Locked-Up Escape Games – Locked in a Room with a Zombie [Review]

“Ready or not here they come. IT’S ZOMBIE TIME!”

Location: Cheektowaga, NY

Date played: January 21, 2017

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Note: Locked-Up Escape Games’ Locked in a Room with a Zombie is NOT related to the prolific and playful Trapped in a Room with a Zombie games.

Story & setting

We weren’t alone: a ravenous zombie was chained up and eager to devour us. Every 5 minutes the length of his chain increased, giving him access to more of the room, while reducing our access to its puzzles. The structure was clearly a derivative of the broadly available Trapped in a Room with a Zombie series.

The room felt like it belonged in an old manor. We were locked in a study and its adjacent bathroom. While thematically uninteresting, a dingy grandeur brought a foreboding excitement to the environment. Plus… the zombie looked pretty intimidating.

The space felt a little spooky, but not too scary. We were comfortable enough exploring our surroundings and puzzling our way out… but for the zombie chasing us. While the zombie looked compelling, he was less fear-inducing and more adrenaline-pumping as he moved efficiently and didn’t give us a lot of openings for puzzling.

In-game: A the corpse of a guy who's stomach and skull had been opened by a zombie.
Image provided by Locked-Up Escape Games

Puzzles

The key to the puzzles in Locked in a Room with a Zombie was strategically choosing what to start with. As the zombie received more chain, otherwise easy puzzles became massive challenges.

The puzzles themselves combined tactile and paper-based puzzling with both standard locks and technologically triggered mechanisms.

There was plenty to play with.

Standouts

Our zombie kept the game balanced between challenging, exciting, and conquerable. He was distractible and predictable enough that we could figure out how to maneuver around him, yet determined enough that that wasn’t easy. I have to assume that he was aware of our  capabilities and could easily adjust his level of aggression based on a team’s behavior in-game. He did all of this while remaining a convincing character.

Locked in a Room with a Zombie had some excellent puzzling. This included some would-be easy puzzles that were made exponentially more challenging by the hangry zombie. Through this, Locked-Up Escape Games demonstrated thoughtful game design.

We rarely praise home or office settings, but Locked-Up Escape Games managed to bring their manor to life. We felt like we were in another world.

Locked-Up Escape Games brought sincerity and depth to an early escape room concept. The set design and construction, combined with an intense zombie character, gave more weight to the experience than similar incarnations of it from other companies.

Shortcomings

More so than in most escape games, zombie-tag games can fall victim to lack of consequences. Locked in a Room with a Zombie was no exception. “Bitten” or tagged players had to stand on an X around the edge of the room for 2 minutes until the gamemaster gave them a silly task to perform to free themselves. We could keep getting tagged over and over knowing that the penalty was minimal. Given the intensity of the zombie and set, this lack of consequences betrayed the overall feel that Locked-Up Escape Games created.

As the zombie’s chain reached further into the room, active players struggled for safe space because the timeout Xs for “bitten” players were in the protected areas around the edges of the room.

Given the running and jumping byproduct of escaping a zombie, there were two safety hazards in Locked in a Room with a Zombie. We’d recommend removing the rolling chair and large, hinged objects, liable to swing out into open space without warning. This would protect both players and zombies.

There was a tech-driven puzzle that had sensor tolerances that were far too narrow given the jitteriness and rapid pacing of Locked in a Room with a Zombie. We thought it was broken.

We solved the door puzzle halfway through the game. Our gamemaster handled it well and allowed us to stay  and complete the unsolved puzzles. We recommend, however, that Locked-Up Escape Games restrict this final puzzle such that players can’t solve it before completing more of the experience.

Should I play Locked-Up Escape Games’ Locked in a Room with a Zombie?

Locked in a Room with a Zombie was an energetic game for agile players. While you can hug the wall and enjoy solving the puzzles, you’ll have more fun if you are able and willing to risk crossing paths with the zombie.

That said, the game was no joke and there was an interesting puzzle in how to navigate the zombie. That was a layer of puzzling that most escape rooms don’t have, which could be a fun challenge for the less zombie-enthusiastic player.

Despite the zombie character, and the foreboding set, the escape room was not overly terrifying. It would be approachable for most audiences.

