I get it. People are tired of going into a room with too many locks. Rotating locks. Directional combo locks. Three number locks. Four number locks. Key locks. Alphanumeric locks. Locks, locks, and more locks. You want variety! I agree. However, there are benefits to store-bought combo locks, which more creative locks can lack.
Store bought locks are generally pretty reliable. Even after their 100th opening and closing, most of them work. Even if they do break, they are pretty easily replaceable. Some of the more original “locks” can easily suffer from mechanical malfunctions. I can think of an escape room where three objects had to be turned to three different directions. We knew we had the right answer, but spent a couple minutes shifting them back and forth until they lined up just right. If these were three numbers on a lock, it would not have been an issue.
Another benefit of these ubiquitous locks is that everyone knows how to use them. Assuming you can find the right line to line-up the numbers (often difficult in low light), once you have the numbers, it should be easy to operate the lock. Three numbers or letters in a row, and pull. Easy!
Lately, I have seen a few of those locks that you move in different directions (Master Lock Speed Dial Combination Lock). The first time anyone sees one of these locks, they are clueless as to how they work. This requires the escape room to either give them a briefing on the lock beforehand or leave a little description or diagram on how to operate the lock. This can be distracting, especially the first time you try to open one, having to click twice to reset, etc. The more these are used, the less of a problem they will be. Still, there is a benefit to a familiar lock.
Combination locks also have a real place in many real-world situations. This makes them fit in with the scenario, depending on the escape room theme. They are totally appropriate when encountered in a government spy office, police department, or professor’s study. (Not so much in a wizard’s dungeon or Egyptian tomb).
Don’t worry, I’m not on the payroll of the combination lock industry. I would never trust such a secretive industry. I only want to say that a few combination locks are fine. Especially if they fit the theme and story. If a room is going to use combination locks, they should limit the number. If a room is not going to use combination locks, they should keep their locks in good working order.
Next week: What’s the deal with airplane food?!