Manitowoc, WI: What the Lock – Orvellio’s Reconjured

Orvellio’s: Reconjured left Christina and me wanting more, and thankfully, What the Lock has several more rooms we haven’t played yet.  Orvellio’s is a brilliantly designed room that caters toward puzzle enthusiasts, and it was the most satisfying escape room experience we’ve done in quite some time.

The objective- a magician’s son (a magician himself) asks you to break into his father’s shop and steal a potion of great power.  You have one hour to break the protective enchantments, get the potion, and get out. There are a few little twists along the way that change how your adventure plays out, which adds to the fun, especially when your time is running low.  I especially liked two twists the room adds at the very beginning and toward the end which give the players elements which can generate additional debate and problem solving. 

The theme of the room is very well done- imagine Diagon Alley from Harry Potter and that’ll give you the basic idea of what to expect.  One thing I loved is that just about every single item in the room is a reference to some kind of fantasy film, series, or game. Everyone will recognize at least some of the items (i.e. a newspaper commemorating events from Harry Potter) but literally every single trinket in the curiosity shop will leave you wondering “where have I seen that before?”  You don’t need to know any of this to succeed at the room, but it makes for a great bonus for those who recognize lesser known references like Myst and Resident Evil.

One more note on the theme- we had to use a few hints (maximum of three), and it was great to see that What the Lock had integrated the same characters from the room’s story into the hint delivery, presumably having recorded sequences for each of the more common sticking points.  The hints were also some of the best in recent memory, giving us just enough to get us unstuck without giving away the puzzle.  

Next up, the bread and butter of any escape room- the puzzles.  While I always avoid declaring anything a “favorite” due to the subjective nature of preference, the puzzles at Orvellio’s are a standout that will stick with me for a long time.

One of the elements that stands out the most to me is that Orvellio’s nails the exact right level of prompting to allow players to treat the entire game space as a puzzle, rather than a space containing obviously marked sequential riddles to knock off one at a time.

The level at which a game prompts players varies dramatically.  On one end, I think of an experience like Puzzah in Denver, where a computerized voice tells you exactly what to look at and when, and players are told exactly where to punch in the answer.  On the other extreme, I can think of many rooms I’ve done where there are a dozen locks requiring four digit codes, and players are forced to try every number they find in every lock.

There is ultimately a high level of subjectivity in what level of prompting hits a player’s sweet spot.  Many players appreciate the comfort of being told exactly what to work on. I personally appreciate the extra challenge when an escape room finds a way to tactfully disguise what elements in the room go together.  What the Lock is an example of masterful tact in this space- just like how the hints didn’t give away the puzzles, the prompts indicating which clues go together act as puzzles in their own right.

Orvellio’s also encouraged good teamwork.  The room presents a strong challenge, and Christina and I needed to be very deliberate with what each of us focused on toward the end to finish in under the time limit.  We needed to communicate well to find success, and our observation skills were tested quite heavily.

As a final touch, and a serious “Wow” moment, Kurt, our game master, had sketched and colored a very cool wizard drawing on our “See you next time” card while we were playing.  He integrated the team name we hastily chose at the beginning into the drawing (making us wish we chose more deliberately!). This instantly became one of my favorite escape room prize items, and it’s something we’re going to keep prominent among our collection.

Orvellio’s: Reconjured at What the Lock was a brilliantly designed escape room that challenged us to our limits and reminded us why we love escape rooms.  Even after solving about 400 rooms, we left feeling like we got a real mental workout and couldn’t stop talking about all the little details we noticed that made the room truly special.  We will definitely be back to try every other room What the Lock has to offer.

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