‘Want to get locked in a room and solve puzzles?’ I ask my friends with glee on a Saturday morning. Their puzzled, somewhat fearful looks are enough to make me stop and explain myself further. We are going to The Mystery Rooms, Melbourne’s newest escape room experience. Haven’t heard of escape rooms? Essentially, they are an immersive real life video game where you and 4-6 friends are ‘locked’ in a themed space (don’t worry, there are no real locks) and need to solve problems, find clues, and complete puzzles to progress to the next space and ‘escape’.
The founder of The Mystery Rooms, Tom Hudson, has taken an old wool factory in Fitzroy and transformed it into three different worlds. The Egyptian themed ‘Footsteps of Pharaohs’ plunges players into ancient Egypt (with over a ton of sand) and the medieval themed ‘Secrets of Camelot’ challenges players to search for the Holy Grail. This will be one of the largest escape room experiences in Australia when it lowers the drawbridge for puzzle hunters next month. Today, our outlaw gang is being transported to 1880 country Victoria for the ‘Ned Kelly Experience’.
‘We wanted to create something original and exciting’, says Tom. ‘A completely different experience. Players will feel part of the story, part of the mystery, the second they walk into the building’.
A real metal door from the prison Ned Kelly was held slams shut behind us. We suddenly realise one of our gang members is already imprisoned – and we need to get him out! Unlike many escape rooms in Melbourne, Mystery Rooms does not like to break the fourth wall with radios calling for help or staff members walking into a ‘locked’ room. Each actor within the themed space plays a role and will stick to it, though if you are truly stuck they might whisper a little hint or two.
After rescuing our fellow bushranger from jail, escaping the police, breaking into a bank vault and making off with the money, our team emerged from ‘The Ned Kelly Experience’ with less than a minute to spare.
There are talks of having a bar for a well-deserved post game drink. For now you can happily have a few cups of coffee or tea as your group laughs over all the mistakes and missteps you made on your mini adventure.
The Mystery Rooms are challenging, immersive — and most importantly, fun. It’s time to ignite those brain cells, have a laugh, and do something truly different.
Tomas is a filmmaker, writer, coffee addict and tall person who does not play basketball. You can follow him @TomasZagoda.