Thursday, 23 June 2016

Outlast Escape Room - Silent Hospital Review

Hi everyone!

My wife and I brought along 2 newbies to try out a new escape room in Ashfield called Outlast Escape.

I wrote to the owners last year when they opened, asking for more information about their escape room business and despite a follow up, I'm still waiting on a response.

One of their rooms requires someone in the group to be able to read Chinese characters, which made me a little worried that the other rooms might have translation issues.

This was our 29th room in Sydney and 41st room in Australia.

As usual, I’ll start with a summary of all of the things that I liked in Outlast Escape's Silent Hospital: 
  • some of the technology was cool (there was one thing we hadn’t seen anywhere else), but it didn’t really fit the theme at all (it was high tech for the sake of high tech);
  • a couple of the puzzles were pretty good;
  • there was a reasonably good mix of hunt and seek and puzzle fun; and
  • it was an ok room to bring beginners to.

And as for what I didn’t like:
  • there is no back story – you are instead handed a poorly translated laminated card and are asked to read it for yourself;
  • there are many puzzles that just do not fit the theme in any way;
  • some of the puzzles are very clunky – they aren’t clever but instead feel very forced an incredibly disjointed;
  • we had a torch with flat batteries, so they had to come in and hand us the new one, which ruined the flow and immersion;
  • in one room, there are various bags of blood (it is a hospital theme after all).  One of these bags burst open all over my wife’s clothes – she was not impressed;
  • one of the locks between rooms had been left open, so we didn’t need to open it properly;
  • the price of this room is about the most expensive in Sydney at $40 per person.  This is about double what it should be for the quality of this room (and the location).
This room was just “ok”.  As always, I judge rooms based on how much fun I had and overall, this was not a memorable room.  Our first-timers seemed to enjoy the experience, but it definitely was not a great room for anyone who has seen a truly great room before.  The puzzles didn’t make sense in the space, the room flow was not well-considered and felt like it had been thrown together and they used high tech just for the sake of it, rather than weaving a clever story with great immersion. 
Give this place a miss.

Where:                        Suite 2, Level 1, 251 Liverpool Road, Ashfield, NSW, 2131

Duration:                    60 minutes

Themes:                     3 themes

Cost:                           $160 for 4 adults

Overall Summary:      Very overpriced and average

More details:    

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Adventure Rooms Adelaide - Black Queen 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.

On a recent trip to Adelaide, I tried out 2 rooms at Adventure Rooms Adelaide.  See my separate blog post about their Gaol Break room here.  This blog post is about their second room that we tried (back to back) – Black Queen.

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.

The Black Queen was our 40th room in Australia and our second room in Adelaide.

As usual, I’ll start with a summary of all of the things that I liked in Adventure Rooms Adelaide's Black Queen:
  • Black Queen was a really interesting room.  The theme is that your team finds themselves handcuffed together in a dark castle – the aim of the game is to find the key to escape.  
  • the puzzles were really varied and well-designed.  Like Gaol Break, there were a couple of puzzles we have never seen anywhere in Australia before. 
  • I think the puzzles in Gaol Break were a little more creative than in Black Queen, but there were a couple that were truly genius (and both a mix of low and medium tech). 
  • 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 Black Queen 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:
  • there is a music puzzle in this room.  We breezed through it, but I know from other escape room owners that many people are truly tone deaf and therefore even simple music puzzles can be very difficult for some groups.  The other difficulty with a music puzzle is that there really isn’t a useful hint that you can give someone – instead, it really is just a matter of giving the answer.  That being said, I think this puzzle worked well with the theme and it was a creative use of mixing a music puzzle in with a 4 digit code.  But I don’t think this puzzle would be for everyone;
  • like Gaol Break, 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 locked together in a room.  It would have been nice to better understand how we came to be handcuffed together, why we only have 60 minutes to get out (ie what is the consequence of not escaping in time), etc; and
  • their website says that they take up to 7 people in Black Queen.  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 Black Queen 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.

We got out of both Gaol Break and Black Queen in the same time (30 minutes), so I think for us at least, they were about the same level of difficulty.  I think on recollection though that Black Queen felt a little more difficult (we had more time where we were stumped for what to do next, whereas Gaol Break all seemed pretty straight forward).  Both are great rooms!

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: