Thursday, 17 August 2017

Another escape room trip to Melbourne


Hi all

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.  

Thanks all
Scott


Friday, 4 August 2017

AR Escapes - Ripper


Hi all

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!

Thanks
Scott

Aus Escape Week 2017


Hi all

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!
 
Thanks
Scott
 

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Jetpack Theatre - Review of Art Heist


Hi all

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)

Themes:                 
1

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

Second Telling Missions - Sabotage the Enigma Review



Hi all

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/



Second Telling Missions - Rescue the White Rose Review




Hi all

My usual team of 4 adults (along with our apprentice 6 month old daughter) checked out Second Telling Missions’ Rescue the White Rose (RTWR) 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 54th room (and our 42nd room in Sydney so far).  We also beta tested Second Telling Mission’s second room, Sabotage the Enigma.  You can see my separate review on Sabotage the Enigma here.

So, as always I’ll start with what I enjoyed most about RTWR:

  • the theatrical element to this room starts before you even enter the room.  Your mission, as explained to you by a member of the anti-Nazi resistance organisation (and our game master for the room), is to go to the secret headquarters of the White Rose organisation and retrieve a full list of the White Rose members before the police uncover the list.  For half a second, this reminded me of the more modern storyline of trying to find the non-official cover (or “NOC”) list in the first Mission Possible movie (but I digress)…
  • our game master is a professional actor (and playwright) who goes by the stage name Seymour Nixen.  She was fantastic.  The backstory to the room was very logical and well-considered.  And they did something really simple that many escape rooms fail to do, which is to explain why the heck there are so many puzzles within the room.  So often this is not explained in an escape room – it often only takes an extra 2 sentences in the briefing but I think it adds to the immersion;
  • Second Telling Missions have both a café (White Rose Café) and their escape rooms together in the one space.  This was really cool for a number of reasons.  The first was that it acted as the location for our meeting with the member of the White Rose organisation.  It’s really cool that despite who else is in the café, our game master didn’t break character when giving us our briefing.  To my knowledge, other than places like Strike Bowling who provide alcohol sales with their escape rooms, I think Second Telling Missions is the only escape room that is also a café.  I’m also very pleased to report that their coffees, hot chocolates and biscuits were all awesome ;-)
  • RTWR is a challenging room.  There are a lot of puzzles to get through.  I think our team took something like 53 minutes to escape, which puts it at the more difficult end of escape rooms in the market.  I don’t think newer players should be dissuaded by this though – as with all good escape rooms, the dedicated game master will give hints to assist players in working through the puzzles. 
  • there was a really nice mix of low tech and high tech puzzles.  There were also at least 3 puzzles in this room which were of a type that I had never seen before, which was fantastic. 
  • 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 – the theming is historically-accurate and really interesting.
  • I’m often asked for room recommendations that are family friendly.  RTWR is not scary or dark so it would certainly be fine for children.  There are even a number of puzzles that younger kids could assist with.
  • I won’t give out any spoilers, but RTWR is one of those rare rooms that has a nice ending to the storyline.  Often in escape rooms you do what you’re supposed to do and then nothing really happens, which can be quite anticlimactic.  I always appreciate a nice ending to a room that wraps everything up.


As for the negative, there really isn’t too much to report here.  I have given Patrick some suggested tweaks on a few things, which he was really receptive to.  They were things like the really tricky art of when and how to give hints (which no doubt will come over time once more teams have been through RTWR), a few theming suggestions and a suggested tweak to the hint method (as it was difficult to understand our game master at times, given she had a heavy German accent which was a little muffled by the walkie talkies).  The interaction with the game master/actor was great too, but she was not inside the room with us (the interaction and theatrical elements were certainly there before and after the escape, but our interaction with the game master during the escape was via walkie talkie only). 
   
Patrick and our game master 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.

My team really enjoyed Second Telling Missions’ Rescue the White Rose.  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:      A fun, theatrical trip through history

More details:        
  https://www.secondtelling.com/