In October 2023, my usual team of 4 returned to Next Level Escape to play their latest room, Forest of Echoes. We have played all of the other rooms designed by Next Level over the years (including online rooms and even some pop-up rooms at cons) and we have always loved their rooms. They are rooms designed by enthusiasts for enthusiasts, and it shows.
Forest of Echoes was our 229th escape room. The summary of the room from their website is as follows:
All right, scouts! Are you ready for your big adventure in the woods? Don’t mind the rumours about the forest being haunted by spirits, we’re pretty sure it’s all nonsense and poor old Sam will find their way back one day soon. After all, time can pass very quickly in there; morning to noon to evening to night and before you realise, it’s morning again! Stay safe in the woods, scouts – it’s everyone’s responsibility!
Here is what I thought of Forest of Echoes:
Next Level Escape sense of humour that we have come to love and expect was
included in our experience in Forest of Echoes.
Our game master (er, scout leader) took us through our mission briefing
and then led the way into the forest…;
in Forest of Echoes is truly beautiful. An immense amount of work has clearly gone
into the construction of the room – all surfaces inside the space have been considered
and hand-crafted, which really adds to the immersion. Adding to this are the impressive lighting
· there is a really strong backstory to the room and I think it is true to say that every single puzzle has been designed so as to link back to that backstory. That sounds like a pretty simple premise, but this is something that so many rooms do not do well. The backstory in Forest of Echoes is really strong and very well-considered [Quick side note – you can check out an interesting article by Scott Nicholson, a Canadian professor of game design and development, here with respect to the undeniable link between great back stories and immersive escape rooms]
unique element of Forest of Echoes is a mechanism which allows players to
control the time of day or night. The
entire experience has been designed around this aspect, as different puzzle
elements appear/react at different times of the day/night. Purely from a design perspective, this is uber
cool as it allows for various different experiences to occur within the same
space. The mechanism worked perfectly
and it soon became abundantly clear just how much hidden tech there is in the
space to make everything work;
Echoes is a non-linear (or multi-linear) room, which tends to suit my team over
a linear room (as it allows us to divide and conquer). However, although the room is a non-linear
room, some puzzles need to be solved (or even identified) at different times of the day/night, so
our team generally worked together on each puzzle. The signposting is subtle in the room, so
players will need a keen eye and attention to detail in some aspects to discover
all of the puzzles (and their solutions).
However, the game master (scout leader) is always available to assist
newer players in particular;
as far as
the difficulty level of the room, I think Forest of Echoes is pretty
challenging. We escaped (from memory) in about 62 minutes of the allowed 90
minutes, but I don’t feel like we were speeding through at any point in time;
Echoes is certainly one of the most high-tech rooms that we have played. The lighting (as well as other aspects) plays
a really pivotal role in the space, given the time changing mechanism. On that
front, this room will also appeal to that part of the market that that love
magic magnetic/RF car reader mechanisms over more traditional padlocks (as
there are none of the latter in sight in Forest of Echoes); and
· the room is only available for players 16 years or older. This is due to some light sexual and drug references, as well as the fact that there are many breakable elements in the room.
Our team was talking afterwards about Next Level Escape’s rooms and we agreed that their 5 rooms on offer (as well as their online rooms and previous pop-up rooms) are all so very different. The common denominator to all though is their humour, great puzzles, high quality theming and the fact that they ensure that players have a great experience. We really enjoyed Forest of Echoes and can’t wait to play their next room.
Where: Next Level Escape
Duration: 90 minutes
Cost: $60 per person (assuming team of 4)
Overall Rating: A beautiful and unique narrative driven adventure
More details: https://www.nextlevelescape.com.au/