Monday, 29 February 2016

Exitus Escape Room Macquarie – Moonshot Review

My usual fellow escape room buddies and I (4 adults in total) tried this room (at the invitation of Exitus Escape Room Macquarie) on their opening long weekend in February 2016.  This was our 25th room in Sydney (and our 35th room in Australia) so far…

Strike Bowling already runs Escapism at King Street Wharf in Sydney (and in other states of Australia as well).  They recently acquired Exitus, an independent escape room operator in Melbourne, which had mixed reviews on TripAdvisor.  The rooms at Exitus Escape Room Macquarie are a mix of rooms designed by Exitus (Moonshot and Injustice) and Escapism (Forensic).  Interestingly, Forensic at King Street Wharf is being replaced soon with Casino Royale, which is supposed to be their hardest room.

My team had already escaped from each of the 3 Escapism rooms at King Street Wharf and those rooms were reasonably good (but the service was below average), so we went into Exitus Macquarie with average/low expectations.

Normally, I set out the pros and cons of a room in my reviews.  However, I really don’t have many good things to say about this room, which was really disappointing for all in my team.

I do however have a very long list of the things that I didn’t like (or which could (and should) be improved):

1.     There was no story in this room.  The puzzles had no bearing to the storyline in any way.

2.     The puzzles themselves were not well designed.  All of the puzzles had been done before elsewhere.  They were clunky – the solutions were not perfect (often requiring additional clues in the form of blacklight text hidden in the room) to solve.  We all found the puzzles annoying.

3.     One of my bigger annoyances with this room is that there is one puzzle in particular that has a fundamental error in it.  I won’t give spoilers, but the only way to solve this particular puzzle is with a clue (because the “answer” is simply incorrect).

4.     The above-mentioned puzzle is all kinds of wrong.  It requires external knowledge to solve (many tourists probably won’t have a chance with this puzzle).  They also use a blacklight marker to provide a clue for players, but they acknowledge that this “rubs off” easily so it really isn’t of any benefit.  There are other major flaws with this puzzle but I can’t go into it any further without providing spoilers.

5.     The flow of the room is poor.  There is no wow factor puzzle or props – they are all just “meh”. 

6.     We had to rush the final puzzle because we were running out of time (in the end we only escaped with 6 seconds on the clock).  I think this last puzzle is probably the only decent puzzle in Moonshot.

7.     Another aspect that I didn’t like is the clue system.  My feedback on Strike Bowling’s Escapism rooms at King Street Wharf was that the escape rooms are an “add on” to Strike’s main business of alcohol sales (together with bowling and karaoke).  Almost every time with Escapism, we called for clues and the phone rang out, or we escaped and nobody knew we had done so (until we lined up at the bar and made our way to the front to speak with the gamemaster/bartender). 

8.     What is Strike’s solution to this?  Make the clue system almost entirely automated, requiring little to no staff member involvement.  That’s right, there are QR codes all over the room and if you get stuck, you can get a clue or an answer to any puzzle (but this costs 5 points and 10 points respectively).  It is still not clear to me what “points” are – I assume they add to your total time to escape, but I’m not sure if one point equals one minute.  I find this really lazy and it does not at all address my criticism that in order to have a great experience, you need a dedicated gamemaster for each room.  Their hint system is even worse than Escapism – instead of having a busy bartender/gamemaster, you now have no gamemaster at all.

9.     Despite the fact that we only just made it out in time, there were not nearly enough puzzles in this room.  There were 5 puzzles in total, which is about the fewest puzzles of any room I can think of (with the exception perhaps of Escapism’s The Garden).  If the puzzles were better designed (and didn’t contain errors), I think players could easily escape this room in half the allowed time.  A lack of interesting, different puzzles is yet another failing of this room.

10.  Another aspect of their automated clue system that I really dislike is that after escaping from the room, you then need to run outside and scan another QR code on the wall to “stop the clock”.  This is poorly thought through.  There is one QR exit code for all of the rooms at Exitus Macquarie.  So what happens when 2 or more rooms get out at the same time – I can see this not working well at all.

11.  Some of you also won’t like the fact that Exitus Macquarie will take your credit card on arrival.  This is to cover your drinks/food purchases but also to cover them for any damage you cause to the room.  They will also make you lock up your phones for the duration of the escape (this always annoys me given we typically have our kid with a babysitter, who can’t contact us in the case of an emergency).

12.  Consistent with Escapism, they also book you in for a certain time and then make you wait 30 minutes (or thereabouts) before going into the room.  This is a not-so-subtle attempt at getting you to buy drinks/food from the bar/waiting area. 

