Room: Surveillance: Division 5
Location: A mysterious location in Flemington, VIC
Cost: $110 on weekdays and $139 on weekends
Escaped: Yes, with some hints
Overall rating: 35/40
With an outdoor component that’s unbelievably fun, this Melbourne room is a must-try.
Following a sold-out debut at Federation Square in 2015, ERM’s escape van returns to the streets as Australia’s only indoor/outdoor escape room experience. You have 90 minutes to track down a rogue ASIO surveillance van parked somewhere in the backstreets of 1960s Melbourne. Who are they watching, and why? Once inside, your mission will be clear.
When we booked into Surveillance: Division 5, we weren’t sure what to expect, except that we’d need a third person to help us out. So, after enlisting the help of one of my good friends who’d never played an escape room before, off we went. It’s worth noting at this point that ERM rates this room as a 5/5 in difficulty. I didn’t find it particularly difficult compared with some of the other rooms I’ve done, but that’s not to say that it was easy at all. We also perhaps had a bit of an advantage in that my local friend actually lived in the area, so navigating our way through Flemington’s streets was a little easier than it may otherwise have been.
As one would expect from an outdoor/indoor spy-themed experience, the hint system relied on walkie talkies, but our “contact” made sure to check in on us every so often and hints were freely given. We definitely required some, particularly when it came to the van portion of the challenge, which was a far more traditional escape room experience.
Theming is always going to be a little difficult when half of your “room” takes place outside. It’s not exactly possible to turn the streets of Melbourne into a 1960s set, after all. But Flemington works well as the setting and the van itself was well themed and fitted out as you’d expect. All the props also added to the theme and the streets were used in clever ways to try to add to the experience. I also think the way in which the room was introduced was a strength of the theme. Rather than the traditional meeting and signing waivers etc, we were given a text with a location and phone number to call once we arrived with no other information. Although we felt a little bit silly at first, it was very easy to get into character and pretend we really were spies from the moment we arrived.
There were two very distinct parts to this room. Firstly, roaming the streets of Melbourne to find the van and then, once we were inside, a more traditional escape room experience as we worked to solve puzzles before time ran out. Of the two halves, I vastly preferred the former. The way the outdoor puzzles were presented was brilliant and there were some very innovative solutions to the question “how do you plant puzzles in random locations without other people finding and disturbing them?” Although the second half of the room was still fun, it felt a little less exciting to me. All the puzzles worked very well within the era and theme and it was impressive how much managed to fit into a single van. There were some puzzles I hadn’t seen before and others I had, but everything flowed quite nicely and it felt like a good, solid escape room.
The outside part of this room was definitely one of my absolute favourite escape room experiences. Of course, I can’t give anything away but it’s safe to say that the only thing I enjoy more than being locked in a room solving puzzles is running (well, actually walking at a safe pace) around random streets solving puzzles. At one point we were stopped by a couple who asked what we were doing, and our response that we were on a scavenger hunt only added to the experience of being a spy with a secret mission. I liked but didn’t love the second half, which I honestly think just comes down to personal preference and the fact that I had so much fun with the outside part that anything that came next was going to be a disappointment.
This was an interactive escape room experience that really depended on the commitment of the gamemaster to make it successful – and in that, he completely succeeded. From the beginning of our mission through to the end we were were immersed in a 1960s spy adventure, and although we got giggly and embarrassed sometimes he never broke character. He was also happy to chat with us afterwards and asked for our feedback on what we loved and what we didn’t enjoy so much. There was very little I could then of then and now that I didn’t like!
Overall rating: 35/40
An incredibly unique adventure and a must-try escape room in Melbourne.