Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Adventure Rooms Adelaide - Gaol Break Review

Hi everyone!

This particular review doesn't really fit here on my Sydney-based blog, but I'm not going to bother setting up an "escaperoomsadelaide" blog for just 2 room reviews.

I recently had a week's trip in Adelaide, so while down there I arranged to check out a couple of escape rooms.  There are only 2 escape room outfits in Adelaide - Escape Hunt Adelaide and Adventure Rooms Adelaide.  I have tried one room at Escape Hunt Sydney (the same franchise chain as the equivalent Escape Hunt Adelaide) and I thought they were very average, so Adventure Rooms Adelaide was the clear choice.

We did 2 rooms back to back.  The first was their Gaol Break room and the second was their Black Queen room.  

My usual escape room team didn't all come to Adelaide - it was just my wife and I from our usual team, but we also brought along two first-timers, my cousin and my mother in law.  They both knew about this addiction, er hobby, of ours and were keen to see first-hand what all the fuss is about.

Gaol Break was our 39th room in Australia and our first room in Adelaide.

As usual, I’ll start with a summary of all of the things that I liked in Adventure Rooms Adelaide's Gaol Break:
  • having never been to this outfit before, I was a little worried that it might be just an average room and not a great one (particularly given that we were bringing first-timers with us and I really wanted them to have a great first experience with escape rooms).  I need not have worried - it was a great room;
  • this was the second best jail escape room that I have been to (the best being Paniq Room’s Supercell 117 at The Rocks in Sydney).  This room was a pretty close second though;
  • all of the puzzles worked flawlessly.  The room set up is fun and challenging;
  • the puzzles were really varied and well-designed.  There were a couple of puzzles we have never seen anywhere in Australia before and they rank up there with some of the very best in the country.  Again, I can’t go into any more details without giving spoilers, but trust me when I say they have some low-tech but very creative puzzles;
  • we found that everyone in our team was fully engaged for the whole experience.  There is a good amount of puzzles of varying difficulties.  We obviously have an advantage over most teams because we have been to so many escape rooms and therefore many of the puzzles are of a type we have seen before, but the first-timers in our team really enjoyed the experience too;
  • we broke the record for this room, getting out in about 30 minutes without any clues.  Usually I would say that a room where we get out so quickly should have an extra puzzle or two, but this room had a heap of puzzles – we got lucky with a few of them and a couple we had seen elsewhere so we breezed through them;
  • it’s hard to describe this aspect, but this room had a good mix of light and shade.  By that, I mean that it had very different spaces that had very different feels to them, but all of them worked really well with the theme.  The theming in Gaol Break was great;
  • the price here was about right for the quality of the room;
  • there was a really good mix of hunt and seek fun and puzzle solving;
  • the location is excellent – there is an almost hidden lift on one side of Rundle Mall between the shops.  If you weren’t looking for it, you would easily miss it;
  • the game masters were really enthusiastic, which I always appreciate.  They were engaged and were watching us the whole time; and
  • we didn’t need to communicate with the game masters, but their comms system seemed like it would be useful.   They watch and listen to teams and then apparently provide messages on screens within the room – it sounds pretty effective to us.

And as for what I think could be improved:
  • whilst the puzzles were all really good, I think a couple could have been a little tighter (they were still easily decipherable, but could have been tweaked a little) - I can't go into much more without giving spoilers, so I'll leave it there;
  • I think the immersion aspect would have been strengthened if we were given a better back story.  Instead we were given a very brief back story and found ourselves in gaol cells.  It would have been nice to understand how we could escape (eg there was someone on the inside within the prison trying to help us to escape and they left clues/puzzles to that end).  A bit more of a back story would really tie the puzzles together better; and
  • their website says that they take up to 8 people in Gaol Break.  This is far too many – 4 people is the maximum team size that would allow everyone to be comfortable and fully engaged.  The game master was telling us that they also offer teams duels, where half of the escapees will work on one or two rooms within the Gaol Break escape and the other escapees will work on the other rooms, and then they will swap.  I don’t like this idea at all – it would ruin the flow of the story of the rooms.  Stick with 4 people (or maybe 4 adults and 2 kids) at most here.

We really enjoyed this room.  Our first-timers also really enjoyed the experience and I think one of them in particular is hooked!  The game master was also kind enough to stick around afterwards and chat with us about how we did in the room and what we thought of the puzzles, which was great.

Where:                        Level 1, 51-53 Rundle Mall, Adelaide, SA

Duration:                    60 minutes

Themes:                     3 themes

Cost:                           $128 for 4 adults

Overall Summary:      A great room with some really creative puzzles

More details:              http://www.adventurerooms.com.au/

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Paniq Room - SEN3ES Review

Hi everyone!  My usual fellow escape room buddies and I (4 adults in total) tried this room in April 2016.  This was our 28th room in Sydney (and our 38th room in Australia) so far…

It’s no surprise to anyone who has read this blog that I love Paniq Room’s rooms. Supercell 117 is my favourite room in Sydney when it comes to truly genius room design and I really enjoyed the sheer number of puzzles on offer in Abandoned Military Bunker on The Rocks.

Akos, one of the owners of Paniq Room Sydney, first told me about SEN3ES last year, but it took my team ages to find a babysitter and a night that suited us all to check it out.  We finally did so in April 2016. 

The theme of the room is that you and your friends are entering the mysterious house of a famous magician, in search of his lost secrets.  As you continue through the rooms of the house, the doors close behind you and there doesn't seem to be a way back. Is the magician still around? Don't let yourself be tricked or let him screw with your mind. You need to overcome the magician's tricks and escape using your senses. You may lose your sense of time, but remember that you only have 60 minutes to get out! If you don't, the magician will be stuck in your mind forever!

As always, I will start with what I liked about Paniq Room’s SEN3ES:

1.    It was a truly excellent room that lived up to our very high expectations.  It was very different to either Bunker or Supercell - I really like that Paniq Room offers 3 very different rooms.

2.    Paniq Room do not make easy rooms!  I think Military Bunker has the most individual puzzle elements of any room in Sydney (at least it did at the time that we tried it) and anyone who has tried Supercell knows that it is a really challenging room (for beginners and experienced players alike). SEN3ES is no exception – it was really challenging, but unlike Military Bunker or Supercell, it really does require you to use your other senses to escape, which was awesome.

3.    As always, Paniq Room has designed a room with a really good mix of hunt and seek fun and puzzle solving.  The puzzles are challenging but definitely solvable.  Our team went pretty well – I think we escaped in about 48 minutes, without any hints.  I understand some teams have managed to escape in as little as 40 minutes, but we hold the record for escaping in the fastest time with no hints at all (which we all know is what really counts ;-)

4.    The communications system is truly perfect.  A dark voice simply speaks to you.  Unlike many other escape room operators, 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.  Akos, our game master also added his own element of magic to our experience, which really helped to set the scene (and still has us wondering how he did it ;-)

5.    This room was so much fun.  All parts of the escape were different, often requiring a different way of thinking compared to most other escape rooms. 

6.    The room design is excellent.  There are some elements that really do play with your mind – from sensory overload to sensory deprivation. 

7.    As always, the theming was great.  A benefit of having a theme situated in the home of an eccentric (or crazy) magician is that you can have fun with designing the room and can include all kinds of props, which will all fit the theme. 

As for the parts that we didn’t like so much with the room, I have nothing at all to report here. 

We loved this room!  All of the puzzles were great and some were completely unlike anything we have seen before in Australia.  SEN3ES is challenging, at times confusing, it will make you work up a sweat, but you will definitely have a great time. 

These guys really know how to design and operate an escape room.

PS – Congratulations in advance to Akos and Martina on the impending arrival of Sydney’s newest (and youngest) escape room game master.  I’m looking forward to trying your fourth, fifth, sixth, etc rooms under the guidance of Akos Junior ;-)

40 Gloucester Street, The Rocks (entry Cambridge Street)

Duration:                    60 minutes

Themes:                     3 themes

Cost:                           $140 for 4 adults (but we played at the kind invitation of Akos and

Overall Summary:     A truly excellent room that tests all of your senses!

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

CT Adventure Escape Room MU-T Review

Hi everyone.  My usual fellow escape room buddies and I (4 adults in total) tried this room in April 2016.  This was our 27th room in Sydney (and our 37th room in Australia) so far…

I learned about CT Adventure Escape Room from 3 readers of my blog.  We purchased a Groupon code and tried our luck.  Lately, when trying a new escape room outfit, I go in with pretty low expectations.  This is because the majority of new escape rooms that have opened in Sydney have been pretty average.  This is however not always true – there are some newer outfits that have awesome rooms, and there are certainly some older outfits that are very poor.  For example, some of the outfits that are below average in Sydney (in my honest opinion) include Exitus, Break the Code, One Way Out, EscapeClub, Mystery Puzzle and Escape Hunt Sydney – with the exception of one or two decent rooms between them.  Overall, I do not rate any of these outfits as true escape rooms.

