Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Elude Escape Rooms - Review of Perpetual Motion room

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 Hi all

I learned on a Facebook escape room enthusiasts group that a new escape room had opened up in Galston.  For those who don’t know where the heck Galston is (I confess I hadn’t heard of it either), it’s not far from Dural, which is about 30-40 minutes north west from the CBD.

I got in contact with the owners, Julia and Darren, and they kindly invited my team to come and try out their room.  Julia and Darren are situated on acreage and they are in the process of converting a long row of bricked garages into escape rooms.  They have just the one room open for now, but they have already started construction on rooms 2 and 3.  

Their first room is entitled “Perpetual Motion”.  The room summary from their website is as follows:

A revolutionary breakthrough is set to change the course of history following claims than an engineer has modified a petrol engine to run on water.  Oil industries have publicly ridiculed the concept.  However, following the sudden disappearance of the engineer, the police believe that he was kidnaped to obtain the secret of his invention.  The only chance of saving him is to recover the Capacitor, but time is running out.

This was our 51st escape room in Sydney and our 64th escape room in Australia.

Here’s what we really liked about Perpetual Motion:
·         now I will start off by saying that there is a major element to this room that is off the charts, frickin’ awesome.  It is unlike anything that has been done in Australia (to my knowledge) – it is beyond brilliant and brings a smile to my face now just thinking about it;
·         after having done almost 70 rooms at the time of writing this review, I can honestly say that there aren’t too many new rooms that we have tried that have brought something truly new to the escape room market.  I am uber happy to report that Elude have designed a room that is truly unique.  I really am dying to say more but I can’t;
·         when I heard that Elude had made an escape room from their home, my initial thought was that it might be average or less professional than a more traditional escape room (ie a room set in a commercial office building).  I was very wrong – this room is as well-designed and contains puzzles that are as clever and challenging as any of the best escape rooms in the city;
·         the room is very family-friendly – there is nothing scary or dark at all about the room.  The room itself is very large and could accommodate larger teams of maybe 6 or so (although as always, my personal view is that all escape rooms I have tried have been best suited to a team of 4 – this room is no different);
·         I would describe Elude as more of a low-tech experience, but I think low tech really suits this particular room and the spaces within it.  The room flow is really well considered – it’s a non-linear room with points of convergence.  Our team was able to work separately on different puzzles and then come back together for certain key puzzles in the room;
·         in addition to the uber  awesome aspect of the room that I can’t talk about, there were a number of other puzzles in the room that were unlike anything we have seen in other Sydney rooms.  I love seeing new puzzles and new ideas in escape rooms;
·         as always, my measure of a room is how much fun  we had . I am really pleased to report that I truly loved this room. 

Julia and Darren are true escape room enthusiasts.  They have travelled through Europe and have tried about as many rooms as I have tried here, so they bring a large amount of experience and new ideas to the Sydney market.  We spent a lot of time afterwards sitting with Julia and Darren discussing their room and escape rooms generally.
Julia and Darren are currently constructing their second and third rooms which will open next year.  Darren tells me that he has loads of puzzle ideas ready for the next 2 rooms!
I have nothing to report on the negative side at all.  Elude have designed a cracker of a room – it’s unique, cleverly designed, challenging and most important of all, fun.

Where:                   11e Mid Dural Road, Galston, NSW

Duration:               60 minutes

Themes:                 1 (but 2 others currently under construction)

$45pp for a team of 4 (but we played at the kind invitation of the owners)

Overall Rating:       A truly unique and clever room - go and check it out!

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Next Level Escape - Review of The Artefact

Hi everyone

Back in November, my team had the pleasure of checking out Next Level Escape’s latest room, The Artefact.  This was the fifth room I have tried from Next Level Escape (and all of their rooms have been awesome).  So we went into this room with some pretty high expectations…

We tried The Artefact just before it opened to the public.  This was our 49th escape room in Sydney and our 62nd escape room in Australia.

A summary from Next Level of their The Artefact room is below:

Your team of investigators has been conscripted by the FBI to investigate an alien artefact they've discovered. Sure, the artefact is doing strange things, but you'll have a non-malevolent, smart-ass AI to help you out. What could possibly go wrong?

