Sunday, 11 September 2016

CT Adventure Escape Room - Gotcha Review


Hi everyone!

Yesterday my team and I tried out CT Adventure’s second room, Gotcha.  For other Pokemon Go fanatics, it is a room inspired by all things Pokemon related! 

My team first went to CT Adventures just after they opened back in April when we escaped from their MU-T room.  We all really enjoyed the MU-T room – it was definitely one of the most fun rooms we have ever done.  You can read my review of MU-T here.

My team this time was the usual team of 4 adults, together with my 4 year old daughter.  This was our 31st room in Sydney and our 43rd room in Australia.

The Gotcha room originally opened as Forest Force back in April.  However, the owners have re-themed the whole thing (and have included a number of extra puzzles to make it a little tougher)…

As always, I’ll start off with what I liked about the room:
  • the location is really convenient – it is on Market Street (the entrance is between DJs and Rip Curl).  You need to hit the button on the intercom and they will then program the lift to let you get out on their floor.  We parked in the same building (there is a Secure Parking on Castlereagh that is $8 on weekends and evenings if you go to The Palace, which is a pretty good yum cha in Piccadilly);
  • I think the theme choice is very clever and very well-timed, given the incredible popularity of Pokemon Go at the moment with children and adults alike.  I spent the morning before our escape walking around Circular Quay and it was amazing how many people were catching Pokemon, with their mobiles in hand and tell-tale charging cables;
  • my daughter has recently discovered the fun of Pokemon Go (she loves nothing more than to deplete my stash of ultra balls and raspberries!).  The reason I raise this is because this is the first time that she has been genuinely engaged by the room – most of the time the room themes are suited to adults (or at least kids of 12 or older).  This time however she was actively involved for about 90% of the escape – she helped with several hands-on puzzles and she had a ball.  This is the only room I can think of in Sydney that has been designed so that young kids can take on an active role.  Whilst other rooms are “kid friendly”, that really just means that it is not a horror theme that would give kids nightmares;
  • the theming of this room is reasonably well done – they don’t use the terms Pokemon Go or Pikachu, etc so hopefully they won’t get into any trouble for the room theme!
  • as was the case with their MU-T room, there is really good mix of low tech and high tech puzzles.  The low tech puzzles really allow kids to get involved and the high tech puzzles are really well done.  The mechanics of all of the high tech puzzles are well hidden, as they should be.  We also saw some puzzles in this room that we had never seen before, which were really fun.  This room gives Mission Sydney a run for its money on the high tech front;
  • one thing I noticed was that there was not too much hunt and seek fun in this room, as compared with MU-T.  Most of the items you need to find are in plain sight, so you do not need to get on your hands and knees and scavenge around looking for any obscure items in this room;
  • despite being a kid-friendly room, we still found it reasonably challenging.  We escaped with just over 10 minutes left on the clock (and we didn’t need any hints), which I think gave us the room record.  Normally we rush through rooms like crazy, but this time we slowed down a little (in part due to my daughter who wanted to be more involved in the adventure!).  I can therefore see this record being beaten by a long way (I think around 35 minutes would definitely be possible).

As for things that could be improved, there is not much to report here:

  • the room is reasonably tricky.  It took us 50 minutes to escape and I understand from Fiona at CT Adventures that most teams have not escaped Gotcha within the allowed 60 minutes.  Given this is their family and children-friendly room, they might consider making the puzzles a little easier.  I think they are going to monitor this and see how things go.  They could always consider giving more clues to newer players (or teams with young children);
  • although it is effective, I did not love the hint system that they now have in their room.  Different escape room outfits use different hint systems.  The best ones are where the game master is watching your every move and if clues are required, they are provided in a subtle way that does not detract from the immersion of the room experience.  CT Adventures uses a mobile phone (which they provide) and you can send a text for a clue.  They have a 3 digit code written on each of the puzzles, so you need only text the 3 digit code and they will provide you with a clue for that specific puzzle.  You are only entitled to 3 hints during the game.  The game masters are watching your every move at CT Adventures, which is great.  However, I don’t love the 3 digit code hint system.  I think this detracts from the immersion (as the 3 digit codes are all over the room).  I prefer a simple conversation over a phone or speakers, but that is just my taste; and
  • whilst we played at the kind invitation of the owners, I think their standard pricing is on the high side ($190 for 4 adults).  Whilst their rooms are both great rooms, the average rack rate at Sydney escape rooms is around $140 at the moment.