If you’ve played Room Escape Adventures’ Trapped in a Room with a Zombie or Still Hungry, you’ll recognize the premise and the game mechanics. In their Locked in a Room with a Zombie, Locked-Up Escape Games designed a less silly, more intense approach to zombie room escaping and they delivered.

Book your hour with Locked-Up Escape Games’ Locked in a Room with a Zombie, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Locked-Up Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.

The next Room Escape Conference is taking place in Niagara Falls, NY from May 1-3, 2017. The conference organizers sponsored our trip to Buffalo, New York, Niagara Falls, New York, and Niagara Falls, Ontario, to play this game and others in the region. We strive to help conference attendees visit the room escapes that are best for them.

Locked-Up Escape Games – Escape The Serial Killer [Review]

Killer game.

Location: Cheektowaga, NY

Date played: January 21, 2017

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 4-7

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket

Story & setting

Captured by a psychopath and locked up, we had to survive his death trap.

Locked-Up is the escape room section of House of Horrors & Haunted Catacombs. They are a haunt company and that background influenced their escape room design. Escape The Serial Killer was intense, disturbing, and dark in tone as well as lighting.

For those who had visited THE BASEMENT in Los Angeles, it was clear that Locked-Up took inspiration from that game for look, tone, and approach. (Note, however, that Escape The Serial Killer did not have any actors in the room.) This was a murder house.

In-game: A man with a bag over his head at a grimy desk.

Puzzles

Escape The Serial Killer worked puzzle content and puzzle flow into the terror-based setting. They pulled off both aspects of the experience.

The puzzling was grounded in the props and set, occasionally dipping into more task-based interactions to keep the game flowing.

Standouts

Escape The Serial Killer’s set was badass. Gritty, grimy, and occasionally grotesque, it was an intense horror experience done right. Locked-Up clearly put substantial time and effort into the design and buildout. Locked-Up minded the details; the escape room environment frequently felt real.

There were a couple of solo moments for the bold. These  varied in intensity. They were certainly cool experiences.

The puzzling and interaction design enforced teamwork and fostered a superb player dynamic.

Shortcomings

Beware of loud moments. Noises over 85 decibels are considered harmful to the human ear. My ears physically hurt at one point, so, whatever the exact volume, it was too loud. Locked-Up should consider adjusting the loud moments so that they are within a safe and comfortable range. The pain took me out of the experience.

Mind the splinters. Because many surfaces needed a good sanding, a few of us left with teeny-tiny bits of the game in our fingers. Additionally, a few surfaces ought to be cleaned. There’s a different between dirty and dirty-looking.

The early game was frustratingly choppy. This was augmented by challenging lighting that didn’t work well with the puzzle design. All of this conspired to slow the beginning of Escape The Serial Killer a little too much. I suspect that this prevents some teams from seeing the room escape’s excellent mid- and late-game moments.

Should I play Locked-Up Escape Games’ Escape The Serial Killer?

Escape The Serial Killer was the closest thing I’ve seen to THE BASEMENTit’s impossible to have played both companies without making comparisons. The set design was on par with THE BASEMENT, while the puzzles and game flow were stronger than what I saw from the famous Los Angeles company. Where Locked-Up fell short was in the fine-tuning. Additionally, two iconic moments from THE BASEMENT’s games show up in lesser implementations than the originals.

Escape The Serial Killer was an awesome game that would hold up in the most competitive of markets. So long as you and your team are excited to experience the frights, then it’s a must-play.

If you’re afraid of the idea of an escape room, then this is not the game for you.

If you don’t want to feel fear, then this is not the game for you.

If you don’t cooperate well with your friends, then this is not the game for you.

Escape room first timers will enjoy this room, but likely will not fully appreciate this experience. I would strongly suggest playing at least one more typical escape room before diving into the adrenalin-filled deep end.

Those bold enough to play ought to do so.

Book your hour with Locked-Up Escape Games’ Escape The Serial Killer, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Locked-Up Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.

The next Room Escape Conference is taking place in Niagara Falls, NY from May 1-3, 2017. The conference organizers sponsored our trip to Buffalo, New York, Niagara Falls, New York, and Niagara Falls, Ontario, to play this game and others in the region. We strive to help conference attendees visit the room escapes that are best for them.