Monday, 4 December 2017

New Escape Rooms in Manly - Escape Room Eight

Hi everyone

I recently learned that a new escape room business is opening soon in Manly.

They are called Room Eight Escape Rooms.  They are a stand-alone business that plans to have 3 rooms ultimately, of varying levels of difficulty.  Their room summaries are as follows:

Indisposed (Escape the Aussie Dunny)

Trapped in the outhouse of famous, if somewhat deranged Aussie celebrity Huge Axeman, can you free yourself before the Axeman returns. In an Escape Room like no other, you'll need to think and act quickly as a team to solve puzzles and challenges as the clock ticks down. Even if you can escape the Dunny, you'll still need to survive the Australian wild, and contend with an array of deadly Australian fauna.

Entombed (The Disappearance of Dr. Smith)

Amidst the dry arid deserts of Egypt a lone building stands. It was once the study of renowned archaeologist Atlanta Smith, who has been missing and presumed dead for several months, in his quest for the treasure of Khufu. Your search for answers has taken a turn for the worst, and you're going to need to draw on all your investigative nous and powers of deduction to solve this mystery, evade an ancient curse and escape this room alive...
Targeted (Assassin HQ)

On your way up to the Yum Cha restaurant on level 8 of an inner city skyrise, a power surge has resulted in your elevator stopping at level 7 1/2. Home to Sydney's most elite hired killers - Assassins Anonymous. You've got to scour the room and look for clues to an alternative exit, then get the heck out before you're discovered and added to their "to do" list.

Room Eight are also trying to differentiate their business by having multi-lingual rooms (which I'm sure tourists will appreciate, as well as some locals).

They hope to open up later this month with at least one and maybe 2 rooms.  

I hope to get out their soon to check out their rooms and as always, I'll report back here once I have with a review.

You can check out their website here.



New Solo Player Escape Room / Immersive Theatre Experience in Sydney - Monroe & Associates

Hi everyone

I learned recently online about an escape room/immersive theatre experience that is coming to Sydney in January.  It is part of the Sydney Festival lineup and will be based at Carriageworks at Eveleigh (near University of Sydney and Redfern).

This experience sounds like it is unlike anything else in Australia.  Each experience is only for one player at a time, not a group.  You play the role of Frankie Monroe, a private detective who awakes with amnesia and a key to an office.  According to their website, you need to solve puzzles, make phone calls and unscramble the past before your luck runs out.  You will also need to sift through vital tip-offs and hot leads and identify red herrings and goose chases.  

It sounds really interesting.  There are only 2 other experiences in Sydney that have live actors in them (Jetpack Theatre's Art Heist which has finished its run and Second Telling Missions' Sabotage the Enigma).  And whilst I have tried my hand at escaping from an escape room by myself before (Social Escape Rooms' Paris), this should be a very different experience again I think.

I am both intrigued and anxious about checking out this room - I have booked myself a ticket.

The tickets are on the pricey side at $89 per head, but if you consider that only one player can play at a time (and the fact that the experience is up to 90 minutes), I think it seems like good value.  Time will tell.

I will report back here in January after I have checked it out.  For anyone else interested, get in quick - there aren't many time slots left.  You can find out more information about Monroe & Associates here.


Thursday, 30 November 2017

Elude Escape Rooms - A new escape room outfit for Sydney

Hi everyone

I recently learned that Sydney has a new escape room outfit, called Elude Escape Rooms.  They are based in Galston (which is near Dural and about a 30 min drive from Parramatta or a 45 minute drive from the city).

Elude is run by Julia and Darren, a couple who got bitten by the addiction (that we escape room enthusiasts know all too well) while traveling in the UK earlier this year.  They have designed their room completely from scratch by themselves, which is really impressive.

Their first room is called Perpetual Motion:

A revolutionary breakthrough is set to change the course of history following claims than an engineer has modified a petrol engine to run on water.  Oil industries have publicly ridiculed the concept.  However, following the sudden disappearance of the engineer, the police believe that he was kidnaped to obtain the secret of his invention.  The only chance of saving him is to recover the Capacitor, but time is running out.

Julia and Darren have recently opened their business.  They have just the one room so far.  I think this room is run from part of their residential property, which is pretty cool.  The only other room I have been to that has been run from someone's residential property is Australia's first escape room in Flemington, VIC.  

You can find out more about Elude at their website here.

I'm hoping to get to check out Elude's room in the near future.  As always, I'll report back here with my review once we've been.



Sunday, 12 November 2017

Virtual Room - Review of their Adventure room

*****Quick Update - Virtual Rooms currently have a Groupon deal where you can get 36% to 39% off.  You can check it out here (but it's only for a limited time)*****

Hi everyone

This review will be a little different to my usual reviews, as this is a review of a virtual reality escape room, rather than a physical escape room.  It is the first time my team has tried a VR room.

I was contacted by Virtual Room and invited to come and try their room.  Virtual Room is one of 3 VR companies (that I am aware of) that have opened in Sydney recently.  I have been intrigued ever since I heard about VR rooms hitting Sydney – how would they compare to a real world experience?

Virtual Room is located on George Street in the city (in the same building as Escape Hunt Sydney).  We were unable to get a babysitter for this escape, so my wife sat this one out and it was the 3 remaining members of my usual escape room team that tried out their room.

This was our 48th room in Sydney and our 61st room in Australia. 

Here’s what I enjoyed most about the experience:

  • Virtual Room use HTC Vives for the experience.  I’m not really up to speed on the various virtual reality tech that currently exists, but I can say that the headsets were very comfortable.  When we each spoke I could easily hear my teammates.  And lastly, the quality of the graphics was excellent.  I wear glasses and I am happy to report that I wore my glasses during the experience without any issues;

  • Virtual Room have a dedicated room for each player.  I think our rooms were about 3m x 3m, with the headset being connected to the ceiling in the centre of the room;

  • the game masters at Virtual Room explained that their games are designed with a real focus on ensuring that players don’t feel nauseous or get headaches.  This is achieved through the design of the game and the fact that when you physically walk within the room, you also move in the VR space.  As Virtual Room explain on their website “Games are also played standing up so your brain and your body are always working together just as they would in the real world”;

  •  as a result, I’m pleased to report that nobody in our team felt nauseous at all, either during the experience of afterwards;

  • the game is towards the simple end of the spectrum when it comes to puzzle complexity.  Virtual Room have designed this room as more of a beginners’ room, to allow players to get to moving around and manipulating items in a VR world;

  • that being said, the game design was very clever.  I won’t go into any specific detail, but the design allows Virtual Room to display the various kinds of worlds that could be applied to an escape room in a VR experience;

  •  there were also a number of puzzles that could not be solved without working together as a team.  Each player is in their separate physical room, but can see and interact with each other in the VR world.  The puzzles were designed to require interaction (and they were also a lot of fun);

  • having not played a VR game before (but having certainly played my share of computer games growing up), the controls were all very intuitive.

I would describe this experience as being more of a multiplayer gaming experience than a true escape room experience.  That being said, there is no doubt that many people who enjoy escape rooms would also enjoy this kind of VR experience.

Virtual Room have opened with just the one room.  However, they have plans to open more rooms.  They told me that their second room, due early in 2018, will be more of a traditional escape room theme, with a lot more puzzles.

The biggest shame of course with a great (physical) escape room outfit is that they are limited in the amount of space that they have, so once you have tried all of their rooms, that’s it.  Given the cost of setting up a room, they generally don’t take them down and replace them with new ones (or at least very few have done that so far in the Sydney market over the past 3 years).  The allure of a VR experience is that they could have a large library of themes to pick from – there really is no limit given it’s as simple as running a different program on the computer system.

For the escape room enthusiasts out there, I would certainly recommend this experience as a nice twist on the more traditional escape room experience.  It was a lot of fun (all 3 of us really enjoyed ourselves).  I think their next room will be even more suited to escape room enthusiasts.  

Based on our experience at Virtual Room, I'm really excited to see what the future has in store for VR escape rooms.

