaws in game design. The actor did this so effectively that we honestly enjoyed what would have been a disaster in almost any other game.

In-game: A cargo net under a thatch roof.
Image via Great Escape

The second act… I can’t spoil it. The most memorable part of this game was realizing what the second act was. The second act was a physical challenge. Great Escape’s booking page warns:

  • “Not suitable for people with fear of heights.
  • Athletic clothing is necessary.
  • Require basic physical abilities.
  • Recommended players to carry a second pair of shoes and socks.”

You can infer quite a bit from those warnings.

So the question that I’ve been pondering since playing this game was:

“Did I like Survivor?”

My feelings were and remain complicated:

  • I’m glad that I played it, but this game was not for me, not at all.
  • Lisa would have loved it, but she missed it due to her real job.
  • I’m honestly amazed that anyone thought to build this thing, and I legitimately wonder if the building can handle the weight of this game.

I recommend this for people who like physical adventure and have good balance. (That’s my struggle, if I’m being honest.) Be prepared for a workout because Survivor was a wild ride.

Who is this for?

  • The physically fit
  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A hilarious actor/ gamemaster
  • The reveal of the last act 👀

Story

We were a group of explorers traveling by hot air balloon when a storm had brought us down on an uninhabited island. We’d created a raft and attempted to leave, but another storm had dragged us back to the other side of the island, where we hadn’t yet ventured.

This side of the island was full of surprises.

In-game: The interior of a cabin.
Image via Great Escape
Continue reading “Great Escape – Survivor [Review]”

Missions Morpheus – Apocalypse [Review]

Hot Sauna Time Machine

Location:  Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Date Played: February 1, 2020

Team size: 4-6; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: 30 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Apocalypse was a fun, puzzley game in an attractive setting. Missions Morpheus included some great interactions and a strong transition moment.

Missions Morpheus "MM" in a target reticle logo.

While that strong transition moment was cool, there were clear opportunities for refinement that could have made this game epic.

Additionally, with one towering ghost puzzle, it seemed like what they had originally created was far too complicated for an escape room.

I feel like Missions Morpheus was so close to having something incredible on their hands. I hope that they make a few selective improvements to this escape game.

Even if they don’t, I can comfortably recommend Apocalypse for players of all experience levels.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A cool set
  • Nifty scene transitions
  • Puzzles that cleverly used the space

Story

A man claiming to be a time traveler had been arrested. Interpol couldn’t find any documentation of this man’s existence in any database. He alleged that terrorists had traveled through time from November 2022 to his time in 2522, where they had detonated a bomb that ended the world.

There was a recording of a break in at the old workshop-turned-museum of Middle Ages scientist/ inventor Sebastian Trithemus, who claimed to have created a time machine. The cameras showed men entering the building, but never leaving.

Setting

Apocalypse was set in a Middle Ages workshop, made largely from wood. Bookshelves lined the walls, along with drawing, diagrams, and maps. Various tools and equipment were dotted throughout the space.

It looked good. I would show it to you like we always do, but there was a strange mix-up with Missions Morpheus: When we visited they told me that they had photos that they could send. However, when I followed up over email, they told me us no such photos existed or could be taken and emailed. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Gameplay

Missions Morpheus’ Apocalypse was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

Analysis

➕ Missions Morpheus set Apocalypse in a large space with intriguing props and puzzle elements. It had a cohesive aesthetic. It looked polished.

➕ Missions Morpheus minded the details in the gamespace, covering the material of a common escape room item to make it feel more of their world.

➕ In the first scene, Apocalypse presented a variety of challenges that required us to think in different ways. Many of these were meaty, layered solves. We especially enjoyed one visual extraction from a tangible solve.

➖ Apocalypse had one glaring ghost puzzle. It was disappointing to see this prop standing without purpose. The resulting interaction seemed especially forced.

➕/➖ Apocalypse included an exciting transition in two acts. It was a fun setup. That said, if the team made an easy mistake, the reset required a gamemaster’s instruction and substantial backtracking. We liked the concepts behind this transition, but it felt like a missed opportunity for a truly memorable sequence. Furthermore, given the story moment, we expected a more dramatic transformation.

➖ In some instances, we encountered imprecision that stalled our forward momentum. This took the form of a few finicky measurements. It also included a lack of precision in prop construction that left us bewildered. Cleaner execution would have given us more confidence as we worked through one process puzzle.

➖ Although Apocalypse was not a search-heavy escape room, Missions Morpheus missed an opportunity to sidestep a certain tired search trope.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is metered street parking. Download the P$ Montreal parking app to pay the meter.
  • This game is entirely bilingual (French and English).
  • Players will be split into two different starting areas, but they can see and hear each other.

Book your hour with Missions Morpheus’ Apocalypse, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Missions Morpheus provided media discounted tickets for this game.