Here’s what I really liked about the room:
·         as always, the puzzles were all awesome.  They were of the very high quality that I have come to expect from Next Level;
·         the puzzles were a really well designed combination of some high tech with some pretty low tech.  The room flow is also really well considered – I would describe the room as a non-linear room with points of convergence.  Our team was able to work separately on different puzzles and then come back together for certain key sections of the room;
·         there were some puzzle elements that we have never seen before in any other escape room, which is always uber cool;
·         Next Level design a lot of humour into their rooms.  There are a lot of tongue-in-cheek one liners and some laugh out loud moments along the way.  Anyone who has tried their Ex Libris room will know what I’m talking about – they have a very funny style and it is really quite different to any other escape room outfit’s style;
·         we managed to escape in a little under  48 minutes. Although this is a 75 minute room, I would not describe it as easy at all.  It is quite intricately designed with a large number of puzzles; and
·         a lot of escape room enthusiasts seem to really love high tech rooms (some even only enjoy high tech rooms and avoid low tech rooms).  I have come to enjoy both – I think a room can be great with either (or a mix of both), but for me the more important aspect is theming.  This particular room theme at Next Level lends itself to high tech, which Next Level have executed brilliantly.  However, they have also included some low tech puzzles that also perfectly fit the theme – I think the mix is really well-considered and makes for a fantastic room over all. 

Other outfits that contain a lot of high tech puzzles, like Mission Sydney, Break the Code and CT Adventures, do the high tech pretty well but none of those outfits do theming nearly as well as Next Level. 
I have nothing to report on the negative side at all.  Next Level are a great outfit who really care about providing immersive and well-designed experiences.  There are very few rooms in Sydney (or Australia) that will have you laughing out loud – both The Artefact and Ex Libris at Next Level will have you laughing, I guarantee it. 

Where:                   Lower Ground, 23 O'Connell Street, Sydney

Duration:               75 minutes

Themes:                 2

$48pp for a team of 4 (but we played at the kind invitation of the owners)

Overall Rating:       Hilarious, elaborate, challenging, geeky and incredibly fun!

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Monday, 4 December 2017

New Escape Rooms in Manly - Escape Room Eight

Hi everyone

I recently learned that a new escape room business is opening soon in Manly.

They are called Room Eight Escape Rooms.  They are a stand-alone business that plans to have 3 rooms ultimately, of varying levels of difficulty.  Their room summaries are as follows:

Indisposed (Escape the Aussie Dunny)

Trapped in the outhouse of famous, if somewhat deranged Aussie celebrity Huge Axeman, can you free yourself before the Axeman returns. In an Escape Room like no other, you'll need to think and act quickly as a team to solve puzzles and challenges as the clock ticks down. Even if you can escape the Dunny, you'll still need to survive the Australian wild, and contend with an array of deadly Australian fauna.

Entombed (The Disappearance of Dr. Smith)

Amidst the dry arid deserts of Egypt a lone building stands. It was once the study of renowned archaeologist Atlanta Smith, who has been missing and presumed dead for several months, in his quest for the treasure of Khufu. Your search for answers has taken a turn for the worst, and you're going to need to draw on all your investigative nous and powers of deduction to solve this mystery, evade an ancient curse and escape this room alive...
Targeted (Assassin HQ)

On your way up to the Yum Cha restaurant on level 8 of an inner city skyrise, a power surge has resulted in your elevator stopping at level 7 1/2. Home to Sydney's most elite hired killers - Assassins Anonymous. You've got to scour the room and look for clues to an alternative exit, then get the heck out before you're discovered and added to their "to do" list.

Room Eight are also trying to differentiate their business by having multi-lingual rooms (which I'm sure tourists will appreciate, as well as some locals).

They hope to open up later this month with at least one and maybe 2 rooms.  

I hope to get out their soon to check out their rooms and as always, I'll report back here once I have with a review.

You can check out their website here.



New Solo Player Escape Room / Immersive Theatre Experience in Sydney - Monroe & Associates

Hi everyone

I learned recently online about an escape room/immersive theatre experience that is coming to Sydney in January.  It is part of the Sydney Festival lineup and will be based at Carriageworks at Eveleigh (near University of Sydney and Redfern).

This experience sounds like it is unlike anything else in Australia.  Each experience is only for one player at a time, not a group.  You play the role of Frankie Monroe, a private detective who awakes with amnesia and a key to an office.  According to their website, you need to solve puzzles, make phone calls and unscramble the past before your luck runs out.  You will also need to sift through vital tip-offs and hot leads and identify red herrings and goose chases.  

It sounds really interesting.  There are only 2 other experiences in Sydney that have live actors in them (Jetpack Theatre's Art Heist which has finished its run and Second Telling Missions' Sabotage the Enigma).  And whilst I have tried my hand at escaping from an escape room by myself before (Social Escape Rooms' Paris), this should be a very different experience again I think.

I am both intrigued and anxious about checking out this room - I have booked myself a ticket.

The tickets are on the pricey side at $89 per head, but if you consider that only one player can play at a time (and the fact that the experience is up to 90 minutes), I think it seems like good value.  Time will tell.

I will report back here in January after I have checked it out.  For anyone else interested, get in quick - there aren't many time slots left.  You can find out more information about Monroe & Associates here.


Thursday, 30 November 2017

Elude Escape Rooms - A new escape room outfit for Sydney

Hi everyone

I recently learned that Sydney has a new escape room outfit, called Elude Escape Rooms.  They are based in Galston (which is near Dural and about a 30 min drive from Parramatta or a 45 minute drive from the city).