Where:                   Level 5, 393 George Street, Sydney

Duration:               45 minutes

Themes:                 1

Cost:                       We played at the kind invitation of Virtual Room

Overall Rating:       A really fun and interactive VR take on an escape room experience

More details:

Friday, 3 November 2017

Next Level Escape - Review of Flash and Cyborg Room

Hi everyone

This is one of 2 rooms that we did back to back at Oz Comic Con.  You can read my review of the first of the 2 rooms here.

We weren’t our usual team of 4 adults for this escape, but we were instead my wife and I and our 5yo and almost 1yo daughters. 

This was our 47th escape room in Sydney and our 60th escape room in Australia.

A summary from Next Level of their Flash and Cyborg room is below:

Flash and Cyborg were seen together in this abandoned building.  We've put their security system into diagnostic mode so you can go in and investigate.  Cyborg has left a message with their current location, but he's encrypted it against prying eyes.

Decode it and get out before the security comes back on in twelve minutes!

Here’s what I really liked about the room:

·         as with Next Level's Aquaman room, we did this room with some strangers (a couple with their children).  It was interesting this time around as the other players weren’t quite on the same wave length as us (I really enjoyed the experience of again playing with strangers, as it gave me an idea of what it might be like in other parts of the world (such as the USA) where playing with strangers is really common;

·         the puzzles were all awesome.  They were of the very high quality that I expected from Next Level, based on their other rooms we had tried in the past;

·         there was a nice mix of low tech and high tech puzzles in this room (and in their Aquaman room come to think of it);

·         this room in particular had a reasonable amount of hunt and seek fun, which was great for kids (our 2 kids were in this room with us, as well as a couple of kids in the other family); 

·         as with their Aquaman room, the room was really cleverly designed to introduce new people to the world of escape rooms.  The puzzles were challenging but not incredibly difficult.  As with Aquaman, I am sure that many people who have been wondering what this escape room thing is about would have tried this room at the Con and would be booking in a full 1 hour experience in no time.

I have nothing to report on the negative side at all.  Next Level are a great outfit who really care about providing immersive and well-designed experiences.  It is truly impressive that they managed to put together such immersive experiences in such a short period of time for the Con.

I truly hope that the amount of word of mouth generated from their hard work really pays off for them (and that hard work will no doubt spill over into great benefits for the whole escape room industry). 

I was so intrigued by what it is like to play with strangers that I might post a separate blog entry on that issue (stay tuned). 

We were the last team to try the rooms at the Con.  Following us, some of the people behind the Justice League movie were going to try their hand at the rooms.  I’ll have to check in with Next Level to see who got the better time ;-)
Also, watch out for Next Level's new room opening later this month.  It's called The Artefact and I'm really looking forward to checking it out!

Where:                   Oz Comic Con (Darling Harbour)

15 minutes


Included in purchase price of Oz Comic Con entry tickets

Overall Rating:
       A third brilliant 15 minute room from Next Level!

More details:

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Next Level Escape - Review of Aquaman Room

Hi everyone

It has been such a LONG(!) time between drinks.  I played my last escape room back in July and I have been jonesing ever since.  I have pretty much tried all of the escape rooms in Sydney, so there aren't too many left to do. 

I was on a family holiday a couple of weeks ago up near Port Macquarie when I learned that Next Level Escape had designed 2 different 15 minute escape rooms for Oz Comic Con, based on the new Marvel Justice League movie.  I loved their Blitz and Ex Libris rooms (see my reviews of those rooms here and here), so I REALLY wanted to somehow get to the Con to check out their new rooms.  The problem was that I was due back in Sydney on the last day of the Con…

So I managed to convince my wife that we should drive back in the morning and then head straight to the Con.  I had bought my girls Supergirl outfits beforehand for Halloween, so they were in!  So after an almost 5 hour drive, we arrived at the Con.  Leanne, one of the owners of Next Level Escape, had kindly booked us a time slot for late in the day.

Out of interest, before we took on the room, we got to chatting with Leanne about how Next Level came to design the Justice League rooms.  Leanne mentioned that they were contacted by the company that was putting together the Con and asked whether they could put together some rooms.  It was a pretty enormous task to design 2 rooms in a very tight timeline (something like only a month or two).  But unexpectedly, the guys at Next Level were up to the task.

We started with their Aquaman Room.  We weren’t our usual team of 4 adults for these escapes, but we were instead my wife and I and our 5yo and almost 1yo daughters. 

