Escape rooms are interactive games where groups or teams are placed in a specially-designed room to face a series of puzzles that can be solved by using clues or items in the room. As you solve the puzzles you progress through the story with the aim of finding your way out or escaping the room, within the set time frame. The escape room phenomenon began in Japan around 2007 and has since spread worldwide. Over the last couple of years, escape rooms have popped up in cities all over Australia.
Each escape room has its own theme and storyline. It could be a spy or thriller themed mission, a bank robbery or escaping from a haunted house or a dungeon. Each uniquely themed room and puzzle usually requires problem and puzzle solving, creative thinking and teamwork in order to successfully complete the challenge.
My family and I recently visited Social Escape in Sydney and attempted The Bank Heist room. Having only experienced a handful of escape rooms between the four of us, it was a daunting task. The Bank Heist is the most difficult of the three rooms at Social Escape and has a success rate of only 23%.
On arrival, we were greeted by the friendly staff at Social Escape and were invited into the waiting room until our allotted booking time. It is suggested that you arrive a little early and take this time to go to the toilet if needed and, for the older demographic, to grab your reading glasses in preparation. Lockers are provided to store your belongings while you are playing. Then we were taken into the briefing room where our guide explained the objective of the room, the do's and dont's, and how it works. Then we were shown into The Bank Heist room where, according to the website, you will:
"Enter the mind of a criminal, as you prepare to take on the biggest bank heist of your career. The lucrative prize, a diamond of great wealth, sits within the bank vault waiting for you to release it. Prepare to have your brains, skill and dexterity tested to the limit in this daring bank robbery, before the alarm sounds and the authorities arrive."
You must find the clues, solve the puzzles and crack the codes to break in to the bank vault and steal the diamond (Image credit: Social Escape)
The room is set up as a bank managers office with standard office items such as a desk, bookshelf, computer and phone. In addition, along one entire wall of the room, is the impressive bank vault. As our guide leaves us and closes the door the clock starts counting down immediately and it is up to us to find the clues, solve the puzzles and crack the codes in order to access the vault and steal the diamond. We only have 60 minutes before our time will run out.
I'm not going to spoil the fun by revealing any of the room's secrets here. What I will say is that the hour absolutely flew by as we were immersed in this classic heist scenario. Think Oceans 11 or The Italian Job (without the speedboats), with everyone frantically trying to disable security systems, figure out codes and break into safes and you are on the right track.
There are a lot of puzzles to get through in this room and there are also optional clues for those who want an additional challenge. We didn't attempt the optional clues, we just left them to the side as we concentrated on the main objective.
Will you crack the codes and escape from this room?
So without giving too much away, there are a few things that are useful to know about this room:
you only have 60 minutes to complete your mission. There is a timer on the bank vault which displays the count down
this game is non-linear, meaning there is no set path to follow. While each clue or puzzle solved will get you closer to your goal they don't necessarily follow on from each other. This has the advantage of allowing groups to split up to solve different puzzles at the same time. You may also find clues or props that can't be used straight away but will be useful at a later stage in the game.
if you get stuck at any point you can ask for help from the gamemaster. Rooms at Social Escape use the "Voice of God" system where the gamemaster is always listening. If you want a hint, just raise your voice and ask. The gamemaster is aware of the team's progress and can offer appropriate hints at any point. What's even better is that there is no time penalty for asking for clues.
So how did my family of two adults and two teens do? According to the gamemaster, at the 60 minute mark, we were about 90% of the way through and we were lucky enough to be offered a few extra minutes in order to try to finish the room and get our hands on the coveted diamond. I am happy to report that we did complete the mission in the extra time given, however, I should also point out that we did ask for a few hints and get some help along the way. Still, we did feel a sense of achievement to do so well on our first attempt and we would definitely recommend this escape room to anyone who is up for a fun challenge.
Mission Accomplished! While we didn't get to keep the diamond or gold bars, we did get this souvenir photo
This is a great room for everyone - friends, families, work colleagues, team building - it is not scary and has no inappropriate themes for children. The Bank Heist is recommended for 3 - 6 players, over 15 years of age, however, our 13 daughter participated and enjoyed the experience.
We were very impressed with the quality of the room including the number and variety of the puzzles, the quality of the props used and they way the story and game came together. Everything seemed to work well and there weren't any technical issues. The staff at Social Escape were friendly, helpful and very accommodating and did all that they could to make this a great experience.
Social Escape offers three exciting Escape Room experiences in Sydney. For more information about the Social Escape rooms, including opening hours and prices, please visit their website here.