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]

Survivor is one of the best escape rooms in Athens, Greece. Here are our recommendations for other great escape rooms in Athens.

“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]”

Rock Ave Escape Room – Ready Mayor One [Hivemind Review]

Ready Mayor One is a livestreamed escape game created by Rock Avenue Escape Room in Trinity, FL.

Ready Mayor One! logo.

Style of Play: livestreamed adaptation of a real-life escape room

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection; recommended to have a pen and paper or a text document for notes

Recommended Team Size: 1-5

Play Time: 60 minutes

Price: $50 for first two connections, and $15 for each additional connection

Booking: book online for a specific time slot

Read more about our new Hivemind Review format.

Hivemind Review Scale

REA's hivemind review scale - 3 is recommended anytime, 2 recommended in quarantine, 1 is not recommended.

Read more about our Hivemind Review format.

The view from the Google Hangout of the game.

Theresa W’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

Ready Mayor One is leading the way for virtualized escape rooms, and was enhanced by the online format. The game was immersive, believable, and fun, as not only an escape room, but also a goofy, immersive experience. The inventory feature that Ready Mayor One provided was useful to keep track of everything in a nonlinear game. The actor who was guiding us through the room did a great job, which really made the experience special. This game is definitely worth a play!

The Lone Puzzler’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

This was what I envisioned/ wanted when I thought about a virtual escape room. This room would have been fun in person, but it was pretty much a marvel online due to its digital production value. You played with your private group over Google Meet and there was a person in the room playing for you. In this format, you talked with your team and directed the gamemaster live – which was good. However, what made this room so much better was that you also had access to a webpage where you could scan the room and look at key items independent of the main actor cam. It did not distract and gave the feeling of everyone being able to search/ play in a more independent manner.

The experience included a lot of puzzles to solve – not watered down like some online experiences. The difficulty level was moderate at best, but the immersive feel made the game worth it. Even simple search finds felt like real aha moments. Well worth playing at any time.

A 360 degree view of the gamespace in the inventory.

Richard Burns’ Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

The online format enhanced this game. It was a basic escape room made better because of a gamemaster who doesn’t steer the game, a great online inventory system, and a setup that allows players to click buttons on their computer to actually input solutions to the physical puzzles in the actual room. A 3D image of each room was provided so players could virtually look around the room on their own. This allowed our team to split up as we would IRL. I was struck by how fun searching the room became in this format. This is how virtual games should be run.

David Spira’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

Ready Mayor One was a clinic in the importance of context and execution. In real life, this would have been an average, newbie-focused escape room. Playing online through our gamemaster/ avatar turned this into so much more, specifically because of his execution.

Puzzles and placements were adapted for digital play. The inventory system allowed us to get good looks at items, and even input solutions that directly affected the game in real time. Above all, the gamemastering/ avataring was precise, engaging, and never heavy-handed. I’d love to see some of these props get hit with a coat of paint and a little more detailing. It would also be really cool if the in-game sound effects played directly into the video call.

Overall, Rock Ave Escape Room has created an adaptation that I was delighted to experience with friends from all over… and that’s the power of online play. We’re all together for an hour, even if we’re separate.

Image of a keypad.
You can click on these numbers in the inventory image and they operate the keypad in the room!

Format Description

Ready Mayor One is a real-life escape room that has been adapted through livestream for online play through Google Meet. The Mayor, or gamemaster/ avatar, provided a first-person view and manipulated the gamespace based on our instructions.

When we found an item or interaction, we were given a code that we input into the inventory website. That code would trigger an image of the item to appear in the inventory. Many of the technological props in the room could be controlled through the inventory. For example, we could input a code into the image of a keypad (above), and it would apply in real life.

Ready Mayor One plays entirely through a web browser. You’ll want 2 tabs open: one for the Google Meet call, the other for the inventory screen. You’ll swap between them regularly.

Disclosure: Rock Avenue Escape Room provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.