This was our 46th escape room in Sydney and our 59th escape room in Australia.

A summary from Next Level of their Aquaman Room is below:

Aquaman was last seen in this Atlanteanstructure.  Aquaman, also known as Arthur Curry, has used an Atlantean artefact to conceal a message to Queen Mera.  Activiate it to reveal his location and unlock the trident blocking your escape. 

Queen Mera will be back in twelve minutes.  She looked pissed after reading his message, so get out before she returns!

Here’s what I really liked about the room:

·        firstly, this was the very first room we have tried when we were combined with other people.  This was a function of the rooms being fully booked out during the Con, so to get more people through Next Level combined different groups;

·        it was really cool to do a room with people we didn’t know.  It’s very different though to our normal experiences, where the 4 of us have known each other for ~25 years (so we can yell at each other and be quite “honest” with each other);

·        the other couple in our group were lovely and we kind of split up and each worked on different puzzles – this worked well as we escaped in a time that we were told was about 20 seconds off the record for the Con;

·        the puzzles were all awesome.  They were of the very high quality that I expected from Next Level, based on their other rooms we had tried in the past;

·        the theme was really cool too.  I understand from Leanne at Next Level that aspects of this room will be used in their new Artefact room, which is due to open this month.  My team are actually going to beta test the new room next week, so watch this space for my review shortly;

·        I think the room was really cleverly designed to introduce new people to the world of escape rooms.  The puzzles were challenging but not incredibly difficult – I am sure that many people who have been wondering what this escape room thing is about would have tried this room at the Con and would be booking in a full 1 hour experience in no time.

I have nothing to report on the negative side at all.  Next Level are a great outfit who really care about providing immersive and well-designed experiences.  It is truly impressive that they managed to put together such immersive experiences in such a short period of time for the Con.

I truly hope that the amount of word of mouth generated from their hard work really pays off for them (and that hard work will no doubt spill over into great benefits for the whole escape room industry). 

Where:                   Oz Comic Con (Darling Harbour)

15 minutes


Included in purchase price of Oz Comic Con entry tickets

Overall Rating:
       A second brilliant 15 minute room from Next Level!

More details:

Sunday, 15 October 2017

AR Escapes - Hold off on buying tickets for The Ripper live action escape event

<<<<<<  UPDATE  >>>>>>>
On 27 October 2017, they have announced (by email to ticket holders) that they are cancelling the events across Australia and all ticket holders will receive their money back by Monday 30 October 2017.  

How any company can think it's appropriate to ignore customers for months on end is amazing to me, let alone for a company running an event that lives and dies by their level of customer interaction and satisfaction!

They also refer in their email to running the events in the future for free and inviting ticket holders to attend.  Don't hold your breath...

Hi all

Just a quick update to my earlier post on the AR Escapes live action event (you can see my earlier post here).

Things aren't looking good for the event.  Many customers (including me) who purchased tickets back in July still haven't received our tickets.  Many of us have written to AR Escapes via email and Facebook and we have received no response at all.

If I hear anything from them, I'll post an update here.  However, I wouldn't recommend buying any tickets at this stage.

A similar thing happened last year with a Werewolf escape live action experience that was supposed to be run in Sydney, but which never got off the ground.  I did manage to get my money back last time though...


Matt's home made escape room - Review

Hi all

Around Christmas time in 2015, I designed my own escape room for my wife and friends.  I spent months coming up with puzzles and the room flow, which was really challenging (and gave me a better idea of the amount of work that goes into designing rooms).  It also gave me an even greater respect for those room owners who design their own rooms from scratch!

The day of my escape was a bit of a shemozzle – I used my half-built house for the escape and half way through the escape, a bunch of painters walked in and asked us to leave.  You can read the summary of my experience here.

Skip forward to July 2017 and my friend Matt, a member of my usual escape room team, put the final touches on an escape room that he had spent 18 months designing for us.  Matt’s escape was a music-themed room.  It was full of a heap of puzzles, all bespoke to our particular team. 

This particular escape room was our 45th escape room in Sydney, and our 58th escape room in Australia. 

It was uber special in that it was a one night only escape room, built and designed just for us.

I’m not going to review this room in the traditional way – to do so would serve little point given that you all can’t check it out yourselves (sorry about that).  What I am going to do though is provide a bit of a summary of the room, discuss some of the puzzles and show you some photos of the big day.  I’m doing this in the hope that some of you might become enthusiastic about creating your own escape room for friends/family.  It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun!

So we arrived at Matt’s house.  We parked our eldest daughter in front of Netflix and put the youngest down for a sleep.  We were set. 

We then walked up to the venue for the escape room, being Matt’s lounge room.  There, on the couch, sat the famous Max von Riff.  As you are all no doubt aware (assuming that you haven’t been sitting under a rock for the last 2 decades), Max is an uber famous rock star.  Needless to say, we were a little star struck upon getting to meet him and seeing that hair and those tat sleeves in real life...

Max reminded us that the reason for us being there that day was to audition to work with him on future music projects.  To test our skills, he had cunningly set up a number of challenges for us to work through.  So we got to work….

One of the props that Max, er Matt, had made for the escape room was a Max von Riff calendar, showing Max with the many famous artists that he has worked with over the years.  I have included a couple of photos below (without permission from the artist/photographer). 

As you can see, Max von Riff has changed his look over the years.  The more recent photo of him with Taylor Swift is my fave.  After about 10 minutes of examining (ie laughing) at the photos, we started on the puzzles…

There was a really cool mix of puzzles.  One involved about a dozen drum sticks that had been cut down to different lengths.  Matt had drilled holes of varying depths into a wooden block and we had to put the numbered drum sticks in order of tallest to shortest and then use the numbers in that order to solve the puzzle.  That puzzle clearly took a heap of work to put together.

Another cool puzzle was a guitar that Matt had removed the back from and had then placed a ping pong ball inside which contained a hidden note.  The challenge was to navigate the ping pong ball through a straw minefield… 

One of my favourite puzzles was sitting down with Max and watching the famous film clip for the Foo Fighters’ Learn to Fly (which apparently Max was heavily involved in).  We soon realised that the puzzle was to pick how many characters were played by each of the band members.  Here’s a still of the film clip for those of you who aren’t cool enough to know this gem of a film clip…

One other cool puzzle was the use of a TSA key card lock, which I had never seen before.  It’s effectively a lock that is opened by placing a small card (about the size of a credit card) into the lock.  The card has a special set of holes cut into it, which releases the lock mechanism.  We managed to find Max’s wallet in the couch and after examining its contents, we found a card that had the correct tiny hole pattern to open up the lock.  This was a really cool lock mechanism and one that I have not seen before or since in any escape rooms in Australia.  See below a photo of the lock and Star Casino card we used on the day to open the lock.  (As a nice touch and hint, we received a sultry text message on Max’s phone during the escape from an admirer of his asking us to meet her at Star City after his next gig – this pointed us to the Star City card).  You can see more about this kind of lock here and in the photo below:

Matt is an electrical engineer, so we also had a cool puzzle that used some tech.  We had to work out the answer to a puzzle that utilised information through the Max von Riff calendar.  We then used cables on the outside of a box that Matt had created which opened when the correct circuit had been connected.  Here’s a photo:

Another really cool puzzle that Max had designed for us was to check out our audio mixing skills.  We opened up his computer to find a heap of different drum tracks, bass tracks, lead guitar tracks and vocal tracks.  Among the many tracks (maybe 2 dozen or more), there was one particular drum, guitar, bass and vocal track that all went together as a song.  That was a challenging but fun puzzle. 

There were a heap of puzzles for us to get through.  I think it took us over 2.5 hours to work our way through them all, but it was a heap of fun.

Kudos to Matt on putting together an awesome escape room.  The highlight for me was easily the Max von Riff calendar.  The was made even funnier by the fact that when Matt had the calendar printed at Big W, Big W lost the first printing and then had to reprint it. 

So I like to imagine the first printing sits on a wall in a Big W staff room somewhere…

Where:                   Matt’s house

2.5 hours plus


We played at the kind invitation of Matt

Overall Rating:
      Awesome, fun and challenging room with a cracker calendar…