Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Cipher Room - Review of The Marlowe Hotel

Hi all

Finally, I'm writing my review of The Marlowe Hotel by The Cipher Room!  Marise and David kindly invited my team to check out their much-anticipated third room back when it opened in late November.  It took me two months to make it happen and we finally got there in mid January 2018.  [Special thanks to Suzanne and Jim for babysitting our girls in the 40 degree heat while we escaped this room!] 

You can read my reviews of The Cipher Room's other rooms, Espionage and The Cabin, here and here.

Before I jump into telling you all about this room, I'll first set out the room summary for The Marlowe Hotel from their website:

Step into your own black and white, film noir adventure! You are a private investigator in 1950's New York. One day you receive a letter from Betty McGee - a singer at the notorious Marlowe Hotel. She informs you that the gangster kingpin and hotel owner, Eddie Marlowe, is trying to blackmail her with incriminating material. She needs you to break in and retrieve the documents. You know Eddie is bad news, but you agree to take the case.
What secrets await you inside the hotel? How will you locate the photos? What do you really know about Eddie Marlowe? 

The Marlowe Hotel was our 71st  room in Australia (and our 58th room in Sydney). 

And now for what I liked about The Marlowe Hotel:

  • everything.
I could end the review here but I suspect you might be curious and want some more details.

Ok that's fair, so here goes:
  • I have not found an escape room in the country that has better craftmanship than at The Cipher Room.  This was certainly true of their Espionage and The Cabin rooms but The Marlowe Hotel is just off the charts.  It took Marise and David a long time to put this latest room together - the level of detail in every space shows why;
  • I don't think I'm giving any spoilers when I reveal that The Marlowe Hotel is a purely black, white and grey room.  As part of the film noir theme, players are placed into their own black and white adventure.  In fact, The Cipher Room recommends that players wear black/white/grey clothing to this room to really add to the immersion.  As suggested, my team came dressed appropriately;
  • when we opened our eyes at the beginning of The Marlowe Hotel, we were all amazed at what we saw.  My team had been to around 70 rooms at the time and there aren't too many things in escape rooms these days that make us stop and say wow.  But this room did.  It is hard to describe, but it was as though we were in a room from which someone had sucked all of the colour.  It was truly mesmerising - not only were we transported to another place and time, it was almost like our eyes were deceiving us given the lack of any colour;
  • the puzzles in the Marlowe Hotel were all fantastic.  They were primarily low tech puzzles as well as a little tech mainly used on hidden lock mechanisms that resulted in doors magically opening.  The puzzles were all do-able but challenging.  And consider this - if you were a puzzle designer about to design puzzles for a room, imagine your client telling you that you can only use black, white and shades of grey (and no other colours).  Think of how limiting that is from a design point of view - how many puzzles have you tried in an escape room that would work without colour?  Not only has The Cipher Room provided a full room of puzzles, they are all really varied and interesting, and they embrace the colour limitations;
  • as always with The Cipher Room's rooms, the backstory to the room makes sense and is quite layered (and fun);
  • my team escaped in record time (although the record has probably been broken again in the past month since we were there).  But I didn't feel like we were rushing at a mad pace - the puzzles were all logical and after doing 2 other rooms at The Cipher Room, I think we are now in synch with the room designer :-)  My team is also pretty strong at dividing and conquering (we split up and play to our strengths rather than all working on one puzzle together at a time).  We also stopped a few times just to admire the quality of the theming in each of the spaces and the puzzle design;
  • Marise and David design their own rooms from scratch and then they build them themselves from scratch.  The quality on all fronts is unmatched in the market - it is truly amazing (particularly given that they have young children, David has a full time "day job" and that they had 2 other escape rooms running throughout the design and build phases of Marlowe).  I have figured out their secret - they mustn't sleep!; and  
  • as always, Marise took us through the room after we escaped and explained all of the puzzles, the room flow, design aspects, easter eggs, etc.  It is a really nice touch to have the game designer personally explain how the puzzles came to be, where they sourced different materials from, etc.  

I adored this room - it is truly magical and another work of art from The Cipher Room.  At the time of writing this review, I have now been to 90 rooms around Australia.  Marlowe Hotel is my favourite of any room I have been to in Australia.  All of my team mates also agreed that Marlowe is their favourite room to date too.  

As I said to Marise at the end of our time in The Marlowe Hotel, I was really genuinely sad that it had to end - not only that we had finished Marlowe, but that in finishing Marlowe, we were finishing the third of the 3 rooms that The Cipher Room has on offer. 

I don't think I can give any higher praise than that.  

Where:                        640 King Street, Newtown

Duration:                    60 minutes

Themes:                     3 (so far...)

Cost:                           $156 for 4 adults (but we played at the kind invitation of the owners)

Overall Summary:      My favourite room in Australia (of 90 tried to date).

More details:    


  1. Just returned from The Marlowe, agreed what a great room - funny I didn't really notice the lack of colour but now I think about it yes!
    Our group was a bit large for the room (7 adults and a teen) but we all managed to contribute.
    Love the Tech behind the scenes, I'd love to hear the design story.