Unexpected Exit: The Terror Cell [Review]

Unexpected-Exit-Escape-RoomsLocation: Unexpected Exit, Newcastle, NSW, Australia

Date completed:  Jan 2016 (2 players). Failed to save the day!

Creativity: 7; Difficulty: 10Atmosphere: 8; Fun: 7.5


  • Fluent English
  • 2-10 players (we recommend 5+)
  • 50 minute game

Terrorists from the fictional country of Zamoria have conducted a number of attacks in Australia and a cell has been tracked to Newcastle! The players of The Terror Cell were tasked with investigating this group, but something went really wrong: they were captured and brought to the cell’s safehouse. Backup will not arrive in time and it’s up to the team to investigate the terrorist plot, find out where, when and what sort of attack is being planned. Ah, and you have to escape before a chemical device is initiated!

This intense beginning propels the players of The Terror Cell  into the most challenging escape room we’ve encountered yet, making us score a room with ’10’ for the first time in this blog.

Starting off blindfolded with handcuffs on, Pa and I (Trapspringer) quickly freed ourselves and began to search the completely dark escape room. It quickly dawned on us that that this scenario was very large and Robin, who runs Unexpected Exit, wasn’t kidding when he indicated that this is an escape room which typically requires 8-10 players.

The sheer amount of challenges and tasks thrown at the players is mind boggling and they are all well blended into the setting. Props and clues were every bit part of the safehouse and unlike many other escape rooms, the puzzles here focus strongly on mechanical intelligence (not to think like a robot but the ability to understand mechanical relationships), observation, the ability to find and make sense of items. There aren’t overt logical and pattern analysis puzzles which scream ‘puzzle room’.  Rather, the whole set resembles a terrorist cell safe house, demanding real ‘escape’. As a result, there are a lot of material which has to be looked over, processed, and analysed to prevent red herrings.

If a skill is necessary in here, it’s search. Much of our game was in the dark so look at everything deeply and look twice. Pay attention to everything you find. Also, don’t break stuff obviously, but don’t be afraid of touching furniture and props.

Damn Zamorians!

As an ex-military serviceman, let me say that The Terror Cell is a good blend of what the military calls ‘site exploitation’ and an escape room. Many parts of it look legit. Unexpected Exit does a good job of ‘game-fying’ a rather serious scenario and even introduces elements from military training such as a fictional enemy with it’s own intent, plans and propaganda. Robin previously indicated that one of the more successful groups for this room consisted of Combat Engineers (Sappers) and it’s easy to see why.

For those who approach this room with no military or law enforcement background, never fear as this is very achievable as long as you have a well structured team. I’m only talking this venue up as it reminds me experiences I’ve been previously exposed to, and it’s the first time I’ve seen something like this adapted for an escape room!

I never thought I’d see these items in a game.

This has easily been the hardest room we have attended yet. We gave the Difficulty score a 10 as the room had a very large amount of tasks that were not obvious to find and were injected into the game in a believable manner. The lack of time meant that every course of action was a decision with consequences. Which part of this massive room should we focus on? What does this stack of documents mean? How much time should we spend writing to the gamemaster for a hint? Should we connect all those cables? All this made the game more engaging and demanded more quick decisions.

Even with a larger team, you would still have to allocate your resources wisely. Half the time we were questioning how to make use of everything we had found and whether they were just part of the setting or part of puzzles.

After Robin talked us through the debrief, it was clear that we had only completed 40% of the game and only went through it’s first layer. There was no way we could do this with only two people. We needed a good team for this one and neither of us were Jason Bourne, Jack Bauer or Sam Fisher. Oh well….. we’ll have our chance for revenge against the pesky Zamorian terrorists. It looks like Unexpected Exit is in the design stage for a third room against this nefarious threat. We look forward to going back to Newcastle to stop these guys.

It’s Gamer Over Man! Game Over!

Out of the room

Service: Robin was an awesome gamemaster who gave excellent service, monitored our progress and provided a comprehensive debrief. It was very nice to have a chat with him after we played both The Terror Cell and The Deranged Scientist. He even gave us bottled water for our drive back to Canberra!

Communication: Unexpected Exit uses written notes passed underneath the doorway as the means of communication. Although you obtain very personalised replies, this actually increases the difficulty as it forces a level of agency and active participation on the players to use up valuable time to write well phrased questions. In a team of 4+, this might not be so punishing, but with only 2, it made us consider very carefully before sending off our queries. After all, it takes the gamemaster time to write back…. (as a silver lining, his handwritting is clear!)

Surroundings: Unexpected Exit is located in Hunter Street, around 10 minutes drive from the beautiful beaches of Newcastle. Bonus! The same distance will take you to nice restaurants.

If you want to know about Unexpected Exit’s other room, The Deranged Scientist, we’ve also reviewed it here.

We also took on the Zamorian terrorists again a year later in Blast Radius.

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