Sunday, 12 March 2017

New Escape Room in Parramatta - Scram Escape Rooms

Hi all

In February, a new escape room outfit opened its doors in Parramatta.  They are called Scram Escape Rooms.

The owners, Jess, Daniel and Walid, have told me that they are a standalone business and have done all of the design work themselves (ie none of the puzzles or room themes have been purchased from third party designers).  The owners noticed that there were a lack of things to do in Parramatta, and decided to change that by opening up their own rooms.

They have opened just the one room so far, but are currently constructing their second room which is coming soon.  Here are the very brief summaries of the room themes, taken from their website:

The Wizard Chambers

Your rival house team has hidden your wand and locked you in the dorms.  Can you solve their tricks to escape?  (3-6 players)

The Doll House

Will you escape?  Or will you be the puppet on strings?   

Their first room is The Wizard Chambers, which has a definite Harry Potter sound to it.  Jess tells me that the aim with this room was to create an immersive room that delved into childhood dreams.  

They are located in the Parramatta CBD, in a fantastic location only a short distance from Westfield.  

You can check out their website here.

My team will check out their room shortly and as always, I'll post my review on here.  As always, if you have tried their room, post a comment below and let us all know what you thought.



Monday, 6 March 2017

Escape Rooms Central Coast - Review of Espionage

Hi all

I first learned about Escape Rooms Central Coast via another escape room blog last year.  Since then, I have been following the progress of the room build and I got in contact with the owners, Geoff and Wendy towards the end of last year.  They run an enormous laser tag operation in the same complex (something like 600m2 of dedicated laser tag space, which is awesome) and have recently added the escape room side to their business. 

They invited me to come and check out their room, entitled Espionage, a while back but it has been was challenging to find time to head up to the Central Coast.  They are near Toukley/Gorokan, around 1 hour and 20 mins’ drive from Sydney. 

I was up at the Hunter Valley at a work conference a couple of weeks ago and I managed to convince some of my work colleagues to stop on the way back to Sydney and try our hand at Espionage.  So, unlike my usual team of 4 very experienced players, this time we were a team of 5 players - 2 experienced players and 3 newbs.  When we arrived (on a Friday afternoon), there were a heap of school kids there who were playing laser tag for school sport.  I was immediately jealous of them all because laser tag was never on offer at my high school…

We were greeted by Geoff, the owner who took us upstairs to where the escape rooms are (they are on the second level and are quite separate from the laser tag and other gaming areas). 

This was my 52nd room in Australia and my 40th room in Sydney (or surrounds). 

First off, here’s what I liked most about Espionage:

·        the puzzles all worked well and we didn’t have any technical issues or hiccups of any kind;
·        the puzzles are also pretty challenging – we were a mixed team of newbs and more experienced players, but we only escaped with about 9 minutes left on the clock (by memory), which shows that it is a pretty challenging room;
·        Espionage is a “non-linear” room, which means that the various puzzles do not need to be solved in a particular order (ie first a, then b, then c).  The biggest benefit of a non-linear room is that players can break off and solve puzzles separately, whereas linear rooms typically require players to all move together as a team through the puzzles (picture a team of 5 year olds playing soccer and following the ball).  The puzzle flow is done really well at Espionage, where the non-linear aspects converge at one point for the ending;

·        much of the theming in Espionage is done really well – there are some aspects that are really immersive and where the props and set decoration perfectly meet the storyline;

·        there is a nice mix of low and high tech puzzles in Espionage, as well as some fun hunt and seek fun;

·        the owners are passionate about their business.  We were lucky enough to have Geoff as our game master.  He was an excellent game master – he had very good intuition as to when (and more importantly, how) to give subtle hints throughout the game.  They operate the “voice of God” hint system, where players simply speak and the game master responds over a loud speaker – this is the best system for providing hints that I have come across;

·        Geoff also walked through the room with my team after we escaped, explaining each puzzle and the room flow.  This is always nice (as it gives players who might have missed some of the puzzles an opportunity to see how they are solved).  It’s also the sign of a business that cares enough to take the time out to make sure players can ask any questions that they might be sitting on.  We were also emailed a team photo after the escape, which was nice;

·        there was a high tech puzzle at the end of Espionage that I have not seen in over 50 escape rooms, which was awesome; 

·        Geoff and Wendy have included some hidden “easter eggs” within the room and puzzle design, which is always cool;

·        their pricing, which is $35 per head (for teams of 4 or larger) is great value.  Most rooms in Sydney are heading towards the $40 per head mark; and

·        Espionage is a really family-friendly room – it’s not scary. 

Espionage is a strong room and there isn’t much on the negative side to report.  The kinds of constructive feedback I have given to the owners are more along the lines of tweaks or minor improvements – things like:

·        strengthening the back story and tying it together with all of the props and theming throughout the experience, to add to the immersion;

·        consider having some different lock types or mechanisms (to add some more variety); and

·        consider adding some additional elements (such as sound) to further add to the immersion.

And that’s about it.  My team really enjoyed Espionage.  As always, the biggest deciding factor in my room reviews is the fun factor.  I’m happy to report that we all had heaps of fun.  The newer players in my group all loved the high tech aspects of the room the most (which are pretty visually spectacular) – they all want to try more escape rooms now, so clearly they have been bitten by the bug! 

