Sunday, 19 April 2015

Best escape rooms in Sydney for beginners and advanced players (April 2015)

I have now been to fourteen different escape rooms in Sydney and I thought now would be a good time for me to give another quick summary of my thoughts on all fourteen rooms.   See the table below.  

It’s really difficult to compare all fourteen rooms and rank them (as they are so different – it really is like comparing apples and oranges).  However, based on the criteria that is important to me (quality of puzzles, quality of theming and overall enjoyment level), my recommendations are as follows:

For Newer Players:                   ParaPark Sydney’s 9A Gateway
                                                PANiQ Room’s Abandoned Military Bunker on the Rocks                                                 Mission Sydney’s Vampire Castle
ClockLocked’s Dexter
                                                Escapism’s The Garden

For Advanced Players:             PANiQ Room’s Supercell 117
                                                The Enigma Room’s In Memoriam
Mission Sydney’s Dr M
The Enigma Room’s Dr Disaster                   
                                                ParaPark Sydney’s 9A Gateway
PANiQ Room’s Abandoned Military Bunker on the Rocks
Escapism’s Forensic

I have thought long and hard about this and my favourite room in Sydney (so far) is PANiQ Room’s Supercell 117, followed by either of The Enigma Room rooms, Mission Sydney’s Dr M and ParaPark’s 9A Gateway.  At the other end of the spectrum, I would give Escape Hunt Sydney and Mystery Puzzle a miss – they are not in the same league as their competitors on several fronts.

I would be really interested in receiving any feedback or comments that you have on any of the Sydney escape rooms (good or bad and whether or not they appear in this list). 

Here's my table of my favourite rooms, ranked in order of the amount that I enjoyed them (and from the point of view of an advanced player, rather than a beginner).  I hope it is useful!

Overall Ranking
Room Theme
PanIQ Room
(The Rocks)
Click here.
Supercell 117
The best-designed escape room in Sydney.  It has a great mix of high-tech and low-tech puzzles and the theming and props are flawless.

I think this room is a little tricky for first-timers (that’s not to say that you wouldn’t enjoy it, but you might not get out in time).  Personally, I’d do a couple of other simple rooms before tackling this one.  It’s suited to kids and groups of up to say 6 people.  See my full review here.

The Enigma Room (Sydney CBD)
Click here.
In Memoriam
A truly fantastic room.  A really clever design, perfectly themed and a great mix of high and low-tech puzzles.  Again, I think this room would be tricky for first-timers, so I’d personally do a couple of easier rooms before tackling this one.  It’s suited for kids and groups of up to say 6 people. See my full review here.

Mission Escape (Sydney CBD)
Click here.

Dr M
I absolutely loved this room!  It is the most high-tech room in Sydney – the puzzles are largely home-made and very original and the theming is excellent.  It’s a little pricey (up to $45 per person) but definitely worth it.  They are ranked the number one escape room in Sydney on TripAdvisor and I can see why.  The room is too scary for kids (probably best suited to say 12yo+).  I would try other rooms before tackling this one (as it was pretty tricky – I doubt most first-timers would escape in time).  See my full review here.

The Enigma Room (Sydney CBD)
Click here.
Dr Disaster
Another awesome room.  A great mix of low tech, high tech and really creative puzzles.  A really fun theme that was really well-executed.  Again, this is a tricky room so I would suggest tackling one or two easier rooms before this one.  It’s a little scary for kids (probably suited to 10yo+).  See my full review here.

ParaPark Sydney (Macquarie Park)
Click here.

9A Gateway
This is another fantastic room.  The quality of the puzzles and theming were excellent (and many of the puzzles are home-made and very original). 

Of all of the rooms, I think this is a really good option if you are a first timer or an advanced player (both would enjoy this room).  It can be a little scary for young kids, so I would suggest not bringing kids who are under say 10yo here. 

Check out this room – you will love it.  Macquarie Park is only 15 minutes from the city – it’s definitely worth the trip!

See my full review here.

PANiQ Room
(The Rocks)
Click here.
Abandoned Military Bunker on the Rocks
This is another excellent room with a great mix of high tech and low tech puzzles.  Several of the puzzles are unlike anything we had seen in other escape rooms and the quality of the theming is second to none.  This room is tricky but I think is suited to first timers and advanced players alike.  See my full review here.

(King Street Wharf)
Click here.
We all very much enjoyed the Forensic room, but jeez it was difficult (my group says it wasn’t that hard, but they are wrong – trust me, it’s very hard).  The game master told us that less than 5% of all groups escape this room!  The theming is great and the quality of the puzzles is excellent.

This room is definitely not for first-timers .  Don’t do this room unless you have first tried at least a handful of other rooms.  See my full review here.

Clock Locked
Click here.
We all really enjoyed Dexter.  The puzzles were all very original, the theming was great and there was a really great atmosphere in the room. 

The room is too scary for kids and it is not big enough for groups bigger than 4 people.

I would recommend this room for first timers and advanced players alike. See my full review here.
Mission Escape (Sydney CBD)
Click here.
Vampire Castle
This is a great room.  It was the first high-tech room we had done and I couldn’t stop thinking about it for several days after.  It was my first taste of a great escape room in Sydney.  We didn’t escape (we missed it by a couple of minutes), but I was well and truly hooked after this room.

As with Dr M, the puzzles are all high tech and the theming and props are excellent.  Again, it’s a little scary for kids under 12yo.

I think this is a good room for beginners and advanced players alike.  See my full review here.

Escapism (King Street Wharf)
Click here.
The Garden
The Garden is a well-themed room that has been well considered and creatively designed.  It is a good room for beginners and suits all ages.  It is however far too simple for advanced players.  See my full review here.

Clock Locked
Click here.
Da Vinci
We all really enjoyed Da Vinci, for the most part.  Our only disappointment with this room was that one particular puzzle has an error in it.  I think this issue might have been rectified now.  Their theming is great and the puzzles are all fun.  The room is too scary for kids and too small for corporate groups.  I would recommend either room for first timers and advanced players alike. I wouldn’t do this room with a group of more than 5 people maximum.  See my full review here.

Escape Hunt Sydney
(Sydney CBD)
Click here.
Murder in the Pub
I didn’t love this room, despite it being the first escape room that we did in Sydney.  They had some faults in their puzzles, we were given a bad “hint” by the game master and one of the chains came away in our hands (even though we hadn’t yet found a key).  That being said, we went on their opening weekend and hopefully some of the problems and issues we faced have been fixed by now.  However, their biggest issue is theming, which is amongst the worst we have seen in Sydney.   

Their rooms are aimed at corporate groups (as they have 6 rooms in total (ie 3 different rooms each duplicated).  These rooms are suited to first timers, corporate groups and those with kids (but not advanced players or those who appreciate fine theming and a fully immersive experience). See my full review here.

The Mystery Puzzle (Sydney CBD)
Click here.
My group had fun at the Pirate Adventure, but it’s a simple room and it isn’t suited to advanced players.  Pirate Adventure is a big room but it isn’t filled well.  There is too much “hunt and seek” and not enough puzzles. 

Most disappointing is that the theming and props are very poor.  They don’t make sense in the space – it is as though the owners have picked up cheap things at an op shop just to fill the space. 

I would however say that these rooms are suited to kids, first timers and corporate groups.  

Steer clear of this place if you have done an escape room before (because I suspect you will find it far too easy and boring like we did).  And definitely don’t bother doing both rooms. See my full review here.

The Mystery Puzzle (Sydney CBD)
Click here.
Casino Revenge Thriller
I really didn’t enjoy this room at all.

It was an average quality room. Theming and props were very poor and it was just too easy – there weren’t enough puzzles to fill an hour worth of escaping.  The props made no sense at all – lots of items were there just to fill the space.  There were errors in the puzzles too.

Most disappointing is that this room is incredibly similar to their other room, Pirate Adventure (which we had already done).  Almost all of the puzzles and the various mechanisms were identical. 

Personally, in light of the lazy design between the 2 rooms, I wouldn’t recommend this place to anyone.   However, like the Pirate Adventure room, this is geared at first-timers, kids and corporate groups. See my full review here.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Review of Escapism Strike Bowling - The Garden theme

My group of friends (4 adults) checked out Escapism at Strike Bowling at King Street Wharf in April 2015.  This was our second time there, having previously escaped from their most difficult room, Forensic.

This time we tried their Garden room.  This was our fourteenth escape room in Sydney.
When you arrive, you hand over your credit card as a deposit (in case of any damage to the room).  We were early but because they didn't have a previous booking in our room, we were able to go in early (which was great).  

Unlike our previous 13 escapes, for the first time, we brought our 2 year old daughter with us to this room.  I knew people who had previously tried this room and they confirmed that it wouldn't be too scary for a toddler (and they were correct, the room is not too scary and our 2 year old had lots of fun).

We were blindfolded (except for my daughter and the person carrying her and were walked down to our room, where our 50 minute count down clock began with a slam of the door...  

First off, I'll say what I enjoyed most about Escapism's Garden room:

  • the theming was excellent - the props and room were very well detailed and suited the theme perfectly;
  • this room had a little more "hunt and seek" fun than their Forensic room, which I really liked;
  • the Garden room is bigger than the Forensic room - there was ample space for 4 adults and one child to move around without constantly getting in each others' way;
  • the quality of puzzles and challenges in the room was also excellent.  Although they were all low-tech compared to other escape rooms in Sydney, the quality was very good (everything worked well); and
  • we all had fun (even the 2 year old) and we all felt like we each contributed to the escape.

Now, for what I didn't like so much:

  • last time we were at Strike Bowling, the staff member looking after us was busy with other things (managing other escape rooms and the bar), and I felt that we were neglected (when we phoned for a clue, the phone rang out twice before I managed to speak with them). I'm glad to report that this time, we didn't have that problem (although to be fair, we didn't ask for a clue this time);
  • it's funny looking back at my review of Forensic, where I made the comment that Forensic was by far the hardest room we have done yet (and after 14 escape rooms, that remains true).  My criticism with the Garden room is that it was by far the easiest room that we have done so far.  They rate this room a difficulty level of 6, compared to their Forensic room, which they rate an 8. They tell me that only about 4% of groups escape Forensic room (because it is that hard), so I went into this room thinking it would be a little easier than Forensic but still a challenge. Unfortunately, it was too easy for our group;
  • there are far fewer puzzles in the Garden room compared with Forensic.  I also think that they give too many clues within the room in the Garden on how to solve the puzzles - compared to other rooms we have been to, it felt like we were being spoon-fed the answers;
  • there was one puzzle that I think should be changed (it's a simple jigsaw puzzle requiring several physical pieces to solve).  The problem is that you can make an educated guess for 2 of the 4 puzzle pieces before you find them (because they give you a little too much of the puzzle early on).  This allowed us to "break" the puzzle (ie we were able to guess the answer rather than solve it in the way that they had designed).  In fact, when we escaped the room, we left behind one box that we hadn't yet opened;
  • you are allowed up to 50 minutes to escape this room.  We escaped in 18 minutes and 48 seconds, which I think really does show that there are not enough puzzles in this room to fill out the full 50 minutes.  We were also slowed down by our 2 year old, who helped us to explore the room and wanted to read some books we found along the way.  We are the record holders for this room, which is nice, but we still left feeling disappointed; and
  • the price of the Escapism rooms is steep.  You only get 50 minutes instead of the standard 60 and their weekend rate is $150 per room.  This is one of the steepest rates of all escape room outfits in Sydney.  We managed to get a $50 off deal, so we only paid $100.  However, given that we were only in the room for <19 minutes, we paid more than $5 per minute for the privilege...

All 5 people in our group enjoyed ourselves.  However, I would only recommend this escape room to first time players or those with kids who are looking for a kid-friendly escape room.  More experienced players will only be disappointed with this simple room..  

Addendum:  I wrote a note on Escapism's Facebook page that I was disappointed with this room.  To their credit, they have invited us back to try out another room for free.  This has really impressed me.  Although I haven't altered my overall rating below as a result (because I still think this room is a 3.5 out of 5), this escape room outfit does seem to have good customer service and does seem to listen to feedback.

Where:                    22 The Promenade, King Street Wharf, Sydney

Duration:                50 minutes

Themes:                 3 themes 

Cost:                       $100 per team (Mon to Thurs) or $150 per team (Fri to Sun)
                                [2 to 6 players] (Watch out for deals on their Facebook page)

Overall Rating:       3.5 out of 5 stars

More details: 

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Review of PANiQ ROOM - Abandoned Military Bunker on The Rocks theme

My group of friends (4 adults) checked out PANiQ ROOM's 'Abandoned Military Bunker on The Rocks' room in March 2015. This was our thirteenth escape room in Sydney so far.

This was the second room that we have tried at PANiQ ROOM, having previously tried their Supercell 117 room.

We were given a briefing by the lovely owners, Akos and Martina and then we went into the bunker.

First off, I'll say what I enjoyed most about the Abandoned Military Bunker on the Rocks at PanIQ Room:

  • it was a heap of fun - there were lots of puzzles of varying difficulty for all 4 of us to work on at the same time;
  • they have a really good mix of high-tech puzzles and low-tech puzzles, many of which are home made and original (which I always appreciate);
  • every puzzle works perfectly, which is great (you would think that this should be a given, but after having done so many escape rooms, trust me when I say that not all rooms have puzzles that work properly - and there is nothing more annoying than puzzles that don't work or are ambiguous);
  • the theming was excellent - the props were all perfect, they made sense and really added to the overall feel of the room.  Every single item in the room made sense - although they did have some red herrings, those red herrings still worked perfectly with the theme.  I really appreciated that there was so much attention to detail with the props and theme;
  • there were some puzzles that we had never seen before and which we all really liked - it's always nice to see something new and different;
  • we got out with about 14 minutes left on the clock, which shows that it is not an easy room by any means.  I think some beginners would find this room challenging, which is a good thing in my honest opinion (and newer players could of course ask for more clues if needed); and
  • the owners are very passionate about their rooms and it shows from the quality of the room.

As for some of the negatives with Abandoned Military Bunker on The Rocks at PanIQ Room, I don't think there are any - it's a really great room with a variety of interesting and challenging puzzles. The only reason I have scored this room 4.5 instead of 5 is that we really loved the room design of PanIQ Room's Supercell 117 room, which we scored a 5.  By comparison, my group all liked Supercell 117 a little more - but Abandoned Military Bunker on the Rocks is a great room.

To put this into perspective, of the 13 escape rooms that we have tried in Sydney so far, all 4 in my group agree that Supercell 117 is the best room of all.  So 4.5 out of 5 for PanIQ room's Abandoned Military Bunker on The Rocks is still a very high score. 
Try both of their rooms - I promise you will love them!

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

Duration:                60 minutes

2 themes 

$35 each (4 players) (Watch out for "Our Deal" discounts)

Overall Rating:      4.5 out of 5 stars

More details: