Date completed: Nov 2015 (2 players). Succeeded escaping!
Creativity: 8; Difficulty: 7.5; Atmosphere: 7.5; Fun: 8.5.
- Fluent English
- 2-6 players.
We had not heard about Labyrinth Escape Rooms until another venue in Sydney recommended them as having good quality puzzles. We decided to give it a try and called them. Joan, one of the gamemasters and owners, managed to book us for a spot on the same day. The available room was Insane Asylum, a game where players assist an asylum solve why strange things are happening. It happens to be the eve of the 70th anniversary of a breakout…
Puzzles and setting are great in Insane Asylum. It has a good mix of logic and hands-on activities, well crafted props along with cleverly done simple ones. It also requires many different abilities. Do you have steady hands? Good observation? And most important of all: are you afraid of the dark? Different answers will give you different experiences, probably all good.
From the start, if there was an Oscar for best escape room host, Joan from Labyrinth would take it. She is one of the most enthusiastic and funny people we’ve met in escape room venues thus far. She told us about the challenge to build an escape room business from scratch, searching for authenticity in props and bargains at the same time. Insane Asylum was atmospheric and did not look cheap at all. It is an excellent example of what can be achieved with a limited budget if one is motivated, creative and passionate about what they do.
To create the unnerving atmosphere this setting demands, Labyrinth used a dark environment and the best sound system we’ve encountered to date. As we processed the clues and puzzles in the dimly lit asylum, we could hear the sounds of bedlam – screams, manic laughter, madness. Whilst this is pretty standard fare these days, the quality of the sound allowed us to use our imagination about what is going on outside of the room itself. Furthermore, there is no need for a players to carry around a walkie talkie to talk to the hosts as they can hear everything you say. This all adds a supernatural bent to it all. You are talking to the walls… and they reply!
Be careful with asking for hints too early though, as Labyrinth offers you 5 hints. This forces players to carefully consider their options and rachets up the tension as they think about whether to use a hint with the screams of the asylum going on in the background. When Labyrinth replies to the players, the gamemaster’s voice is ominous and clues only point the way rather than give detailed directions.
(Yep, you cannot miss a creepy doll in a terror setting, right?)
The logic tasks in this room are not on the hard side, and casual electronic game players may face some known puzzles presented in real life. There were two puzzles in the setting that were very nice pieces of craftsmanship. The room also required some hide and seek and a small amount of dexterity tasks. In our case, some crawling helped, but it was totally optional! In one case, I managed to spot what we needed to retrieve but my big meat hands did not have the dexterity to get the item. Pa’s delicate fingers were far better suited for jobs like this.
We played this room with 2 people and that was enough to cover everything, however the puzzles are not strickly linear and you can easily share tasks among a bigger team of 4-5. Actually, at a certain point of the game, we were gobsmacked by the large area we had covered and by the realization that there were still heaps of stuff to do!
(You may find yourself counting and organizing many little things in this room…
Do you know the reason, or are you going insane as well?)
Insane Asylum is not a techy room; instead, it uses many components you would actually find in a hospital as parts of puzzles. We thought this was a plus. We like tech, but not for the sake of it. In this case, the room worked better without.
If there was one weak point to Insane Asylum, it was the story element. Although very atmospheric in the dark with the sounds, the reasons for why the players are at the asylum, the plot of a breakout 70 years ago gets a bit lost in the action. Thankfully, not to the point of affecting the fun.
At the end, after surprises, lots of counting and some tension, we escaped with little time left. If you are a fan of the horror genre, it is worth driving a bit into Sydney’s West to play this room. After the game, Joan gave us a thorough debrief of the room with lights on and explained the inspiration behind every puzzle. It was almost as good as playing again, and it was one of the best debriefs we had. Extra points for the cold drinks we got in her company, plus her partner Frank and the super-adorable Rosie, the fluffy dog. No, the dog didn’t have any soft drinks.
Out of the room
Service: Labyrinth has a simple but clean waiting room, with lockers for player’s belongings. After the game we were offered soft drinks and water. The hosts, Joan and Frank, are the big stars here: fun, enthusiastic and extremely nice to everyone. They were happy to tell us how the business only started months before, how they designed puzzles (“curling into a fetal position and crying for hours”, according to Joan, in another unforgettable quote :P). They also gave good recommendations for other escape rooms. Thumbs up!
Communication: You talk to the walls and they reply back. Simple like this. But you can only ask for five clues, so think twice before saying things out loud!
Surroundings: Parramatta is a district a bit far from Sydney CBD and driving is probably the best way to get there. If you do, you will find many places to eat on the way.