Thursday, 28 January 2021

Temporal Tangle (online this time) - Enigma Rooms/Next Level Escape Review


Hi everyone

Back in late 2019, my team were invited by the owners of The Enigma Room to come and check out their new room, A Temporal Tangle.  These were in the days before COVID, when leaving your house to attend a physical escape room was the norm.  We loved the experience, which focused on a strong narrative.  You can read my full review of that experience here.

During the Covid 2020 pandemic, The Enigma Room owners developed A Temporal Tangle as an online game that could be played at home.  They used photo spheres of each room, with all relevant elements in the room capable of being zoomed in or clicked on by players at home using their computer's mouse (think 1990s adventure games).  There is no live game master in A Temporal Tangle (at home edition), which means players can start their adventure whenever they like and there is no time pressure at all.

Leanne and Aaron invited me check out their new online offering, which I did during lockdown with my 7yo and my mother in law.  I controlled the mouse and they played the game (with no help from me).  This was my 145th escape room experience.  They really enjoyed themselves.  In fact, my 7yo wrote a one page review of her own, which was well received by Leanne and Aaron. I won't post her review letter here (because it is 90% spoilers), but she said things like "I found it sooooooooooooo much fun!!!!!!!"

She enjoyed it so much, she even drew a picture:


Pretty high praise from the 7 year old.  

From my perspective, as someone who has also played the real life version of the room, I think the photo spheres worked really well.  We had no issues at all during our play through.  As always, online rooms are much slower than real life rooms (because players can't divide and conquer).  But the online version provided my 7yo and mother in law with about 2 hours of fun.  

At the time of (finally) writing up this review, I have been to around 15 online rooms from all over the world.  I am pleased to confirm that A Temporal Tangle is the best Non Live room that I have experienced to date.  As well as being able to play at your own pace (which can be nice for newer players or families playing together), one of the biggest benefits of Non Live rooms is that they are very reasonably priced.  Given they don't require a live actor, this brings the cost way down for escape room businesses.  

Please note that The Enigma Room has recently closed down, but the online version of A Temporal Tangle is available going forward at Next Level Escape - see their details below.

Where:                         Virtual room (online)

Virtual Room Type:     Non Live

Duration:                     60-120 minutes (not limited)

Themes:                      
3 themes 

Cost:                            $15 per device

Overall Rating:            Time travel awesomeness, from home!

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


Online or Virtual Escape Rooms (and their different forms)

 


Hi everyone

Now that I am finally getting around to writing up reviews of the various online escape rooms that I have tried out over the past 6 months or so, I thought it might be useful to post a short note about the different types of online escape rooms. 

Whilst online or "virtual" escape rooms come in all different shapes and sizes, they seem to fall into 3 main categories:

  • Non Live - these are non-live experiences (ie you play at your own pace and there is no live game master/avatar - these are typically point and click);
  • Live Avatar - these are live games where a real game master acts as your avatar (ie typically, the game master attaches a camera to his/her head and acts as players' eyes and hands in a real world escape room via a video link, typically over zoom); and 
  • Live Experience - these games come in different forms, but involve a live game master via a video link but not in a real world physical room (ie the game master does not act as your avatar).
There are so many online escape rooms available now that the above categories might no longer be 100% accurate for all games and there are some that are a blend of 2 of the above categories.  However, for the purposes of this blog, I will use the above short-cuts as a summary of the type of experience in each of my reviews.  

A really useful website for finding the right online room for your group is Live Video Escape Rooms, which you can check out here.  They adopt the same type of classification of online rooms that I have outlined above. 

Thanks
Scott

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Mystery Mail Enchanted Forest - ELUDE Escape Rooms Review

 


Hi everyone

Julia and Darren, the owners of ELUDE Escape Rooms in Galston kindly invited my daughter and I to beta test one of their first "Mystery Mails" entitled Enchanted Forest.  The idea behind the Mystery Mails is that customers can purchase an at home escape room experience/set of puzzles for someone they know and ELUDE will then post them out to that person without identifying who arranged and paid for it.  Only when the player completes the experience and enters the results at a specified web address will they learn who sent them the Mystery Mail.  

Mystery Mails can therefore be sent as anonymous presents for Christmas, birthdays, etc.  After having completed this experience, my daughters and I sent another Mystery Mail to my wife for Mother's Day (which she and my eldest daughter recently completed and both enjoyed).  Enchanted Forest was our 145th escape room (or escape room-like) experience).   

My daughter was 7 years old at the time that we played Enchanted Forest.  We both really enjoyed the puzzles, which were fun and well-themed.  My daughter needed some help with the algebra puzzles, as she hadn't yet learned how algebra works at school.  But otherwise, she pretty much completed the rest of the puzzles by herself (or with some very minor hints from me).  The quality of the printing was very strong and my daughter loved the ELUDE wax seal on the outside of the envelope :-)

We completed Enchanted Forest in a little under an hour.  I think this represents really great value for money, given the very reasonable price tag of only $20. 

I think ELUDE is one of those companies that adapted to Covid really well, having offered both Mystery Mails and online escape rooms to players who were jonesing for a fix.  

I can see Mystery Mails being really popular for families in particular, and depending on the age of the child/ren, would be really great for children or even for kids' parties. ELUDE now offer 6 different Mystery Mails, some of which are aimed at older children (16+) and adults. So there is something for everyone.

We had a lot of fun and my daughter's review was that "it was really, really fun!!!! I liked it 100 out of 10".

Where:                        Play at home

Virtual Room Type:    Non Live

Duration:                    Unlimited time to complete (estimated 1-2 hours)

Themes:                     6 mystery mails (and 3 real life escape rooms)

Cost:                           $20 (but we beta tested this for the owners)

Overall Rating:           A really fun, family-friendly escape room experience at home

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

Monday, 25 January 2021

Ready Mayor One - Rock Avenue Escape Review (USA)


Hi everyone

Back in June 2020, my family tried our second overseas-based escape room over the internet.  I had heard good things online about a virtual escape room outfit in Florida called Rock Avenue Escape.  They were one of the very first escape room businesses to adapt to the new Covid world and offer rooms virtually.  And unlike the Clue Crypted room that we had tried, Ready Mayor One is a real life escape room (with a real life avatar) that has been adapted to online play.  

We were a team that consistent of my wife and I, my mother in law and my 2 daughters.  This was our 143rd room to date. The summary of Ready Mayor One is as follows (taken from their website):

Art mimics real life! Everyone in our small town of Davinport is nowhere to be seen, however, our fearless Mayor is still trying to solve the mystery of what happened to Dominic Fontana, but he can't do it himself!

We were lucky enough to have the real Mayor Rob as our game master.  He acted as our avatar to manipulate puzzle pieces and to look at different props and puzzle pieces.  He stayed in character the whole time and was obviously well-experienced in telling jokes and funny one liners throughout our play.  

Ready Mayor One was a lot of fun for all of us.  There was a really nice mix of puzzles in this experience, as well as some hunt and seek fun.  

One of the most impressive aspects of Ready Mayor One was that some puzzles allowed players to remotely manipulate puzzle elements, such that puzzle elements would move/change in the real world room in Florida.  This was truly awesome.

The theming of the room was pretty strong too.  They had replicated an apartment building's hallway area and an apartment.  The puzzles were all pretty straight forward - I would describe them all as being at the easier end of the spectrum.  Accordingly, the room is very family-friendly (and this of course is how the room has been marketed).  

As with all virtual escape rooms, we found that the experience was much slower than a real life escape room (where most teams would typically divide and conquer), given all players instead follow one avatar and are therefore working on the same puzzles one at a time.  

That being said, we had a lot of fun (particularly my daughters).  Having tried about another 20 online, real life escape rooms at the time of writing this review, I would consider Ready Mayor One as one of the better online virtual rooms on offer. It was also very reasonably priced at around $70AUD all up (for our team of 5 on one connection).

Where:                       Virtual room (online)

Virtual Room Type:   Live Avatar

Duration:                    60 minutes

Themes:                     3 themes

No. of players:           1 to 6 players

Cost:                           $54USD (around $70AUD)

Overall Summary:      A humorous and very family friendly hour of fun

More details:              https://rockaveescape.com/ready-mayor-one-1

 

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Crime of the Century - Clue Crypted Review (UK)

 


Hi everyone

Back in April 2020, my family tried our first overseas-based escape room over the internet.  At that stage, we had been in lock down for over a month and I for one was certainly jonesing for an escape room fix...

I had heard good things online about a virtual escape room outfit in the UK called ClueCrypted.  They are based in New Milton in England. 

We were a team that consistent of my wife and I, my mother in law and my 2 daughters.  This was our 142nd room to date. The summary of The Crime of the Century is as follows (taken from their website):

It has long been a family secret that your late ancestor was suspected of being involved in the crime of the century. All you know is that he led a very secretive life, rarely speaking of his past. Will his old trunk help reveal the mystery of his early life?

This room is not set in a real world escape room (like many other online rooms).  Instead, the experience resolves around a box that you first need to open and then players need to solve various puzzles contained in the box.  

Our game master Gemma was very good at letting us figure out the puzzles by ourselves.  She acted as our avatar to manipulate puzzle pieces and to look at different props and puzzle pieces.  

There was a nice mix of puzzles in this experience, as well as some hunt and seek fun.  Whilst we all really enjoyed The Crime of the Century, it felt quite different to a true escape room experience.  This wasn't just because it was an online experience (as I have since tried many online escape rooms) - the experience was more of an "escape room in a box" style game, with a live game master who acted as our avatar.  It was a lot of fun, but be aware that it is not a full room (which is what my team was expecting going into the experience).

As with all virtual escape rooms, we soon learned that it is much slower than a real life escape room.  Usually my team divides and conquers escape rooms, but with one avatar all players looking at the same puzzle simultaneously, it is certainly much slower than a usual physical escape room experience.

As I said earlier, we certainly had fun and it scratched the itch (for a little while at least).

Where:                        Virtual room (online)

Virtual Room Type:    Live Experience

Duration:                    60 minutes

Themes:                     1 theme

No. of players:           1 to 6 players

Cost:                           30 UK pounds (around $55AUD)

Overall Summary:      A simple but fun online room based around a box

More details:              https://www.cluecrypted.co.uk/


Thursday, 31 December 2020

Mystery pop-up escape room - Parkinsons Disease

 


Hi all

This post is a little different to my usual escape room review posts.  Earlier in the year I saw a post on a Facebook group I'm a member of asking for experienced players who would be interested in beta testing a pop-up room that would be opening later in the year.  

The details were all pretty vague but we thought why not, let's check it out. It was our 93rd escape room experience in Sydney and 141st experience to date.

We went to a studio in the inner west one Saturday morning in early April.  We were the first group of beta testers for the day.  A sound guy put microphones on us all and off we went into a little old sound stage/warehouse.

The experience was really interesting.  The "escape" consisted of 2 separate rooms.  The puzzles were relatively straight forward, but all centred around a common theme which only became apparent after we had finished.  One puzzle contained wire inside shoe laces, which made it difficult to untie the shoes (to retrieve a key).  Another required a pipe to be filled with water via a teapot of cold water, but the teapot was attached to a thick elastic (so that it took some effort to stretch the elastic as required).  Another puzzle used a computer but all of the keys when typed in were incorrect.

At the end of the 20 minute experience, we opened a door that explained that the experience was not a beta test for a pop up escape room, but was instead part of an awareness campaign for Parkinsons NSW.  Each of the puzzles were designed to replicate challenges faced every day by those suffering from Parkinsons, many of whom we learned were quite young.

Our team was then interviewed after the experience about the escape and our knowledge generally of Parkinsons.  

You can check out the final video used as part of the marketing campaign here.  Interestingly, the first time I saw the video online was from someone who posted it on an international escape room enthusiasts Facebook group, so the marketing campaign obviously got some traction beyond Australia.

This was a really interesting experience.  It was the last physical escape room-type experience that my team did prior to the 2020 Covid lockdown.

Thanks

Scott




Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Godfather - Paniq Room Review

 


Hi everyone

This review is incredibly late and overdue – apologies to Akos and Martina that it’s taken me so long to write up this review. 

My usual fellow escape room buddies and I (4 adults in total) headed back to Paniq Room in January 2020 to check out their new rooms House of Jumanji and Godfather.  You can read my review of House of Jumanji here (and my previous reviews of their Supercell 117, Abandoned Military Bunker and S3NS3S here, here and here).

Godfather was our 140th room (and our 92nd room in Sydney) to date.

My team has always loved Paniq Room’s rooms.  It had been almost 4 years since my team had been to Paniq Room, which was back when we played S3NS3S in April 2016.  We were VERY keen to come back and check out their latest rooms.

Godfather has the following room summary on their website:

There is a rat in the family who has betrayed Godfather, the head of Corleone family. He has fallen in love with the daughter of a rival mafia-boss, Tattaglia. He has stolen an important tape from their previous payoff action and gave it to the rival mafia family to earn their trust. He must return it immediately before Godfather finds out that it was copied. He has called upon your help to infiltrate and smuggle the tape back to the safe in the godfathers house.

Can you find the hidden key in the garden to enter the notorious office?

The Godfather's family is at a christening today along with the Rat so you only have one hour to complete this difficult task otherwise the Rat is revealed and you all sleep with the fishes! Good luck and god speed.

As always, I will start with what I liked about Paniq Room’s Godfather room:

  • Godfather was nicely themed.  Unlike House of Jumanji which contains a lot of automation and is quite linear by design, Godfather is a little less linear and lower in tech (although there certainly are hidden tech elements throughout the room and linear elements with points of convergence).
  • There was a nice mix of puzzles (of varying difficulty).  If I was to describe the puzzles in this room, I would describe them as the kinds of puzzles that require a very keen eye (which is something my team is particularly poor at), but we got there in the end.  There was a nice mix of different puzzles.
  • I would describe the difficulty of the room as being more towards the medium to difficult end of the spectrum.  I’m not sure how long it took us to escape from the room, but I don’t think we had much time left on the clock.  This was in part because it took us some time to solve a couple of the early puzzles.
  • The communications system used is the voice of Got, which is the best system I have seen used to date.  As always, Paniq Room always has a dedicated game master who is watching your every move, ready to provide hints to ensure you have a fun experience.

As for the parts of Godfather that we think could be improved, there were 2 aspects that we raised with Akos.  The first was an early puzzle that contains markings/hieroglyphs.  We didn’t think the solution was as clear as it could be – we lucked onto the solution and when we were shown the solution after we escaped, it didn’t quite feel like a perfect solution.  There was also one other puzzle element that we all saw but which we all thought was something we shouldn’t touch (and we therefore didn’t).  I think this could probably be addressed by signposting or maybe the initial briefing from the game master.

Nevertheless we all enjoyed Godfather.  Akos tells me that the theming is based on a particular famous scene from the Godfather movie (but having not seen the movie I can’t really comment further).  The room was nicely designed, with a frightening amount of puzzles to do in the second half (which really got the adrenaline pumping).

Where:                       40 Gloucester Street, The Rocks (entry Cambridge Street)

Duration:                    60 minutes

Themes:                     4 themes

Cost:                           $168 for 4 adults (we played at the kind invitation of the owners)

Overall Summary:       Lots of interesting puzzles requiring a keen eye!

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