Friday, 31 August 2018

A Midnight Visit



Hi all

I have learned of a new escape room/theatrical experience that is coming soon to Sydney.

It is enormous - 30 rooms set over two floors.  It is set in the world of Edgar Allan Poe and will be a choose your own adventure style escape room (which is consistent with most theatrical based rooms).  

A short summary of the experience is as follows (taken from their website):


A Midnight Visit is an indoor experience set over two floors and more than 30 rooms, designed to last 60 – 90 minutes. There are adult concepts, uneven floor surfaces, small spaces, low-level lighting and adventures to be had.

Since purchasing my tickets, I received an email that referred to the fact that indicates that the premise behind the experience is that someone you know has passed away and you are going to meet with a funeral home to make the necessary arrangements (House of Usher funeral services - dignified farewells since 1849)...

I actually learned about A Midnight Visit a while back (and I booked my tickets a few weeks ago).   I didn't post about it on here because the last few pop up, larger scale escape rooms that have come to Sydney ended up either being scams or for whatever reason, they didn't go ahead (some of you might remember the Werewolf and Jack the Ripper events that never took place).  In both cases, it took some work to get a refund, so I was a little hesitant to post about A Midnight Visit.

However, in the past 24 hours I have learned that A Midnight Visit is being put together in collaboration with The Cipher Room in Newtown.  Marise from The Cipher Room has told me that they have been working on some puzzles for A Midnight Visit, so it is an absolute no brainer to get tickets to A Midnight Visit in my view ;-)  

In fact, given that there are 30 rooms to get through, I will be going twice (which makes this officially, the first escape room that I will have ever done more than once).  

The experience appears to be more of a theatrical experience than a true escape room, but these types of experiences have been some of my favourite escape room(ish) experiences I have done to date.  

You can check out more information and book here.

They have now extended their run through to November, so don't worry too much if you are unable to get tickets just yet...

Thanks
Scott

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Kingp!n Bowling/Cryptology - Review of Hunter's Cabin



Hey all

After having checked out Kingpin’s Sweet Secrets room (you can check out my review here), we moved straight on to checking out Kingpin’s Hunter’s Cabin room.  Here is the summary of Hunter’s Cabin from their website:
IT WAS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE!
Sheltering from a storm, deep in the woods you chance across a warm, lit cabin. Is this deliverance, or have you walked into the hunters trap? Can you figure out an escape before you become his trophy? Available at Kingpin North Strathfield. Cryptofactor: 8/10 (trickily difficult)

Kingpin’s Hunter’s Cabin was our 100th (!!!) room in Australia and our 70th room in Sydney. 

Here are my thoughts on Hunter’s Cabin:
a)     as with Sweet Secrets, I was really pleased with the production value of the props and theming in this room.  This room did not look like a typical commercial office space with some op shop items thrown in – the props were of a really high quality, the lighting was well considered and the theming generally was great;
b)     the room theme is not as novel as Sweet Secrets (in that I have now probably been to over 2 dozen rooms where the bad guy is going to return to kill us within 60 minutes if we don’t escape), but it is well done;
c)     as outlined in my Sweet Secrets review, Kingpin’s clue system is one of the better automated clue systems I have used because they use sensors to track where players are up to (which greatly increases the accuracy and usefulness of the clues given).  As with Sweet Secrets, this room is very linear in design (which typically suits newer players);
d)     I am happy to report that we had a dedicated game master for our room.  The game master needed to get in contact with us at one point and it was nice to know that she was following our every move – this is something that many other escape rooms do not do and it always has a direct impact on the overall quality and enjoyment of the room;
e)     I thought this room was more difficult than Sweet Secrets (even though they both have the same “Cryptofactor” difficulty rating according to Kingpin).  Funnily enough, we escaped this room faster than the other room (we were out of this room in 27 minutes and 24 seconds, compared to about 30 minutes for Sweet Secrets).  However, this was the more complicated room with trickier puzzles;
f)       I think all of the puzzles in Hunter’s Cabin were pretty well done.  There were a couple of puzzles of a type that we had not seen anywhere before (which is something that is very rare these days).  There was one puzzle (a cupboard combination) that didn’t make sense to us (which we ultimately brute forced), but otherwise all of the puzzles worked;
g)     lastly, there is a puzzle that I really like, but which I have concerns about from a safety perspective, particularly for children and drunk people.  I’ll feed my comments back to Kingpin on this particular puzzle. 


Given that as a team of 3 we escaped in less than half of the permitted time (a new record we were told), I think the room would benefit from an additional 2 or 3 puzzles (to make it more suitable to experienced players).  Given the theme, I do not think this room is aimed at families or children, but there is nothing particularly scary in the room so kids should be fine in the room.