Where:                   Unit 6, 132 Chelmsford Road, Charmhaven  NSW

Duration:               60 minutes

1 theme so far (but several more planned) 

$35 each (4 players) (We played at the invitation of ERCC)

Overall Rating:      A fun, family-friendly room with a nice mix of puzzles and tech

More details: 

Mission Sydney - Review of Lost Mine

Hi all

The second room that my team ever did in Australia was Vampire Castle at Mission Sydney, which we tried back in November 2014.  I enjoyed Vampire Castle, which was my first experience of a high tech escape room.  I also really enjoyed Dr M at Mission Sydney, which we did a little while later.

Now some 50 escape rooms later, my team went back to try one of Mission Sydney’s newest rooms, The Lost Mine.  This was a gift that I received from my wife for my birthday – she knew I really enjoyed their Dr M room when we had tried it about a year before.

We went into Lost Mine with high expectations, based on our previous experiences there.  I remember really enjoying Vampire Castle too, but 2 years later, I think I now have a greater appreciation for things like immersion and theming.  Looking back, Vampire Castle’s theming was better than average but some aspects don’t make a great deal of sense (like lasers or swipe cards) given the vampire theme.  It was still a great deal of fun though.

We were our usual 4 team of players again.  It was our 51st room in Australia and our 39th room in Sydney.  Here’s what we liked most about Lost Mine:

·        the puzzles all worked well and we didn’t have any technical issues or hiccups of any kind; 
·        the puzzles are also pretty challenging – there was a lot of variety of puzzle types in the room, which was cool; 
·        there was one puzzle in particular which had us stumped for about 5 minutes.  When we got a clue, the solution was obvious – I love a good forehead slapping moment; 
·        some of the spaces are really well-themed – clearly a lot of thinking has gone into the puzzle and room design;
·        there were some “wow factor” moments – some of the puzzles and different areas were unlike anything we had seen before, which was really cool;
·        if you’re a fan of high tech puzzles, then Mission Sydney’s rooms are for you.  There were heaps of high tech puzzles in Lost Mine – more I think than any other room we have tried before; and

·        we had a really lovely game master who answered all of our questions and spent some time with us after the escape to explain the back story further, which was a nice touch.

Ok, now for what I didn’t like so much:

·        whilst some of the high tech puzzles are cool, many of them just don’t fit the theme.  Some of the high tech is well concealed, so as to have the appearance of being "magic", which is great.  But laser puzzles in a lost mine didn’t really fit the theme for me;

·        this is the lawyer in me, but even though some of the mechanisms in the rooms are really cool, there are some aspects where I can see people hurting themselves.  Overall the room is reasonably safe, but for small kids or a drunk buck’s night, there are definitely aspects where players could hurt themselves;

·        there’s one puzzle that requires players to weigh items – I can’t really go into much detail on this one without giving spoilers, but needless to say we really didn’t like this particular puzzle – the solution was annoying;

·        my absolute favourite puzzles that I look back on now over the past 50+ rooms have typically been the low-tech, brilliantly-designed puzzles where everyday items that you would expect to see in the room are re-purposed as part of a puzzle.  Some of the high tech puzzles I have done are certainly memorable, but the low tech puzzles are the ones that stick with me years later.  Sometimes I feel that Mission Sydney do high tech for the sake of high tech – a bit more of a mix of simple hunt and seek fun and some low-tech puzzles would really add to the experience I think;

·        the back story is a little too complicated.  We had a lovely game master, but it took some time for us to understand the back story fully after the escape when she explained it to us.  I think the storyline is unnecessarily complicated; and

·        the room was expensive.  It cost us $210 for our team of 4, which equates to $52.50 per head.  In my humble opinion, this is too expensive.  I appreciate that it is a 90 minute room with lots of high tech, but when the average price for rooms in Sydney is closer to $35 per head, you really need to be an amazing room to justify the price difference.  Whilst Lost Mine is a really fun high tech room, I think the pricing is more suited to about the $45 per head mark.  Others will (and have) disagreed on this, but that’s my honest opinion.

Mission Sydney effectively owns the “high tech escape room” market in Sydney, as they have for some time.  It has proven a very popular market too, given that they are voted number 1 on TripAdvisor.  There are no traditional locks in Mission Sydney at all, which is their point of difference.

If you are the type of player who likes wow factors and high tech puzzles, then you should definitely head to Mission Sydney and check out their rooms.  For mine, I really enjoyed Lost Mine, but personally I have come to prefer a more rounded experience with a nice mix of high and low tech and some truly immersive, intricately themed spaces.  I don’t think Mission quite hit the mark on that front for me, but Lost Mine is still a great room.  

As always, the true test of a great room for me is whether or not we had fun.  We absolutely had fun in this room, so it was a success on that front.

Where:                   Suite 301-303 Pitt Street, Sydney

Duration:               90 minutes

4 themes

$52.50 each (4 players)

Overall Rating:      The highest tech room we have tried – great fun but could be more thematic

More details: