Room Review: Vampire Castle @ Mission Room Escape Sydney

***Recommended***

Where: Suite 202, 332-336 Pitt St, Fortuna House, Sydney and Suite 502, 724 George St, HSBC Building, Sydney

Website: https://www.missionsydney.com

Contact: info@missionsydney.com

How Much?: $35-$55 p.p depending on group size and room played (some rooms are +60 mins)

How Many?: Recommends 3-5. We completed it with 2 but the rooms are large enough to accommodate 4 comfortably.

Difficulty: 3/5 (Beginner room)

First-Timer Friendly?: Yes

Kid Friendly?: Recommended for 12 up. Brave youngsters would be fine and there are several puzzles and plenty of props for them to help with, but the mood is deliberately ominous and the lighting very low.

How we did: Completed March 2019. Team of 2. Escaped!

Required: Basic Maths, Good English, At least one member of the team with full mobility

Brief:

It’s a stormy night when you and a friend stumble upon a gloomy castle. You intend to use it as cover from the rain, but after entering, the door behind you creaks closed and can’t be opened. Suddenly, you’re transported to the middle ages and the clock is ticking…can you guys solve the mystery and escape the supernatural castle?

 

The Experience: 

This was my 11th room in Sydney. Having so far only taken Meema to Escape Hunt Sydney, I decided I really needed to show her some of the other Sydney outfits. Mission Escape has long had the reputation as one of the best (their Lost Mine has been on my radar for ages!) and I was really looking forward to seeing a high-tech room done well as I’d not had much luck (or enjoyment) with them to date.

Finding Mission Escape on Pitt St is definitely your first mission – they are inside an arcade near a phone repair shop, up an elevator and spread over two separate levels. Now that they also have rooms on George St, be sure to check out their website and make sure you know where you’re going.

We entered the mood-lit reception area and were greeted by our gamesmaster. She was very friendly, but her English was a little difficult to understand (which we realised might be a problem as Mission Escape still utilises the older walkie-talkie system). After securing our belongings in a locker and being given the obligatory briefing, we entered the room.

 

Inside the Room:

Being a bit of a chicken, I generally shy away from rooms with a horror theme, and I was very pleased that Vampire Castle is more dark-and-brooding than downright scary. The theming is excellent, and I really liked that each of the rooms grew more and more ominous as the quest continued. I love that ‘ah!’ moment when you step into a new room and it’s so immersive could almost believe its real – I definitely had that in Vampire Castle.

The puzzles were enjoyable too ( I’m a sucker for a black-light torch)! This room is considered high-tech, and it is done well. I never felt like the inputting was as hard as the puzzle, which I’ve sometimes felt in other rooms. For most of the puzzles it was obvious if it was wrong and clear when you’d done it correctly. I thought most of the puzzles in this room were clever, with a good deal of search-and-find (hampered by the low lighting), plenty of puzzles which required combinations of elements (all logical, if some were a little tedious), some physical puzzles (one in particular which really stumped us, but was so obvious after we asked for a hint that we did some serious forehead slapping). There was one physical puzzle in particular that I really enjoyed. The puzzles were all well-integrated into the surroundings and fitted the theme.

There weren’t a lot of downsides to this room except that the voice-overs were a little difficult to understand over the speakers. We also had a slight miscommunication with our gamesmaster, who we had trouble understanding over the walkie-talkie and it led to her bursting into the room towards the end of the game (I think she thought that maybe she had not set the room up correctly and that we were missing an item we needed even though we had the item).

Our gamesmaster made up for it though with her enthusiasm – she even spent a few minutes with us after the game, going over each of the puzzles, showing us what we’d missed (there was one puzzle we fudged a little bit), and explaining which puzzles other teams are usually stumped by, and which were normally done quickly. We found this really interesting and an added touch to an enjoyable game.

 

 

Location / Outside the Room

The waiting room of Mission Escape is fairly small and dimly lit. Mentos and water is available while you wait. The gamesmaster takes a Polaroid of your team after you escape which you can take with you as a memento which is very nice – mine is still on my fridge at home!

 

Overall Verdict

I haven’t done a lot of high-tech rooms, but this was my favourite ‘high-tech’ room to date. The theming and puzzles were both of an excellent standard and I would definitely come back to Mission Escape to do one of their other rooms. I really loved the level of immersion I felt with this room. Definitely one to check out!

Room Review: The Bank of Australia Heist @ Escape Hunt Sydney

 

Where: Level 4, 393 George Street, Sydney

Website: https://sydney.escapehunt.com/

Contact: sydney@escapehunt.com

How Much?: $36-$44 p.p depending on group size

How Many?: Suitable for 2-5 people (I think a 3rd person would be helpful for this room)

Difficulty: ‘Level 2’ – for those who’ve played before, or like a challenge

First-Timer Friendly?: I’d suggest this room for seasoned players

Kid Friendly?: Nothing scary, but the puzzles would be too complex for little players

How we did: Completed February 2019. Team of 2. Failed by a few minutes as we got stuck on the last puzzle.

Required: Fluent English, Basic Maths.

 

Brief:

Solve Sydney’s most mysterious bank heist and catch the thieves before they flee the city. Sydney 1828 – it’s the middle of the night and a heist has occurred at the Bank Of Australia. The Bank Manager is shackled and the criminals have fled. As Sydney’s elite police, use your investigative skills to find the thieves before they flee the city for good! This room is great for those who like more of a challenge or who have played escape rooms before. It is a newer room and has a higher amount of technology.

 

The Experience: 

This was my 10th escape room.

We entered this room immediately after finishing Robbery in the Cottage. If you’d like to read more about Escape Hunt Sydney, please check out my reviews of Secret Service Mission or Robbery in the Cottage.

Inside the Room:

After a quick tea break (provided for free at the venue), we let our gamesmaster know we were ready to begin our second room, Bank Heist of Australia. We locked up our valuables in a crate on the other side of the room and read our brief.

Before we started, the gamesmaster asked us, ‘Who’d like to be the bank manager?’ Meema and I looked quizzically at each other, before I offered to play ‘bank manager’ for the game. Without wanting to give too much away, at the beginning of the game, the ‘bank manager’ is really going to rely on the other players in the room (which is why I’ve suggested 3 players instead of 2).

Meema on her own was struggling to work out a way to help the bank manager, which was okay as there was a complex maths problem to get done before help came to the rescue. In the end, we might have cheated a little bit, thanks to my having narrow wrists!

This room is considered ‘high tech’ and there were no lock and keys to be found (except on the door leading out of the room!) I generally find ‘high tech’ leads to an extra level of difficulty – inputting the answer can often take just as long as solving the puzzle – and sometimes you’re not sure if you’ve got the right answer and entered it incorrectly or have the wrong answer. Some of the puzzles were devilishly difficult, a few easy, and a few seemed to us needlessly convoluted. There were some red herrings, and there was one puzzle in particular which we felt was a bit of a ‘guess what I’m thinking’ from the room designer.

We made liberal use of the walkie-talkies towards the end of the room – I think two-room fatigue was setting in by that point. Our gamesmaster was very helpful and gave good hints, but once again the problems of the walkie-talkie system as opposed to the video-camera system were apparent – every time you wanted a hint, you had to explain what you’d already done. Bogged down by the last puzzle, we didn’t quite make it out in time. We were given a little extra time to finish and made it out only a couple of minutes past the hour. Our first fail!

All in all this was an enjoyable game, nicely furnished, although a little frustrating at times as the puzzles were quite hard! Not a lot of search-and-find was required for this room, but lots of lateral thinking was, and some interesting combination of objects from various rooms.

 

Location / Outside the Room

For city-based organisations looking for walk-in team-building activities, you can’t beat the location of Escape Hunt Sydney situated on George St directly opposite Dymocks in the heart of the CBD. They have purposely mirrored 2 of their 4 rooms so that larger groups of up to 12 can split into two teams and go head-to-head, which is, of course, another draw for the corporates.

They have bathroom facilities and offer tea, coffee and water which was nice for debrief at the end of the game. The games master we had on the day was competent and friendly. There’s even a large space where you can grab a Sherlock Holmes cape, hat and pipe, and take silly / serious selfies.

 

Overall Verdict

I’ve now completed three rooms at Escape Hunt Sydney. While they vary in theme and level of technology used, I still think they lack the level of finesse of some of the other rooms in the Sydney market. Of all their rooms I’ve done so far, I’ve preferred their oldest, lowest-tech room, which I think goes to show that flashy lights and gizmos aren’t nearly as important as a well-designed, cleverly thought-out room. I would still say that Escape Hunt Sydney is geared towards the corporate and first-timer market. They also offer the ‘escape challenge’, giving you a discount of up to 20% off full price when you come back to do more rooms and frequently have offers on discount sites. If you’re booking for a large corporate group and planning to come after a long lunch for a bit of team-building, rest assured they’ve built these rooms with you in mind. For experienced players, I’d suggest making use of a groupon if you’d like to get your money’s worth.

Room Review: Robbery in the Cottage @ Escape Hunt Sydney

 

Where: Level 4, 393 George Street, Sydney

Website: https://sydney.escapehunt.com/

Contact: sydney@escapehunt.com

How Much?: $36-$44 p.p depending on group size

How Many?: Billed as suitable for 2-5 people.

Difficulty: House rates it beginner which I’d agree with.

First-Timer Friendly?: Yes

Kid Friendly?: Yes, and plenty of nice little props for the kids to play with in this room!

How we did: Completed February 2019. Team of 2. Escaped!

Required: Fluent English, basic maths.

 

Brief:

The entire gold coin stash of The Rock’s largest workers’ cottage has been stolen! As world famous detectives, use your keen eye, logic and quick thinking as a team to solve the mystery in an hour before the thief disappears forever!

 

The Experience: 

Having done my first room at Escape Hunt Sydney (Secret Service Mission) a few months ago and finding it a little lacklustre, Groupon in hand, I decided to return to attempt Robbery in the Cottage and The Bank of Australia Heist, back to back. With Meema in tow, we headed to George St and took a lift ride to the 4th floor to Escape Hunt Sydney, ready for our next ‘escape’.

Once again, we had the leisure of visiting Escape Hunt Sydney on a mid-week morning and, far from the bustling crowds which other reviews have been reported on weekends, had the place to ourselves! After being greeted by our gamesmaster, we took a seat on one of the many chesterfields that fill the large, now-familiar waiting room and drank in the atmosphere of brick wallpaper and dim lighting while we filled in our disclaimer and awaited our instructions.

Unlike Secret Service Mission, there was no fancy video this time. Instead, we received a written mission brief that advised us we needed to discover the culprit of the robbery in a cottage in The Rocks. We locked our valuables up in a wooden crate and off we went to the room!

 

Inside the Room:

The rooms were nicely furnished and fitted well with the historical theme of The Rocks. Robbery in the Cottage is not a high-tech room – instead it contained lots of combination locks, and puzzles with physical pieces which need to be combined with other components of the room. Low tech actually suits us well as Meema and I tend to enjoy these rooms best – our experience is that sometimes the ‘high-tech’ mechanisms add too much difficulty.

The room was looking a little worn in places, but nothing that lessened our enjoyment of the game. The puzzles were logical and somewhat linear, with some elements of search-and-find, and lots of items that need to be combined together. Children, I think, would really enjoy this room as there are several puzzles where they’d really be able to help. Good English is essential for this room with quite a lot of reading as you get closer to discovering the identity of the thief.

Experienced escapers will not see anything new, but I must say I enjoyed it in spite (or perhaps because) of this – I found this room relaxing, familiar and rarely frustrating, but still with a few challenges thrown in. Even without a major wow factor, it was everything a basic escape room should be and a pleasant way to spend 40 minutes!

We immediately followed this room with another Escape Hunt Sydney room, The Bank of Australia Heist (which you can read about here).

 

Location / Outside the Room

For city-based organisations looking for walk-in team-building activities, you can’t beat the location of Escape Hunt Sydney situated on George St directly opposite Dymocks in the heart of the CBD. They have purposely mirrored 2 of their 4 rooms so that larger groups of up to 12 can split into two teams and go head-to-head, which is, of course, another draw for the corporates.

They have bathroom facilities and offer tea, coffee and water which was nice for debrief at the end of the game. The games master we had on the day was competent and friendly. There’s even a large space where you can grab a Sherlock Holmes cape, hat and pipe, and take silly / serious selfies. These guys know how to market.

Overall Verdict

Sydney Escape Hunt is geared towards the corporate and first-timer market. If you have a Groupon or a two-for-one, by all means, use it. Bring a newbie along and introduce them to escape rooms. Escape Hunt Sydney also offers the ‘escape challenge’, giving you a discount of up to 20% off full price when you come back to do more rooms. If you’re booking for a large corporate group and planning to come after a long lunch for a bit of team-building, rest assured they’ve built these rooms with you in mind. For experienced players though, I’d suggest you could spend your money on one of the more boutique Sydney outfits.

 

Note

We were sad to hear this room has now closed and been replaced by a brand new room, The Young Wizard’s Quest.

If you’d like to read more about Escape Hunt Sydney, you can check out my review of The Bank of Australia Heist or  Secret Service Mission.

Room Review: Indisposed @ Room Eight Escape Rooms

***Recommended***

Where: 2B The Corso, Manly

Contact: info@escaperoomeight.com.au

Website: https://www.escaperoomeight.com.au/

How Much?: $40 p.p

How Many?: Billed as suitable for 2-5 people (I’d suggest 2-3 for experienced, 3-5 newbies)

Difficulty: House rates it Beginner / Intermediate. As with Entombed, I’d rate it intermediate, but see my comments regarding the hint system that makes it first-timer friendly.

First-Timer Friendly?: Yes

Kid Friendly?: Yes. Several puzzles the kids could assist with. One element that may scare young children (or they might find it funny!)

How we did: Completed May 2018. Team of 4, including 2 children. Escaped with a few minutes remaining.

The Brief:

Trapped in the outhouse of famous, if somewhat deranged Aussie celebrity Huge Axeman, can you free yourself before the Axeman returns. In an Escape Room like no other, you’ll need to think and act quickly as a team to solve puzzles and challenges as the clock ticks down. Even if you can escape the Dunny, you’ll still need to survive the Australian wild, and contend with an array of deadly Australian fauna.

The Experience:

This was my eighth room in Sydney.

If you’ve read my review of Entombed, you’d know how much I enjoyed the first Room Eight escape room I attempted a few months back, so I was really looking forward to trying Indisposed and having a chance to compare the two rooms. This time, I brought Mechanic and the two flowerchildren, who were all ready to help mum and dad crack another escape room!

Due to some gusty weather, we forwent the ferry ride this time and instead drove into Manly and were lucky enough to find parking nearby. A cup of strong coffee for the adults and hot chocolate for the kids, and we were all ready to go!

As I mentioned in my previous review, Room Eight is conveniently situated on The Corso across the road from the ferry terminal. Once again we were greeted warmly and given a safety chat before watching another cool opening video, this one about Huge Axeman and his outback dunny. The same playful humour we’d encountered in Entombed was apparent from the outset – the owners of Room Eight really appreciate a good joke, and so do we! It definitely lightened the mood of the room – and took away from a ‘wolf creek’ feel. (I was initially worried from the pictures that this room would be too scary for the children, but after communicating with the owners I was assured it was far more ‘humour’ than ‘horror’ and that’s exactly what it was!)

We put on our blindfolds and were lead into the first room which was, of course, (and I don’t think I’m giving away spoilers here) the toilet! We got off to a bit of a shaky start with a pretty hard puzzle first up, but I have to mention the theming of the first room which was just spectacular – so well done!

As I mentioned in my previous review, Room Eight uses a hint/point system, with an Ipad offering a series of clues for each puzzle in a linear sequence. The first clue is cryptic, with easier clues available if you get stuck! I really liked this system in Entombed, and  Mechanic loved it in Indisposed. It made some very difficult puzzles just that little bit easier!

Once again, the rooms were fairly low-tech with lots of padlocks, but they contained a good mix of physical and spatial puzzles which everyone really enjoyed, especially the kids. There were some really innovative puzzles, and several I haven’t seen before – you will need to use several of your senses to escape this room, and definitely bring your lateral thinking skills and teamwork!

There were so many elements of this room to love, but above all, I really appreciated that this room didn’t take itself too seriously – that playful element permeated the entirety of gameplay – and there were plenty of moments of laughter along the way! The theming remained consistent throughout, and the puzzles were well integrated into the storyline, giving this room a really enjoyable sense of immersion.

If I was going to compare Entombed to this room, I’d probably say Indisposed is just that little bit better – I think it’s the tongue-in-cheek gameplay of this room which made it just that bit more fun

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Location / Outside the Room

Room Eight is located almost on the corner of the Corso, across the road from the ferry terminal. They’ve got plenty of signage outside and are easy to find. Being Manly, cafes, restaurants and drinking holes abound in every direction for your post escape room debrief. While you can park in and around Manly, I’d suggest if you’re coming from the city and the weather is good, make a day of it and head across on the ferry.

