Monday, 28 January 2019

Mission Sydney - Unstoppable Review

Hi all

The second room that my team ever did in Australia was Vampire Castle at Mission Sydney, which we tried back in November 2014.  I enjoyed Vampire Castle, which was my first experience of a high tech escape room.  I also really enjoyed Dr M at Mission Sydney, which we did a little while later.  My team also enjoyed The Lost Mine at Mission Sydney, which we did about a year ago at the time of writing this review.

This time we were invited back by the owners to check out their brand new room, Unstoppable.  A year ago to the day, we had tried their The Lost Mine room.  I know the date because it was my birthday.  Now, a year later, again on my birthday, we checked out Unstoppable.  

We were our usual 4 team of players.  Unstoppable was out 106th room in Australian and our 76th room in Sydney. Here's the summary of Unstoppable from their website:

You are special forces code-name Skyfall from the Australia National Security Agency. There is a secret mission for you:
A terrorist has placed bombs containing a mutated virus on a train departing from Sydney. With limited clues, you must find the train and defuse the bombs as soon as possible.
The bombs are in place, and the train is about to leave. You must act quickly to prevent a tragedy.

Here’s what I thought:
  • spoiler alert - it was a frikkin' awesome room;
  • the theming was SO well done.  So many details were really well considered and well designed;
  • I have always enjoyed Mission Sydney rooms – they own the “high tech” corner of the escape room market in Sydney (and always have).  Although I have really enjoyed all of their other rooms, I found that at times, whilst really cool, some of the high tech elements didn’t always completely suit the theme;
  • I am truly delighted report that his is not the case with Unstoppable at all.  Even though Unstoppable is completely full of high tech puzzles and design elements, they all support the storyline and make sense in the space;
  • it feels to me like Mission Sydney has really appreciated the importance of a strong back story with this room – in many ways I think elements are more subtle and more natural than its earlier rooms.  The storyline is really strong and the puzzles completely work for that storyline;
  • the game flow is also really well-considered.  I really enjoy clever puzzle design – this includes individual puzzles of course, but also elements between multiple puzzles and spaces that work together.  They had built-in fail safes in the room design, that were very cleverly-designed.  It’s obviously really difficult to go into any details here, but suffice it to say that I was very impressed with this aspect of Unstoppable;
  • the quality of the props and theming in this room was unbelievably strong.  Unstoppable does not feel like you are in a commercial building in George Street.  They have spent a lot of time (and no doubt a lot of money) in building this room and it shows;
  • there were several puzzles that were of a type that we have not seen before.  After 100+ rooms, this is becoming a rare thing indeed;
  • they utilise walkie-talkies in their rooms.  Although not as good as the voice of God system that is quickly becoming the industry standard, it worked well;
  • this room is family friendly – there are no dark rooms or scary elements.  I would suggest children over about 8 years old would be fine if supervised.
After escaping from Unstoppable (which from memory we did in about 60 mins of the allowed 80 mins, we were lucky enough to speak with the owner and room designer (who I remembered from Vampire Castle 4 years earlier).  It was really cool to have the opportunity to discuss puzzle elements and room design with an experienced owner/designer.  We all congratulated him on such a wonderful room.

For those of you who have been to Mission Sydney before, you know that they are the kings of high tech – much of their advertising refers to items like “padlock free”, as a point of difference.  Now imagine you have a room that is completely high tech, but with the tech woven into a great storyline with theming and props that rank up there with some of the best rooms in Australia.  That is Unstoppable.

As always, the best measure of a great room was whether my team enjoyed it.  Well, we very much did – in fact, I was raving about this room over dinner to my team for an hour afterwards ;-)

******NOTE that Mission Sydney currently has 2 different locations.  Unstoppable is at their new George Street premises*******

Where:                   Suite 502, 724 George Street, Sydney 

Duration:                80 minutes

Themes:                 5 themes

Cost:                       $45pp (but we played at the invitation of the owners)

Overall Rating:        High tech with brilliant theming and execution

More details: 

Friday, 25 January 2019

CT Adventures - The Virus review

Hi all

My team checked out CT Adventures’ The Virus room in December.  We had been to CT Adventures twice before – the first time to check out MU-T (which was a great room) and their Gotcha! Room (which was less great).

CT Adventures is one of those outfits that have high tech rooms without the immersive, layered experience.  I think MU-T is their strongest room, with the best variety of puzzles. 

The theme of The Virus is as follows (taken from their website):

The newest high-tech computer system has been created recently by our research institute and the Doctors named it “LYU”.
However, a computer VIRUS “X” has hacked into our “LYU”System and controlled it all. Please try to enter the control room ASAP and fix all the system. Restart “LYU” and find the way of clear the Virus ......Good Luck!

