The Garden

by Exitus Escape Room (by Strike Bowling)

One night you dream of a stroll with your friends through an enchanted garden. It all seems too good to be true. And then it dawns on you. This is not a dream. You are all trapped. You need to get out before you are trapped forever in the garden.

From the Escapism website
The Garden

Review

The Garden has a time limit of 50 minutes. We failed it with a team of six people, though we did manage to yell the final unlock code at the employee who came in to fetch us!

Thanks to the wonders of Melbourne traffic, we nearly missed this room. But all six of us finally piled into Strike Bowling QV, just in time! We were seated in the bar area and given the standard spiel about the rules, and how escape rooms work, which was useful because only two of us in the group had been to an escape room before.

After surrendering our mobiles, we were blindfolded and led into the room. I didn't really see the point of it, as I could still hear the rest of Strike around us, and the set-up of finding yourself in an enchanted garden didn't really seem to call for blindfolds.

That said, upon removing the blindfolds, we found ourselves in a beautifully decorated room with children's books strewn everywhere. It really evoked the atmosphere of a Victorian-era garden right out of a picture book! And the ambient sounds of squeaky swings was good for a shiver. We dove right into it, searching through the books and other props in the room for clues.

We wasted far too much time in this first room. We got to the point where we thought we'd found all the clues, and squandered far too many minutes trying to piece them together before caving and calling for help. It turned out that there was still more hunting to be done. And once we'd found the combination, we wasted yet more time trying variations on the locks we could see in the room before another call revealed we still had more hunting to do. Quite frankly, it was frustrating.

Now, I don't mind a spot of hide-and-seek, but I did feel that this problem was something that could be avoided if Strike had someone observing the room at all times and providing hints as necessary. It's what most professional escape rooms do, and my enjoyment of the room was hindered as a result. Which is a pity, because the puzzles are solid and the room construction and decoration excellent.

Although most of the locks were either numeric or directional, The Garden still had a wide enough range of puzzles to ensure the experience didn't get stale or repetitive. One in particular stumped us for a long while, but was laughably obvious once solved. There was also a red herring that played off our assumptions but was also obvious once we, well, stopped assuming. Now, if you want to have your players squander away time, this is how it should be done.

Overall, a fun escape room let down by the hint system. Still, we'd recommend it for more experienced puzzlers who have a better feel for when they should call for help.

Hint system

Not great. You're provided with a phone, which you use to call up the front desk if you're stuck. Someone normally pics up within ten rings. The problem is determining when you're stuck, and when you simply haven't found everything. With no one monitoring you, it's pretty much a crapshoot. However, Escapism do at least have cameras in the rooms so when you call, they can see what you're up to.

That said, because the person giving you hints is also manning the main counter, I wonder how long it would take to get a response during truly busy times. We went on a Sunday afternoon so it was rather quiet, but I think you would have a far worse experience if you went on a Friday or Saturday night. Especially when things get really noisy, I'd be worried if anyone could even hear the phone ring!

Difficulty

Average. The puzzles were pretty straightforward, with only one that might stump more experienced puzzlers. It was pretty easy to know which clues belonged to which puzzles.

Skills

None required

What we liked

When we discovered how we'd been tricked by the red herring at the end and frantically tried to get the correct code to get us out the door - only to yell it at the guy as he came in to fetch us.
-lexi

Our recommendation

Go during quiet times, and with at least one experienced puzzler.

Visited on 18 Apr 2015 by lexi and friends

At a glance

A fun and atmospheric room with nifty puzzles and room design, but let down by the lack of a game master monitoring your progress. For this reason, not recommended for first-time escapees.

Recommended?

Yes

Pros

  • Beautifully (or scarily!) decorated set of rooms that were fantastic at evoking atmosphere - and the creepy sounds certainly helped
  • A variety of puzzle types, with one in particular that was both simple and smart (we facepalmed when we solved it!)
  • Well-constructed rooms that hide some secrets in fun ways
  • One particularly amusing red herring that plays off your assumptions

Cons

  • No one monitoring your progress means you can waste a lot of time puzzling when you should be hunting for clues, or call for help more often than you need
  • Some pixel-hunting involved - if you can't solve a puzzle, a lot of the time it's because you haven't found everything yet. This was especially true in the first area.
  • Only two types of locks used - numeric and directional. No big 'wow' factor.

You will like this if...

  • You prefer solving puzzles independently with minimal input from the game masters
  • You love the creepy children trope
  • You want a room with solid puzzles and don't mind if there's no big 'wow' factor

You might not like this if...

  • You don't like searching high and low for hidden clues and would rather be piecing them together
  • You want a more guided experience where you automatically get hints if you're spending too much time barking up the wrong tree
  • You don't like dark and scary atmospheres

Recommended number

Two to three is best as there are only so many puzzles to solve at one time, and the rooms are rather small.