Fiendishly creative puzzle-lovers have devised some of the best thrills you can get in a locked room
Does anyone love escape rooms more than Eric Tse, co-owner of Orz Escape? He’s a recently graduated student from Hong Kong with an obsession for board games. He's visited countless escape rooms throughout Asia, where he began recruiting team members with the goal of setting up the first in Melbourne. Other companies may have beat him to it, but he’s not letting that get him down. So long as he’s handcuffing teams together, leading them into his deviously difficult rooms and and watching their every move through the monitors, he’s living his dream.
We arrive, panting, on the third level of a skinny Bourke Street building, and warily greet the staff at reception. Faced with the choice of getting locked into the trippy-looking Endless Dream room or the blood-soaked Slaughterhouse, we opt for the latter. “Somehow, it’s a bit like Saw, the movie,” says second co-owner Jimmy Wong. Creepy? You bet. Vaguely exciting? Yep, that too.
Chuckling to himself, Tse lets us slip on our own blindfolds and handcuffs, then leads us like fretful chickens into the Slaughterhouse. The door squeaks shut. We can hear our own breath. Laughing nervously, we shrug off our blindfolds, and realise we’re in the holding pen of a crazed murderer. Beyond the big metal prison bars, a dimly-lit lounge room beckons. The light flickers, and we catch a glimpse of a shoe, a leg, a dusty jacket. Dead or alive – we don’t want to know. Right now, the first challenge is to find the number combination to unlock our handcuffs.
Sure, other escape rooms can do atmosphere. They can do eerie. But what’s much harder to inflict are moments of heart attack-inducing shock. If you’re thinking severed limbs, that’s just the beginning. As the nail-biting frantic freedom quest continues, we can almost sense Tse’s fiendish creativity. Some puzzles are satisfyingly straightforward once we figure out the thought process behind them – but unfortunately, the pace slows when we come across riddles so obscure that they’re practically unsolvable. In those moments, curiosity turns into frustration, which can turn into apathy.
Our tip? Trust your intuition. The first solution that comes to mind might seem too ridiculous – but that’s exactly how puzzle-master Tse designed it to be. As the time ticks away, and we realise that this room has bested our abilities, we sort of hate him for orchestrating the creaking, rumbling noises rising around us. But although we become dead serial killer meat, we step into the light feeling like we’ve faced our darkest fears. And we loved it.
|Venue name:||Orz Escape||Contact:|
180 Bourke St
|Opening hours:||Mon-Thu noon-9pm; Fri noon-11pm; Sat 11am-11pm; Sun 11am-8pm|
|Transport:||Nearby stations: Flinders Street; Melbourne Central; Parliament|