This was a great room.  I know they are going to do well because I get several enquiries each week asking for room recommendations for young children.  I can honestly say that this room has been designed so that kids can actively participate and with a bit of help from adults, they just might get out in time too.

We're heading back to CT Adventures shortly to play test their third room, which is a scary room with a Witch theme.  This will apparently be their most difficult room, so I'm really looking forward to seeing what they can do with such a different theme to their 2 current rooms.

Where:                        Level 7, 61 Market Street, Sydney NSW 2000 (look for a glass door between Rip Curl and DJs on the south side of Market Street)

Duration:                    60 minutes

Themes:                     2 so far (but 1 other planned)

Cost:                           $190 for 4 adults (but we played at the kind invitation of the owners)

Overall Summary:      Easily the best family and child-friendly room in Sydney


More details:              http://ctadventureescapegame.com.au/

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Canberra's newest escape rooms - Escape Rooms Canberra now open




Hi all

I’ve been in contact with Michael and Mitch from Escape Rooms Canberra.   Yesterday was the grand opening of their business in Phillip ACT .

They are a standalone business, but have an affiliation with Owen Spears at Escape Room Melbourne, Australia’s first escape room outfit.  They have opened up 2 rooms so far, the summaries of which are below:

1.   Mr. Keller’s Magic Emporium, a place where fun never dies. 

You’ve applied for jobs all over town but nowhere is hiring… you. You've even tried the quaint toyshop downtown, run by the enigmatic ‘Mr. Keller’. A few days later you receive a letter in the post; it’s Keller inviting you back for a job interview, of sorts. He’s left you a series of tasks and puzzles; if you can complete them in 60-minutes or less then the job is all yours. If not, well that's your own bad luck. 

2.   House on the Hill – Salem, MA

Sound familiar? 

There's been talk of witchcraft ever since a mysterious illness struck the town of Salem. Hysteria is setting in and fingers are itching to be pointed. Margret Coulter-Rose has been seldom seen since the death of her husband and daughter It's said that an evil presence pervades the House on the Hill. It's said that the devil has crept in. The town elders have sent you into the house to find enough evidence of witchcraft to bring Margret to trial. 

Be warned though; Margret doesn't take too kindly to visitors anymore, and the old house, with it's creaks and groans, is said to be even less accommodating.


The Keller’s room is based on the room of the same name at Escape Room Melbourne, but with a few changes designed by Mitch and Michael.  The House on the Hill is their own design.

I’m hoping to get down to Canberra over the Christmas/summer break to check out their new rooms.  

For further  information, check out their website here.

Thanks
Scott

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Canberra's Riddle Room is expanding




Hi all

At the beginning of the year, I posted about Canberra’s first escape room outfit, Riddle Room and their first room, The Nightmare Room.  

I haven’t been able to get to Canberra this year, but I’m hoping to get their over the Christmas break or earlier in 2017.  However, Chris and Jesse have informed me that their business is going very well and they have now taken commercial space in Mitchell and are expanding.

They are currently busy constructing new rooms.  In addition to constructing their Nightmare Room in the new location, they plan on constructing a second Nightmare Room (so teams can go head to head) as well as 2 other brand new rooms.  

They hope to open in October with the Nightmare Rooms and one of the brand new rooms, a family friendly dungeon-themed room.

Watch this space for more information or check them out at http://www.riddleroom.com.au/

Thanks
Scott

Sunday, 21 August 2016

The Cipher Room - Espionage Review



Hi everyone!

