Did you know that there's an escape room centre tucked away on the third floor of Melbourne Central? Neither did we, and the first challenge is finding it. Our ragtag team of hopeful escapees struggled, but we'll give you a hint: it's nestled within the expanse of Strike Bowling.
Once you've managed to track it down, you'll have a choice between two challenging rooms: Shutdown, where a critical AI system has been sabotaged and you're tasked with bringing it back online, and the Old Haunt, where you seek refuge from a storm in an old abandoned mansion filled with secrets.
We opted for the Old Haunt and were led into a room by the gamemaster, eyes closed, through a cacophony of thunder and a mist simulating the harsh conditions. Once inside the door slams shut behind you, and when you open your eyes, you're in a dark, dilapidated mansion that seems frozen in time. As you begin to explore, you realise that you're not alone: the spirit of Alice haunts the property, and she begs you to reunite her with her long-lost love, John.
If you want to help her, you must solve around 20 puzzles within 60 minutes. We're no mathematicians, but we can tell you that works out to solving about one puzzle every three minutes – a bit full-on, but you can use up to three clues if you get stuck. And if you still can't solve the puzzle, it will eventually solve itself to ensure that your team keeps moving along the story at the right pace.
As you move through the sequence of puzzles, more is revealed about the ill-fated couple, and this room's powerful storyline is perhaps its strongest selling point. There's a wide array of challenges, including magnet retrieval, deciphering of dates and codes, tracking down hidden objects and even completing physical tests. While some challenges may start to feel a bit pedantic or repetitive, and it was sometimes tricky to know if you solved the puzzle yourself or if it was solved for you, the room still excels at ensuring all players can participate.
Creativity of puzzles: 3/5
Best quote: "We're not responsible for any friendships getting broken"
Our tip: If you're a completionist and want to solve every puzzle, make sure to use your clues before the puzzles have a chance to solve themselves.