13.  Their prices are too steep for the quality of this room.  Their prices are a flat rate for the room, which is $100 Mon-Thurs or $150 Fri-Sun.  For a standard group of 4 people, this puts their weekend rate at about the most expensive in Sydney at $37.50 per head, and couples at an amazing $75 per head.  The room does not justify anywhere near this price tag.

14.  I have also made this comment with Escapism – I think they are cheap to only offer 50 minutes to escape.  This is again aimed at making money and not at providing a great experience for customers. 

15.  I personally do not think that Exitus Macquarie will be a successful enterprise.  They are a cheap outfit that doesn’t value immersive, customer-centred experiences, but instead have gone for cheap, poorly designed rooms as an “add on” to their main game of drinks sales, bowling and karaoke. I think their King Street Wharf partner Escapism will be more successful because they have the benefit of the tourist trade and busy Saturday nights.  Macquarie Centre, in contrast, is pretty dead of an evening.  In order for escape room outfits to survive out of the CBD and major tourist hubs, they need to rely on excellent word of mouth.  I just don’t see that happening here.

16.  And now, this brings us to by far my largest annoyance with my experience at Moonshot (and which has necessarily coloured my overall experience and my views on the rest of the room, which I accept are pretty harsh).  We had the worst gamemaster we have had in 35 rooms to date by a large margin (and this includes several rooms which had no gamemaster at all).  Any other gamemasters out there, read the below exchange of words between ourselves and the gamemaster and consider it a lesson in how not to speak to customers:

Strike employee:  “So what did you guys think of the room?”

Me:   “To be honest, I didn’t like it.  Can you explain the last puzzle to me?”

Strike employee:  “No, unfortunately because you didn’t escape I can’t tell you about it”

Me (and the rest of my team in unison):   “Um, we did escape – you just met us outside (we opened the door, not you?)”

Strike employee:  “Hold on, you all need to take a breath, it’s just a game” (she says with an unbelievably condescending smile on her face)

* My team and I then just stare at her blankly – none of us quite believing what was coming out of her mouth

And finally, in a yet another poorly-considered move, the Strike employee looks at me in particular and says “sir, you’re still not breathing” (with that condescending smile still very much present)

By this time I had steam coming out of my ears – I don’t like being spoken to like a piece of shit by anyone, let alone by a gamemaster at an escape room where my team has gone to have fun.  I had to bite my tongue so hard not to tell this gamemaster where to go.  She has no place working in customer service (or needs a heck of a lot of training before she should be put in front of customers). I mean seriously?

Thankfully, 2 other gamemasters/employees spoke with us and seemed to genuinely take our feedback on board. 

Simply put, this is a very weak room, with clunky puzzles (some of which contain manifest errors) and there is no story to be seen.

I first read the blurb on this room and thought it sounded fantastic – I was genuinely excited to see what they could do with such a cool subject matter.  I was beyond disappointed with the reality of the room.   

I cannot for the life of me understand why Strike Bowling would want to buy the rights to this room.  Their own rooms at Escapism are far superior in quality, theme and puzzles. 

As always, the major determining factor in how I judge rooms is the fun factor.  We simply didn’t have fun.  And if we had have had some fun, the gamemaster stripped that away in mere seconds.

Where:                        Macquarie Centre (Herring Road and Waterloo Road, North Ryde)

Duration:                    50 minutes

Themes:                      3 themes 

Cost:                           $100 (flat room rate Mon-Thurs and $150 Fri-Sun)

Overall Summary:     Hugely disappointing with a rude gamemaster

More details:     


  1. Did an escape room with Strike @ King St Wharf, we asked the guy about the last puzzle, he also refused to answer...

  2. Did an escape room with Strike @ King St Wharf, we asked the guy about the last puzzle, he also refused to answer...

    1. I think that's really poor of them to not give you the answer. If you're still interested in knowing the answer, send me an email - I've done all of the KSW rooms...

  3. Strike at KSW has also updated to be Exitus, and has now included the QR code system for clues.

    Casino has now opened and I played it across the weekend and felt the same about how you felt about these room - would be interested to see your thoughts on this one!

    In our opinion, the clues you get from the QR codes almost seemed necessary to the game, otherwise at some points you just had no direction at all, and even then the puzzles didn't seem that well thought out.

    You receive a 5 minute penalty for the initial clue, and a 10 minute penalty to reveal the full answer - pretty hard to get out in time considering you pretty much NEED the clues to proceed in some cases.

    Found this room harder than Forensic, for the fact it was too difficult to find out what to do with a puzzle, rather than the puzzles being too hard themselves - look forward to seeing what you think!

    1. Hi puzzles

      To be honest, I'm still annoyed too much with this place to consider going back in the near future to try the Casino room.

