Location: Brunswick, Melbourne
Date played: 8 November 2015
Players: 4 (Xcape recommend 2-8)
Hints: Unlimited via walkie-talkie (we didn’t need any)
New to escape rooms? Give this a whirl. Experienced? Go set a record.
Prisoners are vanishing – but they’re not getting released…
You are a group of world renowned bounty hunters, framed and sentenced to jail. You find that strange things have been happening. People including guards have been mysteriously killed. One serene night, you vaguely see a dark shadow slowly closing in on you and decide to work together with your companions to break out of jail, away from this sinister place.
Nestled off Albert St in inner-Melbourne’s hipster heaven of Brunswick, Xcape Melbourne delve into the spooky gaol house world with Haunted Prison. We were intrigued by this room when we booked online: they allow 75 minutes to escape rather than their normal hour: is it harder? Bigger? More complex than others? We had to find out!
Haunted Prison is a fun scenario for escape room beginners. If you are more experienced, the challenge will be setting a record: at the time we played it stood at about 30 minutes, which we missed breaking by a whisker.
The room itself is well designed and encourages clear communication, cooperation and teamwork. The puzzles are fun and their layout and flow are fairly straightforward. And yet, Xcape Melbourne have only delivered an okay room. Haunted Prison ticks the ‘prison’ box, but the haunted bit? Yeah, not so much. There’s some set dressing but the overall atmosphere is lacking. If the attention the game designers paid to creating puzzles was applied to the overall experience, they’d be onto a winner.
So why the long time limit? Without giving anything away, there’s a particular section of Haunted Prison that will take some teams minutes to negotiate while others will be frustrated for half an hour or more. If you fall into the former you’ll challenge the record, whereas if you’re in the latter group… well, let’s say you’ll be thankful for having 75 minutes.
When all is said and done, we played Haunted Prison (and Jurassic Lab, too) within Xcape Melbourne’s first month of operation. It is great that the game masters are looking for ways to tweak their rooms and the experiences they offer. If you’re interested in puzzles, you’ll have a great time. If you want a truly immersive experience, maybe wait a while to check them out.
Xcape Melbourne have assembled some decent puzzles to keep you occupied, though depending on your experience in escape rooms, they may not keep you occupied for long. There’s some variety in how you receive clues and what you do with the information you get, even though the majority are low-tech (not that there’s anything wrong with that). The puzzles also link with the storyline quite well, which is a novel experience. We just wish there were either more of them, or a few that were a bit more challenging.
The room was themed well, with spooky decorations adorning the walls and ceiling. Depsite the ‘haunted’ moniker, it isn’t scary, so if you’re not a fan of horror, don’t let the title put you off.
That’s about where things end, atmosphere-wise. The room is silent. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: sound is a key part of creating atmosphere. With a theme like Haunted Prison, there’s plenty of options for interesting and atmospheric noises to create a soundtrack with. A bit more effort in creating an immersive environment would make a world of difference in this room.
Our hosts were pleasant and welcoming. The reception area isn’t enormous, and if there’s more than one group there (which was the case when we were signing waivers) things will get quite squishy. The team at Xcape Melbourne were part way through painting a mural in their reception space depicting their three themes on offer, which will give the space a lift once finished.
About Xcape Melbourne
Xcape Melbourne are the latest kid on the escape room block in Melbourne, opening in October 2015. Tucked off Sydney Road in Brunswick, they have three rooms on offer; Mausoleum Madness, Jurassic Lab and Haunted Prison. Haunted Prison has a game time of 75 minutes, while Mausoleum Madness and Jurassic Lab both go for 60 minutes.