Thursday, 31 December 2020

Mystery pop-up escape room - Parkinsons Disease


Hi all

This post is a little different to my usual escape room review posts.  Earlier in the year I saw a post on a Facebook group I'm a member of asking for experienced players who would be interested in beta testing a pop-up room that would be opening later in the year.  

The details were all pretty vague but we thought why not, let's check it out. It was our 93rd escape room experience in Sydney and 141st experience to date.

We went to a studio in the inner west one Saturday morning in early April.  We were the first group of beta testers for the day.  A sound guy put microphones on us all and off we went into a little old sound stage/warehouse.

The experience was really interesting.  The "escape" consisted of 2 separate rooms.  The puzzles were relatively straight forward, but all centred around a common theme which only became apparent after we had finished.  One puzzle contained wire inside shoe laces, which made it difficult to untie the shoes (to retrieve a key).  Another required a pipe to be filled with water via a teapot of cold water, but the teapot was attached to a thick elastic (so that it took some effort to stretch the elastic as required).  Another puzzle used a computer but all of the keys when typed in were incorrect.

At the end of the 20 minute experience, we opened a door that explained that the experience was not a beta test for a pop up escape room, but was instead part of an awareness campaign for Parkinsons NSW.  Each of the puzzles were designed to replicate challenges faced every day by those suffering from Parkinsons, many of whom we learned were quite young.

Our team was then interviewed after the experience about the escape and our knowledge generally of Parkinsons.  

You can check out the final video used as part of the marketing campaign here.  Interestingly, the first time I saw the video online was from someone who posted it on an international escape room enthusiasts Facebook group, so the marketing campaign obviously got some traction beyond Australia.

This was a really interesting experience.  It was the last physical escape room-type experience that my team did prior to the 2020 Covid lockdown.



Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Godfather - Paniq Room Review


Hi everyone

This review is incredibly late and overdue – apologies to Akos and Martina that it’s taken me so long to write up this review. 

My usual fellow escape room buddies and I (4 adults in total) headed back to Paniq Room in January 2020 to check out their new rooms House of Jumanji and Godfather.  You can read my review of House of Jumanji here (and my previous reviews of their Supercell 117, Abandoned Military Bunker and S3NS3S here, here and here).

Godfather was our 140th room (and our 92nd room in Sydney) to date.

My team has always loved Paniq Room’s rooms.  It had been almost 4 years since my team had been to Paniq Room, which was back when we played S3NS3S in April 2016.  We were VERY keen to come back and check out their latest rooms.

Godfather has the following room summary on their website:

There is a rat in the family who has betrayed Godfather, the head of Corleone family. He has fallen in love with the daughter of a rival mafia-boss, Tattaglia. He has stolen an important tape from their previous payoff action and gave it to the rival mafia family to earn their trust. He must return it immediately before Godfather finds out that it was copied. He has called upon your help to infiltrate and smuggle the tape back to the safe in the godfathers house.

Can you find the hidden key in the garden to enter the notorious office?

The Godfather's family is at a christening today along with the Rat so you only have one hour to complete this difficult task otherwise the Rat is revealed and you all sleep with the fishes! Good luck and god speed.

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

  • Godfather was nicely themed.  Unlike House of Jumanji which contains a lot of automation and is quite linear by design, Godfather is a little less linear and lower in tech (although there certainly are hidden tech elements throughout the room and linear elements with points of convergence).
  • There was a nice mix of puzzles (of varying difficulty).  If I was to describe the puzzles in this room, I would describe them as the kinds of puzzles that require a very keen eye (which is something my team is particularly poor at), but we got there in the end.  There was a nice mix of different puzzles.
  • I would describe the difficulty of the room as being more towards the medium to difficult end of the spectrum.  I’m not sure how long it took us to escape from the room, but I don’t think we had much time left on the clock.  This was in part because it took us some time to solve a couple of the early puzzles.
  • The communications system used is the voice of Got, which is the best system I have seen used to date.  As always, 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.

As for the parts of Godfather that we think could be improved, there were 2 aspects that we raised with Akos.  The first was an early puzzle that contains markings/hieroglyphs.  We didn’t think the solution was as clear as it could be – we lucked onto the solution and when we were shown the solution after we escaped, it didn’t quite feel like a perfect solution.  There was also one other puzzle element that we all saw but which we all thought was something we shouldn’t touch (and we therefore didn’t).  I think this could probably be addressed by signposting or maybe the initial briefing from the game master.