      Never say never, but not likely to be any time soon.

      My team (and I'm betting every team out there) loves to escape from a room. That being said, I am also very happy to be beaten by a well-designed room - there are few things better than being told the solution to a puzzle and kicking yourself because it was so clever.

      But being beaten (or almost beaten) by a crappy room just isn't fun. When a room becomes so frustrating or tedious that you could gladly call it a day and head home, you know it is a shite room.

      Moonshot certainly met this criteria.


  4. Yikes!! I had low expectations for this place but this is a whole other level! It's hard to believe how terribly they operated considering this isn't their first outlet. For such a reputable business, this is just embarrassing. And I hope the management team reads this and review their customer service as well as product offering. It's like they are openly insulting their customer's intelligence by offering inferior product.

    It's such a shame though because people who are new to escape rooms will try this, have a bad time and not want to try the really good places.

    Thanks for taking one for the team Scott, now we won't have to bother trying this place (second shame because we live near by and was hoping it would be decent). Considering all the advertising they've put around our area, they should've put the money towards improving their escape room(s).

    1. Hi K

      Even setting to one side the part where we were spoken to like garbage, it was a completely flawed room.

      We also tried out Injustice (one of their other rooms) and whilst it was significantly better than Moonshot, it was still the same level of "meh" puzzles and room design.

      I just don't get how they can think that going with a completely automated system in any way addresses the consistent negative feedback Strike has had for the past 12 months regarding their poor customer service.

      I'm now convinced that they exist only to make money and for that reason, I hope they don't survive in the market. As you said, it would be a true shame if someone tried their rooms, had an awful experience and then wrote off escape rooms for good.


    2. Escapism at King St Wharf has also become EXITUS and they adopted the crap QR hint system before the name change.

      When playing The Garden at EXITUS / Escapism at King St Wharf, we had the same issues of badly worded hints from the QR system. There was a walkie-talkie as a 'backup'. When we used this backup, the bar staff didn't know where in the room we were up to.

      This whole Escapism to EXITUS thing is just a rebranding mechanism, probably to deal with the atrocious reviews for Escapism.

      For $150, go watch Star Wars at IMAX instead.

  5. Worse than mystery puzzle?
    If you got time it would be great to see a update list of your rankings of the best to worse escape rooms in Sydney

    1. Yes, worse than Mystery Puzzle. I'm working on another review for a second room I did at Strike Macquarie, following which I will update my rankings for all of the Sydney rooms I've done.

  6. Great! Looking forward to it

  7. Hi Scott,

    We (3 of us - my wife, 9 y o son and I) went to do Moonshot 2 weeks ago. I agree a 100% with your review (long wait, weird gamemaster, clunky puzzles that you cant solve without a clue, too few puzzles) but here was the highlight (or low light of our visit):
    We were blindfolded and taken into a room - we take off our blindfolds, start solving and finish one puzzle when the GM comes in and says sorry, I left you in the last room. So Blindfolds on again and we were led to the first room! Ridiculous!

    1. Hi Kanishka

      Your story made me laugh. I have heard a lot of stories about poorly run escape rooms but placing you in the incorrect starting room has got to take the cake.

      Strike Bowling are simply not an escape room outfit - they think they are, but they truly are not.

      There are so many excellent true escape room outfits in Sydney that are much better and are worth your time and money. Shoot me an email ( and let me know a little more about your group and experience level with escape rooms and I can suggest some more rooms for you to try. Definitely don't be put off by Strike's abysmal excuse for an escape room, Moonshot...


    2. Sounds good. Will drop you a note. Thanks for the blog. It has been massively helpful thus far.

  8. Thanks Scott for this review. I know to avoid this one now.

    I've been reading your blog and it has been helpful in finding what are some good rooms to do in Sydney. So far I've been doing the rooms you have been reccommending and I must say they have been fantastic! Keep on escaping! CHeers

    1. Hi unknown

      I'm gladd you are finding the blog useful. Also glad to hear that you have similar taste to me in escape rooms!


  9. Just to add to this. I did the Exitus Escape Room in Melbourne when it first opened and it was absolutely disappointing. I left a review on their tripadvisor and what did they do?

    Management replied to that comment calling me a fraud who is trying to sabotage their business. It really got me seething. There are so many better escape rooms out there, Exitus is simply not one of them.

    1. Hi Garfunky

      Thanks for your comment. I have heard very bad things about Exitus (they apparently treated other escape room owners like garbage, they made allegations, etc).

      Like me, I'm betting you also cannot understand why a company would want to buy out Exitus? Their rooms are truly forgettable and they appear to be very aggressive in their business approach. I suspect after another year or so they would have been out of business anyway...