I’m really pleased to bring you this review, which is of Sydney’s latest escape room outfit, The Cipher Room (TCR).  I first found out about TCR from other escape room owners.  My first impression from their website was that they have a very clear sense of their own style and what they want to bring to the escape room market in Sydney. 

TCR is based in Newtown and is the brainchild of Marise and David, puzzle fanatics turned escape room designers.  TCR is scheduled to officially open its first room, entitled Espionage, on Tuesday 23 August (tomorrow!). 

Marise and David kindly permitted us to play-test their room ahead of the grand opening.  My team this time was the usual team of 4 adults, together with my 4 year old daughter who spent most of the escape watching an iPad with headphones on.  This was our 30th room in Sydney and our 42nd room in Australia.

Espionage is a 1940s spy-themed room, where you take over the role of a spy from another agent who is MIA. 

As always, I’ll start off with what I liked about the room:
  • their website is first rate and I’ve yet to see a better designed escape room logo.  I think both really match their room well and their overall style;
  • the location was really easy to find.  This is one of very few escape rooms in Sydney that has a real street presence on a very busy street.  We found nearby parking easily on Bray Street (only about a 100m walk);
  • TCR’s style and theming begins when you approach their front door and window display on King Street.  They have a really cool, curiosity-inducing window display that sets the scene beautifully for what’s to follow.  Their front of house is equally mysterious, old-worldly and charming, as is their hallway that seems to go on forever, bringing the promise of many more escape room adventures in the future no doubt;
  • the theming in the room (and in fact the theming in the whole operation - the window display, front of house, etc) is the best we have seen to date in Sydney.  I won’t divulge any spoilers, but let’s just say that all of the props make sense in the space, as do the puzzle elements and the room has a real sense of identity as a result;
  • there is a really great mix of puzzles in this room.  Some are fiendishly simple; others require some out of the box thinking.  There is also a really nice mix of low and high-tech puzzles and mechanisms within the room.  Again, it’s a 1940s themed room, so the high-tech elements are completely hidden out of sight, as they should be;
  • the craftsmanship behind the puzzle pieces, the props and other aspects of the room blew us away.  You really get a sense of the vast amount of time that has been spent in designing and then creating all of the elements in this room;
  • I get asked a lot via my blog for recommendations for child-friendly rooms.  I'm pleased that I can add this one to the list.  As is often the case with my wife and I, there are many other adventurers who find it difficult to get a babysitter and instead prefer to bring their young children with them to escape rooms.  I can report that this room is not scary at all and is perfectly suitable for children of all ages.  That being said, if a team of kids (without any adults) wanted to have a go at escaping from this room, I think it would probably suit children of say 12 or older; and
  • owners Marise and David are truly enthusiastic about their business, which shows from the amount of work they have put into it.  They have set out to create a truly immersive experience and they have been very successful in that endeavour.


There's nothing to report on the negative side.  There were a couple of minor tweaks that we suggested (as part of a typical play-testing experience), but we really didn’t have much value to add on that front.

I would describe this room as a medium difficulty room.  We escaped with a bit of spare time, but we were all very engaged and challenged throughout the whole experience.  It’s a non-linear room, which really allows you to break off and solve puzzles separately.  I think this is one of the rare rooms that would suit newer players and experienced players alike.

Their website allows you to book for teams of between 2 and 6.  Based on all of the rooms I have tried in Sydney (and in other states), my view is that the best number of players for each escape room we have tried is 4 (perhaps 5 if some of the players are kids).  In order to have more players, a room needs to have adequate space for 6 bodies and enough puzzles to keep all 6 players fully engaged.  Whilst this room is no exception to my view that 4 players is the right number, this room does comfortably accommodate 6 players on all fronts.

As always, the number one factor that I consider when reviewing a room is how much fun we had.  I’m really pleased to confirm that we had a fantastic time in this room.  The whole experience was great.  Marise and David were kind enough to walk us through the room afterwards to explain the planning and craftsmanship that went on behind the scenes, the easter eggs, etc.  If only all escape room outfits were this good.