Overall Verdict

This was a really fun room, and definitely humour not horror, with a wide variety of interesting and challenging puzzles. We had plenty of laughs as we solved this room, and the children really enjoyed the physical aspects of several of the puzzles. Highly Recommended, especially if you’re looking for a room you can bring the kids to.

Room Review: SuperCell 117 @ Paniq Room

***Highly Recommended***

Where: 13 Cambridge St, The Rocks

Contact: info@paniqroom.com.au

Website: http://paniqroom.com.au/

How Much?: Sliding Scale $30-$40 p.p depending on group numbers

How Many?: Billed as suitable for 3-6 people (I’d suggest 4 minimum and up to the maximum 6. This is a great room for a bigger group).

Difficulty: House rates it 4/5 difficulty with a 40% escape rate.

First-Timer Friendly?: At least 2 experienced players.

Kid Friendly?: No. Puzzles are too complex, and the theme isn’t suitable for children.

How we did: Completed April 2018. Team of 4. Escaped with 30 seconds on the clock.

 

The Brief:

You find yourselves in a cell hand-cuffed and blindfolded, with stifling smoke. You have no idea how you got there. You are locked away from each other at the beginning in 2 separate neighbouring cells, and the situation is not looking good at all.  One thing you know for sure: you have to get out in 60 min! Would you save your own life only, or would you care for your TEAM as well? If you wanna make it you should work as one TEAM! The choice is yours, but time is running out, and the guards are arriving soon.

 

The Experience

This was my 7th room in Sydney.

If you’ve read my review of Paniq Room’s Sen3es, you’ll know that this was my second room for the day. After a quick coffee, I headed back to Paniq Room with one of the players from Sen3es, and was met in the Paniq Room foyer by two other members of the Sydney Escape Room Meetup group. I was a bit worried about mental fatigue going into this room, but was bolstered by the fact that all four of us entering SuperCell 117 were experienced roomers. We just hoped we could get out in time!

The fun started straight away – our games master was enthusiastic and funny, and had us all laughing. She explained the backstory and theme (you’ve got an hour to get out before the guards come and torture you!) and also the ingenious hint system (hints are delivered in the form of hand-written notes, lowered in by a clanking metal bucket). This really added to the immersion of the gameplay, as I’ll discuss later in my review. We were also told we were going to be split up into two teams and put into two cells. We’d need to escape our cells, and escape the prison, but first we’d need to escape our handcuffs! Yes, we were put in real metal handcuffs and blindfolded before being led in to the darkness of our prison cells!

When the timer started, we removed our blindfolds to pitch blackness and billowing smoke. This really felt like a matter of survival – find a light switch! Get the lights on! Find everyone else! Our early searching was hampered by the handcuffs (although it is amazing just how much you can do in handcuffs!) until we finally located the key.

The necessity for communication was paramount in this room, as well as teamwork. Most tasks could only be performed if people in both cells talked and listened to the other. To that end, it was a really fun, enjoyable room, with people calling ‘I’ve got a _____. Does that make any sense to you?’ ‘I’ve got a picture of _____.’ ‘Any chance you’ve got the other half of______?’ and so forth, back and forth. There was also lots of search and find fun.

The theming was absolutely spot on, the dark atmosphere of the cells, the ominous clanking of the clue bucket, the small, claustrophobic space. There were padlocks, oh, so many padlocks, but again, it fitted so perfectly with the theme.

We got stuck a couple of times and needed a few hints, but the games master was quick to lead us in the right direction and get us back on track. Usually it was because we hadn’t looked hard enough! We got the last clue with less than a minute on the clock, and you’ve never seen four grown adults run around like such headless chickens trying to solve the final puzzle! We got out with only thirty seconds to spare. There was jubilation and hi-fives all round!

I cannot recommend this room highly enough, it was just so much darn fun. Even writing about it puts a smile on my face. Everything about this room was perfect, from the handcuffs and theming to the flow of the puzzles. It never mattered that you didn’t go from room to room because it was such a great concept, and defeating the room felt like a feat you’d only accomplished because of teamwork. If you haven’t attempted SuperCell 117, get a group together and go book it right now!

 

Location / Outside the Room

Paniq Room is located in the Rocks, on Cambridge St. It can be a little tricky to locate as Cambridge St looks like an alley and there’s not a great deal of signage. The best way to locate it is to head up from Argyle St. Being so close to the city, public transport is your best bet, but there is parking on Argyle St. It’s worth going on the weekend so that you can enjoy the Rocks Markets. Also be sure to grab a cup of coffee and a cake from the delightful French patisserie just down the road.

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Overall Verdict

My favourite room to date. Exceptional puzzles and immersive theming, everything about this experience was exactly what I want from an escape room!

Room Review: Sen3es @ Paniq Room

***Recommended***

Where: 13 Cambridge St, The Rocks

Contact: info@paniqroom.com.au

Website: http://paniqroom.com.au/

How Much?: Sliding Scale $30-$40 p.p depending on group numbers

How Many?: Billed as suitable for 2-6 people (I’d suggest 2-4)

Difficulty: House rates it 4/5 difficulty with a 40% escape rate.

First-Timer Friendly?: I’d suggest at least 1 experienced player

Kid Friendly?: No. There are a couple of spooky elements and some dark sections that may scare small children. Puzzles are complex.

Required: At least one member of the group with full mobility and a reasonable level of fitness. Wear appropriate footwear.

How we did: Completed April 2018. Team of 3. Escaped with 1:30 on the clock.

The Brief:

You enter the mysterious place of a famous magician, in search of his secrets.

As you continue through the rooms of the house, the doors close behind you and there doesn’t seem to be a way back. 

Is the magician still around? Don’t let yourself be tricked or let him screw with your mind. You need to overcome the magician’s tricks and escape using your senses. 

You may lose your sense of time, but remember that you only have 60 minutes to get out! If you don’t, the magician will be stuck in your mind forever.

 

The Experience

This was my 6th room in Sydney.

I’ve read great things about Paniq Room, and I was really excited about doing their rooms, but also a little apprehensive. Paniq Room would mark a few ‘firsts’ for me – it would be the first time I’d ever done two rooms in one day, and also the first time I’d ever done escape rooms with people I’d never met in person! I wasn’t sure what to expect on either front.

For the first room, Sen3es, I was joined by two experienced escapers from a meetup group – one who had done many rooms overseas and another who, in her own words, has done so many rooms she’s lost count! So I was feeling pretty confident that as long as we could get the teamwork element down, we’d do all right in the room!

We met in the foyer a few minutes before we were due to go into our room – one of the team members found the building a little difficult to locate due to a lack of signage. We were greeted warmly and given a verbal brief that included backstory about the mysterious Magician, before being led into the room itself (in an adjoining building).

Once we took off our blindfolds, we found ourselves in a strange room, and got down to the business of solving puzzles. I usually like to make mention of the theming of the rooms at this point and it definitely is worth mentioning, mostly because I felt quite ambivalent about the theming. Even a month after playing these rooms, I still can’t decide if I liked it or not. The rooms are strangely shaped, slightly ominous, and deliberately made to be off-putting and weird, with a strange nightmarish quality I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Unlike usual themed rooms that invite you to immerse yourself in a safe, consistent theme (you are in a vampire’s castle, you are in a dungeon, you are in a hotel room), Sen3es felt surprising and uncomfortable for much of the time (at least to me), overwhelming and underwhelming my senses in turn, and to that end, I can understand that some people will really love this room as something different from the norm.

As the name Sen3es suggests, you will need to use your senses –at least 4 out of your 5 of them – there’s no tasting in this game due to hygiene reasons, but we were advised we could lick the walls if we felt like it (we didn’t!) You’ll also probably want to pack your sense of humor, especially for the second room that featured some sweaty, sweaty moments!

The puzzles are mostly padlock style, with a few lock and key and a couple of more high-tech / physical puzzles scattered throughout. I found the puzzles on the whole enjoyable, although there were several that were a little arduous (one early on, and one towards the end) – the one at the end became a bit frustrating for our group. Time felt stretched out in this room experience (was it the magician playing tricks on my mind?) I felt like we’d been in the room for well more than an hour, even when we had 15 mins to go. As there’s only one counter, once you’ve left the first room, you’ve no idea how you’re going for time.

For me, there were several things about the flow-through of the rooms that felt like a bit of an arm-wrestle – you move through the rooms closing doors behind you and taking nothing, but we were advised we’d need to take a couple of items back after we’d finished the third room, and it wasn’t very clear what to take, so we ended up having to ask the games master. There were a few puzzles that I didn’t feel were very logical or obvious, even when done correctly, and a couple of things that were just very difficult by their nature. We also felt the second room had a red herring which wasted time. I also would have liked the ‘senses’ element to be more immersive in the gameplay.

We escaped with about 90 seconds on the clock. I’ve heard people rave about this room which of course raises expectations before going in. I enjoyed the room, although not immensely. I was disquieted by it, found it frustrating at times – it felt like hard work! For people who’ve done several rooms, I think they’d enjoy the strangeness and difference of this room. I wouldn’t recommend it for first-timers. Not every room is going to be for everyone. I can see why many people love this room, but it is not one of my favourites for the reasons I’ve stated.

Location / Outside the Room

Paniq Room is located in the Rocks, on Cambridge St. It can be a little tricky to locate as Cambridge St looks like an alley and there’s not a great deal of signage. The best way to locate it is to head up from Argyle St. Being so close to the city, public transport is your best bet, but there is parking on Argyle St. It’s worth going on the weekend so that you can enjoy the Rocks Markets. Also be sure to grab a cup of coffee and a cake from the delightful French patisserie just down the road.

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Overall Verdict

A fun, strange room, with some really unusual/original puzzles. Will definitely appeal to those who have done a few rooms and want something a little different!

Room Review: Entombed @ Room Eight Escape

***Highly Recommended***

Where: 2B The Corso, Manly

Contact: info@escaperoomeight.com.au

Website: https://www.escaperoomeight.com.au/

How Much?: $40 p.p

How Many?: Billed as suitable for 2-5 people (I’d suggest 2-3 for experienced, 3-5 newbies)

Difficulty: House rates it Beginner / Intermediate. I’d say it’s more intermediate but see my comments regarding the hint system that makes it first-timer friendly.

First-Timer Friendly?: Yes

Kid Friendly?: Yes. Several puzzles the kids could assist with, although there is one element that may scare very young children (or they might find it funny!)

How we did: Completed April 2018. Team of 2. Escaped with a few minutes remaining and a score of 118 (I think – we definitely didn’t make the leaderboard!)

 

The Brief:

Amidst the dry arid deserts of Egypt a lone building stands. It was once the study of renowned archaeologist Atlanta Smith, who has been missing and presumed dead for several months, in his quest for the treasure of Khufu. Your search for answers has taken a turn for the worst, and you’re going to need to draw on all your investigative nous and powers of deduction to solve this mystery, evade an ancient curse and escape this room alive…

 

The Experience:

A Kiwi, a Frenchman and a Brazilian walked into an escape room…

Yes, it sounds like the start of a brilliant joke, but that’s what happened when Steve, Stef and Raf, who met playing volleyball on Manly Beach, decided to open their own escape room business, Room Eight.

Having only opened in early 2018, I was keen to check out the new kids on the block and was delighted when Steve contacted me and asked me to pop along to one of his rooms. I invited The Doctor (who I’d paired up with for Cipher Room’s Espionage) to come with me, and she agreed, despite having flown in from Geneva the previous day. Needless to say, we were not confident of having our ‘A’ game, but for us, enjoyment of the room is the most important thing!

After a delightful ferry ride across Sydney Harbour and the obligatory cup of pre-escape room coffee, we arrived at Room Eight, conveniently situated on The Corso across the road from the ferry terminal. We were greeted warmly by Stef and talked shop for a bit before being led into the briefing area for the obligatory safety chat and their cool little opening video.

Stef also explained their innovative point/hint system and I think it’s definitely worth a mention in my review as it’s something no one else is doing. Room Eight uses a scoring system. You start with 200 points and lose one point for every minute you spend in the room. Along the way, you can get ‘hints’ that also cost a certain amount of points.

Inside the room, all the locks are numbered and each lock corresponds to an icon on an iPad located on the wall that offers clues for each lock. The hardest clue is cryptic, costs nothing, and focuses you towards the next lock/puzzle. The ‘medium’ clue costs 4 points and gives a strong hint, while the ‘easy’ clue costs 6 points and pretty much tells you the answer.

I really liked this system for a number of reasons. Firstly, it takes away the risk of an over-enthusiastic games master who gives too many/too obvious hints (or not enough hints) – this system allows the team to control the difficulty of the hints they’d like and lets you cater to your own level of frustration. While some people might feel that the numbered system detracts from the organic discovery of which puzzle to do when, I didn’t feel that way, particularly as the puzzles in this room were actually quite challenging, often requiring combined pieces of information to solve. I really liked being directed to the next step by a cryptic clue.

Just in case you’re wondering, this is nothing like the dreaded QR system either – there is still a dedicated games master watching your every move and a voice-of-god system in case you get (really) stuck. Cleverly catering to the passing tourist trade, Room Eight also offers their hints in several languages which I think is a fabulous innovation. It’s hard enough doing an escape room, let alone doing it in a second language!

Anyway, let’s get onto the room itself:

After we were led into the room, we took off our blindfolds (have I mentioned I love blindfolds!) and got started. The room was generously proportioned, and beautifully decorated as the study of the missing Professor Atlanta Smith (yes, someone at Room Eight has a sense of humour!) and I could already spy puzzles scattered around the room amongst the Egyptian-themed décor.

The puzzles were a good mix of fun physical challenges, lock and key, coded padlocks, mechanical and environmental puzzles. Be prepared to work as a team, read everything carefully, and use those cryptic clues! The room is fairly linear, but with a team of two, there was always plenty to do (a third set of eyes wouldn’t have gone astray). There were several carefully hidden items in the room and the door placement was ingenious.

Being a room billed as beginner friendly, I expected this room to be on the easier side, but several of the puzzles were real brainteasers! As I mentioned, there was plenty of combining of objects, lateral thinking, and teamwork required. If you’re the type of person who likes escape rooms that really make you use your brain, this is the room for you.

We only had one little hiccup along the way, accidentally opening something that we shouldn’t have opened (by complete fluke!) at the tail end of the game. We mentioned it to Stef at the cessation of the game and he was all over it, so I doubt other teams will encounter a similar problem. We still managed to escape with a few minutes on the clock.

 

Location / Outside the Room

Room Eight is located almost on the corner of the Corso, across the road from the ferry terminal. They’ve got plenty of signage outside and are easy to find. Being Manly, cafes, restaurants and drinking holes abound in every direction for your post-escape-room debrief. While you can park in and around Manly, I’d suggest if you’re coming from the city to make a day of it as we did and head across on the ferry.

One of the three owners was there on the day we attended and it’s wonderful to be able to chat with the masterminds behind the room and give feedback. The waiting room is on the smaller side but works for the space with a dedicated area for team briefing, which I liked.

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Overall Verdict

We had a LOT of fun in this room. The puzzles were many and varied, the rooms generous and well-themed, the space well utilised. Most importantly, this room had plenty of puzzles to test our brains (which are the type we enjoy the most) and we even had a few laughs along the way! For a change from the CBD, or if you’re based north of Sydney, I’d highly recommend heading over to Room Eight and checking out their rooms. I’m really excited to be heading back this weekend for their other room, Indisposed, with the Flowerchildren and hubby.

Please note: we played at the kind invitation of the owners

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Room Review: Secret Service Mission @ Escape Hunt Sydney

Where: Level 4, 393 George Street, Sydney

Website: https://sydney.escapehunt.com/

Contact: sydney@escapehunt.com

How Much?: $36-$42 p.p depending on group size (at the time of writing, Escape Hunt Sydney had a buy-one-get-one-free deal running in The Entertainment Book, which we utilised).

How Many?: Billed as suitable for 2-5 people (I’d suggest 2 is enough)

Difficulty: House rates it Beginner / Intermediate. I’d say it’s a beginner room.

First-Timer Friendly?: Yes

Kid Friendly?: Nothing scary, but there’s not a great deal for kids to do in the room (unless they’re hamsters).

How we did: Completed April 2018. Team of 2 including 1 first-timer. Escaped with over 20 minutes remaining.

Required: 2 members of the team with full mobility and appropriate footwear. Watch your head. You have been warned!

 

The Brief:

Your mission as Australian Secret Service Agents is to investigate the disappearance of the Prime Minister, Harold Holt. You’ve got an hour to cross the city to meet your informant and get the intel, while evading the assassin!

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The Experience: 

I’ve read mixed reviews of Escape Hunt Sydney – they have fabulous reviews on Trip Advisor, yet more experienced escapers like Escape Rooms Sydney and Lock Me If You Can tend to rate their rooms as fairly run-of-the-mill. Still, I decided to go with an open mind and was interested to see what a worldwide franchise does that’s different from the smaller guys. For this, my fourth room in Sydney, I took along Meema, who’d never done an escape room before to see what she thought of the room (and the escape experience!) She was worried she was not going to be very good at it.

We went to Escape Hunt Sydney in the middle of a weekday, which meant we found the place blessedly quiet. It seemed pretty obvious to me that these guys are geared towards servicing the corporate market. The waiting room is well appointed and spacious, decked out with chesterfields, brick wallpaper, and old chests lining the walls. There’s even a large space where you can grab a Sherlock Holmes cape, hat and pipe, and take silly / serious selfies. These guys know how to market.

Even though the space is large, I can imagine it would fill up very quickly on weekends if there were 6 groups occupying the space, and with no partitions, it could get a little loud. As it was, we only saw one other couple during our visit, and otherwise had the place to ourselves.

We found Escape Hunt easily (across the road from Dymocks and a lift ride to the 4th floor) and were warmly and promptly greeted. We were shown to the chesterfields, but pretty much left to our own devices for a bit after that (literally – we were given an iPad to fill out the waiver, and rather than being explained by the games master the ‘rules’ are all on a sheet you need to read). Once we’d told the games master we were ready to go, we watched the obligatory video about our mission to find information regarding the disappearance of Prime Minster Harold Holt and avoid the assassins who were trying to kill us.

While the video was pretty slick, the mission itself didn’t really make that much sense – I really like the idea of interweaving history with an escape room, but the premise of this room left me with a lot of questions. Why do they have us looking for information about Harold Holt when his body was never found? Why are there assassins out to get us? And why did they have to change history to say Holt disappeared at Bondi, when he disappeared in Victoria? Am I in modern times, or 1967? It seemed like a strange jumble of unrelated things, especially when there are so many excellent rooms in Sydney that do a fabulous job of historical immersion.

So, now that we’ve got our slightly nonsensical mission down, let’s get into the room. We locked up our stuff in a chest, and were given our walkie-talkies (yes, Escape Hunt still utilises the old-school walkie-talkie system, although they do have cameras in the room so you don’t have to explain where you’re up to.)

The first room was nicely themed: the inside of one of those old silver trains – very nicely done and took me back to my early teens when I used to catch one that looked just like it to school every day. It was a fairly high-tech room with some physical and sequencing puzzles.

We got off to an okay start but got bogged down quite quickly with a puzzle I found frustrating (my pet hate is frustrating, time-wasting puzzles!). Not to give anything away, but it was a complex sequencing puzzle, followed by a timed puzzle. If you failed to do the timed puzzle in the allotted time, you had to completely redo the lengthy sequencing puzzle. This led to a fair bit of time wasting, as it took us three goes to complete (partially because of the technology). Having said that though, Meema said she didn’t find it as frustrating as I did. We ended up using the walkie-talkies three times in quick succession to escape that particular room!

That little hiccup out of the way, we headed to the next room, and the next. We fairly flew through the following puzzles that utilised mechanical, electronic and lock-and-key elements. There wasn’t a great deal of finesse to the placement of any of the other puzzles, they were all pretty much: ‘here is the puzzle – solve it’ with only the smallest amount of search-and-find and very little use of whole environment. We escaped the room with over 20 minutes on the clock.

I didn’t mind that the rooms were small. They were nicely decorated, and the ‘Harold Holt’ motif was scattered throughout them (although again, it wasn’t particularly thematic). What this room lacked, I felt, was clever puzzles. There simply weren’t enough to fill the time, and the end was, therefore, a little disappointing as there was no rush to beat the clock. A second set of puzzles running in tandem to the first (or perhaps collecting objects along the way) would really improve this room and give a better end experience especially as this room is billed for up to 5 players, and we sailed through it with 2. I asked the games master whether it is common for players to get stuck in the first room, and she said yes, most teams spend over 30 mins in that room, which definitely shows some very uneven flow to the game design.

As I said in the description, this room is billed as a great room for kids, but as it was very linear and the puzzles were fairly adult I’m not sure what kids would do in this room unless they’re hamsters (you know what I mean if you’ve been in this room). If you’ve got younger kids, take them to Paris Escape instead.

All in all, I found the experience enjoyable, but a bit lacklustre. Meema, who’s first room it was, enjoyed it a lot, (which probably accounts for the excellent Trip Advisor reviews – this is just the sort of room lots of first-timers would do) although she too commented on the weird history jumble. I can’t wait to take her to her next room and see how she compares the two!

 

Location / Outside the Room

For city-based organisations looking for walk-in team-building activities, you can’t beat the location of Escape Hunt Sydney situated on George St directly opposite Dymocks in the heart of the CBD. They have purposely mirrored 2 of their 4 rooms so that larger groups of up to 12 can split into two teams and go head-to-head, which is, of course, another draw for the corporates.

They have bathroom facilities and offer tea, coffee and water which was nice for debrief at the end of the game. The games master we had on the day was very competent and friendly.

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Overall Verdict

Sydney Escape Hunt feels very geared towards the corporate or first-timer market. If you have a Groupon or a two-for-one, by all means, use it. Bring a newbie along and introduce them to escape rooms. Escape Hunt Sydney also offers the ‘escape challenge’, giving you a discount of up to 20% off full price when you come back to do more rooms. If you’re booking for a large corporate group and planning to come after a long lunch for a bit of team-building, rest assured they’ve built these rooms with you in mind. For experienced players though, I’d suggest perhaps spending your $$$ on one of the more impressive Sydney outfits.

 

 

Room Review: Paris Escape @ Social Escape

***Highly Recommended***

Where: Level 1, 62 Wyndham St, Alexandria

Contact: socialescapesyd@gmail.com

How Much?: Sliding scale $27-$55 p.p depending on group size and weekday vs weekend booking

How Many? Billed as suitable for 1-5 people (one of the only rooms in Sydney available for solo players)

Difficulty: House rates it 3/5

Kid Friendly? First-Timer Friendly?:  This room is PERFECT for kids (see the rest of my review). Very first-timer friendly but would also suit an experienced solo player or couple.

How we did: Completed March 2018. Team of 4 including 2 small children. Escaped with 5 minutes on the clock.

The Brief:

You are on holiday in Paris, staying in the most beautiful hotel. Your holiday is finally approaching the end and you are preparing to leave. You must depart for the airport in one hour, however you cannot locate your passport or your plane tickets!

Can you find your tickets and escape to the airport in time?

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The Experience:

Let me start by saying, you can keep your Zombie Apocalypses, Mad Scientists Trying To Kill You, Axe Murderers In The Basement, and Killer Plague rooms – there is no theme quite as terrifying as Paris Escape. You’re in a foreign country, your plane is leaving in one hour, and you can’t find your ticket and your passport. I’ve done a lot of travelling and I can tell you this is the REAL LIFE SCENARIO FROM HELL. In fact, the only thing that could make this room exactly like my reoccurring dream on the same theme is if I had the two flowerchildren endlessly nattering at me as I attempted to locate my lost documents (so of course, I decided to bring them along!).

I must say, I was a little nervous to do an escape room with both my young children. I jokingly said to Mark, the owner, that the kids were at least a 10-minute handicap. Mechanic reckoned they were more like a 20-minute handicap. As it turned out, we had nothing to worry about!

We were greeted very warmly by Mark and didn’t have to wait any time at all before being whisked off to the ‘briefing room’ for a fun introductory video and the usual safety spiel (don’t try to take the mirrors off the walls, guys!) before Mark led us to the room to get us started.

The first thing I noticed about Paris Escape was just how gosh darn pretty it is. Yes, I know I’ve just finished telling you the horrors of losing my documents, but there’s a moment when you step into this room where you’ll seriously consider calling out to Mark that you’d just rather apply for new documents and spend the week in this chic little room instead!

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Mark started the timer and we got down to business. Boxes and bags and drawers with clues lay scattered around the room. Plenty of locks (numerical, alphabetical and padlock style) awaited our eager search. Even so, the puzzles flowed logically, and there were always little hints about what went where so that we were never frustrated that we were putting a code in the wrong place. There was an absolute shipload of puzzles in this room – utilising everything from basic math and pattern recognition, to cryptic clues and sequencing. Just like sales shopping in Paris, we left a pile of boxes and suitcases and discarded receipts in our wake. Keeping the things we’d used and the things we hadn’t separate was an added challenge. Make sure you bring your mad searching skills to Paris Escape – you’re going to need them.

If you’re looking for a room suitable for children, Paris Escape is hard to beat. With so many physical locks, clues and the searchability of the room, kids are sure to be entertained. In fact, it was the Flowerchildren who discovered two major clues that we needed to solve the game (they have now decided that they simply must come to any future escape rooms, because, in their own words, we NEED them!) Even the maths puzzles, whilst challenging enough for adults, would be solvable by upper primary students with a little adult guidance (we’ve all seen ‘are you smarter than a 5th grader?’!). Other things this room really had in its favour for children was that the room is mood-lit but there’s no stumbling around in the dark (which I’m not a fan of anyway – I think it’s lazy design) and no torches to fight over. Plenty of things are hidden, but they’re all hidden in plain sight (as they should be!) Paris Escape really shows why kid’s room escape birthday parties are taking off as the new thing.

I know ‘relaxing’ isn’t a word you’d usually associate with room escape, but I would use it to describe Paris Escape. This room was just so much fun and so enjoyable, the puzzles all in keeping with the theme, and it did not have to be high tech for all of us to walk away with smiles on our faces. Even with the Flowerchildren wanting to unlock all the padlocks, we got out with five minutes to spare.

img-8839_origTechnically, Mark utilises the Voice of God system and watches your progress from four cameras spread around the room. We asked for one hint and were directed accordingly, and on two other occasions, Mark gave us a nudge when we were off-track which we appreciated. When we asked for the hint Mark did his best French accent which was hilarious (and actually very good!) and really added to the immersion in the game. You can tell how passionate he is.

At the end of the session, we were given a print-out showing how we went compared to average room-goers, broken down by puzzle, which was a cool little added extra (and showed we’re fast puzzle-solvers but not great searchers!)

It’s also worth noting that Paris Room is one of the few rooms in Sydney that can be completed by a solo player.

 

Location / Outside the Room

Social Escape is in Alexandria and there’s plenty of on-street parking right out front. The building Social Escape resides in appears industrial, but there’s a huge, unmissable sign out front which makes it easy to find, just head upstairs until you reach the foyer. Whilst utilitarian, the waiting room is spacious enough to accommodate large groups.

Undoubtedly though, outside of the room itself, the star of Social Escape Rooms is Mark, the owner. He greeted us warmly, chatted with us like friends before the experience, and after the room gave us a peek into the Baker Street Sherlock Holmes room and let us have a look at construction on his new room, Bank Heist. He was even happy to show us his computer set-up and share some anecdotes.

 

Overall Verdict

A really fun, immersive room with an amazing game master and lots of puzzles to solve. If you’re an experienced solo player, this is the room for you. Similarly, if you’re looking for a room to do with children, this is the perfect room.

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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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