Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Escape Rooms Canberra - House on the Hill Review

Hi everyone

My team of 4 played Escape Room Canberra's House on the Hill on the last day of our long weekend in Canberra in March 2021. 

House on the Hill (also known as "Salem") was our final room for the trip.  The summary of the room is as follows:  

There is a heavy cloud that covers the town of Salem, Massachusetts. Livestock have been struck down by sickness and townsfolk complain of molestations from the invisible world. They fear the occult; arts of malignant evil and wicked vengeance, and all fingers seem to point to The House on the Hill. Rumour has it that the widow who lives there is using witchcraft to try and summon a portal from the natural world to the unnatural one.

​They have sent you to the house to investigate. You have 70 minutes to find your evidence and escape the house. But be forewarned, if a portal does open, then you will need to shut it quickly, for the demons that have been in there the longest will be the most eager to escape.

Salem was our 9th and final room in Canberra and our 176th room to date.  Here’s what we thought:

  • the theming and production value in Salem was brilliant.  Personally, I loved the theme, which always helps, but I think it would have been hard to not have liked the theming and immersion.  The sounds, lighting and quality of the fit out was excellent.  There were a few dark moments and jump scares, so the room isn't suited to younger audiences (but it certainly was not ridiculously scary like various other rooms we have played);
  • the puzzles in Salem were excellent.  There was a really nice variety, with some lower tech puzzles and some much higher tech puzzles in the mix.  The puzzles all made sense in the space and were perfectly suited to the room's theme.  There was one puzzle element that we thought could be improved (we stopped progressing that particular puzzle because because we thought the particular puzzle piece required more pieces to be added to it, only to finally realise that it was whole) - I think that piece could be improved (the piece itself looked either unfinished or not whole); and
  • the only issue we had with the experience again came down to there not being a dedicated game master at Escape Rooms Canberra.  We were having difficulty with a particular puzzle - I jumped on the walkie talkie to ask a question - the game master asked if I wanted a hint and I said "no, I just want to know if when the lights are all on (on a particular puzzle) does it mean that we have solved it or we have not yet solved it?").  The game master then told me that I was doing the puzzle wrong  that I needed to pull not push.  Anyway, long story short we escaped in record time and the other game master (Bronte) who hadn't been on the walkie talkie denied us the record because I had "asked for a hint".  I really hadn't, and the experience left a sour taste in our mouth, which was a real shame because it was such a fantastic room.  For the record, our time was 33:10. 
Overall, I would describe Salem as a brilliant room.  The theming was excellent, the puzzles were varied (and there were a heap of them) and they all fit in really well with the theme.  My team really enjoyed Salem and all agreed it was in our top 3 rooms in Canberra.

Of all of the escape room businesses in Canberra, I think Escape Rooms Canberra does some aspects really well - like theming the foyer and the hallway areas, and having a bar area out the back with a chill area stocked board games for customers to play while they wait between rooms.  However, they then drop the ball by not having one dedicated game master per room, which is fundamental to ensuring a high quality experience for players.  

I appreciate that having a dedicated game master is not the best financial model to adopt from the escape room business' perspective, but as a player and a member of a team that is paying upwards of $160 per hour for an escape room experience, dedicated game masters are rightfully expected (and their absence almost always lessens the experience). 

Where:                        2/24 Dundas Court, Phillip ACT

Duration:                     60 minutes

Themes:                      2 themes

Price:                           $40 per person 

Overall Thoughts:        Excellent theming and excellent puzzles – a great room

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

Escape Rooms Canberra - The Vault Review

Hi everyone

My team of 4 finally managed to get down to Canberra in March 2021 after several years of trying to find a long weekend to get down there.  I had been liaising with the owners of Escape Rooms Canberra for a couple of years online, so it was great to finally go down and check out their rooms.

We played both of their rooms back to back on our last day of our long weekend in Canberra. 

First up we took on Escape Rooms Canberra’s The Vault, the summary of which is as follows: 


The world has already ended. The promise of mutually assured destruction wasn't enough to stop the superpowers of the USA and the USSR from unleashing their nuclear arsenal. Now there is only desolation and waste. But there's still hope. Small bands of survivors have emerged into the wasteland; the human race survives by a thread but the rebuild has begun. Still, the threat of destruction lingers on.

In the wasteland, a madman has taken control. He believes that the human race is a disease and the only way to save the world is to finish the work of our predecessors and wipe the human "parasite" from the face of the earth. He has gathered an army, found the last Nuclear Vault and flipped the doomsday switch. You are part of a small band of survivors who have infiltrated the Vault, and it is up to you to cancel the launch and stop the apocalypse.

The Vault was our 8th room in Canberra and our 175th room to date.  Here’s what we thought:

·          on the plus side, for those who like tech in rooms, there was a lot of tech in this space.  Some of the time it was really nicely-concealed tech, but other times I found that it didn’t really fit brilliantly with the theme (or it was there just for the sake of it);

·          the production quality of the space was very high.  In fact, from the moment you enter Escape Rooms Canberra from the street, you are in a different world.  The owners have clearly gone to a lot of time and expense in fitting out the entire premises (which is a pretty bit space).  The Vault is no exception and the props and fit out are excellent;

·          on the puzzle side of things, I wasn’t a huge fan of this room.  I think the puzzles were ok, but they really felt like they had been done before.  With the exception of one high tech puzzle towards the end of the experience, the puzzles didn’t feel unique or particularly well-related to the story.  I would probably describe the room as being medium to hard in difficulty – I don’t recall what time we escaped in, but I am pretty sure we had a reasonable amount of time left on the clock;

·          we needed a hint with one puzzle.  They use walkie talkies instead of the voice of God system that is used at pretty much all escape rooms these days.  I was surprised that for a venue that only has two rooms (and on the day 2 employees working as game masters), we didn’t have a dedicated game master watching our every move.  I think this is one of the things that differentiates the best escape room business from the rest of the pack – when players are paying $40 per person or more for a room, that should include a dedicated game master.  This was a shame.

Overall, I would describe The Vault as a well-themed room with high production quality, but a little lacking in puzzle depth and overall immersion. 

Where:                         2/24 Dundas Court, Phillip ACT

Duration:                      60 minutes

Themes:                      2 themes

Price:                           $40 per person 

Overall Thoughts:        High production value but lacking in the puzzles department.

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

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Riddle Room - The Hotel Review

Hi everyone

The fourth and final room at Riddle Room that my team played during our March 2021 long weekend was The Hotel.  

The summary of The Hotel is as follows:


In an old abandoned Hotel lies a treasured stone. Tasked with the job of retrieving it, you enter the Hotel, but soon find that you might be an unwelcomed guest.


Players: 4 - 7

Recommended Players: 4 - 6

Difficulty: 3 / 5

Scare Factor: 2.5 / 5

The Hotel was our 7th room in Canberra and our 174th room to date.  Here’s what we thought:

·           this room was brilliant and easily our favourite room in Canberra;

·           Hotel is a scary room, both thematically and in terms of lighting.  There are also a couple of jump scares, but they are all pretty tame.  For this reason, I don’t think it would suit younger children (but it would obviously depend on the kid);

·           there were a lot of puzzles in Hotel and they came in all types.  The variety was brilliant and it included both tech and more old school-type observation puzzles;

·           the theming in Hotel is off the charts.  Enthusiasts often talk about Cipher Room in Sydney as being the leading escape room company when it comes to theming (and it is).  I think the quality of the theming in Hotel is the closest we have seen to Cipher Room.  We all absolutely felt like we had been transported to another place and another time.  The props all made sense in the space, the sounds and lighting were perfect, as were the wall and floor treatments.  It took Riddle Room over 6 months to construct this room (and that was following at least 6 months of room design) and it shows;

·           the room design was also excellent.  All of the spaces in the experience are well considered and well designed.  I would describe the room as non-linear, but with definite points of convergence which bring all players back together;

