LOCK AND CODE – Homecoming & The Alchemy Enigma

I admit I have overlooked this company on more than once occasion due to their website, but after a strong recommendation from some friends my mother and I went ahead and booked not one, but two rooms here.

It is a little out of the way, and looks very unassuming. However, despite the plain façade (and my raging migraine) we had a fantastic time here. It it definitely an example of when you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but also testament to excellent customer service.

Not sure why they decided to choose black and white for the team photos…

The set

Homecoming – The plot of this room is returning home after Christmas to find signs of a struggle, but no signs of your wife or child. The set design felt very much like a cosy living room, and the Christmas tree lying on the floor added that sense of unease. The props all fitted in perfectly, and we did feel immersed in story.

The Alchemy Enigma – This room is based in an alchemist’s chamber, and you are tasked with finding the philosopher’s stone. The set here was definitely a lot rougher than the first – the walls and floor felt quite bare, and we were told we didn’t need to interact with anything covered by black fabric. We have been reassured that given this was the first room opened, they will be updating it soon, which I think is very much needed. However, looking past these small foibles, the props were all excellent and fit with the room perfectly, and even had a few surprises I wasn’t expecting…

The game

Homecoming – This room is apparently a prequel to “The Alchemy Enigma”, although I think that term is quite loose. This was a mostly linear game, but the puzzles were all fairly interesting and we knew, for the most part, what we were working towards at each stage. There were a few unfortunate tech issues, but our GM (Tom) handled them fairly well and was apologetic. It was also quite padlock heavy, and I felt it required a few leaps in logic that were too far. However, the hints and time were on a monitor, which I always prefer, and Tom knew when to nudge us, and when to leave us be. It did feel like 2 way communication too, which was a nice touch, with him offering a hint rather than force it on us. I also really enjoyed the narrative aspect of this room – each time we completed a puzzle, we gained a part of the story. I haven’t seen this mechanic used much before, but enjoyed that extra layer of gameplay.

The Alchemy Enigma – This room felt colder than the previous (both in decor and temperature), but I vastly preferred it. The puzzles here were varied and interesting, and fairly multi-linear. There was a dexterity puzzle here, but we found a couple of ways around it. Tom didn’t mind our intuitiveness (he seemed to enjoy it), and appreciated that we knew our limits. There was a lot going on in this room, but nothing that required great leaps in logic or convoluted solving. I greatly enjoyed the multi-linear aspect, particularly as there were only 2 of us, and the room even managed to surprise me (which is rare these days!). The hints were in the form of a ‘magic mirror’, which I really enjoyed – it fit with the theme, and gave the GM (Tom) the opportunity to converse with us (laughing at our ‘cheat’), rather than robotic sentences. This room alone has convinced me that I need to return at some point!

Accessibility

Venue – There is gravel between the car park and venue, but flat inside. There is a step to go to the toilets.

Homecoming – Both rooms were on the ‘ground floor’ (I believe they have rooms upstairs, although we didn’t visit those). Homecoming was completely flat, with somewhere to sit inside the room and only one puzzle that required any sort of physicality/dexterity (and I would say that was minor). There is a reasonable amount of space to move around in, but we found ourselves getting quite hot. We did turn off the fire (which was there for ambience) which helped, but I can imagine the room getting warm anyway with a larger team. The lighting was dim, but we were given torches and lanterns, which helped (although did make it annoying to complete padlocks). Hints came in the form of text, although a sound did signal that a hint had appeared. There was a reasonable amount of text to read. There is a soundtrack playing, but it was so quiet I forgot it was there.

The Alchemy Enigma – This room was slightly smaller and cooler than Homecoming, but had no where to sit. Again, there was (initially) no light in this room, but we had torches and lanterns to help us. There is a part which does require some physicality, and a smaller room, but not all team members will need to do this. There is also a dexterity puzzle, although we were able to ‘cheat’ this. There is a certain amount to read, but not as much as Homecoming, and although there is a colour puzzle here, it was quite nice. Hints are in the form of audio, but it was very clear (no walkie-talkie static here!). There was a soundtrack playing, which I mostly forgot about due to how unobtrusive it was.

Outside the room

The waiting room isn’t much – a single sofa near the GMs desk. However, the GM is what really made this for us. Tom was utterly fantastic and we had a great time just talking to him. Having discovered we were enthusiasts, we then spent half an hour talking all things escape rooms, recommendations etc, which continued in between the rooms and afterwards. He was fantastic when it came to hints – giving us the right level – and definitely was very welcoming and made the experience enjoyable.

Was it worth the money?

These rooms were only £20pp, and I think this is more than reasonable. To put a price on it, I probably would’ve gone up to £25 for each room. The customer experience improved my experience of the rooms, which weren’t bad but I wouldn’t say they were revolutionary. I can’t wait to return!

TL;DR

Pros; Customer service, set, hints

Cons; padlock heavy (homecoming), tech issues, venue

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