Sunday, 14 May 2017

Second Telling Missions - Sabotage the Enigma Review



Hi all

My usual team of 4 adults (along with our apprentice 6 month old daughter) checked out Second Telling Missions’ Sabotage the Enigma over the Easter long weekend.

I was contacted by Patrick, the owner of Second Telling Missions some time back when he was in the building phase of his escape room.  My team had all been looking forward to heading to Second Telling Missions since I told them that they were opening up a room with live actors – a kind of hybrid of your typical escape room and a theatrical experience.  To my knowledge, they are the only escape room in Sydney that offers this mix (with the exception of a pop-up escape room that is being run by Jetpack Theatre for a limited time 2 month run – see my note about that one here).  I love the idea of having an actor in the room with you.  

This was our 55th room (and our 43rd room in Sydney so far).  We also escaped from Second Telling Mission’s first room, Rescue the White Rose, on the same day as trying Sabotage the Enigma.  You can see my separate review on Rescue the White Rose here.

So, as always I’ll start with what I enjoyed most about Sabotage the Enigma:

  • as with Rescue the White Rose, the theatrical element to this room starts before you even enter the room.  Your mission, as explained to you by the game master, is to assist a resistance organisation and break into a top-secret army communications centre and sabotage the Enigma key-distribution mechanism.   
  • Second Telling Missions have both a café (White Rose Café) and their escape rooms together in the one space.  This was really cool as far as atmospheres go for briefing (and debriefing) for an escape room experience.  I’m also very pleased to report that their coffees, hot chocolates and biscuits were all awesome ;-) 
  • our game master is a professional actor (and playwright) who goes by the stage name Seymour Nixen.  She was fantastic (in both this room and in Rescue the White Rose).   I enjoyed Sabotage the Enigma the most out of Second Telling Missions two rooms.  The reason was simple – in Sabotage the Enigma, the game master/actor was inside the room with us, which made for such a unique, funny and fun experience.   
  • The actor plays the role of a security guard at the facility that our team was trying to infiltrate.  The level of interaction was unlike anything I have experienced in an escape room before.  I can’t go into too much here without giving spoilers, but trying to tip toe around a security guard and later interact with him/her was a really fascinating twist on the typical escape room.  At times we were searching the guard for clues (without her knowing).  At other times our actor/game master accidentally spoke in the wrong accent, which had us all laughing (the actor included).  Again, it’s hard to go into any detail on this without giving spoilers, but suffice it to say that it was one of the most fun (and memorable) escape room experiences I have had.

  • I can see this level of interaction being really popular with kids, as they try to sneak by guards or search the guard without them knowing it.  I think of their two rooms, this is the room that is best suited to family teams.  I’m often asked for room recommendations for family teams.  I really think this would be a great room for families – the puzzles are not impossibly difficult and kids would love the interaction element.

  • This room was pretty challenging.  We escaped in around 50 minutes, which puts it at the more difficult end of the market.  However, I wasn’t sweating bullets – we plodded along pretty nicely with this room.

  • Second Telling Missions has done a great job of theming this room.  Many (if not all) of the puzzles are hand-made.  A really cool aspect of both rooms at Second Telling Missions is that in many ways you are receiving a history lesson while playing, although Rescue the White Rose is probably the more historically accurate of the two rooms.  There were a couple of puzzles in this room which were of a type we had never seen before, which was fantastic. 
  • We didn’t have any issues with the hint-delivery system in this room, given that the person giving the hints was inside the room with us.  I can confirm that this system of providing hints is my absolute favourite system – it’s even better than the “voice of God” system where players simply speak and the game master responds over the loud speaker.  The ability for the game master to see exactly what players are doing means that they can provide precise hints, rather than more generic hints.  There are also no problems with voices being muffled or difficult to hear (which is often the case when using walkie talkies) and you have the added benefit of being able to read lips and body language.  I had concerns going in that having a game master in the room might make players more likely to ask the game master for hints (perhaps than players might otherwise do in a more typical escape room where the game master is outside of the room).  I am pleased to report that we didn’t have any issues on this front (but other teams might push this element).

As for the negative, I’m pleased to report that just like their Rescue the White Rose room, there really isn’t too much to report on the negative side for Sabotage the Enigma either.  I have given Patrick some suggested tweaks on a few things, which he was really receptive to.  I should also note again that we were beta testing this room, so it hadn’t yet opened to the public (and I understand that Patrick has acted on some of my suggestions).  My suggestions were things like room flow improvements (to avoid bottleneck puzzles), adding a couple of puzzles or slightly tweaking some existing puzzles to make them a little easier to follow.  My other main suggestion was to turn up the level of interaction even more with the game master/actor, as that is the element that truly sets this room apart from the pack.


