I have made this blog to provide my thoughts on the various escape rooms that have opened up recently in Sydney, Australia. I have been to all escape room outfits currently open in Sydney and a total of 51 different rooms so far in Australia (Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide), as well as others around the world. Hopefully others who are interested in trying escape rooms will benefit from this blog.
Monday, 6 February 2017
Exitus - Shutdown Review
were invited by Exitus (Strike Bowling) to come and check out their new
Shutdown room back when it opened in Melbourne.
We weren’t able to get down there, but I was really pleased to hear that
they had opened the same room at Entertainment Quarter in Moore Park late last
had some really mixed experiences at the Strike Bowling rooms in the past. Some of their rooms (Forensic and Butcher’s
Burrow) were really strong, well-themed rooms.
However, we weren’t fans of some of their other rooms at all and we have
never had great service at any of their venues.
I have made the comment before on this blog that we always felt like the
escape rooms were an “add on” to Strike’s main business of alcohol sales. In our other experiences, we phoned for a
hint and nobody picked up the phone, several times we had escaped and the game
master had no idea, so we had to line up at the bar and wait our turn before
telling them, etc. The service was poor. Oh, and there was that one time at Macquarie
where the game master spoke to us like we were something she had stepped in –
that experience still ranks as my absolute worst escape experience to date.
our earlier experiences at Strike, my team went into this room with an open
mind. After all, this room was designed
by Cubescape (rather than Exitus or Strike) and we had never before tried an Artificial
Intelligence run room. These are “next
gen” rooms where each experience is different because AI is running the show –
it can adapt to each team’s experience levels, provide hints where needed,
etc. It’s also a cool room theme – a
company’s AI computer system has been taken offline by a disgruntled employee,
so your team is deployed to get the computer back up and running…
checked out Shutdown in early January 2017.
We were the “lite” version of our usual team (just the 3 of us). It was a milestone room, my 50th so far. Here’s what we thought.
·the tech in this room is cool.
The theming style reminded me very much of other Strike rooms (in that
the quality of the props and general theming is really strong – they have that
Hollywood set kind of feel to their props and wall/floor finishes);
·the puzzles were also interesting and varied. Many of the puzzles were high tech or
computer based puzzles. There were also
some old-school puzzles thrown in for good measure (and a little bit of simple
hunt and seek fun); and
·some aspects of the artificial intelligence running this escape
room were cool – like hints that were provided via video.
whole room had been at the same quality that we had experienced in the first 15
minutes, then my review would have been much more positive than it unfortunately
is. So, without further delay, here is
what I didn’t like in the room:
·there are flaws in the some of the artificial intelligence
aspects of this room. For example, at
one point, we had apparently taken too long to solve a puzzle (we were busily
working on other puzzles as guided by the main computer in the room) but suddenly
the AI decided we had taken too long and simply released the item. There was no guidance that we had to
prioritise this particular puzzle ahead of others – rather than telling us to
work on this puzzle (or giving us a hint in relation to the puzzle), the AI
simply released the item and solved the puzzle for us. This was unnecessary and annoying;
·sounds and music can really add to the theming and immersion of
a room. However, the sounds and effects in
this room were uncomfortably loud at many points (and their volume only seemed
to increase throughout the experience). Throughout
this experience, there is dialogue coming from 2 difference sources – at a few
points, it was impossible to hear any of the dialogue over the bangs and other
·one puzzle relies on UV/blacklight. I hate UV/blacklight puzzles – my view (and
it’s a widely held view amongst escape room enthusiasts) that UV/blacklight
puzzles are used when game designers can’t come up with something better. There are very few rooms where UV light would
suit the theme (maybe a spy room?) but it was so out of place in this room,
which prides itself on being high tech;
·by far the biggest issue was had with this room was the game
master (or more correctly, his lack of training). We were up to the final puzzle, which we
solved with about 15 minutes left on the clock and then…..nothing
happened. We got on the phone and asked
the game master for some guidance. He
was very vague with his hint. My other
team members called him as well and also asked for a hint and he repeated the
same vague hint verbatim. I even told
him “repeating the same words to me isn’t helping”, so he clarified and told us
what we needed to do escape and he confirmed that we had the right code for
the final door keypad and we should just keep trying it. So then spent the next 8 minutes trying the
code over and over again until the time ran out. When the game master opened the door, we
asked him what was going on and he said that if we try the wrong code too many
times, the keypad stops working. He then
told us it was a shame we didn’t escape because we were going so well right up
until the end…..
·fast forward about a week or two, when I give Strike/Exitus my
feedback on the room and a manager there gets back to me and explains that the game
master had given us a bum steer. What we
thought was the final puzzle was in fact the final puzzle, which should have
opened our exit door. The instructions the
game master had told us about finding a code and entering it into the keypad
was completely incorrect – it’s not how you exit the room at all.
Needless to say, I was even more annoyed then than I was on the
day of our escape. The game master clearly
had no clue as to how players escape the room (not only did he have inadequate
training, I would bet any money he has not even tried the room himself). This is pretty disgraceful, particularly at
an outfit which charges up to $165 for this room, which I think makes it about the
most expensive room in Sydney (given it’s only a 50 minute experience).
My feedback to the relevant Strike/Exitus managers was simple – until
they get back to basics and have a properly trained, dedicated game master
watching players and guiding them through a room, they will continue to provide
a lower quality product than the product on offer from many of their competitors.
If you read through escape room Facebook groups and TripAdvisor
reviews on Strike/Exitus, there is a clear theme that customers are not happy
with the poor level of service that they are consistently receiving from this
business. Strike/Exitus recently changed
most of their rooms to use QR codes for hints (where you scan a code in the
room and you are given an automatic clue, which is sometimes helpful and sometimes
not). The approach they should have
instead taken was to increase the game master interaction with players, rather
than effectively removing any interaction entirely.
These guys don’t do the simple things well – until they do, I do
not consider them to be a real escape room outfit. One positive thing I will say is that since trying
Shutdown, I have been in contact with 2 managers who have been open to
receiving my feedback. Whether or not
they implement changes and listen to their customers remains to be seen…
Quarter, Moore Park
$41.25 each (4 players) (We played at the invitation of Exitus)