Witches & Wizards required! The Dark Forces have infiltrated the Ministry in search of the powerful Cintamani Stone. Their search will lead them straight to you! Do you have the magical ability to escape the room before you are captured…?
If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you may have realised that over the course of the pandemic, we played many virtual games, and became rather good friends, with the team behind Brit of an Escape Habit, Amy and Ian. But our visit to Lockdown in Ormskirk marked the first time we had actually managed to come together to play a physical game. This was actually only possible thanks to Lockdown being a new company and opening, well, during lockdown, as it’s nearly impossible to find a game in the northwest (no, make that, all) of England that Amy and Ian haven’t already played, let alone three!
But with the first puzzle (finding games to play) complete, it was time for the fun to begin. The day started with The Lodge and continued with The Institution, but even hardcore puzzlers need breaks, so once we refuelled, it was time to return to Lockdown. Once again, we were buzzed through the side gate, and made our way through to the darkened reception area for another brief chat about all things Escape Room. But before long, we were off once more. This time, we ascended the stairs to enter The Ministry, stopping outside the door only briefly to receive a health and safety reminder before we stepped over the threshold to learn the purpose of our visit.
Covid-19 Procedures: Lockdown are doing their best to prevent another lockdown by using NHS Track and Trace, and (at the time of our visit) requiring masks to be worn at all times by both the players and the staff. Hand sanitiser is readily available throughout the venue, as are gloves if players desire. The games are staggered to avoid teams crossing paths, and the team have left plenty of space between games to both sanitise and allow the space to air out.
Fans of a certain book/film franchise (you know, the one about “the boy who lived”) will certainly pick up on the inspiration for this room, but what’s refreshing is Lockdown’s take on a magic-themed game. We find ourselves not in wizard school, or a strange apothecary, but rather in the governmental offices of the magical world, and believe it or not, it’s quite easy to believe that we have actually done so. We had appreciated the set design in The Lodge and The Institution, but The Ministry really felt special, with an impressive attention to detail. On the other hand, this attention saw some aspects of the set walking a fine line between set dressing and red herring; this was partially due to us over complicating things when we found ourselves stalling due to a few search fails, and in one instance, leaving in a neat prop that had briefly been part of a puzzle idea that never made it into the final game. Either way, there were a lot of things to sort through, and much of it was just in place to look good.
The Ministry did well to bring in elements that felt more magical, making the game more immersive than the two we had played earlier in the day. The game was also relatively linear by design, allowing the story to play more of a role, with a good flow and pace to play. However, the linear design meant that unfortunately, when we did hit a stumbling block, the pace of the game slowed considerably as there was nothing else to bounce to. But once we got back underway, the slump in pace was quickly forgotten as we became absorbed in our tasks once again.
The puzzles were perfectly logical and fit well into the theme, so well in fact that although this is a game that is not overly story driven, each task did manage to further the narrative. With a combination of padlocks and “magic,” the types of puzzles we encountered were varied and engaging, with a range of tasks from observation, logic, wordplay, and of course, the dreaded searching. There were plenty of satisfying moments to be had when a puzzle was solved, resulting often with a nice, “Ooo, that was clever” from someone in the team.
Clues are readily available should you need them, delivered via a screen in the corner of the room (that also showed our time). I want to say they were accompanied by an alert noise as well, but in truth, the only thing that I can remember is that the ambient soundtrack had an intermittent whooshing/tinkle noise that felt like it should accompany a clue. This may have been changed, but I did spend a good portion of the game looking at the screen thinking we were being nudged, when in fact, we weren’t.
That being said, the aforementioned search fails did mean that we had to have a few clues/nudges, as we scoured the room for things that were sneakily hidden in plain sight. Our GM obliged with help whenever we requested, and help arrived almost instantly. Because of how lovely the set is, The Ministry could have really benefited from an immersive clue system, but really, that’s just me being picky.
Although Lockdown are new to the escape room scene, they have brought three strong games to the table, with (minor hiccups aside) The Ministry being a highlight of the venue. If their first games are any indication of their skills, I look forward to seeing what comes next!
Team: 4 players – escaped in 37 minutes
Address: 18 Church Street, Ormskirk, West Lancashire, L39 3AN