As noted in my Sweet Secrets review, I had doubts going to Kingpin, given my poor experiences in the past at their main competitor, Strike Bowling.  But I am pleased to say that whilst we had awful customer service at Strike Bowling, we had great customer service at Kingpin Bowling.  The staff members were really enthusiastic and accommodating.

As always, the biggest test of a good escape room for me is whether or not we had fun.  Although we were out very quickly, Hunter’s Cabin was a challenging room with really high production value.  My team of 3 really enjoyed ourselves. 

Where:                                    3-5 George Street, North Strathfield

Duration:                                60 minutes


Themes:                                 2 themes

Cost:                                       $100/$150 per room (depending on time of week)

Overall Summary:                 A quick but challenging room with high production value

More details:                          https://www.kingpinbowling.com.au/

Kingp!n Bowling/Cryptology - Review of Sweet Secrets




Hey all

A couple of months back, I was scanning online looking for any new escape rooms that were coming to Sydney (which is something I do pretty often).  Much to my surprise, I learned that Kingpin Bowling had already opened up 2 rooms in North Strathfield.  I am usually across most new rooms in Sydney, which was why I was so surprised that 2 had opened up without me knowing.  I asked around on an escape room enthusiasts group on Facebook whether anyone else had heard about Kingpin opening rooms in Sydney and it seemed like nobody else had heard either.

So I contacted Kingpin to let them know that word hadn’t travelled about their rooms to the enthusiasts community and I offered to come in to review their rooms (to help get the word out).  They accepted and we went in in early July to check out their 2 rooms, Sweet Secrets and Hunters Cabin.

We managed to get street parking only a few hundred metres from Kingpin (no doubt because we went mid-week), but there is also a paid multi-storey car park nearby.  I wasn’t able to easily get a babysitter, so my wife sat these rooms out and it was our “lite” team version of just the 3 of us.

Kingpin’s rooms are a partnership by Kingpin and a company called Cryptology.  Here is the summary of Sweet Secrets from their website:

IT'S TOO SWEET...
High in the Swiss mountains, you've made your way into the factory known to make the best chocolate in the world. Are your senses acute enough to switch on the machine and steal its secret recipe? Available at Kingpin North Strathfield. Cryptofactor: 8/10 (trickily difficult)

Sweet Secrets was our 99th room in Australia and our 69th room in Sydney.


Here are my thoughts on Sweet Secrets:
a)     I was really pleased with the production value of the props and theming in the room.  This room did not look like a typical commercial office space with some op shop items thrown in – the props were of a really high quality, the lighting was well considered, and the theming generally was great
b)     the room theme is pretty novel, which is always nice.  I can’t remember before doing an escape room where I had to steal a secret chocolate recipe!
c)     Kingpin’s clue system is one of the better automated clue systems I have used.  There is a tablet in the room that players use to get clues.  I am always doubtful of these automated systems because I have used similar systems in the past and the automated clues have often related to aspects of the puzzle we had already solved (which can be very frustrating).  Also, a downside to these kind of systems is that they typically require a very linear room design (which is not my preferred room style).  That being said, the clever aspect of Kingpin’s system is that each puzzle has a sensor that can tell which aspect of the puzzle has been solved already, which greatly increases the accuracy of the clues given;
d)     I am happy to report that we had a dedicated game master for our room.  When we needed to get in contact with the game master at one point, they responded immediately;
e)     this room would suit newer players who like high tech lock mechanisms rather than more traditional padlocks.  I do not recall there being any padlocks in this room;
f)       there were a couple of puzzles that were a little inelegant – one had a few possible combinations but we had to work through each of the possible combinations because it wasn’t clear which combination was correct.  We also had an issue at one point with a magnetic lock not releasing an item (even though we had tried the correct solution a number of times).  Both are minor criticisms.


By memory, we escaped in about half the permitted time.  As a result, I would describe Sweet Secrets as an easier room more suited to newer players.  I think the room would benefit from an additional 2 or 3 puzzles (to make it more suitable to experienced players).  The room is also very children and family friendly, which is a plus.

That being said, it is a strong room for newer players, given the quality of the props and theming. 

I had doubts going to Kingpin, given my poor experiences in the past at their main competitor, Strike Bowling.  But I am pleased to say that whilst we had awful customer service at Strike Bowling, we had great customer service at Kingpin Bowling.  The staff members were really enthusiastic and accommodating.

As always, the biggest test of a good escape room for me is whether or not we had fun.  Sweet Secrets was a fun room. 

