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News / Weird & Wonderful

We road tested the Cipher Room’s intriguing new escape room

The Marlowe Hotel at The Cipher Room
Photograph: Supplied

The Marlowe Hotel, the long-awaited third escape room at the Cipher Room in Newtown, has opened, and it has all the Cipher Room hallmarks: evocative art direction; creative and kinetic puzzles with lots of moving parts; and a fully thought-through concept.

The Marlowe Hotel recreates the shadowy world of film noir. The setting is a series of rooms from a seedy 1940s hotel, with period furniture, lighting and props. To enhance the filmic illusion everything is in black, white and shades of grey, as if we have stepped up onto the screen during The Big Sleep, Laura or Double Indemnity. (If you own a trenchcoat or a suit skirt, consider coming along in costume.)

The players take on the role of private investigators hired to break into the hotel and retrieve a gangster’s incriminating photos taken of a nightclub singer. On removing our blindfolds we find ourselves in the mock-up of an alleyway trying to figure out how to get into the hotel. Puzzles we have to solve involve baseball cards, Rube Goldberg machines, poker, cocktail recipes, and lots of keys and combination locks.

The design has many winks to Hollywood noir that fans will love, but you don’t need to have seen any of the films to solve the escape room. What you do need is to be very good at spotting parallels and noticing how clues or objects on one side of the room might relate to ones on the other side.

It’s undeniably one of the hardest escape puzzles we’ve ever done. There are symbols and numbers and letters galore, but how do they join up? Several times our group of gumshoes is left bamboozled, and before we know it the time has run out on the big clock.

“We wanted to make it difficult, because people are familiar with escape rooms now,” game designer Marise Watson says. Through to its shoot-out conclusion, The Marlowe Hotel is definitely one for the hard-boiled escape fanatics.

Time Out’s outcome: Failure!
Atmosphere: ✮✮✮✮✮
Creativity of puzzles: ✮✮✮✮✮
Difficulty: ✮✮✮✮✮
Fun: ✮✮✮✮
Best quote: “Even the fish are in black and white!”
Our tip: Make sure you’re using the business end of the magnet.   

Read Time Out’s review of Espionage at the Cipher Room.

Read Time Out’s review of The Cabin at the Cipher Room.

Discover more escape rooms in Sydney.