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.
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.
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.
These games weren’t changing the industry, but they were representing it with care.
Clock N Lock’s first game was a UFO Diner that – spoiler – had ties to Area 51.
The experience began outside of the room, and involved solving a short puzzle sequence in a phone booth to gain access.
Amelia’s Attic explored the story of Amelia Earhart, and not in a crass way.
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.
I love the Baby Unicorn rescue concept. It’s super clever, and the execution was adorable.
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.
We truly appreciate that we were given a chance to see these games, and share a little piece of them with you.
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.