Where:                                    3-5 George Street, North Strathfield

Duration:                                60 minutes


Themes:                                 2 themes

Cost:                                       $100/$150 per room (depending on time of week)

Overall Summary:                 Great props and theming, but best suited to newer players

More details:                          https://www.kingpinbowling.com.au/

ELUDE Escape Rooms - Framed Review



Hi everyone

My team first went to Elude in December 2017 soon after they first opened.  You can check out my review of their first room, Perpetual Motion, here.

My team had been really looking forward to returning to Elude ever since we tried their Perpetual Motion room, which we really enjoyed.  We returned in June to try our luck at their second room, Framed. 

As a warm up to Framed, we checked out Elude’s Beat the Box challenge.  You can read all about it in my separate review, here.

The room summary from their website for Framed is as follows:
Framed
A world famous Private Investigator has been called in to help police solve a mysterious murder, which so far has not revealed any suspects. The private investigator is renowned for finding evidence that has Eluded all other crime scene investigators. Having followed the private investigators success in the media, you have become suspicious of their investigation methods and decide to try to uncover the truth
Duration of game: 75 minutes


Framed was our 97th escape room in Australia and our 67th escape room in Sydney.

Here’s what we really liked about Framed:
  • there are so many puzzles packed into this room!  We were kept very busy for the entire escape room experience – there is no time to sit on your hands in Framed!  In fact, at the time that we tried Framed, owners Julia and Darren weren’t sure what time limit the room should have.  After we escaped in a little over 60 minutes, we gave them our feedback that the room as it currently stands should have a time limit of 75 minutes.  Julia and Darren agree and the room is now a 75 minute room; 
  • so many aspects of this room remind me of a more traditional Hungarian-style room (as does their Perpetual Motion room in some respects).  Whilst there are clever tech elements in the room, the star element of both rooms is simply the room design and the quality of the puzzles therein.  Framed is not a gimmicky room with nothing but electronic locks and high tech puzzles (which more and more rooms seem to be in recent times).  Instead, with Framed you get a really well-designed space and a heap of clever and unique puzzles; 
  • as with Perpetual Motion, Framed is a family-friendly escape room – there is nothing scary or dark at all about the room.  The room itself is large and could accommodate larger teams of maybe 6 or so (although as always, my personal view is that all escape rooms I have tried have been best suited to a team of 4 – Framed is no different); 
  • the room design in Framed is quite different to Perpetual Motion.  I do not want to go into too much detail for fear of spoilers, but let’s say the room design itself is kind of its own puzzle.  This particular “puzzle” was probably what slowed up my team the most.  At its core, it is a communication puzzle which requires focus and collaboration and unfortunately, we didn’t attack it as well as we could have.  We got there in the end though and we then started to gain some momentum, but this is certainly a challenging room.  I can’t remember for sure, but I don’t think we asked for any (or many) hints – we generally prefer to persevere and to try and solve things ourselves (although not in a blindly stubborn way).  But we did scratch our heads at times trying to figure out some of the trickier puzzles; 
  • the room is non-linear (in that teams can break up and do different puzzles separately).  There are points of convergence where players have to come together to progress to different stages and then again non-linear aspects where players can split up again.  This kind of non-linear room really suits our team (and more experienced players generally); 
  • there were some puzzle elements in this room that we had never seen before.  It is really nice to see some creative puzzles, which is increasingly rare for my team given the number of rooms we have now been to; 
  • as always, my measure of a room is how much fun my team had. I am really pleased to report that as with Perpetual Motion, my team all really loved Framed.   


Julia and Darren are true escape room enthusiasts.  They have travelled through Europe and have tried about as many rooms as I have tried here, so they bring a large amount of experience and new ideas to the Sydney market.  We again sat down with Julia and Darren afterwards and spent a lot of time discussing their room, providing our feedback and escape rooms generally.

Julia and Darren have already begun constructing their third room, which sounds completely different to any escape room I have seen before.  You can read more about it here.


At the time of (finally) writing up this review, I have now been to 100 escape rooms across Australia.  I am so very pleased to report that both Framed and Perpetual Motion from Elude rank up there among some of my favourite rooms.  

Don’t be put off by the location – Galston is not that long a drive and you and you can now do both rooms back to back.  Given the quality of both rooms, it is ABSOLUTELY worth the time investment.


Where:                        11e Mid Dural Road, Galston, NSW

Duration:                    60 minutes

Themes:                      2 (and 1 other under construction)

Cost:                           $45pp for a team of 4 (but we played at the kind invitation of the owners)

Overall Rating:           Brilliant room design and a heap of unique and very clever puzzles!

More details:              http://www.eludegames.com/