Escape games are a subgenre of point and click adventure games that has emerged in recent years. These games usually start with the player locked in a room, car, phone booth, etc. with little to no explanation as to how they got there. The player must follow a trail of clandestine clues and games to find keys and codes that will eventually allow the player to escape. Imagine if Saw were more playful or Rube Goldberg was more masochistic.
In a classic case of life imitating art, live action escape games have been opening up in major cities. Brisbane has four different ones, each with more than one scenario. Sydney, Austin, Melbourne, San Antonio, London, and New York all have at least one live escape game operating, generally with at least two scenarios. All of them appear to have opened after 2013, so the business is both new and rapidly expanding.
I gathered a group of friends to try our luck at Fort Locks, which appears to be the first room escape in Brisbane. I first head about it a year ago and the other three appear to have opened since then. Cards on the table, I didn’t do any fact checking on any of that.
We did have to pay money to be locked up in a prison. It’s not great value when you consider that we could have just stolen a TV and been locked up in a prison for free. That would have saved $100 bucks and gotten us a new TV, which is a pretty good deal. In all fairness, actual prisons usually don’t hide keys or leave any clues laying around that might help you escape, but it would probably make them more popular. As of this writing, Fort Locks has an almost perfect 5 star rating on Tripadvisor, while the nearest real-world prison, the Brisbane Correctional Facility, has three abysmal 1 star ratings on Google. You’ll just have to make your own decisions in terms of quality vs price.
Fort Locks is unceremoniously tucked away inside a small office building, meaning that even finding the entrance is kind of the first puzzle. An adorable foreign girl (Russian?) appears to run the business when she isn’t too busy apologizing for her English speaking abilities. You are given 60 minutes to complete all of the puzzles and escape the prison, with periodic clock ticking sounds to taunt you and the Russian girl occasionally giving you clues when you are stuck. I was pretty confident that my extensive point and click escape game skills would carry the team to completion within the time limit, but we clocked in at a middling 72 minutes.
I can’t really say much about the game itself without giving anything away. Most video game fans don’t get to play out their favorite genres in real life. It’s socially unacceptable to shoot people and steal cars in most places that I’ve lived.
Recommended. 8 out of 10 prison cigarettes.