Location: Sydney CBD
Date played: 6 April 2015
Players: 2 (Mission Sydney recommends 2-6 players for this room)
Hints: Maximum of 3 (delivered via walkie talkie)
Clever and immersive puzzles tied together with a strong storyline.
Safe from the rain, but not the vampires…
The rain is oppressive.
It just keeps falling. Large, heavy drops that soak through every layer of clothing you have on. It hits the pavement so hard you think you’re in a war zone.
A large castle looms in the dark. It might look a little spooky, but it can’t be any worse than the rain, right?
You force open the heavy door, cross the threshold and breathe a sigh of relief when you notice it’s dry and warm. A loud thump echoes through the castle, shutting out the rain and sealing you off from the outside world. The door has not only closed – it has locked. You entered through this door, but it will not be the way that you leave.
Mission Room Escape Sydney set the scene well for this encapsulating scenario in their room Vampire Castle. Once you enter the room, the story unfolds before you: the family of the house has been overcome by a spell, and to escape the castle you must lift the curse and restore the occupants to their rightful place.
Every escape room has a story of some kind. Some are quite loose, allowing you to focus on the puzzles without having to worry about the story: it never plays a central role other than setting the scene. Other escape rooms, however, try to make the story a key part of the experience. This can be somewhat hit-and-miss, especially when the game masters fail to integrate the storyline into the puzzles and instead leave you wondering why you are meant to be there in the first place. Vampire Castle is not one of those rooms.
The storyline is strong, right from the beginning. You know what you are meant to do and why you are meant to do it. The pathway out of the room becomes crystal clear as you progress through the various challenges before you, and it all makes sense. For a room that places such a strong emphasis on the storyline, this is an incredibly welcome experience.
Technology is used to great effect in the room, with theatrical reveals and clever, multi-sensory puzzles that will leave you shaking your head in disbelief. While they weren’t without faults, there were a decent number of puzzles and didn’t just require you to find a key or combination for a lock.
Vampire Castle has some really great puzzles that incorporates scouring the room for clues and solving riddles. It also becomes a whole-of-body experience, making it quite fun to solve.
However, all is not rosy. The game masters envisaged that you complete puzzles in a certain order, however it’s possible to skip some until later. This became an issue because information provided to us suggested that solving a particular clue would cause something to happen. We pressed some buttons in what we thought was the right order… and nothing happened. We asked for a hint, as we thought we did something wrong, and were told we should have done something else earlier. That’s all well and good, but completing that ‘first’ puzzle would have been equally confusing: you would have moved things around and put them in what you thought was the right order, and even if you got it correct, the room would not provide any feedback. Linear puzzles that require you to complete one before progressing are fine, but we strongly believe players need feedback. We reckon Mission Room Escape Sydney should either create some form of feedback, and/or alter the puzzle design to prevent progression without solving the initial clue.
Mission Room Escape Sydney have also integrated audio feedback into the room, helping to bind the storyline and clues into a cohesive experience. Combined with their clever use of technology, they deliver a set of puzzles that are well woven into the narrative.
It’s hard to convince people they’re in a vampire’s castle when they are, in fact, in an office tower buried somewhere in Sydney’s CBD. Mission Room Escape Sydney do a pretty good job of creating an immersive atmosphere with props, sounds, reveals, interactive clues and lighting. Some of the furniture and props could be described as ‘tacky’, but overall the room has been furnished brilliantly.
We had a great experience in the Vampire Castle room and the game masters made feel welcome and supported us well when we needed some help. Their little flourish to celebrate a successful escape was a nice touch, too.
There were a couple of shortcuts taken when resetting the room, though. In the final series of clues, we had to locate a set of objects from a large number of similar objects. This method of hiding objects was used twice, but on each occasion, the objects we were looking for were all lined up next to each other (e.g. if we needed to find four objects, the first four you came across were the right ones). This might sound really minor, but it meant that in each occasion, one of our team felt rather useless while they searched in vain while the other found them all, and in the order they needed to be placed. Taking a bit more care in setting up the room would have made these puzzles much more enjoyable for everyone playing.
Want another opinion? Read another review from Kotaku, TimeOut Sydney or Escape Rooms Sydney.
About Mission Room Escape Sydney
Mission Room Escape Sydney opened their doors in August 2014 and have been wowing Sydney-siders and visitors alike since then. They have two themes to choose from, with Vampire Castle accommodating teams of 2-6 while Dr M requires 4-9 players.
Suite 301, 332-336 Pitt St, Fortuna House, Sydney NSW 2000