I’m really pleased that Sydney’s latest room is a great one.  I have no hesitations at all in recommending this room.  You are going to love it!


Where:                        640 King Street, Newtown

Duration:                    60 minutes

Themes:                     1 so far (but 2 others planned)

Cost:                           $152 for 4 adults (but we played at the kind invitation of the owners)

Overall Summary:      Off the charts theming with old world charm – a must do room

More details:              http://www.cipherroom.com.au/

Sunday, 24 July 2016

100,000 page views!


Today marks the day that my blog has hit 100,000 page views!

I receive lots of emails and comments each week from people telling me that they have found my blog useful, or asking me for recommendations for their particular groups.

A surprising number of people seem to agree with my reviews on most rooms (and most drop me a line after checking out a room that I recommended to let me know how much fun they had).

An experience in an escape room is VERY subjective - it depends on the group you are with, how much you are into the particular theme, how tired you are at the time of trying the room, etc.  And then there are the qualities of the room itself - the puzzles, overall room design, quality of game masters, whether you like hunt and seek fun or just straight puzzles, whether you like a linear room, etc. 

I therefore don't think there is such a thing as the perfect escape room for all groups.  That being said, there are some rooms that get the fundamentals right and not surprisingly, they are the rooms that consistently impress groups of all types.

I hope to be blogging about escape rooms for years to come.  My true hope is that the:
  • true, authentic escape rooms that set out to provide memorable, immersive and fun experiences for players will continue to thrive and grow; and
  • cheap, poorly designed rooms that seem to be solely aimed at making money leave the market.

Unfortunately, many first-timers try one of the latter rooms and it turns them off escape rooms for good.  It's such a shame!

Thankfully, more than half of the escape rooms in Sydney are great rooms run by really enthusiastic escape room owners.  And with a number of new escape rooms set to hit the Sydney escape room market this year, I'm hopeful that this industry will continue to grow for years to come.

Thanks all for reading my blog!
Scott


Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Another new escape room outfit - The Cipher Room




Hey all

There is another new escape room outfit about to open in Sydney, this time in Newtown.  They are called The Cipher Room.

I've been in contact with Marise, one of the owners of The Cipher Room.  She tells me that they are currently putting the final touches on the build and have begun play testing.  They plan to open with one room to start with, called Espionage.  They plan to launch their second room, The Cabin, later this year.

The Cipher Room is run by Marise and David, Newtown locals.  Like so many escape room owners that I know (and escape room players alike!), their love of escape rooms stems back to their Myst and Riven days.  For me, it goes way back to King’s Quest (and later Monkey Island, Myst, Sam and Max Hit The Road, Day of the Tentacle and the list goes on)…

David and Marise make all of their own electronic, wooden and graphic puzzles, which is awesome.  There are few things better than home-made puzzles in an escape room. 

See below summaries of their rooms from their website:

Espionage

It’s 1945 and you’ve just been recruited as a spy. You receive an urgent message from another agent. She needs to meet you at a safe house where she's been conducting surveillance. Once you arrive, you discover that she's nowhere to be found. However, before she fled 'Agent M' managed to leave you a series of clues. You need to solve these puzzles to locate the secret she's been protecting.

Where did the agent go? Why did she leave in such a hurry? And what mission does she need you to complete?

The Cabin

You're a detective who's been investigating a serial killer case. One day you get a promising lead about a man from some nearby woodlands. He lives alone in an old cabin and, according to neighbours, he's been acting very strangely. You obtain a search warrant, wait for him to leave, and you and your team go in to investigate.
What is inside the mysterious old cabin? Have you finally found your guy? Can you get the evidence and get out in time?


The rooms sound very cool.  They are located at 640 King Street, Newtown.  Their aim is to make immersive gaming environments, with tactile and authentic puzzles and themes.

I'm very much looking forward to checking out both of their rooms!

For more information, check out their website here or their Facebook page here.

Thanks
Scott