So in a nutshell, there’s a virus that players have to identify and fix.  It’s not the most unique of storylines unfortunately…

The Virus was our 105th escape room in Australia and our 75th escape room in Sydney.  Here are my thoughts:

·         there was a mix of mostly high tech puzzles, with a few old-school Hungarian style puzzles.  Many of the high tech puzzles were high tech for the sake of it – given this was a computer virus themed room, it did kind of suit the theme I suppose;
·         the hint system was by way of a walkie talkie – this was effective but not nearly as strong as the more common Voice of God hint system that is common in most rooms these days;
·         there wasn’t too much hunt and seek fun in the room – it was 95% about the puzzles;
·         the theming was ok – certainly not in the same ballpark as some of the stronger rooms in Sydney or Melbourne;
·         this room had replaced the earlier Pokemon-themed Gotcha room, which my team had tried.  Unfortunately, the room layout is identical to the previous room – this was disappointing and a little lazy on the room owners’ part;
·         some of the puzzles were not exactly logical or clear – we had to ask for a hint at one point because we didn’t understand what we were supposed to do with the techy puzzle elements;
·         in the end, we didn’t understand the storyline and whether we had achieved in our quest (although I had kind of got bored by that point and had lost interest in the quest itself).

I would describe this room as being pretty lack-lustre.  We escaped in less than half of the permitted time – it felt like we were running through the motions without a single wow moment or fun element.
As always, the true test of a room for me is whether we had fun.  We didn’t have fun in this room.  The other measure of a room, at least for me, is how well I remember the puzzles.  For my favourite rooms, I can tell you in detail each puzzle in the space 2 or 3 years later. 
With this room at CT Adventures, it has been less than 2 months and I can barely remember any of the puzzles.  Give it a miss.

Where:                                        61 Market Street, Sydney
Duration:                                     60 minutes
Themes:                                      3 themes
Cost:                                            $40pp
Overall Summary:                      Not unique, fun or enjoyable – give it a miss
More details:                     

Curious Cartel - The Lock In Review

Hi all

My team checked out Curious Cartel's The Lock In in December 2018.  I booked tickets to this experience the second I heard about it (they mentioned "Goonies" in their theme summary on their website, so it was a no-brainer from where I was sitting). 

The theme of The Lock In is as follows (taken from their website):

All friends are welcome at our ultimate night out featuring theatre, cocktails, puzzles and a chunk of 80s sci-fi nostalgia. 'The Lock In' is Sydney’s very own homage to the most awesome of decades and we’re ready to quite literally turn your world upside down.
Booking into The Lock In is accepting a one-way ticket to small town Indiana. Weird stuff has been going on at a top-secret government facility and a kid has gone missing.  You and your associates are invited to step into the story, crack the codes and save the day... This is no PG-13 Goonies adventure.  The lab is fixing up adults only hard liquor - and you’ll be conducting some alcoholic experiments yourself. There’s also a chance to be part of your own high school movie but at Heartstrings High, your teacher is actively encouraging you to make moonshine in science class.
All this to a soundtrack of your favourite 80s movie hits. The Lock In takes  immersive theatre and an experiential bar and cranks it up to Eleven.
So round up your friends, get lost in our wonderful world and see if you have got what it takes to make it to the end.

So in a nutshell, it's an immersive theatre experience with cocktail-making and 80s cliches.

The Lock In was our 104th escape room (or escape room like) experience in Australia (and our 74th experience in Sydney).  I was initially disappointed (and a little pissed off) with Curious Cartel.  Despite having booked tickets months out, I received an email from them a couple of days before our scheduled experience telling me that due to unforeseen circumstances (which they wouldn't elaborate on), our experience had been cancelled and we had to change dates.  Given I had already booked a babysitter, I found this very frustrating.

We ultimately on another night in December.  Here are my thoughts:

·         the backstory was fun – it’s a take on Stranger Things meets Goonies meets Weird Science meets something else;
·         there were about 16 or so people in our group.  As with A Midnight Visit, it was annoying that they didn’t explain on their website the group sizes for the experience – I didn’t mind having a larger size group, but I would have liked to know ahead of time;
·         the storyline sees players splitting up pretty quickly into 2 groups and then at the midway point, the teams swap places so everyone gets to experience the same puzzles;
·         the puzzles were fun but not overly complicated or unique.  It was really interesting solving puzzles with complete strangers; and
·         throughout the experience, one of the challenges is to create a couple of concoctions - these are the cocktails that players then get to drink while solving other puzzles;
·         the experience was on the expensive side compared to other escape room experiences ($65 per person).  Given that each players gets to drink 2 cocktails a part of the experience, for many people the pricing might be ok.
I would describe the experience as more of an immersive experience than an escape room.  It was fun, but there were no real wow moments – I think the actor interaction could have been more fun and engaging and more humour could have been added into the script.

We had fun, but it certainly wasn’t the most fun nor the most immersive experience we have tried to date.

Where:                                      501 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills
Duration:                                  90 minutes
Themes:                                    1 theme
Cost:                                          $65pp
Overall Summary:                    A fun 80s throwback room but without any wow factor
More details: