Room Review: Robin Hood @ Escape Art

***Highly Recommended***

Where: Draškovićeva 53, 2nd floor (next to the Branimir Centre Entrance) 

Website: https://escapeart.hr

Contact: info@escapeart.hr

How Much?: From 300k – 550k, depending on team size and room played

How Many?: 2-6 players. Good sized rooms and enough puzzles for 4. 

Difficulty: 3.5/5 stars – intermediate 

First-Timer Friendly?: Yes. 

Kid Friendly?: Yes! . 

How we did: Completed September 2019. Team of 2. Success!

Required: Clues are in English and Croatian. At least one team member with physical co-ordination! (although the Games Master can step in to help if you require) 

Brief: 

The crown is stolen!

This is not the case of whodunit, because we already know who to blame for this – those two little weasels, Prince John and his shifty pal, Sheriff of Nottingham. Rumor has it that the crown is hidden somewhere in Sheriff’s office. Unfortunately, Robin is not in town at the moment, so it is up to you, his band of Merry Men, to fight this fight and make things right.
Luckily for you, those two are hungry little bastards, and they went out to the nearest tavern for lunch, to celebrate. But they’ll be back in 60 minutes! Get your detective cape on and jump into this window of opportunity! 

Find the crown, save the kingdom! No pressure.

The Experience: 

When I saw that Escape Art had a Robin Hood / medieval themed room, I immediately put it to the top of my list. I’ve never done a medieval-themed room, and boy, it was just what I needed in my life! I have to start by saying this room was stunningly decorated and so immersive. Wood-panelling lined the walls. There were beautiful lock-boxes and beer mugs and metal helms and a beautiful candelabra. The spears on the walls were removable, and I think I just carried one around for ten minutes because I could. Everything felt so fitting for the space. Instead of a digital timer, they gave us an hour glass. It was a lovely touch. 

The puzzles were also first rate. Many of the clues were little riddles that you had to solve, which I just found delightful. There were plenty of physical puzzles too. One which involved a famous piece of Robin Hood’s equipment was particularly fun! I think we got stuck twice but a quick hint from our Games Master got us right back on track. We solved the room with a few minutes to spare. 

Location / Outside the Room 

ClueGo is located on the second floor, just outside Branimir Centre. After our game, were able to go downstairs for a post-game beer. The Games Master was really lovely, talkative, warm and friendly. The reception area was cozy. 

Overall Verdict

For wow factor of thematics, this was my favourite room to date. I need more medieval themed rooms in my life! It was just so well put together and so much fun, I would almost go and do this room again just to experience it over again! Cannot recommend enough! 

Room Review: Mona Lisa Heist @ ClueGo

***Highly Recommended***

Where: Ul. kneza Borne 12, Zagreb (behind Hotel Sheraton), Croatia 

Website: https://www.cluego.eu/

Contact: +385 99 4563 099

How Much?: From 300k – 550k, depending on team size 

How Many?: 2-6 players. Very spacious rooms with plenty of room for a large group. 

Difficulty: Intermediate 

First-Timer Friendly?: Yes, but perhaps difficult for a first time. 

Kid Friendly?: Yes, so long as your children aren’t afraid of the dark. 

How we did: Completed September 2019. Team of 2. Success!

Required: Basic Maths and English 

Brief: 

Are you clever and brave enough to break into the gallery in the middle of the night and steal the famous Mona Lisa? 

The Experience: 

Meema and I chose ClueGo for our second room in Zagreb as we really liked that this room is 75-minutes, instead of the usual 60. That extra 15 minutes felt like it would make all the difference! We chose Mona Lisa Heist as it was the one that looked the most fun. 

We were greeted by our Games Master, who was also one of the two owners of ClueGo. It is always really lovely to meet the masterminds behind the games. 

While we waited, we watched a pre-recorded video of people inside the room we were going to enter (no spoilers!). It was funny to watch people wander around in the dark, knowing that would be us soon!

After our initial briefing, we were advised that Mona Lisa Heist would be completed in darkness with only our torches to guide us. I was a bit hesitant at first – I’ve had bad experiences with dimly lit rooms, where it seems like lazy game development to slow people down with unnecessarily dim light, but in this game it made perfect sense and added to the atmosphere. You are, after all, breaking into a museum in the middle of the night! To aid us, we were given head torches, rather than handheld, and a bag of extra torches in case the batteries ran out (an excellent touch as there’s nothing that spoils your game more than the games master having to enter the room to change your batteries!) 

ClueGo utilizes ‘Voice of God’ and full cameras, so the games master can always see what you’re doing. 

The first few minutes inside the room were chaos as we tried to get our bearings and search for our first clue. We looked everywhere and found it in the last possible place. This pretty much summed my experience of the room – it was so well designed with such lovely elements, but I could never quite see the answer to the puzzle. Luckily for me, Meema blitzed this room and pretty much solved everything! Mostly lock and key puzzles. There was one puzzle in the second room we just couldn’t solve, but it was only a matter of thinking a little more laterally. There was also added pressure by that stage as we could hear the police sirens and radio chatter growing ever louder as our time neared its end!

We finished the room and escaped with our precious artwork with only a couple of minutes to spare!

ClueGo Logo

Location / Outside the Room 

ClueGo is located in a set of apartments just behind the Sheraton Hotel in the centre of Zagreb, not far from the main train station, and a leisurely walk from our apartment. It is on one of the upper floors, but there is an elevator available. 

The reception area is really funky, decked out with three-seater airplane chairs! It was a cool touch. 

Overall Verdict

This was a great room. The rooms were enormous, sparsely decorated, yet what decorations there were, were really well done. It gave the feel of being in a museum. I loved the added sound effects. Meema said this is her favourite room to date because she really enjoyed the puzzles. We will definitely be coming back here!

Note: It appears ClueGo has updated their Mona Lisa room with all new puzzles, and renamed it Mona Lisa II. I am sure it is even better than the original! 

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: 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: 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: 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: Espionage @ The Cipher Room

***Highly Recommended***

Where: 640 King St, Newtown
Contact: info@cipherroom.com.au

How Much?: Sliding scale $37-$44 p.p depending on group size.

How Many? Billed as suitable for 2-8 people (rooms are fairly large, I’d suggest 2-4, but 6 would be comfortable)

Difficulty: House rates it 3/5

Kid Friendly? First-Timer Friendly?:  Yes to both. No scary content, lots of puzzles that children could participate in, puzzles flow logically.

How we did: Completed Nov 2017. Team of 2. Both first-timers. Escaped with 5 seconds left and two clues given.

 

The Brief:

It’s 1945 and you’ve just been recruited as a spy. You receive an urgent message from another agent. She needs to meet you at a safe house where she’s been conducting surveillance. Once you arrive, you discover that she’s nowhere to be found. However, before she fled ‘Agent M’ managed to leave you a series of clues. You need to solve these puzzles to locate the secret she’s been protecting.

Where did the agent go? Why did she leave in such a hurry? And what mission does she need you to complete?

 

The Experience: 

Magical.

I just don’t have enough superlatives to tell you how fabulously immersive and clever this room was, and what a wonderful first escape room experience I had at The Cipher Room. 

From the moment we were blindfolded and led into the room until the moment our enthusiastic gamemaster met us at the door just under an hour later, we were immersed in the WWII mission.

Our gamemaster read our brief as we stood in the dark. Our timer would start when the door closed.  As the door banged shut we took off our blindfolds to find ourselves in the first room, beautifully appointed and faithful to the period – a starkly-furnished 1940s office. We immediately set to work hunting down clues to the haunting tunes of an old radio station playing in the background.

The puzzles were many and varied; lots of physical clues, locks, cryptic problem-solving, and a few pen-and-paper type puzzles (we were given a whiteboard for that eventuality!) All the puzzles were beautifully crafted with so much attention to detail, and each one fitted perfectly with the theme of the room. Nothing felt out of place, and none of the puzzles felt like you were doing them ‘just because’. Each enhanced the game’s immersion.

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When we finally opened it, we found the second room as immaculately furnished as the first, with old volumes lining the shelves, and clothing and other items perfectly suited to the period. (Much of the furniture in Espionage was purchased locally from Newtown’s many second-hand shops.) Despite that, nothing looked worn out or tired – we could have been the first people to ever step into Espionage.

Only two of us working on the mission meant we could not ‘divide and conquer’. We generally worked together on each puzzle, one after another. This worked really well for us, but the sheer number of puzzles in the rooms meant that by the time we reached the third room, we were starting to suffer from mental fatigue and needed a very obvious hint to kick us off again! Three or four people would work well in this room as there were always two puzzles that could be done at the same time (although it was doable by two, especially if you’re like me and want to be involved in EVERY puzzle).

The monitoring system in Cipher room is fantastic, with the gamemaster watching every move. Simply speak to the walls and they speak back! Our gamemaster offered help along the way by saying: ‘would you like me to point your attention towards something?’ when we were clearly struggling, and his hints were very gentle, allowing us to still enjoy the satisfaction of solving each puzzle on our own.

We received our final key and raced to the door, opening it with only five seconds to spare.

Outside The Room 

Service was fabulous. We were met at the door by our friendly gamemaster who explained the rules (which were very clear) and took questions (from us newbies) before taking us into the room to conduct our briefing. The foyer area was well-appointed with a number of lovely metal puzzles to play with (not that I played with any – I was too excited/nervous to get started!) Extra touches which really added to the magic of this place: a ‘welcome’ email with special instructions prior to starting the game, and an emailed photo of the team, and thank you after playing.

Location

Cipher Room is on King Street, located amongst a plethora of trendy cafes and some excellent second-hand bookshops! You could either drive or use public transport – as we went in the middle of the day we parked on King St almost out front. St Peters is the nearest station (5 min walk).

Overall Verdict

Fabulous. I cannot recommend this place highly enough! I suspect The Cipher Room has set an extremely high bar, with every aspect of this room being immersive and exquisitely crafted. I couldn’t stop talking about this room for hours (days) after. I am an addict. Thank you Cipher Room! 

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