·           the back story to the room is fantastic and it continues throughout the experience.  The puzzles all link to that back story flawlessly;

·           there is so much well-concealed tech in Hotel, but none of it seems out of place or forced at all.  Again, as with their other rooms, my absolute favourite puzzle in Hotel is a low tech puzzle (I can’t think of a way to describe this subtly, other than to say that it was a pattern recognition puzzle).  It was brilliant and as clever as it was simple;

·           I think there is a little more hunt and seek fun in Hotel than in some of the other Riddle Room rooms.  In fact, the only time that we were stuck was because we couldn’t see what was right in front of us…;

·           as always, the customer service side of things was flawless.  We had a dedicated game master watching our every move – she was friendly and helpful.  One of the owners Chris spent time with us after we escaped not only taking us through the puzzles in Hotel, but he also showed us behind the scenes in their game masters room, their workshop and their expansion space.  This was excellent (and it’s always fun chatting with other enthusiasts); and

·           Chris showed us the software that Riddle Room has designed to communicate with players and to identify when they have solved each of the puzzles in their rooms.  This was really impressive.

Hotel is a fantastic room.  It is an escape room enthusiast’s room.  It ticks all of the boxes that enthusiasts are looking for – off the charts theming and immersion, strong storyline and unique, kick arse puzzles.  It’s not often these days that my team walks away from a room completely blown away. 

I realised when we got back to our hotel later that evening that we actually broke the monthly record for Hotel, with a time of 37 minutes 5 seconds.  But far more importantly, we loved every minute of our time in the Hotel. 

Hotel is so good, it alone is worth the long drive down to Canberra.  It’s that good.

Where:                         8 / 160 Lysaght Street, Mitchell ACT

Duration:                      60 minutes

Themes:                      4 themes (with plenty of space for more rooms)

Price:                           $40 per person

Overall Thoughts:        The best room in Canberra (and one of the best in the country)

More details:                http://riddleroom.com.au


Riddle Room - The Hideaway Review

Hi everyone

The third room at Riddle Room that my team played during our March 2021 long weekend was The Hideaway. 

The summary of The Hideaway is as follows:


While investigating an elusive criminal, a police detective has gone missing without a trace. We need your help to find her before it's too late.


Players: 3 - 6

Recommended Players: 3 - 5

Difficulty: 4 / 5

Scare Factor: 0 / 5

Hideaway was our 6th room in Canberra and our 173rd room to date.  Here’s what we thought:

·           Hideaway is one of the latest rooms at Riddle Room (together with Hotel) and it contains a heck of a lot of well-concealed tech;

·           Hideaway is a reasonably large sized escape room.  There were lots of puzzles to solve, with varying levels of difficulty.  As always, the puzzles that slowed our team down were the hunt and seek elements (we often don’t see what is right in front of us, and that was no different in Hideaway);

·           Hideaway is really well-themed.  It is clear that a lot of hard work has gone into the presentation of the room, the props, etc.  There is also a strong storyline that continues throughout the experience;

·           there are no dark areas or scary elements to Hideaway at all, so it is a room that would suit families;

·           my team found Hideaway probably the most challenging of all of the rooms that we played at Riddle Room.  That was in part due to our inability to see what was in front of us, and in part because some the puzzles were quite challenging;

·           as always, the customer service side of things was excellent in Hideaway.  We had a dedicated game master watching our every move.  Chris, one of the owners of Riddle Room, also took us through each of the puzzles in the room after we escaped, which was really great; and

·           I am pretty sure Riddle Room uses the Voice of God system in their rooms.  We did ask for a hint at the end of Hideaway, but I don’t remember for sure whether it was the Voice of God or another method for communicating.

Hideaway is a really strong room.  Some of the theming elements were excellent.  There was a really nice mix of puzzles, of varying degrees of difficulty. We had a chat with Chris, one of the owners of Riddle Room, after we escaped.  We had some ideas for how to improve a couple of puzzles (minor things like changing up some of the iconography to make things clearer in the final puzzle, or having a certain element locked away until later in the game to avoid confusion).  These were all minor in the grand scheme of things (and whilst they would have been useful changes for our teams, perhaps not so much for other teams).

