Location: Melbourne CBD
Date played: 25 January 2015
Players: 3 (Escape Hunt Melbourne recommends 2 to 5 players)
Hints: Unlimited (via a door bell that summons a game master)
Escaped: Yes! (and obliterated the room record)
Good local theme from a global franchise, but more attention needed on game play.
The last tram you’ll ever take…
“Melbourne is announcing their first completed tram to the public after years of research and development. To our shock and horror, the Victorian Police have received a threat message announcing that a bomb has been planted in the tram—set to go off in 60 minutes. Play the role of detective and locate the bomb before time runs out!”
Escape Hunt Melbourne is part of the enormous global Escape Hunt franchise, which casts you in the role of a detective. Set in the past, each theme is built around the history of each location – hence Escape Hunt Melbourne’s Tram Bomb Heist and Escape Hunt Perth’s Robbery on a Ship.
Tram Bomb Heist fits that mould to a ‘T’. A bomb has been placed on a new tram – you must find it before it explodes and figure out who the (hopefully unsuccessful) bomber is.
Having played an Escape Hunt room before, we were really keen to see how different Melbourne’s franchise would be compared to Perth. A lot is similar – overall concept, suspect dossiers, even some puzzles – while customer service and the approach to clues stood out as a key difference. In Perth, our game was actively monitored and the game master jumped in on the walkie-talkie to put us on the right path when we’d missed a crucial piece of information. Escape Hunt Melbourne’s approach was much more hands off, and as you’ll see below, it became readily apparent that no-one was watching our room (nor did they have any way of jumping in to help).
There’s a lot to like about Escape Hunt Melbourne – the franchisee is genuinely excited about the escape room experience, and the room was constructed well. The reception/waiting area is comfortable and inviting with enough to keep you busy while your team signs their waivers and game masters make final preparations. It was clear when we played that Escape Hunt Melbourne were still refining their rooms (we played Secrets of the Brewery in July 2015 and chatting with the staff revealed further tweaks since January) and once they settle on a suitable combination and complexity of puzzles, they will have a solid escape room experience to enjoy.
We don’t really want to say this, but the puzzles were too easy. We blitzed the room in 22 minutes, but given the next-fastest team got out in 27 minutes (less than half the allotted time), we can’t even claim we’re super talented. Sure, one of our number is a maths teacher and their familiarity with digits might have helped us understand the first puzzle pretty quickly, but even then that’s a long stretch. We recognised one puzzle from Escape Hunt Perth’s Robbery on a Ship, but even without that previous exposure it wouldn’t have taken us too long to suss it out. For a 60 minute experience, we kinda hoped for more. Speaking with the franchisee after our game they revealed the first puzzle had been simplified as it stumped too many people, and since returning they’ve added an additional clue. Hopefully this correction to game play has increased the time team spend in their rooms without reducing the number who get out.
While we were only in the room for 22 minutes, we did appreciate the effort that went into created a tram-themed escape game. Each space was well crafted and although some props felt a bit tacky, the transition from one space to another was fun.
If you’ve read pretty much any of our reviews, we’re a big fan of using sound effects to create an immersive atmosphere. Escape Hunt Melbourne used some background music, but it didn’t fit the theme of the room nor the era in which the concept was set. How much better would the atmosphere have been if it sounded like you were on a tram? Bells dinging, sounds of crowds, heavy wheel clanking over tracks – you get the picture. Trams are an iconic sight – and sound – of Melbourne and it wouldn’t be too difficult to record an appropriate soundtrack of background noise that would lift this atmosphere from ok to great.
We want to get this out in the open: our game masters and all staff at Escape Hunt Melbourne were friendly, welcoming and accommodating and would have loved to have given a better score for customer service, however our disappointment came from how attentive our game masters were.
An attentive game master can make or break an escape room game. Having someone watching you and ready to jump in with timely advice when you ‘zigged’ rather than ‘zagged’ means designers can work in more puzzles and make them harder and complex. Players don’t know what is over the horizon, so an interactive and focused game master can hurry teams up when they need it, giving the best chance of completing the scenario and leaving with a positive experience.
While the Perth franchise appeared to subscribe to this school of thought, Escape Hunt Melbourne did not. Instead of walkie-talkies that allow two-way communication, they use the (unfortunately) common ‘ring the doorbell’ trick. Not only does this break the atmosphere of the room, it means the game masters don’t have to keep an eye on what’s happening inside.
Completing the final puzzle gave us a doorbell to press – we hit it, but nothing happened. We pressed it again and waited – still nothing. After a third press fell on deaf ears, we pressed the ‘help’ doorbell, revealing a shocked and impressed game master who thought we were asking for a hint on the first clue. In all, it took nearly a minute for us to get someone’s attention after we solved the final clue, and when they did come, they didn’t quite believe we’d finished.
Want another opinion? Read another review from Review of Escape Rooms in Melbourne Blog.
About Escape Hunt Melbourne
The Escape Hunt franchise is a phenomenon in itself, with rooms open in 32 cities around the world. Their website touts that they have 70 branches signed up, on track to meet their target of 250 branches by the end of 2015.
Escape Hunt Melbourne currently have three rooms; The Tram Bomb Heist, Secrets of the Brewery and Abduction in the Graveyard. Both Secrets of the Brewery and Abduction in the Graveyard have duplicate rooms, providing the opportunity for competitive groups to play head-to-head.