So my team had low expectations when we went and tried CT Adventure Escape Game.  I’m really pleased to confirm that we had a really fun time in their room, called MU-T.  The theme of this room is that you are on a mission to attempt to break into a Museum to locate and steal an artefact. 

As usual, I will start with what I liked about CT Adventure Escape Room’s MU-T:

1.    The theming was really strong.  The majority of the props matched the theme really well.

2.    The puzzles were fantastic.  This is one of the more high-tech rooms in Sydney.  This room gives Mission Sydney’s Dr M or Vampire Castle a run for its money on the high tech front.  I personally enjoy high tech rooms, but that being said, some of my favourite rooms have little or no high tech at all.  The theme though of breaking into a Museum does lend itself to some high tech elements, so it worked really well in this room.

3.    Some of the puzzles are up there with the best I have seen to date.  Whilst they do have high tech puzzles, they also had a number of hand-made puzzles that were really well designed (they reminded me of some of the Hungarian-style home-made puzzles that I have seen in rooms at Paniq Room or ParaPark Sydney).  One puzzle in particular had us all laughing and was a real highlight of our experience.  One other puzzle had us scratching our heads for a while but when we received a hint, we realised it was completely our fault that we hadn’t solved the puzzle earlier.

4.    The room(s) design is very clever.  One room in particular has so many things going on that it is initially a little overwhelming, but it’s very simple room design (which again is in keeping with the theme) adeptly hides all of the high tech elements.  This room is not just high tech for the sake of high tech – it’s been well considered a designed.

5.    There is a very good mix of hunt and seek fun and puzzle solving.  The room is also linear in some aspects, but there are also opportunities for players to branch off and work on their own puzzles separately. 

6.    Whilst being a lot of fun, this room was still pretty challenging.  There are a lot of puzzle elements to be solved.  We had a couple of hints and still only managed to escape with 2 minutes and 36 seconds left on the clock.  This got the adrenalin pumping towards the end!

7.    The room owners seem to be really keen to listen to our feedback and are looking to make some changes to their rooms based on the feedback that they receive.  I really like this because it shows that they care about their business and about the experience that their customers have.

As for the parts that we didn’t like so much with the room, there isn’t much to report here:

1.    There is one puzzle in particular that was a little clunky (we knew the solution and tried it about a dozen times before it worked).  I think the tech just needs to be tweaked a little so that it is more responsive - all of the other high tech puzzles worked perfectly.

2.    There is a visual puzzle that works well, but it requires knowledge of the real world in order to solve it.  I think a good escape room puzzle should not require any external knowledge and instead all of the elements required to solve the puzzle should be in the room.  I think this could be remedied by introducing other props in the room that provide that information.

3.    Although the theming is very strong, in one section some of the props did not really make sense in the space.  It was still a really fun puzzle though, but I think a few changes in the props would really add to the overall experience.

4.    The communication system was pretty good but I think it can be improved.  This is the first escape room I have been to where we were handed a mobile phone and were told to send a text message to a pre-programmed mobile number to get hints.  Our mobile had a pretty low battery charge by the end of the 1 hour game, so I think another system (or a different phone with a larger battery) should be used.  It is also difficult at times to properly communicate via text messages, so at one point the game master entered our room so we could explain our issue.  I always prefer when game masters do not enter rooms, as this really takes away from the immersive experience.

5.    The last negative aspect of CT Adventure Escape Room to note is the room price.  Although we used a Groupon and played this room at a very reasonable price of $79 for 4 adults (click here for the Groupon link), their standard pricing is pretty expensive ($190 for 4 adults).  In this regard, I note that the average rack rate at Sydney escape rooms is around $120-$140 for 4 adults. 

Simply put, this was a great room.   As always, the major determining factor in how I judge rooms is the fun factor - we had a heap of fun in this room!

Level 7, 61 Market Street, Sydney NSW 2000 (look for a glass door
 between Rip Curl and DJs on the south side of Market Street)

Duration:                    60 minutes

Themes:                      2 themes

Cost:                           $190 for 4 adults (but we used a Groupon which was $79, but only
                                    valid Monday to Friday)

Overall Summary:     High tech and a heap of fun!

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