Patrick and our game master again walked us through each of the puzzles at the end of the game following our escape, which was great.  He also pointed out the various “easter eggs” hidden throughout the puzzles.


As always the main factor I consider in reviewing rooms is how much fun we had.  I can honestly say that we all had such a fun and memorable time in Sabotage the Enigma.  I can see with a few minor tweaks, this room is going to be a truly unique, must do room in Sydney. We were challenged, we learned something about history and we had a lot of fun!  

Also, Patrick has been kind enough to provide readers of this blog with a special 15% discount for bookings until the end of May.  When making a booking on their website, use the discount code "IREADSCOTT" for the discount!


Where:                   397 King Street, Newtown

Duration:               60 minutes

Themes:                 
2 currently

Cost:                       
$39.50 each (4 players) (*we played at the kind invitation of the owner)

Overall Rating:      Heaps of fun and the most interactive room we have tried so far


More details:          https://www.secondtelling.com/



Second Telling Missions - Rescue the White Rose Review




Hi all

My usual team of 4 adults (along with our apprentice 6 month old daughter) checked out Second Telling Missions’ Rescue the White Rose (RTWR) over the Easter long weekend.

I was contacted by Patrick, the owner of Second Telling Missions some time back when he was in the building phase of his escape room.  My team had all been looking forward to heading to Second Telling Missions since I told them that they were opening up a room with live actors – a kind of hybrid of your typical escape room and a theatrical experience.  To my knowledge, they are the only escape room in Sydney that offers this mix (with the exception of a pop-up escape room that is being run by Jetpack Theatre for a limited time 2 month run – see my note about that one here).  I love the idea of having an actor in the room with you.  

This was our 54th room (and our 42nd room in Sydney so far).  We also beta tested Second Telling Mission’s second room, Sabotage the Enigma.  You can see my separate review on Sabotage the Enigma here.

So, as always I’ll start with what I enjoyed most about RTWR:

  • the theatrical element to this room starts before you even enter the room.  Your mission, as explained to you by a member of the anti-Nazi resistance organisation (and our game master for the room), is to go to the secret headquarters of the White Rose organisation and retrieve a full list of the White Rose members before the police uncover the list.  For half a second, this reminded me of the more modern storyline of trying to find the non-official cover (or “NOC”) list in the first Mission Possible movie (but I digress)…
  • our game master is a professional actor (and playwright) who goes by the stage name Seymour Nixen.  She was fantastic.  The backstory to the room was very logical and well-considered.  And they did something really simple that many escape rooms fail to do, which is to explain why the heck there are so many puzzles within the room.  So often this is not explained in an escape room – it often only takes an extra 2 sentences in the briefing but I think it adds to the immersion;
  • Second Telling Missions have both a café (White Rose Café) and their escape rooms together in the one space.  This was really cool for a number of reasons.  The first was that it acted as the location for our meeting with the member of the White Rose organisation.  It’s really cool that despite who else is in the café, our game master didn’t break character when giving us our briefing.  To my knowledge, other than places like Strike Bowling who provide alcohol sales with their escape rooms, I think Second Telling Missions is the only escape room that is also a café.  I’m also very pleased to report that their coffees, hot chocolates and biscuits were all awesome ;-)
  • RTWR is a challenging room.  There are a lot of puzzles to get through.  I think our team took something like 53 minutes to escape, which puts it at the more difficult end of escape rooms in the market.  I don’t think newer players should be dissuaded by this though – as with all good escape rooms, the dedicated game master will give hints to assist players in working through the puzzles. 
  • there was a really nice mix of low tech and high tech puzzles.  There were also at least 3 puzzles in this room which were of a type that I had never seen before, which was fantastic. 
  • Second Telling Missions has done a great job of theming this room.  Many (if not all) of the puzzles are hand-made.  A really cool aspect of both rooms at Second Telling Missions is that in many ways you are receiving a history lesson while playing – the theming is historically-accurate and really interesting.
  • I’m often asked for room recommendations that are family friendly.  RTWR is not scary or dark so it would certainly be fine for children.  There are even a number of puzzles that younger kids could assist with.
  • I won’t give out any spoilers, but RTWR is one of those rare rooms that has a nice ending to the storyline.  Often in escape rooms you do what you’re supposed to do and then nothing really happens, which can be quite anticlimactic.  I always appreciate a nice ending to a room that wraps everything up.


As for the negative, there really isn’t too much to report here.  I have given Patrick some suggested tweaks on a few things, which he was really receptive to.  They were things like the really tricky art of when and how to give hints (which no doubt will come over time once more teams have been through RTWR), a few theming suggestions and a suggested tweak to the hint method (as it was difficult to understand our game master at times, given she had a heavy German accent which was a little muffled by the walkie talkies).  The interaction with the game master/actor was great too, but she was not inside the room with us (the interaction and theatrical elements were certainly there before and after the escape, but our interaction with the game master during the escape was via walkie talkie only). 
   
Patrick and our game master walked us through each of the puzzles at the end of the game following our escape, which was great.  He also pointed out the various “easter eggs” hidden throughout the puzzles.

My team really enjoyed Second Telling Missions’ Rescue the White Rose.  We were challenged, we learned something about history and we had a lot of fun!  

Also, Patrick has been kind enough to provide readers of this blog with a special 15% discount for bookings until the end of May.  When making a booking on their website, use the discount code "IREADSCOTT" for the discount!
 

Where:                   397 King Street, Newtown

Duration:               60 minutes

Themes:                 
2 currently

Cost:                       
$39.50 each (4 players) (*we played at the kind invitation of the owner)

Overall Rating:      A fun, theatrical trip through history

More details:        
  https://www.secondtelling.com/



Sunday, 7 May 2017

Theatre-based pop-up escape room - Art Heist



Hi all

I learned recently from Marise at The Cipher Room that the Jetpack Theatre at Dulwich Hill is running an escape room.  The experience opens on 18 May and will run until 30 July.  

Here is the summary of the experience:

You and your crew plan and carry out a robbery in our purpose-built art gallery.
Distract guards. Avoid cameras. Fool alarms. Dodge lasers. Steal art.
But be quick, time’s already running out…


I understand that there are security guards all over the place (played by various actors) who interact with you throughout the escape.  My first thought was that it sounds a lot like Small Time Criminals, which was an escape room experience run in Melbourne last year that involved a heap of actors playing the roles of security guards that you have to avoid and/or trick. 

I'm pleased to confirm that Jim, the director of the Art Heist tells me that feedback he has received from people who have tried both Small Time Criminals and Art Heist is that the experiences are very different.  

Art Heist goes for 45 minutes, with an intro at the start and a de-brief at the end.  

I have bought my tickets for later this month and I'll report back here with my review.  You can read more about Art Heist on their website here.

Also, if you buy your tickets before 18 May and type in the code word "EARLYBIRD", you will save $30.

Thanks
Scott

Friday, 5 May 2017

Scram Escape Rooms - The Wizard Chambers Review


Hi all

My usual team of 4 managed to check out Scram Escape Rooms at Parramatta over the Easter weekend.  My 6 month old tagged along, so we were officially a team of 5.

It was our 53rd room in Australia and our 41st room in Sydney.  Here’s what we liked most about The Wizard Chambers:

·           they have done a great job with the theming of the space, which is Harry Potter inspired.  Their front of house looks great as does a small area beneath the stairs which sets up the first room theme really well.   They have managed to provide a real feeling of a wizarding world. 
·           the puzzles are great.  There is a really good mix of high tech and low tech puzzles throughout the rooms – they are all intuitive and make sense.  It’s always nice to see puzzle elements that we have not seen used before in 50+ rooms.  There were a number of things we saw in The Wizard Chambers that we had not seen anywhere before, which was cool.
·           they have some nice tech in the room, but some of my favourite elements in the room were low tech puzzles and door mechanisms, which were awesome. 
·           they have a simple voice of God hint system, which worked perfectly.
·           the room has a really good flow.  There were a couple of parts that had us scratching our heads, but when we figured it out it was all logical and made sense.
·           they have a dedicated game master watching each players’ every move, which is fantastic.  
·           after our escape, the game masters Walid and Jess stepped us through each puzzle in the room, which was a nice touch (particularly when certain puzzles were solved by my team members before I had even seen them).
·           it’s also really impressive that the owners designed the rooms and all of the puzzles themselves.  This is no easy feat (with more and more escape room companies in Sydney opting to purchase room designs or puzzle elements).  Scram has done a great job on this front.
·           they have a great location – they are close to Westfield and the train station, which is really convenient.
·           I think this room is an intermediate difficulty level.  We escaped in around 44 minutes (which I think was a record for about half a day until it was broken by another team).  None of the puzzles are impossibly hard – they are largely logical with a couple of elements that require you to really pay attention to your surroundings. 
·           this is therefore a great room for teams who are new to escape rooms and it’s really well-suited to family teams.  There are a couple of sections that are a little poorly-lit, but otherwise it’s not scary at all for young kids.
·           their pricing is great – at around $31 per person (for a team of 4), they are considerably below the average price for escape rooms in Sydney.
I’m pleased that there really isn’t much to report on the negative side.  I have given the owners my suggested tips/comments on minor things (some puzzle and theming tweaks mainly).  
This is a great room that I think is particularly suited to family or younger teams as well as beginner to intermediate players.  It's really fun!

Where:                   48/2 O’Connell Street, Parramatta

Duration:               60 minutes

Themes:                 
1 currently (and another room planned)

Cost:                       
$31 each (4 players) (*we played at the kind invitation of the owners)


Overall Rating:      A family-friendly room of magic and fun!

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


Sunday, 9 April 2017

Cairns gets its first escape room - Cairns Riddle Room


Hi all

A quick note to let you all know that if any of you are heading to Cairns, they now have their own escape room.  Owned and designed by Roland, Cairns Riddle Room is a standalone business.

They have opened up with just the one room so far - the summary of the room is as follows:

The Military Hospital

After years of investigating you and your soldiers have finally discovered the identity of the doctor who had been performing illegal experiments on patients at the military hospital. His descent into madness was obvious by the gruesome bodies he left behind.
You finally enter the hospital, ready to apprehend him, when the doors slam shut. You realize you are now part of his mad game, and need to escape before you become his next victims. ..

I happen to be heading off to Cairns next week for a family holiday, so I'll report back here shortly with my review of The Military Hospital.

Thanks

Scott

Monday, 3 April 2017

New escape room in Newtown - Second Telling Missions


Hi all

I was contacted in January of this year by Patrick, the owner of a new escape room in Newtown called Second Telling Missions (STM). 

STM is a little different to any other escape rooms that I’m aware of in the Sydney (or Australian) market so far – their games are based on historical, factual stories and are led by an actor who will form part of your team while in the room. 

They are opening up with just the one room to start with, but a second room is planned to open very soon (they are currently beta testing the second room).  The room summaries are below:


First Room - Rescue the White Rose
18 February, 1943. Hans and Sophie Scholl, members of the anti-Nazi resistance organisation the White Rose, were arrested a few hours ago. A member of the group who has yet to be arrested asks your team, as clean-skins, to go to their basement to retrieve a full list of White Rose members before the police have a chance to search the basement and find it themselves. The group was careful to put some security in place, so your team will have to find ways around it. The fates of the members of the resistance organisation are at stake. (For 2-7 players)


Second Room – Sabotage the Enigma
February, 1943. One of the White Rose’s leaflets called for Germans to sabotage the doomed war effort so that the war could be brought to a close as soon as possible. Your team has been contacted by a resistance organisation and asked to break into a top-secret army communications centre and sabotage the Enigma key-distribution mechanism. There is only a narrow window of opportunity to do it – one hour – but the mission could change the course of history. (For 2-6 players)

I’m uber intrigued by the thought of having an actor in the room with us and how that would work.  The best hint delivery system I have seen to date has been the “voice of God” system, where players simply speak out loud and a response comes over the loud speaker.  Next Level Escape uses a narration style voice of God, where the voice on the speaker is "narrating" the story of the escape room players working through the room, in a tongue in cheek method, to provide guidance and hints– this is the best system I have seen hands down.

However, having a live actor in the room sounds like a whole different level of immersion.  My very first escape room was years ago in Vegas (before escape rooms were a thing) and they had a live actor with us for the entire 4 hour game (which involved traveling by minivan to 4 different sites).  It was awesome – the live actor allows the game master (ie the actor) to see exactly what players are doing, what puzzles they are stuck on, etc.  The only risk with this system I think is that because the game master is there in the room with you, players might bombard the game master with hint requests rather than figure things out by themselves.  Game masters have such a huge impact on players' experience in an escape room, but a game master who is in the room with you would absolutely make or break the experience I think. 

I’m hoping to check out STM’s first room in the next couple of weeks and as always, I’ll report back here with my review.  You can check out their website here.

Thanks

Scott