Nevertheless we all enjoyed Godfather.  Akos tells me that the theming is based on a particular famous scene from the Godfather movie (but having not seen the movie I can’t really comment further).  The room was nicely designed, with a frightening amount of puzzles to do in the second half (which really got the adrenaline pumping).

Where:                       40 Gloucester Street, The Rocks (entry Cambridge Street)

Duration:                    60 minutes

Themes:                     4 themes

Cost:                           $168 for 4 adults (we played at the kind invitation of the owners)

Overall Summary:       Lots of interesting puzzles requiring a keen eye!

More details:     

House of Jumanji - Paniq Room Review


Hey everyone

This review is incredibly late and overdue – apologies to Akos and Martina that it’s taken me so long to write up this review. 

My usual fellow escape room buddies and I (4 adults in total) headed back to Paniq Room in January 2020, having previously been there to check out their Supercell, Bunker and S3NS3S rooms (and loving them all).

House of Jumanji was our 139th room (and our 91st room in Sydney) to date.

My team has always loved Paniq Room’s rooms.  It had been almost 4 years since my team had been to Paniq Room, which was back when we played S3NS3S in April 2016.  We were VERY keen to come back and check out their latest rooms.

House of Jumanji has the following room summary on their website:

You have heard sounds of distant drumming from a dark corner of your new house. The drumming grows louder as you move closer to a mysterious ancient board game...strange carvings on the board say "A game for those who seek to find, a way to leave their world behind". You roll the dice to move your token. Strange sounds and mysterious animals appear in every corner! Your next steps determine your fate, find the word and say! Can you escape before it's too late?

As always, I will start with what I liked about Paniq Room’s House of Jumanji:

  • House of Jumanji was themed really well.  Paniq Room has always delivered a high level of theming throughout each of their rooms, but House of Jumanji felt like a step up again on the quality of theming and props. 
  • House of Jumanji is very different in design and style to any of the other rooms at Paniq Room.  This game is highly automated, with all puzzles linking to a central table.  The automation worked flawlessly and all of the puzzles were very well connected to the theme.
  • There was a nice mix of puzzles (of varying difficulty) as well as hunt and seek fun.  In addition to the very high tech, more automated puzzles, as always Paniq Room included some more traditional, Hungarian-style puzzles (with a bit of a twist).  We really enjoyed all of the puzzles.
  • I would describe the difficulty of the room as being more towards the beginner end of the spectrum.  Given the room theme and really beautiful theming, I think this room is particularly suited to families and children.  There was probably only one part of the room that might be a little scary for very small children, but I am pretty sure that this element can be turned off by the game masters so it should not be an issue.
  • The communications system used is the voice of Got, which is the best system I have seen used to date.  As always, 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.
  • House of Jumanji was a really fun room.  The puzzles were all challenging but not impossibly difficult. 

As for the parts that we didn’t like so much with the room, I have nothing much to report here.  All of the puzzles worked well and made sense in the space.  The only thing (which is minor) is that one of the final puzzles felt like it had 2 puzzle answers squished into the one puzzle.  I think that particular puzzle could have been split up into 2 separate puzzles. 

We really enjoyed House of Jumanji. It is a beautifully themed room with some high and low tech puzzles that I think would suit a really broad range of teams.  This is one of the few rooms that I would love to take my daughters to because  I’m sure they would love it (and it’s not too scary for them). 

Where:                       40 Gloucester Street, The Rocks (entry Cambridge Street)

Duration:                    60 minutes

Themes:                     4 themes

Cost:                           $168 for 4 adults (we played at the kind invitation of the owners)

Overall Summary:       A beautifully themed, family-friendly high tech room

More details:     

Update - It's been a long year...

Hi everyone!  

What a year it has been, eh?  My family and I are VERY much looking forward to bidding 2020 farewell in a few weeks’ time, as I am sure are many of you.  My family spent 9 months of the year on complete lockdown, effectively not leaving our house unless absolutely necessary.  That included home-schooling our girls, which was a challenge!  But we have survived it.  

Whilst my team has not been to any escape rooms since January, we have done a few online rooms together (and I have tried about 15-20 online rooms with other escape room enthusiasts from around the world). 

In the chaos that has been 2020, I have been pretty hopeless in writing up my escape room reviews.  I am challenging myself now to write them all up before the end of the year (which means I’ll need to post several each day). Fingers crossed...

To the room owners who have been waiting on my reviews – I’m sorry it has taken so long and thanks for being patient. 

I’m really pleased to confirm that my team is getting back out there and will be hitting more rooms in Sydney over the summer break (including some as early as next Tuesday)!  I have also been trying to organise a trip to Canberra to check out their escape room for over 4 years and it’s finally happening in January!

So, watch this space for more room reviews. 

Let's hope 2021 is a better one.



Thursday, 5 November 2020

Parapark - New room and business for sale

Hi everyone

One of the owners of ParaPark in Macquarie Park recently contacted me to let me know that they are about to open up a new room in the next few weeks.  I am not sure of any of the details at this stage, but check out their website for more information over the coming weeks.  

Sadly, the owners of ParaPark are also looking to sell their business.  If you are interested (or if you know anyone who might be interested), please contact the owners via their website.  

ParaPark is one my absolute favourite escape rooms in Sydney.  Their Gateway 9A/B combination is one of the rooms that I recommend to corporate teams and newer players, given they are excellent quality puzzles that are challenging (but not impossible).   



Monday, 1 June 2020

The Escape Bus - Fallout Bunker and Alcatraz reviews

Hi everyone

My wife and I went to Penrith in January 2020 to check out The Escape Bus.  The Escape Bus is affiliated with Unreal Mini Golf in Penrith, which is putt putt on steroids.  We had a quick look through the mini golf and the theming was the best I had seen anywhere for putt putt. 

The owners of Unreal Mini Golf have a bus permanently parked in the carpark right outside of Unreal Mini Golf.  The bus is split into 2 halves, each with a differently-themed escape room.  We did both rooms back to back.  The space is quite small and has been designed for 2 players (although could probably be played by solo players as well).

The first room at The Escape Bus that we tried was Fallout Bunker.  The room summary from their website for Fallout Bunker is here:

The government had decommissioned a series of experimental nuclear power sites where research for alternative power generation had been undertaken. Due to a national security risk all power sites have been recommissioned. You have been recruited to operate Bunker 2750 and restore the security network provided by the Unreal Atomic Energy Agency (UAEA).

We then went back to back and played Alcatraz.  The room summary from their website for Alcatraz is here:

You and your gang have been arrested and sentenced for 10 years for robbing a gas station for $16.23. Your holding cell on the Rock once held Al Capone who hid a plan to escape, which included his ledger... If you and your gang can escape you will be set for life!

Fallout Bunker and Alcatraz were our 137th and 138th rooms to date and our 89th and 90th rooms respectively in (or around) Sydney.  

Here is what we thought of Fallout Bunker and Alcatraz:

·         the theming in both rooms is really nicely done. The attention to detail is off the charts.  The designer/game master spent some time with us after each room discussing how the room had been designed so as to be as historically accurate as possible (and it shows);

·         we had some technical issues with Fallout Bunker (there is quite a lot of tech in the room and unfortunately, some of it failed).  The game master decided to reset the room after about the first 10 minutes so we effectively started again, which was the right call to make.  Part of our frustration with this was that we had called for a clue (or help) but the game master was dealing with players in the other room, so he didn’t hear us.  We also had some audio issues throughout the entire Fallout Bunker experience;

·         the back story and props in both rooms were great.  The puzzles made sense in the space and the objective of each room completely fit with the theme;

·         there were some issues that I had with some of the puzzles in both rooms.  There was one puzzle in particular in Fallout Bunker that was an absolute chore.  I won’t give any spoilers, but it required players to listen to a long audio track on a loop while solving a puzzle by what felt like pure trial and error.  This was a really inelegant puzzle and we didn’t enjoy solving it; and

·         similarly, there were puzzle elements in Alcatraz that we didn’t love.  One that I recall is a puzzle that required a lot of deciphering which was ultimately for nothing.  It wasn’t quite a red herring as much as it was a time waster and as a result, this felt really unsatisfying to solve.

Of both rooms, I think Alcatraz was the better room – it felt like it had a better game flow and better quality of puzzles than Fallout Bunker.  I think the owners are incredibly good at theming a room – their props and room finishes are the quality you would expect to see on a movie set (as is their mini golf for what it’s worth). However, I really feel like their rooms are let down by the puzzle design.  The technical issues that we had didn’t help at all (as it really coloured the experience we had), but first and foremost I think the main issues were due to puzzle design.  I think these rooms are both examples of rooms that would benefit from a puzzle designer helping with room flow (and to remove or improve some of the puzzles that do not work well).   

I also think that at $45 per head, they need to have a dedicated game master for each room.  It is not good enough to share a game master across both rooms.  This issue is something I have gone on and on about here on my blog, but it’s something that many escape room businesses do badly. 

There are few things more frustrating in an escape room than calling for a clue (sometimes over and over again) and getting no response.  Unfortunately that happened to us while in Fallout Bunker more than once… 

Where:                         Unit 10, 69 York Road, South Penrith

Duration:                      60 minutes

2 themes 

Price:                            $45 each (2 players)

Overall Rating:             Brilliant theming but let down by several puzzles and tech issues

More details:      

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Labyrinth Escape Rooms - CirCurse review

Hi everyone

Back in January, on my birthday, my team returned to Labyrinth Escape Rooms.  My team has been to Labyrinth several times in the past, having tried their Insane Asylum, Mexican Cartel and Japanese Horror rooms (and really enjoying all of them).  

I bumped into Joan and Frank, the owners of Labyrinth Escape Rooms in Melbourne at PAX last year, which was awesome (we hadn't seen each other for a couple of years).  They mentioned that they had opened CirCurse and they invited my team to come and check it out.  We finally got around to heading back to Labyrinth in January 2020.  We had a long chat with Joan and Frank about how they had relocated their business (and the amount of work that clearly went into the move).  

On the other side of Victoria Road from their new premises is a Coles with an attached underground secure parking lot (not overly expensive).  We parked there (and took the opportunity to grab some ice-creams from Coles for sustenance)…

CirCurse was our 136th room to date and our 88th room in (or around) Sydney.  Here is the room description, from their website:

The great Hyde Circus was once an exciting and jaw dropping show but now, there are no ticket sales, crowds or queues. As the new Director, you’ve heard rumours of foul play so you sneak into the performers trailer to find out what could be going on. Is the circus cursed or will you uncover a secret the performers have been trying to bury all these years?

Here is what we thought of CirCurse:
  • the theming is really nicely done and quite unique.  While playing the game, I remember thinking that we felt like we had been completely transported out of Parramatta and were in a circus.  I thought the props, lighting, sounds, etc were really nicely done and really added to the theming and immersion;
  • some of the props were beautifully made, with a lot of attention to detail.  Joan told us that they engaged a painter to create some of their amazing props, which really look beautiful;
  • the puzzles in CirCurse are a true mix of hunt and seek fun and some nice high tech puzzles (that are very well-concealed).  This added to the magical feeling of the room.  The puzzles throughout CirCurse really fit the theme – at times bright and colourful (as you would expect for a circus) and at other times a little ;
  • there are some dark sections within CirCurse - I think my 7 year old would have been fine but my 3 year old might not (it obviously depends on your children), so keep that in mind.  There are no jump scares at all – just a section where it gets dark for a short period;
  • there were a couple of puzzles that were really unique (and of a type we had not seen used anywhere else).  There were some really interesting puzzle elements used in CirCurse, relying on different senses and skills.; and
  • the room is rated “hard” on their website.  I can’t recall how quickly we escaped, but I felt like we had a bit of time up our sleeves.  But we were kept pretty busy during the entire escape. 

As always, my team really enjoyed our time at Labyrinth Escape Rooms.  Joan and Frank have a great escape room business with awesome rooms.  This was our fourth room at Labyrinth and I can again confirm that we have consistently had a great time. 

We were lucky enough to debrief with Joan and Frank after our escape (it’s always fun to talk with genuine escape room enthusiasts).  We even managed to get a sneak peek at some other rooms they are looking to open in the near future ;-)
Where:                         1B Victoria Road, Parramatta
Duration:                      60 minutes
Themes:                       3 themes (but others currently under construction)
                                       Price:                           $43 each (4 players) (but we played at owners’ invitation)
Overall Rating:             A beautiful, challenging, well-themed room
More details:      

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Narrow Escape Rooms - The Inheritance review

Hey all

Firstly, I should apologise to Narrow Escape Rooms for taking so long to write up this review.  This year has been hectic and I’m sure I’m not the only one that has had their hands full with juggling work, home-schooling and life in general.

We went and checked out Narrow Escape Rooms’ second room, The Inheritance back on my birthday in January.  Every year I always try to leave a couple of rooms to do on my birthday that I have heard great things about and The Inheritance was at the top of our list. 

This was our second time to Narrow Escape Rooms – the first time having been a couple of weeks earlier with our kids where we checked out Launch.  You can read my separate review of Launch here.

This time we brought our usual team of 4 adults.  We again spent some time before The Inheritance chatting with Shelley and Craig and we also got to meet Kit, another owner.  I always love a family-owned and run escape room, particularly where the owners design their rooms themselves.

The Inheritance was our 135th room to date and our 87th room in (or around) Sydney.  Here is the room description, from their website:

You receive word that your Aunt May has passed away.
She was fun, loving and RICH!
She was your favourite Aunt & she wants YOU to inherit her FORTUNE!
But first you must find her will!

Here is what we thought:

·        this room was so very well-designed.  The flow is really nice and they have managed to include linear elements together with sections where players can break off in pairs (or solo) to complete puzzles.  I think The Inheritance is similar to Launch in that regard;
·        however, The Inheritance is significantly more challenging than Launch.  Whilst Launch is aimed more at newer players and families, The Inheritance is not as simple a room.  My team has been to many rooms to date and we found elements of The Inheritance quite challenging. The room has a 4/5 difficulty (according to their website), which I think is about right.  I don’t recall how quickly my team escaped from The Inheritance, but I recall feeling like we had plenty to do the whole time.  There are a lot of puzzles to get through in the 75 minutes allowed time;
·        there was a really nice mix of puzzles in The Inheritance.  As with Launch, we found some puzzles that we had not seen used before, which is always awesome.  There is a great mix of hunt and seek fun, together with some really unique and challenging puzzles.  There is again a nice mix of high tech and low tech puzzles;
·        there are no scary or dark sections of the room, so it is fine for younger players.  I would describe this room as being at the trickier end of the spectrum though, so if you’re new to escape rooms, I suggest warming up with their Launch room before tackling The Inheritance.  And don’t be deterred from trying The Inheritance if you are a new player – the owners are very experienced and can help guide you along with some nudges and hints when needed;
·        I don’t remember asking for hints during our experience (I don’t think we did?), but I recall from our time in Launch that Narrow Escape Rooms use the "voice of God" system for communication, which is the best system available;
·        the theming in The Inheritance is really nicely done.  All props and puzzles pieces are completely appropriate to the theme and are really well integrated.  There are few things better in an escape room than having a back story that makes sense (why are there puzzles there for players to solve in the first place?), and having puzzles that are designed from items that you would expect to find in the space.  Narrow Escape Rooms has again done this really well.  This really steps up the immersion of the room;
·        the back story to the room is well-considered and the strong storyline continues right throughout the experience; and
·         Shelley, Craig and Kit took us through all of the puzzles in the room after we finished and explained different aspects of the puzzles, how they came up with puzzles ideas, how they had adapted puzzles over time, what additional puzzles ideas they have, 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.

The Inheritance is a truly awesome room.  

As always, the true test of a great room is whether we had fun.  My team raved about The Inheritance for some time afterwards – not only was it a well-designed room that had us scratching our heads a several points to try and solve their very clever puzzles, we also had a heap of fun along the way. 

I also know from speaking with other experienced players who have tried The Inheritance that they absolutely loved it as well.  

It really is a fantastic room.  My team cannot wait to head back out to Narrow Escape when they open more rooms.

-Team Shah ;-)

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

Duration:                75 minutes

2 themes 

Cost:                            Price:                     $45 each (4 players)

Overall Rating:      One of my favourite rooms to date – challenging and fun! 

More details: