Monday, 30 December 2019

Narrow Escape Rooms - Launch review

Hey all

Narrow Escape Rooms is family-owned and run escape room business based in Penrith (which, incidentally, is where I (and the other 3 members of my escape room team) went to high school).

I was really pleased to hear that some escape room enthusiasts had formed the Narrow Escape Rooms business and had opened up shop in Penrith.  Back before they opened, my team had tried to get there to beta test their first room, "Launch", but unfortunately my team wasn't available at the time.  Fast forward to November 2019 and I was finally able to check out Launch.

This time it wasn't my usual team of 4 adults - we were instead 2 adults and 2 kids (ages 3 and 7yo).  My daughters have been to more escape rooms than most adults, and my eldest in particular is pretty good at helping us solve puzzles and at finding items. 

We spent some time before and after the room talking to 2 of the owners of Narrow Escape Rooms - Shelley and her brother Craig.  I always love a family-owned and run escape room, particularly where the owners design their rooms themselves (which I am sure must be so rewarding).

Launch was our 134th room to date and our 86th room in (or around) Sydney.  Here is the room description, from their website:

Aliens have arrived and they want to do more than just phone home. Systematically the world powers have submitted due to the massive destruction within only minutes of their arrival. The trajectory and speed of the Mothership shows Australia is the next target, soldiers have left their post, the hostiles will be here within the hour. You are a special forces team sent in to restore our defences, can you get our missiles online and stop the alien invasion?

Here is what we thought:

  •  the room is really well-designed.  It has a nice flow – if you think about the spectrum of escape rooms with linear rooms at one end and non-linear at the other, I think Launch would probably sit about in the middle, perhaps slightly towards the linear end;

  • I think the target market for Launch is probably newer players and families.  The room has a 3/5 difficulty (according to their website) and there are no scary or dark sections of the room, so it is fine for younger players;

  • whilst none of the puzzles were incredibly difficult, they were varied and interesting and my wife and I really enjoyed solving them.  I’m happy to report that there were a couple of puzzle elements that I had not seen before in other escape rooms (and that is becoming a rare thing these days);

  • I don’t remember asking for hints during our experience, but I know that we did have to contact the game masters more than once to let our kids use the bathroom midway through.  They use the "voice of God" system for communication, which is the best system available;

  • the rooms are nicely themed, with appropriate props throughout.  You know how in some escape rooms there are puzzles included just for the sake of it (with no real explanation or tie in to the storyline? Well, I’m really pleased to report that all of the puzzles in Launch made sense to the storyline (and in fact were really well integrated into the storyline).  This really assisted with the room immersion;

  • the back story to the room is well-considered and the strong storyline continues right throughout the experience; and

  • Launch has a true mix of high and low tech puzzles, which I thought was perfect for the room; and 

  • Shelley and Craig took us through all of the puzzles in the room after we finished and explained different aspects of the puzzles such as which puzzles were most often broken by players, how they had adapted puzzles over time, etc.  I really enjoy debriefing with game masters after a room and hearing about how they came up with puzzles or how their puzzles have evolved over time.

Launch is a great room and I am really pleased that I can now recommend it, particularly to newer players and families.  

As always, the true test of a great room is whether we had fun.  I asked my 7yo what she thought of Launch.  Her response was that she “really, really liked it” and when I asked her what her favourite part was, she said “everything”.  That’s pretty high praise (particularly given she has probably been to over 20 rooms (across 3 Australian states and in California))…  I’m happy to report that my wife and I also really enjoyed ourselves in Launch too.

I'll be back shortly to check out Narrow Escape Room's second room, entitled "The Inheritance".  I understand that The Inheritance is more challenging than Launch and it's longer (at 75 minutes).  I’ll bring back the adult team next time and as always, I’ll post my review here.

Shelley and Craig also told us about the Escape Bus in Penrith, which has 2 escape rooms (you guessed it), inside a bus.  They told us that the rooms there are really strong (with excellent theming), so I am going to check ithem out in January hopefully.   

Given there are now a couple of great escape room businesses in Penrith, it’s definitely worth the trip to check out a few great rooms back to back!

Where:                    Suite 4, First Floor, 2 Castlereagh St, Penrith

Duration:                60 minutes

2 themes 

Cost:                       $40 each (4 players) (we played at the kind invitation of the owners)

Overall Rating:      A great, family-friendly room with interesting, diverse puzzles 

More details:

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Enigma Room - Temporal Tangle review

Hey everyone

After having caught up with Leanne and Aaron from Next Level Escape at PAX, I learned that they had purchased the Enigma Rooms business and were busily constructing a new room there called Temporal Tangle. 

Time travel is my all-time favourite theme for an escape room (and Goonies, but that really goes without saying)…

So when I heard about the new room, I was hooked.  Temporal Tangle replaces Enigma Room’s Dr Disaster room.  We checked out Temporal Tangle in late November 2019.  The last time we had been to Enigma Room was when we did their Dr Disaster and In Memoriam rooms back to back in March 2015, so it was something like 4 years and 9 months between drinks. 

The place hadn’t changed much at all.  My team had hoped to go back to Enigma to check out a new room for years, but unfortunately the previous owners never created a third room.  I caught up with Barry and Matt (the then owners of Enigma Room) a few years back at Google HQ (for an escape room in a box event) and they told me that they were working on a third room.  Unfortunately, that obviously didn’t eventuate.

After having tried various rooms designed by Leanne and Aaron from Next Level Escape, we had high hopes that Temporal Tangle was going to be a cracker.  Temporal Tangle was our 133rd room to date and our 85th room in Sydney.  Here’s what we thought:
  • if you have checked out either The Artefact or Ex Libris at Next Level Escape (and you REALLY should), you will know that they are the masters of weaving humour into a cleverly-themed escape room experience.  This was no different at Temporal Tangle;
  • the puzzles throughout the experience were really well done – they ranged from being pretty straight forward to pretty tricky.  There were also a couple of puzzle elements that we had not seen anywhere else before, which is always really nice;
  • I would describe Temporal Tangle as a pretty linear room – whilst there are small sections where players can break out into small teams, the majority of the room sees players working together in a logical puzzle order.  The linear nature of Temporal Tangle makes it a really good option for newer players in particular;        
  • Leanne and Aaron told me that it was a “narrative heavy” room and that is very much the case. There is a strong backstory that players really need to focus on in order to solve the puzzles and progress through the room – this is an aspect that I really enjoyed and which absolutely sets the immersion in the room;
  • the puzzles are a nice mix of high and very low tech, with a little bit of hunt and seek fun for good measure;
  • consistent with Enigma Room’s other rooms, the experience started with a short video which explained the backstory and room objectives;
  • by memory, Enigma Room uses a tablet for communicating and obtaining clues – I don’t think we touched the tablet once we went inside the room, but this method of communication works well;
  • the room also includes a “choose your own adventure” element, which was really cool and pretty unique in the escape room world; and
  • the owners, Leanne and Aaron, are escape rooms enthusiasts themselves.  They are passionate about the experiences provided in their rooms and it shows in the quality of the experiences.  As always, Leanne and Aaron took the time after we finished the room to debrief, to show us each of the elements of the room and to ask us for our feedback.
We always have a great time when we go to Enigma Room (and Next Level Escape) and this was no different.  Temporal Tangle is a fun, time travel themed room.  I think it is suited to players of all ages and experience levels.   

My team have been to a lot of escape rooms and we really enjoyed ourselves.  We managed to escape Temporal Tangle in a pretty good time (I have forgotten our exact time but I think it was around the 30 minutes mark).  So perhaps for more experienced players, the room could have had an extra puzzle or two to extend the awesome fun but we very much loved the experience.  

I’m not sure how to mention one aspect of this room without giving away spoilers, but back when I was at PAX, I was chatting with Leanne and Aaron about escape room ideas that I had and things I really hoped to see one day in an escape room.  Well, wouldn’t you know it, one of my ideas made its way into Temporal Tangle and it’s frikkin' AWESOME.  They also left this note for me in the room:

This was a highlight for me in particular, but I hope other players will get a kick out of it too - it is something that has not been done in any room in Sydney (that I know of) ;-)
Temporal Tangle is definitely a room that I will be highly recommending – it is a particularly great room I think for newer players, and it is family-friendly. 

As always, the best test of a great room is whether all of my team members enjoyed the experience – not surprisingly, we all loved Temporal Tangle.

Where:                    Suite 602, Level 6, 262 Pitt Street 

Duration:                60 minutes

3 themes 

Cost:                       $40 each (4 players) (we played at the kind invitation of the owners)

Overall Rating:       Time travel awesomeness

More details: