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The Cipher Room

  • Things to do
  • Erskineville
The Cipher Room Espionage escape room
Photograph: Supplied

Time Out says

This escape room in Newtown is brilliantly challenging and entertaining

Down the St Peters Station end of King Street there’s a portal back in time to 1945. Venture inside and you’ll find yourself in somebody’s elegantly furnished study with tasteful wallpaper. Big band music plays quietly on the radio. An unfinished Scrabble game has been hastily abandoned in the corner. And there’s an old-school typewriter on the desk.

Welcome to Espionage, the debut escape puzzle at the Cipher Room. You and your co-players have just one hour to locate the secrets that Agent ‘M’ has hidden somewhere in the room. To find them, you’re going to have to look for clues, follow a bunch of hints and crack a bunch of codes. There’s no time to waste – enemy agents will arrive when the clock strikes 12.

The Cipher Room is a labour of love for its co-creators, Newtown locals Marise Watson and David Vella. Game designer Marise spent a year researching escape rooms around Australia and in New York before creating Espionage. Husband David is the builder who put together the room’s ingenious bits and pieces by hand. The two sourced furniture and props from the vintage furniture shops that lower King Street is famous for, which gives the game plenty of period atmosphere.

Time Out sent a trio of players to solve the room’s mysteries, but up to six people can play at once (and there’s plenty for all of them to do). We are provided with mini-torches, a pen and a notepad, which all come in very handy. We also get a walkie-talkie which buzzes to life a few times during the hour asking us if we would like a hint. We’re happy for the extra help: while some clues we’re able to pick up on immediately others are more challenging and the hints help keep the game moving along.

Several times during the hour we gasp with the pleasure of the discovery of something hidden. This is a game that has been cleverly conceived to provide a variety of tactile, visual and aural experiences. Also, unlike many escape rooms, the backstory actually informs the various puzzles you encounter as well as your ultimate goal – a lot of thought has gone into this.

The Cipher Room’s second game room is The Cabin, which has a serial killer theme, and the third is the film-noir challenge The Marlowe Hotel. Down the road in St Peters you can find their second venue and test your nerves in the terrifying Mr Pepper's Toy Shop.

Outcome: Success!
Creativity of puzzles: 
Best quote: "We're not stupid, honest!"
Our tip: Take a step back and look again.

Nick Dent
Written by
Nick Dent


King St
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