Date completed: November 2015 (2 players). Succeeded escaping!
Creativity: 9.5; Difficulty: 6; Atmosphere: 10; Fun: 9.5
- Fluent English
- 2-6 players
Shortly after we made our booking with Escape Room Melbourne (ERM) for Kellar’s Magic Emporium, we received an email with an old newspaper clipping about the return of the great magician Kellar. Reading through this quaint clipping, it looked like Kellar intended to make a comeback following a period of absence. He was also looking for a new assistant and we were invited for a trial. Something doesn’t seem right though….
A month later, we arrive at the magician’s backstage. Strewn around the room are what appear to be magic props for an earlier century. No locks are apparent and the place is neat but there is a certain rawness to it all.
Kellar’s Magic Emporium is the most atmospheric escape room we have played until now and is the first room to score 10 in that category. Want to know more? Keep reading to find out how we were sucked into the game!
Player immersion is the main strength of ERM as an escape room company. It is this element they are well known for and this was apparent for us even before the game when the story started with the old newspaper. This framing of setting continued at ERM’s South Melbourne location, which is converted from a warehouse. The waiting area is replete with items from the earlier part of 20th century and has the feel from an earlier time.
When we finally entered Kellar’s Magic Emporium, we were treated to a weird and wonderful magician’s room which continues this atmosphere. The sense of mystery was also creatively reinforced by the references in decoration to the very real magician Harry Kellar (a predecessor of Houdini who lived from the 1850s to 1920s).
There are toys and puppets everywhere. Books, posters, special lights – the amount of props and the effort in decorating the place is impressive. If there was not a clock ticking behind your back, one could easily spend an enjoyable time just looking around.
Unlike many other escape rooms, we also found the mystery of the story evolving through items that weren’t necessary linked to puzzles and which drew players further into the plot. In one instance, a puzzle tailored specifically for the players gave a genuine creep factor and the sensation of being stalked. ERM did this in a devilishly simple way and it was quite fun when it was realised. The transition from a magical and colourful environment to a weird scenario happens smoothly.
This escape room also made good use of simple technology to generate a sense of enigma with some puzzles and there are also minor scares too, brought to you by the attentious gamemaster (or was it Kellar’s himself?).
Pa says it was the first escape room that actually made her heart skip a beat and trigger her ‘fight or flight’ instinct. Considering how quickly she ran to another portion of the room, the ‘flight’ option won.
The puzzles in Kellar’s Magic Emporium are not overly difficult and don’t necessarily rely on formal logic. Instead, they are heavily based on interpretation of the setting. In one instance there was a delicately handcrafted puzzle which needed different perspectives to solve. It was just beautiful. There was also some hide and seek and some hands-on puzzles. Old arcade gamers will have fun with a nice little prop.The 70 minute time window also decreases the difficulty although I get the feeling that ERM want players to really experience this room.
The only (minor) flaw we found pertained to a puzzle-related prop, in the centre portion of the escape room, that was slightly bent. Given the popularity of the room and level of intricacy in the props, it was not surprising this occurred. I blame this on the rough handling on players rather than ERM though. It’s extremely difficult for an escape room of such high quality to be kept at 100% all the time. Players, if you go through this room, force is not necessary 🙂 Regardless of this, Kellar’s Magic Emporium is the most delicately intricate set we’ve yet seen.
We found this room easily achievable with 2 players and think that it would still be good with up to 4 in a group. Although this is a fairly linear escape room, the method of progress doesn’t necessarily go the way you might expect.
With its many WOW moments (and a WAAAHH as well), Kellar’s is easily among our favourite rooms in Australia and we highly recommend it to anyone who goes to Melbourne.
Following Kellar’s, we also played the very different and extremely creative Mine Escape, which is the first escape room in our blog to score a ‘10‘ for Creativity!
Out of the room
Service: The staff at ERM gave professional briefings and followed our progress closely without interfering. They too were escape room enthusiasts and we were able to talk with them about the hobby, how they run the rooms and they also gave reliable recommendations of other good rooms to play. As gamemasters, they were flawless and gave us one of our best experiences ever in a escape room.
ERM has lockers for people to store their belongings.
Communication: Walkie talkies are used for hints throughout the game. We had a dedicated gamemaster that was extremely quick to respond.
Surroundings: This ERM venue is in South Melbourne and is a medium walk from the city. There are good bakeries and cafes in the surrounding area.
ERM has also licensed this room to Escape Room Canberra. Their version of the game, Mr. Keller’s Magic Emporium, is slightly different and just as fun! Our review of it is located here.