I’ve always been a fan of escape rooms and interactive problem-solving games, but have never experienced the one at the Adelaide Fringe, even though this is in its third year.  My friend and I were keen to try out our wits on the room and the first challenge for us was navigating the crowded Gluttony to find the location in the South West corner of Gluttony (head past the Spielgel Zelt towards the toilets, then look for the two shipping containers). This year, we were invited to step back in time to 1920s prohibition with a room straight out of a speak-easy.   We were challenged to solve clues in order to hide all the booze in 45 minutes, otherwise face arrest.  A lot of thought had gone into the décor, the challenge and the clues – it was clever and intriguing.  The venue however, being a standard-sized shipping container was not large and with seven people inside plus our host, there was not much room to move around.

Having to work together with strangers to solve the puzzles in the allotted time was certainly a challenge, especially when it was not clear what strengths our team members possessed.  Perhaps more pertinent, was not being able to see all the clues properly because there were too many of us, and the need to accommodate their needs and individual styles (for example, some team members felt the need to hold onto vital tools or not let others try their hand at the puzzles).  I think working with a group of friends, and having a maximum of five people would have made this experience much more enjoyable – two would have been too few, and six too many.

Our host, Richard, was the main attraction of this production.  He had created a proper escape room with good props and scene setting. Richard was also very clear on instructions – which weren’t always followed by our team members. Having him physically in the room with us certainly helped, giving us subtle prompts and hints along the way.

It was unfortunate that previous players had messed up several of the clues, written down codes for us to find, or things had broken in transit.  This made it confusing for us and I wasn’t sure in the end what was a legitimate clue and what had been tampered with.  For our host, perhaps some further attention to detail was warranted to ensure that before the next session all clues were intact or not written upon.  Perhaps adding the instruction that teams could only write on certain coloured paper in a different colour pen would ensure that the clues were distinct from our workings out.  Granted, this was unlucky for Richard that this had occurred, but disappointing and perplexing for us as well. This was quite a difficult room and all clues weren’t solvable in the end for us given the number of people in the room and confusion.

The Fringe Festival for many people is about trying new and novel experiences.  I suspect, like our group, this will be most punters’ first experience with an escape room and perhaps the pitching and level of difficulty should be slightly re-thought.  This will ensure new-comers will be encouraged to try more escape rooms if this experience is as enjoyable as possible by limiting the number of people per game, ensuring all props and clues are intact and making some of the challenges slightly easier.

Three Stars

Fringe Review by Kim Burley

For more info and tickets to Escape Room Treasure Hunt head to https://adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/escape-room-treasure-hunt-the-bootlegger-s-dilemma-af2018