Brisbane Escapes: “Locked Locker” @ Fort Locks

The bare room contains a series of lockers, some posters, and a door. Somehow we must work together to open up all of the lockers, solve the puzzles and earn the golden trophy hidden in the final locked locker.

General Details

“Locked Locker”
Fort Locks, 887 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley
60 minutes
2-6 players allowed
Listed difficulty: Level 2 (I think – difficulties are not clear from the website)

How We Played

27 April 2016
6 players
Hints: 0
34 minutes (a record time)

The Experience

As was the case with Fort Locks’ other basic room, “Jail Escape”, “Locked Locker” is focused far more on the puzzles than on the theming. The theme here is a little more original than an escape from a jail, as you are a sporting team that must find your trophy within the allotted time. However, that theme translates to a couple of simple props and one or two sports-themed puzzles. For the most part this is a series of abstract puzzles loosely tied together through the set and a basic but unnecessary story.

The room is a bit bare, but the focus is on the puzzles. As the name “Locked Locker” implies, there are a number of lockers that … erm … are locked. There are one or two neat surprises, and there is some inventive use of props, especially towards the end game. Technology is simple, but well-implemented, with some objects being used in fun ways. It is clear that considerable effort has gone into some of the props, and I was particularly impressed with some of the mechanical puzzles, which have a definite home-made feel but work perfectly well and are fun to use. There is something very satisfying about the tactility of some of these props, which would not come across if they were electronic.

There isn’t much more to say about the experience in this room. I have previously discussed my experience with Fort Locks generally (in my “Jail Escape” review, which can be read here) and all those comments still stand. I would like to reiterate that my experience with the staff here has been excellent. A few of our participants were late to this experience, and the staff member was very accommodating, allowing us to start when we were ready. The method for getting hints is a little more problematic here: you actually physically leave the room (since you are not locked in) and ask the staff member for help. We didn’t need to do this, but it is worth pointing out that this is one of the most disruptive and non-immersive methods of providing hints I have ever experienced in an escape room.

So, as with Fort Locks’ other escape room offering, “Locked Locker” offers a basic theme with a few nifty props, but little evocation of the (admittedly quite unique) theme. Clearly budget and venue restraints have put restrictions on Fort Locks’ ability to provide an immersive environment, evidenced in particular by the unimpressive method of providing hints. Their customer service is very strong, however, and they email you immediately to let you know when they have posted the team photo on their Facebook page, which is a nice, personable touch.

Puzzle Design

“Locked Locker” is structured around a series of interlocking puzzles, much as was the case with Fort Locks’ other room, “Jail Escape.” The open nature of the puzzles means that there is always plenty to do, and our full team of six was occupied by the various puzzles throughout the experience. The many paths leading to each choke-point were designed almost ideally to ensure that different members of the group completed their paths at around the same time, meaning that there were no points where members of the team were left for long periods with nothing to do.

The variety of puzzles was also very good. They tested maths, observation, spatial reasoning, dexterity and logic. A couple of puzzles in particular had great solutions that were staring at us in the face from the beginning, but only became apparent when particular tools were discovered or used correctly. I was also very impressed with the way that the different puzzle pathways interlocked and interrelated. Where “Jail Escape” relied on the use of multiple locks on the same door in order to encourage parallel paths, “Locked Locker” had a number of puzzles that interrelated in interesting and unique ways.

Having said that, as the name Fort Locks and “Locked Locker” suggests, you will be dealing with locks. A LOT of locks. All of the locks are combination or key locks. I continue to be impressed with how Fort Locks achieves such a variety of ways to communicate what amounts to sequences of numbers. However, the pattern does begin to become predictable: you find a series of props, eventually a laminated card materialises explaining how the prop will provide a number, try that number in all the locks, rinse and repeat. Fortunately there is enough variety in the actual puzzles to ensure that this repetition does not become grating.

We finished in 34 minutes, which was admittedly a record time. I do feel “Locked Locker” is slightly easier than “Jail Escape” partly due to fewer puzzles. However, there are also no time-wasting drudgework puzzles – all have a solution that is accessible fairly quickly, so when you get stuck on something the solution is never far away. “Locked Locker” also had much better flow, with the relation between different puzzles and the path to the goal slightly more obvious due to clear signposting (literally) and the room’s layout.

Still, I did feel that “Jail Escape” was slightly more complete, with more depth and breadth to the puzzles overall, as well as better integration of the theme into the puzzles. Though there were a couple of puzzles in “Locked Locker” that related to the sporting theme, most were fairly abstract.

The Bottom Line

I enjoyed “Locked Locker” due to the strong sense of flow and the fun and varied puzzles that made use of interesting homemade props. Fort Locks’ rooms tend to work best with larger groups, and this one is no different, as there are multiple paths of puzzles that need to be worked on simultaneously in order to achieve a good time. I feel that “Locked Locker” is a better introductory room than “Jail Escape” due to its solid sense of flow and slightly less obscure puzzles, but keep in mind that it is not a room that will immerse players in an experience. Rather, it is best for those groups for whom theme is secondary to interacting with a variety of clever puzzles that relate in interesting ways. Groups with a little more puzzle room experience may find “Jail Escape” to be a better option.