Elude is run by Julia and Darren, a couple who got bitten by the addiction (that we escape room enthusiasts know all too well) while traveling in the UK earlier this year.  They have designed their room completely from scratch by themselves, which is really impressive.

Their first room is called Perpetual Motion:

A revolutionary breakthrough is set to change the course of history following claims than an engineer has modified a petrol engine to run on water.  Oil industries have publicly ridiculed the concept.  However, following the sudden disappearance of the engineer, the police believe that he was kidnaped to obtain the secret of his invention.  The only chance of saving him is to recover the Capacitor, but time is running out.

Julia and Darren have recently opened their business.  They have just the one room so far.  I think this room is run from part of their residential property, which is pretty cool.  The only other room I have been to that has been run from someone's residential property is Australia's first escape room in Flemington, VIC.  

You can find out more about Elude at their website here.

I'm hoping to get to check out Elude's room in the near future.  As always, I'll report back here with my review once we've been.



Sunday, 12 November 2017

Virtual Room - Review of their Adventure room (Chapter I)

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Hi everyone

This review will be a little different to my usual reviews, as this is a review of a virtual reality escape room, rather than a physical escape room.  It is the first time my team has tried a VR room.

I was contacted by Virtual Room and invited to come and try their room.  Virtual Room is one of 3 VR companies (that I am aware of) that have opened in Sydney recently.  I have been intrigued ever since I heard about VR rooms hitting Sydney – how would they compare to a real world experience?

Virtual Room is located on George Street in the city (in the same building as Escape Hunt Sydney).  We were unable to get a babysitter for this escape, so my wife sat this one out and it was the 3 remaining members of my usual escape room team that tried out their room.

This was our 48th room in Sydney and our 61st room in Australia. 

Here’s what I enjoyed most about the experience:

  • Virtual Room use HTC Vives for the experience.  I’m not really up to speed on the various virtual reality tech that currently exists, but I can say that the headsets were very comfortable.  When we each spoke I could easily hear my teammates.  And lastly, the quality of the graphics was excellent.  I wear glasses and I am happy to report that I wore my glasses during the experience without any issues;

  • Virtual Room have a dedicated room for each player.  I think our rooms were about 3m x 3m, with the headset being connected to the ceiling in the centre of the room;

  • the game masters at Virtual Room explained that their games are designed with a real focus on ensuring that players don’t feel nauseous or get headaches.  This is achieved through the design of the game and the fact that when you physically walk within the room, you also move in the VR space.  As Virtual Room explain on their website “Games are also played standing up so your brain and your body are always working together just as they would in the real world”;

  •  as a result, I’m pleased to report that nobody in our team felt nauseous at all, either during the experience of afterwards;

  • the game is towards the simple end of the spectrum when it comes to puzzle complexity.  Virtual Room have designed this room as more of a beginners’ room, to allow players to get to moving around and manipulating items in a VR world;

  • that being said, the game design was very clever.  I won’t go into any specific detail, but the design allows Virtual Room to display the various kinds of worlds that could be applied to an escape room in a VR experience;

  •  there were also a number of puzzles that could not be solved without working together as a team.  Each player is in their separate physical room, but can see and interact with each other in the VR world.  The puzzles were designed to require interaction (and they were also a lot of fun);

  • having not played a VR game before (but having certainly played my share of computer games growing up), the controls were all very intuitive.

I would describe this experience as being more of a multiplayer gaming experience than a true escape room experience.  That being said, there is no doubt that many people who enjoy escape rooms would also enjoy this kind of VR experience.

Virtual Room have opened with just the one room.  However, they have plans to open more rooms.  They told me that their second room, due early in 2018, will be more of a traditional escape room theme, with a lot more puzzles.

The biggest shame of course with a great (physical) escape room outfit is that they are limited in the amount of space that they have, so once you have tried all of their rooms, that’s it.  Given the cost of setting up a room, they generally don’t take them down and replace them with new ones (or at least very few have done that so far in the Sydney market over the past 3 years).  The allure of a VR experience is that they could have a large library of themes to pick from – there really is no limit given it’s as simple as running a different program on the computer system.

For the escape room enthusiasts out there, I would certainly recommend this experience as a nice twist on the more traditional escape room experience.  It was a lot of fun (all 3 of us really enjoyed ourselves).  I think their next room will be even more suited to escape room enthusiasts.  

Based on our experience at Virtual Room, I'm really excited to see what the future has in store for VR escape rooms.

Where:                   Level 5, 393 George Street, Sydney

Duration:               45 minutes

Themes:                 1

Cost:                       We played at the kind invitation of Virtual Room

Overall Rating:       A really fun and interactive VR take on an escape room experience

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