Nottingham Logiclock: Made in Stein Review

Our first challenge at was a locked door. Not part of the game: we couldn’t get inside. A man appeared after a while and told us to come back in ten minutes, so we wandered around until he reappeared. This wasn’t part of the game – there just isn’t much space to wait inside and so they keep strictly to the time listed on the booking. As it turned out, there were no other teams waiting when we arrived, and we might have been accommodated sooner. There is room for streamlining here as we had to wait again when our appointment time did arrive, although the waiting area is furnished nicely and has various small puzzles to entertain guests.

This was the first escape room I had ever been to, so naturally I took my genius cousin Matthew, who is logical and very intelligent, and was on the University Challenge team at Oxford Brooks (from where he now has a Master’s degree in counting beetles). A friend who lives nearby, Fraser, also joined us and somehow managed to invite his girlfriend Clara along as well.

Protip for anyone starting out in escape rooms. Do not drink before you play the room, especially if its a room with lots of codes and puzzles. By the time we started the game, Fraser was over the limit to drive and while there’s nothing dangerous in the room, his puzzle solving ability was clearly impaired. And that turned out to be where we wasted the most time, as he confidently marched into the room, found the first clue, and kept it to himself, unsolved, until the game master ended up giving us the answer.

After that the room was a (relative) breeze. As mentioned, this is a gen 1 room, and it relies on padlocks and codes for the most part. There are plenty of problems which need solving on paper or keeping track of in some other way, for which a whiteboard is provided. Clara turned out to be extremely efficient here, perhaps feeling like she had something to prove after failing an interview for a job at a large company. So she kept careful notes for us, which were very useful and highly recommended. The whiteboard also allows the game master to see your progress, which means they can give hints more effectively when needed.

With Clara keeping the notes, Matthew and I were able to focus on the puzzles and between us we were able to solve many of them without hints. Although we did get hints – almost constantly. The hint system felt a little trigger happy at times but having wasted so much time at the start, and not realising how long the room was, we were trying to make back time early on. As it turned out, we solved one of the bigger puzzles in the room in minutes, and were later told that it’s usually a 15-20 minute puzzle for most groups. I say “we” solved it, I actually mean Matthew figured the whole thing out by himself. This is perhaps the drawback of gen 1 rooms in that many of the puzzles involve only one person solving them while everyone else either waits or searches for other items or puzzles. It felt like there was always something to do for everyone, and even Fraser found himself able to help out as we discovered more puzzles, but it was crowded with 4 of us and 5 people would be too many here.

While there are a lot of puzzles to do, perhaps the biggest failing of the room is how generic some of them are. This is perhaps typical for early gen room escapes in that there are only so many ways to give you a code to open a combination lock. At times the room feels like playing through a puzzle book a well meaning but distant relative gave to you one birthday: fun if you have nothing else to do, but never inspiring or exciting. That said, if you enjoyed your puzzle book, won’t disappoint. My only real criticism of the room is that I felt like I’d seen many of the puzzles before, despite never having played any other room escapes at this point.

We beat the room with a few minutes to spare, and despite the occasionally bland puzzles, thoroughly enjoyed it. None of the puzzles felt unfair and the decoration is nice although generic. The room doesn’t really have any big tricks or surprises and certainly nothing that will surprise veteran players, although there were some cool moments here and there, and one thing which our inexperienced team didn’t expect. You’ll mostly be sat at the desk or on the floor solving a puzzle to get a code to open a padlock, and that type of puzzle will appeal more to some than others, so choose your team accordingly. And don’t get drunk before playing.

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