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: