Room Review: Avatar @ Break The Code Plus

Where: Level 1, 741 George Street, Haymarket, Sydney
Contact: sydney@breakthecode.com.au

How Much?: $45 per person

How Many? Billed as suitable for 2-8 people (I’d suggest 4 max)

Difficulty: House rates it 3/5

Kid Friendly? First-Timer Friendly?:  Yes to both. No scary content and some pretty design features that children will enjoy (but see below re: puzzles)

How we did: Completed Feb 2018. Team of 3 (one first-timer, one second-timer and Flowerchild 1). Escaped with 3 minutes and 3 clues given.

The Brief:

The year is 2090 and Earth is in crisis! An epidemic caused by the deadly Ebola-X virus is threatening the very survival of humanity. Scientists have tried to develop a cure, but all their efforts have been fruitless. It is known that a research team on the inhospitable Pandora Moon were working on the genetic modification of virus cells using a special material known as unobtanium. Their last recorded data showed the presence of a possible biochemical cure for the Ebola-X virus!

You are part of a team of scientists who must travel back to the Pandora Moon and retrieve the information from the abandoned lab before it is too late. 

The clock is ticking and Earth won’t survive much longer, you are our only hope…

The Experience: 

Not bad, but not super-impressive.

High on my experience at Cipher Room, I bought a Groupon for Break the Code’s Avatar Room. Dates were pretty limited, and even though I bought the Groupon before Christmas, by the time I got my act together the earliest I could get in was mid-February. With this room billed as first-timer and child-friendly, I decided to bring along Mechanic for his first room, and Flowerchild 1, who I thought if nothing else would enjoy holding the torch and exploring a dark room (what kid doesn’t love that!)

When we arrived at Break The Code, we were warmly greeted and told to take a seat in the waiting room. Mechanic and Flowerchild quickly got into a very serious game of Connect 4.

After a brief wait, we received a short safety briefing. The main point we took away was no brute-forcing anything, as they told us they have no budget to repair it. We were then lead down a corridor of doors to an open door and stepped inside to find two torches in a small, dark room. I requested a third torch as I thought it would be nice for Flowerchild to have her own, but apparently, we were only allowed two – no biggie.

There was no introduction to the room, no back-story, no blindfolds. We were simply advised to look for a physical key before the door shut. (I hope no one considers this a spoiler – you HAVE to find the physical key before you can do anything else!) So, we spent the first few minutes getting acquainted with the room and hunting down the pesky key!

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From the very beginning, the puzzles were linear, with only one puzzle being able to be solved at a time. Some of the puzzles were clever, making use of some very cool mechanisms I haven’t seen before. There were several physical/fiddly puzzles which required adult skill and not as many places for Flowerchild to help out as I would have liked for a room billed as ‘child-friendly’.

Several times we became stuck, and because there was only one puzzle to work on, this led to a bit of frustration. On each occasion we asked for a hint, we felt we should have seen the answer (except for one early on, where without spoilers, it felt like an extra in-room clue would have been very helpful to steer us in the right direction!). Solving the last puzzle with only three minutes on the clock was a nail-biter!

The briefing about ‘not having a budget’ was apparently true – the first room, in particular, showed many signs of wear and looked pretty tired. In places, the carpet was lifting and the wallpaper was coming away. Some clue pieces were wearing out and had been written over to make things clearer. Many of the props seemed quite loosely attached to the walls – I’m assuming this is because people had attempted to ‘brute force’ them. Unfortunately, once something in a room becomes a little wobbly, people will always wonder if it’s supposed to be wobbly!

Despite a number of very cool props (the tree, in particular, was quite spectacular), the room’s age detracted from the atmosphere. The music being played was very, very quiet, and I was only aware of it a couple of times during the hour, and the puzzles didn’t really seem to have that much to do with either the Avatar theme or the ‘virus’ theme.

We also had a few little hiccups along the way, including a set of batteries that didn’t work and had to be replaced. Luckily I’d read reviews that this had happened to other people, and didn’t solider on, thinking I needed to do something else. The walkie-talkie system was okay, but there was no finesse in revealing the solutions to puzzles. You were pretty much straight-out told what to do.

All in all, it was a fairly enjoyable room with some fun aspects but a little underwhelming. For the price of the Groupon, I felt it was decent value. Over a beer at the pub next door, Mechanic and I discussed the various things we’d missed and the absolute necessity for communication in escape rooms (especially calling out anything odd!)

 

Outside The Room 

Service was friendly but not super-enthusiastic. Our greeting when we arrived was warm and prompt, but when we exited the room, we had to ask if we’d made it out in time. The foyer was quite spacious, but there was only one couch (I don’t know where multiple groups would wait) and the games set up on the table to play were missing pieces.

Location

Although the address is George Street, the actual premise of Break the Code Plus is down an alley, on the first floor. Make sure you check the ‘how to get here’ section on their website, as there’s no obvious signage. Being so close to Central Station there are plenty of places to eat and drink. Metred parking is nearby if you’re lucky enough to be able to find a space, but probably your best bet is public transport.

Overall Verdict

An okay escape room with a few lovely touches, but a bit lacking in innovation and overall showing a lot of wear which detracted from the experience. I’d probably buy another Groupon voucher for one of their other rooms if they came up, but think I’d be disappointed if I’d paid full price.

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