St. Charles, MO: Deadlock

January 3, 2021- I left Springfield, MO with only about half of a plan. I knew it would involve at least one escape room, and hopefully more. Thankfully, Deadlock Escape had availability that evening.

Christina and I would get to St. Louis shortly after 3:30 PM, just in time to catch the start of Packers vs. Bears, a game on which both teams had a lot riding. As we hopped in the car, I searched for hotels, picked one, and called my dad to tell him that we should stay at the Quality Inn in Cahokia, IL- almost directly on our way home, but close enough to St. Louis to give us a plethora of options for the evening.

We arrived in Cahokia right on schedule. Christina stayed on the road and headed home while my dad and I settled in, watching football in our hotel room and snagging a pizza from a nearby Little Caesars during halftime. While watching the game, I searched for options for the evening.

My dad is just like me, in that he’ll solve however many rooms are available regardless of how tired, hungry, or busy he is. I hoped to find an escape room business with a few rooms we could solve back to back to back. After only a few minutes of searching, I found what looked like an ideal candidate.

Deadlock Escape is advertised as “For Enthusiasts By Enthusiasts,” which was a good sign to start with. I enjoy talking to fellow enthusiasts and especially love chatting with enthusiast escape room owners (sometimes to the chagrin of friends of mine who just want to get home). I’ve found a strong correlation between an owner’s love for puzzles and the quality of the game, so I had a very good feeling about Deadlock.

I booked all three of Deadlock’s games back to back to back, and as soon as the clock hit 0:00 with the Packers leading handily, my dad and I hit the road and headed over to Deadlock.

Typically I don’t advertise how many escape rooms I’ve done, nor that I have a blog, but my dad revealed both to the game masters while I ran to the restroom. As luck would have it, our game masters were also the owners / enthusiasts / masterminds behind Deadlock, so even before we started our first game, we got to chat about a few of the inspirations behind the games.

Our first game was Escape Area 51, inspired by the event in 2019 when a bunch of people on the internet decided to team up to “invade” Area 51. No one ended up going through with it, since charging a military base on foot is a phenomenally bad idea, but it was still an event that captured the imagination. Which brings us to our game.

The players have successfully invaded Area 51 right before the start of the game. The challenge isn’t to get in, but rather to counteract a poisonous security measure before time runs out. The game starts out in a military office and evolves from there.

I was very impressed by the layers of gameplay in the Area 51 room. The room was filled to the brim with advanced gadgetry, much of which I had never seen anywhere else before- even if I had seen similar technology, the game design utilized it in interesting ways that felt quite fresh.

The game has plenty to uncover and is well-paced, revealing big surprises periodically to give the players more to explore. The puzzles were well-conceived and involved a versatile set of challenges requiring exploration, attention to detail, and solving clues.

We escaped successfully and were very happy with our choice to book three games back to back to back at Deadlock.

After a quick break between games, we headed upstairs to play Escape Annabelle. This room was inspired by the doll that inspired parts of The Conjuring film franchise. And yes, you read that right- the horror film series was based off a real doll that currently resides in Connecticut. The real one doesn’t look that scary, but the alleged stories behind it are quite creepy.

The Annabelle room was a masterpiece in suspense. The sprawling environment gives players a lot to explore, and everything starts off dark or dim. The room actually has plenty of light once you find the right switches, but there’s something magical about those first moments when you enter a new, dark space and have to feel around for the light switch, not knowing what might surprise you in the meantime.

I was really impressed when talking to the owners afterward. I’ve heard a lot from horror enthusiasts about how a truly good horror movie doesn’t rely on jump scares, and I think this is also true of scary escape rooms. Sometimes the best scare is when you explore a new space, reach your hand into a dark hole, feel your way down a dark staircase, or push open a dangerous looking door, and nothing happens. It makes sense when you think about it. You enter a room and something jumps out at you- the scare is done. You enter a room and nothing jumps out at you, and you’re on edge for every little thing you touch.

That’s not to say the room doesn’t have plenty of scares built in, but they’re well-spaced and well-utilized. If you knew where they were when you entered the room, it wouldn’t be that scary at all. But since you don’t, the whole experience is a terror. Fantastic job by Deadlock in building such an immersive experience.

After solving the Annabelle room, we said farewell to the owners/designers and headed a few blocks over to Deadlock’s other location to play The Asylum. The Asylum was another creepy game, placing players in the role of paranormal investigators sent to quiet a restless spirit inhabiting an insane asylum. It felt more “adventure” than “horror” but still had a few creepy surprises along the way.

Like both of Deadlock’s other games, there was plenty to explore and uncover over the course of the game. The asylum holds plenty of secrets and only a few are available at the very start of the game.

Asylum had a particularly well-designed narrative in which the story behind the restless spirit is unveiled bit by bit during the game, leading to a logical conclusion in which you take care of the asylum’s problem once and for all. The environment was designed with great theatrics that really made the space come to life.

We solved the Asylum and went three for three on the games for the evening. We headed back to our hotel VERY satisfied with our time at Deadlock.

I highly recommend all three games. All three are appropriate for players with any level of experience, from none at all to having solved hundreds of escape rooms before, and the rooms all pack quite a few thrills, whether they be creepy thrills or adventurous ones. When playing through the rooms, we could tell they were designed by people who really appreciated escape rooms and put special care into designing puzzles that really took advantage of what you can do in a physical space.

Also, as a quick fun fact- the Annabelle room now holds the position of “scariest room I’ve done,” which is a pretty big feat since I’m pretty sure my count of murder/monster/haunt rooms I’ve done is close to 100, if not over. (Unravel Singapore might still hold the title, but that place permanently closed, so Annabelle is the clear number one at present.) I wasn’t exaggerating when I called the room a masterpiece in suspense- it was a truly cool experience.

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