Again, I forgot to write down how long it took us to escape from Hideaway, but I think it was somewhere around the 45-50 minute mark.  I think Hideaway, at least for our team, was the most difficult room at Riddle Room.  And it was also a lot of fun.

Where:                         8 / 160 Lysaght Street, Mitchell ACT

Duration:                      60 minutes

Themes:                      4 themes (with plenty of space for more rooms)

Price:                           $40 per person

Overall Thoughts:        A high-tech, challenging room with great theming

More details:                http://riddleroom.com.au         


Riddle Room - The Dungeon Review

Hi everyone

The second room at Riddle Room that my team played during our March 2021 long weekend was The Dungeon. 

The summary of The Dungeon is as follows:


Gone mad with power, the old King decided he only wants the greatest minds to dwell within his kingdom. Will you pass his tests, or will you be banished forever?


Players: 3 - 7

Recommended players: 4 - 6

Difficulty: 4.5 / 5

Scare factor: 0 / 5

The Dungeon was our 5th room in Canberra and our 172nd room to date.  Here’s what we thought:

·           Dungeon is a poorly lit space but I would not describe it as scary. For that reason, I think the room would be suited to families and younger kids, provided they were ok with dark spaces;

·           the room flow and design in Dungeon is really interesting (and a little unlike any other room we have been to).  The room is designed with 2 paths that players must take (each of which is linear, but both paths can be progressed simultaneously).  So I think then I would describe the room as multi-linear, rather than non-linear?  Either way, it was really well designed.  To assist players in understanding the order, the game includes iconography on a wall which signposts each step along the way for both paths, with a convergence point towards the end.  We hadn’t seen this done before and it was really cool;

·           the puzzles in Dungeon are truly varied.  Some of the puzzles involved hunt and seek fun (which held us up for a few minutes), others use spatial awareness, pattern recognition, the works.  It was a great room for enthusiasts like my team, as we really enjoyed the diversity of challenging puzzles;

·           the theming in Dungeon was excellent.  You can really tell that Riddle Room has spent a lot of time and expense in fitting out their rooms.  Dungeon is quite a large space and given the multi-linear paths in the room, I think this room could probably handle up to say 5 or even 6 players;

·           we escaped Dungeon in 32 mins and 22 seconds, which was the monthly record.  Despite escaping so quickly, I still felt that the room had a heap of puzzles and we were all kept very busy throughout.  My team always does better in non-linear rooms, as we can break up and each attack different puzzles at the same time.  The same was true in Dungeon.  The downside to this is that at the end of the room, we then need to walk back through each of the puzzles and see what our team mates solved without us;

·           as with their other rooms, there is a lot of well-concealed tech in Nightmare.  But again, one of my favourite puzzles in Dungeon was a simple, low-tech puzzle that relied on coloured rope.  It was really nicely done.  I also really liked the last minute hunt and seek puzzle thrown in for good measure (which now that I think of it, was a common element in the other RR rooms as well);

·           as far as theming goes, all of the props were of a high quality and both the props and puzzles all made sense in the space.  There was also a strong storyline that continued throughout the experience and brought everything together nicely;

·           again, we had great customer service in Dungeon.  Our dedicated game master watched our every move – she was friendly and helpful and she offered to take us back through all of the puzzles at the end of our experience; and

·           I am pretty sure Riddle Room uses the Voice of God system in their rooms (although we didn’t ask for a hint in Dungeon so I’m not 100% sure).

My team loved Dungeon.  It was themed really well, there were a heap of challenging and varied puzzles and the multi-linear room design was something we hadn’t seen before. 

Where:                         8 / 160 Lysaght Street, Mitchell ACT

Duration:                      60 minutes

Themes:                      4 themes (with plenty of space for more rooms)

Price:                           $40 per person

Overall Thoughts:        Awesome theming and challenging, varied puzzles.

More details:                http://riddleroom.com.au