M4 ESCAPES – Dino Deadlock

I’ve been waiting to write this review for a while – ever since I knew the room was coming! I am fortunate enough to be friends with Tom at M4, who kept me entertained throughout lockdown with updates of the room, and behind the scenes information. As soon as I knew we were allowed to leave London, I booked the room and began counting down the days. Let me tell you now, I was not disappointed…

The Set

The first, obvious thing to point out is that this isn’t a room – it is, in fact, a bus. You see it as you roll into the car park, but you will have no idea what you’re about to experience. Stepping onto the bus is amazing – you won’t believe what the team have managed to do with an old school bus! The design perfectly fits with the theme and story, and they have somehow wrung out an amazing amount of space! Speaking to Tom afterwards I realised I hadn’t even noticed key aspects of the bus, which they’d obviously taken into account and managed hide extremely well. The space aspect was also a noted concern of theirs, always at the forefront of their mind as they designed the room. Honestly, I am so so impressed with the set.

The story behind the set is that you are on a mobile dinosaur research lab, but the room isn’t overwhelmed with sleek scientific instruments or white coats. Instead, it has been reclaimed by the jungle, and instead of white walls you are instead greeted with strong metal – better suited to a mobile lab.

I could go on for a while about the set. Just trust me when I say it’s clearly had lots of love and attention. Kudos to Keith at M4 for creating such an amazing experience!

The Game

So it’s got a great set, but what about the game? Well, you know a game is going to be good when there isn’t a padlock in sight, and everything fits with the theme. All the puzzles felt at place in the room, and for the most part we knew exactly what we had to do. At no point were we left standing around, looking for something to do.

From previous experience (their excellent Bunker room) I knew to expect excellent puzzles, and they definitely delivered. Right from the beginning you have to think laterally – you’re not just handed the first puzzle. In fact, you’re not just handed anything! Each puzzle required a certain degree of brain work, with nifty little tricks and facets I’ve only seen in a few of my favourite rooms. No puzzle was like the last, and each played up a different skill – ideal for mixed teams.

So what about the negatives? Well this room contained two puzzles I disliked, mainly for their time sink elements. One was a puzzle requiring dexterity and patience, so if a certain teammate wasn’t around I’m sure we would either have been stuck for far longer, or got a bit stroppy. I dislike these puzzles for this reason – we know what we have to do, but if you’re clumsy (like me), there’s no way past, and no hint can help.

The other was fun to solve, but then required us wait for what felt like minutes (but was probably only 2 in reality). I dislike this simply because I am impatient! For both of these I appreciate it’s personal opinion, and other teams would likely appreciate the physical puzzle elements. The wait also forced us to evaluate where we were, and what was left to do.

The hint system worked well – a lovely, easy to read screen, and a tone indicating when a hint arrived. Tom was also great at sending the right sort of hint – little nudges without giving anything away too much. The puzzles also flowed pretty well – for the most part there were a couple of puzzles to do at a time, and a nice variety of skills.

Ultimately, a great room.

Accessibility

The bus has stairs to enter (as you may imagine) but not the usual large gap up. There is the driver’s seat inside you can sit on, and Tom is also able to add an additional chair if required. The room is fairly narrow, so not wide enough for any mobility aids, and there are certain areas which would likely prove problematic for any claustrophobes. However, there is an aircon so it doesn’t get too hot, and it never felt overcrowded (and we were a team of 5, and a dog).

The room is flat, once you are inside, but there are quite a few puzzles requiring dexterity. There is also one requiring colour recognition, but luckily no hearing, smelling or tasting puzzles. The room doesn’t contain any loud noises or sounds, so shouldn’t be overwhelming on the senses.

Outside the room

There is a new waiting area, with ample space for belongings. As you may have gathered, I am a fan of Tom and the team at M4 – they treat you well, and you can have a great conversation both before and after. The room is also sanitised before and after with a nifty aerated spray, so maximum sanitisment, minimum stickiness. My only qualm is the same as our previous visit – it’s not the easiest to find! It’s at the back of a Go Kart place, but there is no sign at the turning. Just head to the Car Park and you’ll find it.

Was it worth the money?

We paid £20pp for a team of 5 (plus dog). I would say it was definitely worth it – we are a team of enthusiasts and it took us around 47 minutes, so certainly got our money’s worth!

TL;DR

Pros; Staff, Set, puzzle design

Cons; Dexterity puzzles, time sink puzzles

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