Hits the right notes
A mysterious billionaire has tasked you with hunting down a mystical Music Box. After some time you track it to an old abandoned mansion. As you walk further in you hear the chiming of music coming from a small bedroom. You step in and start to search.
Whenever we head back to Somerset for a visit with family, we make sure to check out what Lock & Code have on offer, and they never seem to disappoint with having a new experience to check out, whether it’s a holiday themed pop-up, or a new game at their expanding Taunton location. This time, however, the new offering was at the company’s Weston-Super-Mare location.
In previous visits to Weston-Super-Mare, we always seemed to miss out on Homecoming, but with the game now relocated to Taunton, we were finally able to play earlier in the week, which made it an ideal time to make the trip over to Weston to play The Music Box, as the story is interlinked with that of Homecoming. (Although the games can be played in any order, or as a standalone.)
Although we’ve been visiting Lock & Code periodically since we first discovered them in 2018, this was the first visit where we finally had the opportunity to meet Matt, the owner and creator of all the games (and our GM for The Music Box). One of my favourite parts of a visit to any escape room is the chance to chat with owners (or really, anyone that shares a similar enthusiasm for the escape room industry), and our conversation with Matt prior to the start (and after the finale) of the game was no exception. But eventually it was time for the main event. After a quick game briefing, we stepped through the door in search of the mysterious music box.
Covid Precautions: Lock & Code’s Weston venue is conveniently located just off the M5, and outside of the city centre, which in times of pandemic is particularly pleasant as, for me anyway, the fewer people we meet, the better; at least until this is all over. Masks were worn at all times, both in reception and the game, by the staff and by us; disposables are available in reception if you do not have your own. Hand sanitiser was also plentiful, and gloves can be provided if required. Although another team arrived to play The Alchemy Enigma midway through our game, we never came in contact with them.
It’s the little touches that make a game feel more immersive to me, and one of the little touches that Lock & Code provide is a reason for why you’re only allowed 60 minutes in the game, with a back story involving time travel. Knowing that we would only have an hour inside the memories of people in the past, we stepped through the door into the unknown…
Entering the room held eerie reminders of Christmas games past, including a traumatic flashback to a puzzle that haunts me to this day, as The Music Box is housed in the same space. Fortunately, the shape of the room was where the similarities ended. Bedroom and study sets are easy to come by, and easy to build – after all, all you need is a bed or a desk and away you go, with no need to create a magical grotto or a forgotten temple. With a setting in a small bedroom, The Music Box isn’t going to be winning any awards for set design, but really, that doesn’t matter. The simple set allows the focus to be on the puzzles, flow of the game, and the narrative.
The game was generally quite linear, although there were a few open moments, and as we played we found letters to progress the narrative. Although I wouldn’t say that the game is particularly story driven, with the letters tying the puzzles into the narrative as well, the story was ever present, and nicely connected to Homecoming.
One of my biggest complaints in rooms is often lighting. The Music Box struck the balance pretty well, with slightly dim lighting for mood, but generally bright enough to see by. There were one or two instances where brighter light was required, but it’s possible this is simply because my eyes are deteriorating in my advanced years of 30-something. Although we were not specifically told that it would be okay to use our phones as torches in the briefing, as we were at the Taunton venue, I opted to bring mine out for a closer look at a few items. Since I didn’t get a telling off for doing so, I can only assume that it was just overlooked in the briefing. As an aside, normally I would hate that I needed to use my phone in this manner, but in the current circumstances, not having a “public” torch in the room reduces the touch points, and therefore the number of things for the staff to sanitise, which is a plus in my books for now.
Observation, logical deduction, minor maths, codes, plus a few more physical interactions – there were plenty of tasks to suit everyone’s strengths. If you’re a padlock hater, this game may not be for you, although there were a few uses of tech for variety. But the puzzles were satisfying, generally enjoyable (with a couple of particularly clever ones sneaking in) and were nicely signposted. Yes, many of the puzzles resulted in a numerical code, so there was a bit of trying a combination in every potential lock, but when clues were discovered, once we had all the pieces, it was clear what we would need to do.
The Music Box isn’t what I would call particularly search heavy, although a thorough exploration of your surroundings certainly won’t go amiss. Thankfully, there was nothing that felt like a time wasting and unfair search element, but there were one or two things that could be construed as slightly sneaky, requiring a bit more of an indepth look; we actually needed a nudge from Matt to find one.
I said “generally enjoyable” in reference to the puzzles earlier as we did hit one or two stumbling blocks that provided a few minor moments of frustration. One was due to a new prop that didn’t quite work out as intended, and another was due to the fact that we hadn’t realised we had actually completed stage one of a puzzle and moved on to stage two. But, Matt and Lock & Code are constantly tweaking the games, so I’m confident in saying that if these are genuinely issues, and not just due to us being a bit dim, they won’t be issues for long.
A screen in the room provided a timer, and allowed Matt to chime in with clues when necessary. Fortunately, he was able to literally chime in, as clues were accompanied by an audio cue so that we knew to look at the screen. I dislike the feeling that accompanies having to ask for clues, so we will really only do so as a last resort, and much prefer to be nudged along if a GM recognises we’re in need of a little assistance. Matt read the room well, and knew when to nudge, but also when to sit back and let us think it out – even in the face of my frustration (due to my own lack of observation).
While The Music Box isn’t my favourite game from Lock & Code (that honour goes to Dead on the Hour), it’s a solid game. I’d be more inclined to recommend it to escape room newcomers, but even from an enthusiast standpoint, it’s worth a go if you’re in the area.
Team: 2 players (escaped in 39:16 minutes)
Address: Unit 11, Ivy House Farm Business Centre, Banwell BS29 6LB