Months after creating Melbourne’s first escape room in Flemington in 2014, Owen Spear and Ali Cheetham opened a second one inside a converted factory in South Melbourne. Their inner-suburban location offers the couple another opportunity to legally incarcerate willing thrill-seekers, set the timer to 70 minutes, then sit back and observe as teams use all their powers of lateral thinking to crack their meticulously designed puzzles.
As we arrive in a back street of South Melbourne, Spear and Cheetham greet team Time Out warmly, then lead us through the entrance of a converted factory and down a dark corridor. We stop at an unassuming door, grasping torches and a walkie-talkie (in case we need clues). Deep breath – here we go again
The door clicks shut behind us, and instantly, we’re transported to the control station of an old mine. Low yellow light picks up a typed note sitting on a desk. There’s been a blockage inside the mine. Your mates could be inside. Locate the source of the fault – or else.
The stakes are higher this time, and we feel it. At times our three-person team ponders puzzles alone, but at times, we’re huddled over a rock, a jar, a map: waiting for that moment when the answer comes to one, two or all three of us at once. The sheer variation in the puzzles here is incredible. To a soundscape of Johnny Cash and country guitar licks, we encounter audio-based clues, physical challenges and lots of strange symbols that defy explanation. The trick is to experiment with tying different mental threads together, and seeing what fits. We never thought we'd hear the phrase "these rocks are trying to speak to me" – but there you go.
Eventually, it all comes down to a final code that we'll need to save the mine. With sweaty palms, we punch in the numbers for the third time… and we’ve done it! We’re safe, and our puppet-masters enter the room with huge smiles on their faces. We get the feeling that these guys have just as much fun watching us as we do solving their puzzles – which is far less strange than it sounds.
Booking in advance is essential, and entering in teams of two to six is recommended. Visitors must be over the age of 16. Price is per group.