Friday, 8 January 2016

Break the Code Plus - Da Vinci review

This time some of my friends from my work went to Break The Code Plus to try their final room (and to use up my final Scoopon voucher).  We were a team of 4 adults – 3 relatively experienced players and one new player.  We went there in December 2015.  This was my 24th room in Sydney (and 34th room in Australia), so far...

I have had really inconsistent experiences at Break the Code Plus in the past – their Lost room was great, but their other rooms were poorly designed, lacked creative puzzles, were plagued with technical issues, etc.

After having done their Lost room most recently, I was really hopeful that Da Vinci would be a decent room. 

As for what I liked most about the Da Vinci room at Break the Code Plus:
  • the theming was pretty strong.  For the most part, the puzzles and props all suited the room (see below for the exception);
  • there was a pretty good variety of puzzles – one puzzle in particular worked flawlessly and used technology I had never seen before, which was pretty cool;
  • they have listened to earlier feedback and now use walkie talkies to communicate with players (rather than ruining the immersion by walking into the room to provide clues/guidance);
  • there was lots to do for a group of 4 people, which was good; and
  • for the most part, it was clear from the puzzles as to what we needed to do (although not always).

Now, for what I didn’t like so much:

  • ·    a couple of the puzzles were a little clunky (but not as clunky as their other rooms, like Avatar for example, which is easily their worst room) – I think the instructions could be tweaked to improve this quite easily;
  • we had a technical issue while we were there.  Without giving any spoilers, there is something out of reach which is supposed to come into reach upon solving a puzzle.  The puzzle didn’t work, but we were able to reach the certain something and we then progressed through the game (without having solved the non-working puzzle).  This needs to be fixed;
  • their standard pricing is simply too expensive for the quality of this room.  There are much better escape room outfits in Sydney that are far cheaper;
  • there is one relatively cool puzzle (again, no spoilers) but it was poorly designed – we have seen similar technology at Enigma Room which was much better designed and worked flawlessly (and very logically) – the solution to the puzzle in Da Vinci was similar but pretty illogical and poorly designed; and
  • my biggest gripe with this room by far was one particular puzzle, which is the seoncd last puzzle for the room.  We managed to get to this puzzle in about 35 minutes, so we were tracking pretty well.  However, this puzzle was simply too difficult for non-musically trained people.


It’s really hard to explain my gripes with this puzzle without going into a little more detail.  The puzzle is a laser puzzle, with each laser being a different musical note when the laser beam is disturbed.  I think there were 8 or so lasers (ie notes) in total.  In order to solve this puzzle, you had to replicate a song with the notes.  The song contained 23 notes (no, that’s not a typo). 

I recall when speaking with one of the designers at ERM in Melbourne about their original room (and the first escape room in Melbourne and Australia for that matter), they said the one puzzle that stumped most teams in their room was a musical puzzle.  That puzzle required you to replicate a 4 note pattern using 3 notes.  We got it on the first go, but the owner told me that so many people are tone deaf that it was a real problem. 

Compare that to a 23 note melody in Da Vinci.  I have some musical training (albeit a long time ago) and so did one other member of our team, but we tried for some 30 minutes on this puzzle without any luck.  We all found this puzzle incredibly frustrating –it honestly zapped all of the fun we had had up to that moment in Da Vinci.  The melody we were given to copy was really fast – you couldn’t slow it down and it seemed (at least to me) to be in a different key to the notes on the lasers – even when I heard the correct pattern, it just sounded off to me.

This laser puzzle also did not suit the theme of Da Vinci at all.  It really let down the rest of the theming, which was pretty good.  Break the Code Plus seem to throw in high tech for the sake of high tech – I would prefer a well themed, low tech room to a high tech room that doesn’t match the theme. 

A further problem with difficult musical puzzles is that there is no way to give a clue.  And indeed when we were finally given a “clue” it was effectively the answer written on pieces of laminated paper which the game master slid under the door.

This is a really poorly-designed puzzle - it requires too much musical knowledge/skill and it completely ruins the theming of this room.  When I told the game master that I thought this puzzle was simply too difficult for non-musically trained players, he said that they find that normally there is at least one musically-trained person in each team.  Needless to say I did not find this response useful or satisfactory!

I found this room to be incredibly (and entirely unnecessarily) frustrating. The first 75% was great – the last 25% was shite.

Where:                        Level 1, 741 George Street, Haymarket, NSW

Duration:                    60 minutes

Themes:                     6 themes (which will apparently change often)

Cost:                           $180 (for a team of 4) (although we had a Groupon for $80)

Overall Summary:     Requires skills not held by the average person in order to escape – avoid this room.    

More details:   


  1. Totally agree with the music challenge it was impossible with my group

  2. I agree too with the music challenge. Our team of 8 just didn't manage to solve it. We also had 2 technical puzzles that didn't work, one of them the game master came in the room to help us and then it worked and the other two game masters tried but neither could make it work even though we all had the correct solution, so they ended up opening the door to the next room for us (not sure if those issues have been resolved).

    1. Glad to know it wasn't just our group with the music puzzle. Even if I had managed to solve it in time, I would still say it's way too hard for the average Joe. It sounds like we had similar technical issues to you in the second room. Over all then, I have had technical issues in all but one of their 5 rooms, which is pretty poor.

  3. Completely agree with you and others on music challenge. I went with my fiance, neither of us play an instrument and we had to have him come in and get us through it. We also did it before the walkie talkies came in so very glad they have at least listen to that piece of feedback. We told him that playing in instrument may not be as common as he thinks but anyway.

  4. Agree completely about the musical puzzle. I've seen the exact same puzzle at another room (with only 12 notes), and hated it there too. And I agree that the solution is in a different pitch to the clue. Found that this room had great theme and decor, but didn't like any of the puzzles (well, maybe the 2nd last room) - we found the puzzles alternated between really simple/lazy design, annoyingly ambiguous (like the very first one - not much fun in a group of 2) or the impossible music challenge. It's too bad, because the decor was really immersive - possibly the best I've seen in Sydney.