Exitus review: Apollo Mission

In brief

logoLocation: Port Melbourne, Melbourne
Date played: 25 July 2015
Players: 3 (Exitus recommends 2 to 8 players)
Hints: One per puzzle (accessed via an iPad; each hint adds 5 minutes to your time)
Escaped: Yes! (and we placed 3rd on the monthly leader board!)

Our rating: Review 3 locks
A good escape room for beginners with an interesting theme.

One small step for Escape Room Hunters…


Haven’t we all dreamed about becoming an astronaut and walking on the moon? Exitus’ room Apollo Mission puts you in the hot seat: you’ve just returned to the lunar module from your final moonwalk, but something is wrong with your engines. An alarm sounds on your instrument panel: oxygen is running out, and if you can’t restart your engine within 45 minutes, you won’t just walk on the moon, you’ll die there too.

Exitus has done a decent job of finding puzzles that fit the space theme and shoehorned them into the short 45 minute time frame. The atmosphere is set up well, creating a sense of urgency to solve these challenges quickly. Exitus put together a solid escape room experience ideal for beginners.

We have played other escape rooms that use an iPad/tablet computer to provide hints when you need a hand, but Exitus is the first we’ve seen to automate the process. The game designers have identified which puzzles cause the most issues for players, and marked them with a QR barcode. To access to the hint, you use the iPad’s camera to scan the code and activate the clue. If you’re still stuck, there’s a help button on the wall that will spring the staff into action, popping into the room and answering your questions. The iPad provides the briefing to the story (on top of what the staff tell you) and the countdown timer, so scanning your hint QR code automatically adds 5 minutes to your overall time.

This approach to hints seems to work well for Exitus, though we felt when activating the hint that it more-or-less gave us the answer, rather than prodded us towards it. While it may help some players feel more self-sufficient, an attentive game master actively observing the room would be able to tailor hints to provide the right amount of information so that players still feel like they can work it out for themselves.

Utilising surplus space in an indoor paintball and laser skirmish centre, Exitus was among the first escape rooms to open in Melbourne. Shortly after opening in May 2014, Exitus announced on their blog that they have big plans to open a new escape room venue in Richmond with 8 different games. We look forward to seeing what they come up with!

The breakdown

Exitus’ leaderboard in July 2015 – Escape Room Hunters came third for Apollo Mission with 37 mins 49 secs, including 1 hint penalty.

Puzzles: Review 3 locks

The storyline for the room is well thought-out, however does not translate effectively through the puzzle rooms. The objective of the scenario is to find a code to restart the engines: in reality, you need to find the code to a combination lock (more on that below in Customer service). Most of the puzzles are loosely tied to the space theme, but unfortunately they don’t tie in as tightly with the storyline.

There also weren’t very many of them. 45 minutes isn’t very long in an escape room – despite being used by several venues around Melbourne – but that doesn’t mean you have to have a small number of puzzles. What Exitus has put into Apollo Mission, though, were interesting and required extra information from around the room to help you solve it.

Atmosphere: Review 3 locks

While it seems somewhat ironic talking about ‘atmosphere’ in a lunar-based theme, but Apollo Mission does a reasonable job of creating a suspense-filled atmosphere. Music makes you feel like you’re in a movie, while props and lights in the lunar module help set the scene. The iPads Exitus use to deliver hints and to display the time adds to the atmosphere of the room with audible alerts of remaining time and your ever reducing oxygen supplies.

Moving into space, however, is a little disappointing: Exitus have made an effort, but the props and set feel can feel a little cheap and tacky. The room also needs a really good clean as the knees of our jeans were brown after rummaging around on the floor looking for clues. For an escape room venue that’s less than 15 months old, we were surprised how dirty and dusty the room was.

Customer service: Review 2 and a half locks

Looking for something to do on a cold and somewhat miserable Saturday, we phoned Exitus to see if they had any available bookings. Exitus’ website doesn’t facilitate bookings, so you need to get in touch via enquiry form/email or phone to lock yourself in. Apollo Mission was free, so we headed on over to check them out.

Staff were really friendly and welcoming, chatting for a bit about their rooms while our team used the facilities and completed waivers. Into the room, we were told about the iPads and how to use them. As mentioned above, we think these iPads are good for providing players with more autonomy, however it seems like a blunt instrument to solve what can be a complex problem. While it works, it doesn’t have the same subtlety and touch of a dedicated game master providing tailored hints that get you closer to solving it yourself without giving you the answer.

Inside the room, we had the final door pointed out to us, and it was explained we’d move in a loop through the scenario. Our game master said the final step was opening that door, but because of the layout of cameras, they couldn’t tell that we were done (and therefore stop the clock) until we move through the door and into the room we started in. She told us to head straight out into the foyer and we would likely bump into her as she came in to stop the clock.

So we solve the final combination lock, open the door, rush out into the foyer and…. it’s empty. There’s no-one there. There isn’t even a bell to alert the staff that we were there. A minute later our game master and another staff member emerged from another room saying they had to reset it. We were pretty disappointed by this and, to be honest, expected better.

Want another opinion? Read another review from Leader Community Newspapers. 

About Exitus

Exitus are owned and operated by the Melbourne Indoor Paintball centre next door, and as such also share their space and facilities. Exitus have five different room experiences; Prison Break, Casino Heist, Entombed, Apollo Mission and CSI Melbourne, with all rooms accommodating between 2 to 8 players. The recommended player age is 16+ but players under 16 are welcomed by Exitus when accompanied by an adult. They also offer players aged 9+ with the opportunity to participate using an iPad app. Bookings are only taken by phone (1300 EXITUS) or by submitting an online enquiry (info@exitus.com.au).

23 Salmon St, Port Melbourne, VIC 3207
W: www.exitus.com.au/
F: www.facebook.com/pages/Exitus/1410048842588685?fref=ts

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