Room: Marlowe Hotel
Location: The Cipher Room, 640 King Street, Newtown
Cost: $42 per person for 3 players
Escaped: Yes, in the nick of time
Overall rating: 37/40
A unique, atmospheric room that must be experienced to be believed.
Step into your own black and white, film noir adventure! You are a private investigator in 1950’s New York. One day you receive a letter from Betty McGee – a singer at the notorious Marlowe Hotel. She informs you that the gangster kingpin and hotel owner, Eddie Marlowe, is trying to blackmail her with incriminating material. She needs you to break in and retrieve the documents. You know Eddie is bad news, but you agree to take the case.
What secrets await you inside the hotel? How will you locate the photos? What do you really know about Eddie Marlowe?
I have been anxiously waiting for this room to open since I first heard about it. Having recently played both their rooms (one of which I still need to review, sorry!) I knew we’d be in for something special. So, naturally, as soon as I heard the Marlowe Hotel was finally open, we rushed to make a booking. Have you ever thought “all these escape rooms are fun, but what I really want is to pretend I’m in a 1950s black and white film noir adventure?” Then you’re in luck – the Cipher Room has you covered. As with their other rooms, the Cipher room uses a walkie talkie system – your game master can hear you, but responds via walkie talkie. We had a moment where we accidentally managed to change the walkie talkie to the wrong channel, which is of course an occupational hazard sometimes, but we fixed the problem without too many dramas. The good thing about our game master being able to hear us was that she could have come in to fix it for us if we were really stuck. (Note – I’ve been informed that the Cipher Room is shortly upgrading to the voice of god system, so walkie talkies will be no more!)
Marlowe Hotel has only been in play for a week, and I’m sure it will continue to be tweaked and modified as more players provide feedback. There was one puzzle that didn’t work for us and held us up at one point, and I personally found parts of the room a little too dimly lit, which strained my eyes a bit by the end but aside from that I thought the room was fantastic and incredibly unique.
Honestly, if there was a higher rating for this room I’d give it. The Cipher Room recommends you dress in black and white to really sell the film noir fantasy, and as someone with a love of 1950s clothes I was in my element and went all out in a full era-appropriate look. It’s not necessary to dress the part (one of my teammates was in black shorts and a white t-shirt), but it certainly made the whole experience more fun. I won’t spoil anything here, but Marise and David have done an absolutely incredible job at making the room look like a realistic world that’s had all the colour sucked out from it. There were plenty of times during the room where I had to stop and admire the details before I could go back to solving puzzles, and this was the first room I’ve really wished I could take photos of – not to share with anyone, but just so I could look at the room over and over. It absolutely took my breath away and it’s so well done. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of time it would have taken to pull this room together and I’m absolutely in awe of what they’ve managed to achieve.
Part of the reason this only scored an 8 for me is that, having played all three of their rooms, there are some elements that, while unique to the Cipher Room, felt a little familiar. This being set in the 1950s, it was a reasonably low-tech room and for me it felt like a lot of puzzles I’d seen before, but put together in new and different ways which kept it fresh and exciting. There were a few elements that I was utterly blown away by, but what was most creative in this room was the way everything fitted together and the narrative that went with it which was like nothing I’d ever experienced before.
Wow, I loved this room. It’s definitely very challenging, but a lot of fun. We’ve managed to escape from all their rooms, but this one took us the most time, so despite my earlier comment about some of the puzzles feeling familiar that definitely didn’t put us at any sort of advantage! I loved the flow of the room, the variety of puzzles, and all the visual details. We also didn’t require too many hints, which was exciting – although there were some parts of the room where we were either well and truly stuck, or just misinterpreting clues entirely. Although the puzzles were of the usual high standard I’d expect from the Cipher Room, it was the theming that absolutely made it for me and every five minutes there was a new discovery that made me gasp with delight.
As always, all the staff at the Cipher Room were incredibly friendly and professional, and more than happy to let us go back through the room once we were finished. We learned a few details about one or two elements in the room that just made it even more impressive and I got to go over the aspects that had really blown me away without worrying about the clock counting down. I’ve never had anything less than a wonderful experience at the Cipher Room, and at this point I’m just sad I’ve played all three of their rooms and won’t have the opportunity to go back any time soon.
Overall rating: 37/40
An original film noir themed experience that you’d be crazy to miss out on.