Sunday, 15 October 2017
Just a quick update to my earlier post on the AR Escapes live action event (you can see my earlier post here).
Things aren't looking good for the event. Many customers (including me) who purchased tickets back in July still haven't received our tickets. Many of us have written to AR Escapes via email and Facebook and we have received no response at all.
If I hear anything from them, I'll post an update here. However, I wouldn't recommend buying any tickets at this stage.
A similar thing happened last year with a Werewolf escape live action experience that was supposed to be run in Sydney, but which never got off the ground. I did manage to get my money back last time though...
Around Christmas time in 2015, I designed my own escape room for my wife and friends. I spent months coming up with puzzles and the room flow, which was really challenging (and gave me a better idea of the amount of work that goes into designing rooms). It also gave me an even greater respect for those room owners who design their own rooms from scratch!
The day of my escape was a bit of a shemozzle – I used my half-built house for the escape and half way through the escape, a bunch of painters walked in and asked us to leave. You can read the summary of my experience here.
Skip forward to July 2017 and my friend Matt, a member of my usual escape room team, put the final touches on an escape room that he had spent 18 months designing for us. Matt’s escape was a music-themed room. It was full of a heap of puzzles, all bespoke to our particular team.
This particular escape room was our 45th escape room in Sydney, and our 58th escape room in Australia.
It was uber special in that it was a one night only escape room, built and designed just for us.
I’m not going to review this room in the traditional way – to do so would serve little point given that you all can’t check it out yourselves (sorry about that). What I am going to do though is provide a bit of a summary of the room, discuss some of the puzzles and show you some photos of the big day. I’m doing this in the hope that some of you might become enthusiastic about creating your own escape room for friends/family. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun!
So we arrived at Matt’s house. We parked our eldest daughter in front of Netflix and put the youngest down for a sleep. We were set.
We then walked up to the venue for the escape room, being Matt’s lounge room. There, on the couch, sat the famous Max von Riff. As you are all no doubt aware (assuming that you haven’t been sitting under a rock for the last 2 decades), Max is an uber famous rock star. Needless to say, we were a little star struck upon getting to meet him and seeing that hair and those tat sleeves in real life...
Max reminded us that the reason for us being there that day was to audition to work with him on future music projects. To test our skills, he had cunningly set up a number of challenges for us to work through. So we got to work….
One of the props that Max, er Matt, had made for the escape room was a Max von Riff calendar, showing Max with the many famous artists that he has worked with over the years. I have included a couple of photos below (without permission from the artist/photographer).
As you can see, Max von Riff has changed his look over the years. The more recent photo of him with Taylor Swift is my fave. After about 10 minutes of examining (ie laughing) at the photos, we started on the puzzles…
There was a really cool mix of puzzles. One involved about a dozen drum sticks that had been cut down to different lengths. Matt had drilled holes of varying depths into a wooden block and we had to put the numbered drum sticks in order of tallest to shortest and then use the numbers in that order to solve the puzzle. That puzzle clearly took a heap of work to put together.
Another cool puzzle was a guitar that Matt had removed the back from and had then placed a ping pong ball inside which contained a hidden note. The challenge was to navigate the ping pong ball through a straw minefield…
One of my favourite puzzles was sitting down with Max and watching the famous film clip for the Foo Fighters’ Learn to Fly (which apparently Max was heavily involved in). We soon realised that the puzzle was to pick how many characters were played by each of the band members. Here’s a still of the film clip for those of you who aren’t cool enough to know this gem of a film clip…
One other cool puzzle was the use of a TSA key card lock, which I had never seen before. It’s effectively a lock that is opened by placing a small card (about the size of a credit card) into the lock. The card has a special set of holes cut into it, which releases the lock mechanism. We managed to find Max’s wallet in the couch and after examining its contents, we found a card that had the correct tiny hole pattern to open up the lock. This was a really cool lock mechanism and one that I have not seen before or since in any escape rooms in Australia. See below a photo of the lock and Star Casino card we used on the day to open the lock. (As a nice touch and hint, we received a sultry text message on Max’s phone during the escape from an admirer of his asking us to meet her at Star City after his next gig – this pointed us to the Star City card). You can see more about this kind of lock here and in the photo below:
Matt is an electrical engineer, so we also had a cool puzzle that used some tech. We had to work out the answer to a puzzle that utilised information through the Max von Riff calendar. We then used cables on the outside of a box that Matt had created which opened when the correct circuit had been connected. Here’s a photo:
Another really cool puzzle that Max had designed for us was to check out our audio mixing skills. We opened up his computer to find a heap of different drum tracks, bass tracks, lead guitar tracks and vocal tracks. Among the many tracks (maybe 2 dozen or more), there was one particular drum, guitar, bass and vocal track that all went together as a song. That was a challenging but fun puzzle.
There were a heap of puzzles for us to get through. I think it took us over 2.5 hours to work our way through them all, but it was a heap of fun.
Kudos to Matt on putting together an awesome escape room. The highlight for me was easily the Max von Riff calendar. The was made even funnier by the fact that when Matt had the calendar printed at Big W, Big W lost the first printing and then had to reprint it.
So I like to imagine the first printing sits on a wall in a Big W staff room somewhere…
So I like to imagine the first printing sits on a wall in a Big W staff room somewhere…
Where: Matt’s house
Duration: 2.5 hours plus
Cost: We played at the kind invitation of Matt
Overall Rating: Awesome, fun and challenging room with a cracker calendar…
Thursday, 17 August 2017
Some of you might know that my team and I went down to Melbourne about 2 years ago to do a long weekend of escape rooms. We managed to get through 10 rooms in 2.5 days, which was both tiring and awesome. I set up a separate blog for the Melbourne rooms here.
We're heading back down to Melbourne in January - I've booked the flights and now I have to sort out which escape rooms we are going to do. This time we will have 4 days worth of escape rooms to do ;-)
I'd be grateful for any room recommendations from any of you who have checked out the rooms on offer in Melbourne. I've already tried all of the ERM rooms, all of the Rush Escape Rooms and the first 2 EscapeXperience rooms.
My team is obviously pretty experienced, so I'm not looking for beginner level rooms. I'm after clever or creative rooms - that are a bit different to the norm, rooms that are really challenging but utterly immersive, or rooms that have a great back story and were truly fun and enjoyable.
If you can recommend any rooms that fit that bill, I'd be very grateful.
I haven't posted a room review for a while because we have pretty much tried all of the rooms on offer in Sydney. We're hoping to get down to Canberra and up to Newcastle to try a few more rooms soon. That being said, one of my team members spent over a year designing a special one time only escape room that the rest of our team tried a few weeks back. I'm working on a review and summary of that too, which I'll post here shortly.
Friday, 4 August 2017
I recently learned about an interactive escape experience that is coming to Sydney (and to Melbourne and Adelaide) . The outfit is AR Escapes. The Sydney experience runs on 11 November - it's a one day event.
The theme of the experience is Jack the Ripper. Here's the summary from their website:
The world's first city-wide augmented reality escape experiences. This is a fully interactive experience across multiple city blocks, that also includes the added element of a real "killer" walking through the streets with their own beacon that knocks you out of the experience if they get within 10 meters of you.
The whole experience goes for between 1.5 hours and 2 hours. One hour into the game, they let the killer loose and from that point on, if the killer gets within 10 meters of you, you're out. I understand that they use your mobile phone to track your location during the experience. The idea of the game is to work through crime scenes and presumably figure out who the Ripper is before he (or she) finds you.
I bought my tickets on the day that they were released (I was a tad excited). It sounds awesome to me, so my fingers are crossed that the experience will live up to my pretty high expectations.
They currently have a 50% discount on tickets for early bird purchases. I'm not sure when the early bird discount runs out, but at $50 per person (rather than $100), you should get in quick.
You can check out their website here.
I'll be there in the final session of the day in Sydney, so I might see you there!
Marise from The Cipher Room recently informed me about Aus Escape Week.
Various escape room owners across Australia have banded together to have a special escape room week, which will take place between 11 and 17 September. Participating escape room owners will donate 20% of the profits that they make during that week to the Black Dog Institute, a charity that is dedicated to understanding, preventing and treating mental illness.
I understand that Jesse and Chris from the Riddle Room in Canberra are the leading force behind Aus Escape Week. You can read more about Aus Escape Week here - the website also contains a list of those escape room companies that are taking part.
It is awesome when "competitors" in a small business community come together for a great cause. It also doesn't hurt that each of the NSW escape rooms that are taking part all have amazing rooms!
Thursday, 1 June 2017
My team checked out Jetpack Theatre's Art Heist this past weekend. We were our usual group of 4 adults, together with our now 7 month old "baby criminal" accomplice strapped to one of our chests.
Art Heist was our 57th room in Australia and our 44th room in Sydney.
This review is going to be a little different from my normal reviews in that I would describe Art Heist as more of an immersive theatre experience than a traditional escape room. The aim of the game is not to solve 20 puzzles and open the exit door - instead, they have crafted a very immersive space where the aim is to evade, fool, distract, dodge, steal and run.
I REALLY want to go into some of the amazing details of this experience, but I can't without giving spoilers. What I think I can say without giving anything away is that there are a number of actors in the space with you, which is a very different dynamic to almost all other escape rooms in Sydney. The actors did such a great job - they were funny and were very good at improv.
I think the story, room design and puzzle design are incredibly well-considered. It is one of those rare experiences where it seems very simple at first glance, but when you step back and really consider it, you can see just how much planning and design went into so many aspects.
The experience starts in a small waiting room where Jim, the director of Art Heist, met us and gave us the background story. We were then let into the space, where we had 45 minutes to achieve the objective.
This was hands down the most pure fun I have had in an escape room (or escape room like) experience. We spent the whole time giggling and acting like 5 year olds playing hide and seek. At one point, all of us (4 adults and one baby) were hiding together under a table with our butts and feet hanging out the sides while a security guard walked past us whistling a tune.
The only real shame about Art Heist is that it is only open for a 2 month run. It is due to finish on 30 July. I sincerely hope that Jetpack Theatre's first foray into the "escape room meets immersive theatre" world is successful, so that they might run another experience again soon.
Not everyone agrees with my reviews on here (which is completely fair enough - I'm always happy to hear different people's experiences and views). But I am utterly convinced that it is impossible to not enjoy Art Heist.
If you don't do this room before it ends on 30 July, you are a foolish fool of a fool ;-)
Where: 404 New Canterbury Road, Dulwich Hill
Duration: 45 minutes (plus briefing)
Cost: $40.50 each (4 players)
Overall Rating: A game of cat and mouse which was off the charts fun.
More details: http://www.jetpacktheatre.com/art-heist/
Sunday, 14 May 2017
My usual team of 4 adults (along with our apprentice 6 month old daughter) checked out Second Telling Missions’ Sabotage the Enigma over the Easter long weekend.
I was contacted by Patrick, the owner of Second Telling Missions some time back when he was in the building phase of his escape room. My team had all been looking forward to heading to Second Telling Missions since I told them that they were opening up a room with live actors – a kind of hybrid of your typical escape room and a theatrical experience. To my knowledge, they are the only escape room in Sydney that offers this mix (with the exception of a pop-up escape room that is being run by Jetpack Theatre for a limited time 2 month run – see my note about that one here). I love the idea of having an actor in the room with you.
This was our 55th room (and our 43rd room in Sydney so far). We also escaped from Second Telling Mission’s first room, Rescue the White Rose, on the same day as trying Sabotage the Enigma. You can see my separate review on Rescue the White Rose here.
So, as always I’ll start with what I enjoyed most about Sabotage the Enigma:
- as with Rescue the White Rose, the theatrical element to this room starts before you even enter the room. Your mission, as explained to you by the game master, is to assist a resistance organisation and break into a top-secret army communications centre and sabotage the Enigma key-distribution mechanism.
- Second Telling Missions have both a café (White Rose Café) and their escape rooms together in the one space. This was really cool as far as atmospheres go for briefing (and debriefing) for an escape room experience. I’m also very pleased to report that their coffees, hot chocolates and biscuits were all awesome ;-)
- our game master is a professional actor (and playwright) who goes by the stage name Seymour Nixen. She was fantastic (in both this room and in Rescue the White Rose). I enjoyed Sabotage the Enigma the most out of Second Telling Missions two rooms. The reason was simple – in Sabotage the Enigma, the game master/actor was inside the room with us, which made for such a unique, funny and fun experience.
- The actor plays the role of a security guard at the facility that our team was trying to infiltrate. The level of interaction was unlike anything I have experienced in an escape room before. I can’t go into too much here without giving spoilers, but trying to tip toe around a security guard and later interact with him/her was a really fascinating twist on the typical escape room. At times we were searching the guard for clues (without her knowing). At other times our actor/game master accidentally spoke in the wrong accent, which had us all laughing (the actor included). Again, it’s hard to go into any detail on this without giving spoilers, but suffice it to say that it was one of the most fun (and memorable) escape room experiences I have had.
- I can see this level of interaction being really popular with kids, as they try to sneak by guards or search the guard without them knowing it. I think of their two rooms, this is the room that is best suited to family teams. I’m often asked for room recommendations for family teams. I really think this would be a great room for families – the puzzles are not impossibly difficult and kids would love the interaction element.
- This room was pretty challenging. We escaped in around 50 minutes, which puts it at the more difficult end of the market. However, I wasn’t sweating bullets – we plodded along pretty nicely with this room.
- Second Telling Missions has done a great job of theming this room. Many (if not all) of the puzzles are hand-made. A really cool aspect of both rooms at Second Telling Missions is that in many ways you are receiving a history lesson while playing, although Rescue the White Rose is probably the more historically accurate of the two rooms. There were a couple of puzzles in this room which were of a type we had never seen before, which was fantastic.
- We didn’t have any issues with the hint-delivery system in this room, given that the person giving the hints was inside the room with us. I can confirm that this system of providing hints is my absolute favourite system – it’s even better than the “voice of God” system where players simply speak and the game master responds over the loud speaker. The ability for the game master to see exactly what players are doing means that they can provide precise hints, rather than more generic hints. There are also no problems with voices being muffled or difficult to hear (which is often the case when using walkie talkies) and you have the added benefit of being able to read lips and body language. I had concerns going in that having a game master in the room might make players more likely to ask the game master for hints (perhaps than players might otherwise do in a more typical escape room where the game master is outside of the room). I am pleased to report that we didn’t have any issues on this front (but other teams might push this element).
As for the negative, I’m pleased to report that just like their Rescue the White Rose room, there really isn’t too much to report on the negative side for Sabotage the Enigma either. I have given Patrick some suggested tweaks on a few things, which he was really receptive to. I should also note again that we were beta testing this room, so it hadn’t yet opened to the public (and I understand that Patrick has acted on some of my suggestions). My suggestions were things like room flow improvements (to avoid bottleneck puzzles), adding a couple of puzzles or slightly tweaking some existing puzzles to make them a little easier to follow. My other main suggestion was to turn up the level of interaction even more with the game master/actor, as that is the element that truly sets this room apart from the pack.
Patrick and our game master again walked us through each of the puzzles at the end of the game following our escape, which was great. He also pointed out the various “easter eggs” hidden throughout the puzzles.
As always the main factor I consider in reviewing rooms is how much fun we had. I can honestly say that we all had such a fun and memorable time in Sabotage the Enigma. I can see with a few minor tweaks, this room is going to be a truly unique, must do room in Sydney. We were challenged, we learned something about history and we had a lot of fun!
Also, Patrick has been kind enough to provide readers of this blog with a special 15% discount for bookings until the end of June. When making a booking on their website, use the discount code "IREADSCOTT" for the discount!
Where: 397 King Street, Newtown
Duration: 60 minutes
Themes: 2 currently
Cost: $39.50 each (4 players) (*we played at the kind invitation of the owner)
Overall Rating: Heaps of fun and the most interactive room we have tried so far
More details: https://www.secondtelling.com/