Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Exitus Escape Room Macquarie – Jailbreak 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 26th room in Sydney (and our 36th 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.

We did 2 rooms on the same night at Exitus Macquarie.  The first was Moonshot, which was a truly bad room (and we had a truly bad experience).  See my separate review here.

We then had a break over dinner to recharge (and bitch about the crazy-rude game master that we had for Moonshot).  We then returned 90 minutes later to try out this second room.

Firstly, as for what I liked about Exitus Macquarie’s Jailbreak:

1.     The theming over all was pretty good. The props were generally ok.  They had some hidden items/puzzles that I thought was done really well.  However, the backstory didn’t match some of the puzzles.

2.      The puzzles all worked without any major flaws.

And here’s what I didn’t like so much:

1.     The story in this room, whilst stronger than in Moonshot, was still pretty weak.  You were in jail for a crime you allegedly did not commit, but there was very little detail given about the crime, your sentence, your background, etc.  These details were all irrelevant to the puzzles.

2.     The puzzles themselves were pretty simplistic and not overly impressive.  Unlike Moonshot, there were not any errors in the puzzles, which was good.  However, there was again the lazy use of blacklight hidden text in one puzzle, which was a let down.

5.     The flow of the room is poor.  They have some really cool spaces that are themed pretty well – at least I thought this until I realised that much of the space is not part of the game and is just storage for electrics and other services.  This was really disappointing.

7.      Again, I didn’t like their 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.     We escaped with plenty of time (somewhere around the 30 minute mark I think by memory).  There were not enough puzzles in 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.  None of their rooms justify 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. 

Simply put, this is an average room.  There are certainly worse rooms out there, but there are also many better rooms. As always, the major determining factor in how I judge rooms is the fun factor.   This room was ok, but quickly forgotten.

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:     Average at best

More details:     

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