Mission Room Escape: Dr. M [Review]

mission-real-life-room-escape-logoLocation: Mission Room Escape, Sydney CBD, NSW, Australia

Date completed:  May 2016 (4 players). Succeeded escaping!

Creativity: 9; Difficulty: 8.5; Atmosphere: 8; Fun: 6.

Requirements:

  • Fluent English
  • 4-9 players (we recommend 5-6)
  • Full mobility
  • 80-minute room

Dr. M is the hard level room at Mission Room Escape in Sydney and one of the most praised rooms in Australia. We were really happy we managed to get a booking and try it. The story is that Dr. M, a renowned chemist, raised his kid to follow his steps. The young boy, who dreamt of being an astronomer, could not handle the pressure and committed suicide.  Dr. M, laden with guilt and sorrow, went insane and started doing macabre tests with living humans. Your team is unfortunately one group of his lab rats.

The story is dark. The setting is well done. There are puzzles that fit the plot, beautiful and interesting technology, numerous things to do – in summary, this room had potential to be one of our most intense escape room experiences in Sydney. It also showed to us how the human element is essential for the smooth running and enjoyment of an escape room with a lot of fun.

Before we begin the review proper, lets just say that we had a very mixed experience to what is regularly declared one of Sydney’s top escape rooms. It is worth going to and it is a very good escape room. Most people come out of Dr. M feeling that it was one of the best games they’ve played.

Dr. M is a highly creative escape room that embraces technology in a very interactive manner. Although the story is fairly basic, it is consistent. The trappings of the room, the props and the technology also matched the theme of a crazed evil scientist. As with Vampire Castle, there was some great attention to detail with some props and the atmosphere was reinforced by a pretty good music soundtrack.  

Dr.M-theme

The greatest strength of Dr. M lay in the way technology was used, which ranged from the subtle to the visually spectacular. In most cases, the technology reinforced teamwork as an essential element of the puzzles and tasks. The focus on teamwork and communication is a common trait throughout the escape room. Despite the linear design flow of the game, players will probably find something to do for most of the game. The only exceptions were 2 ‘funnel’ points in the game where only 1-2 people could actually be involved before further progress could be made but they should not take too long.

The entire escape room is very large and we recommend team sizes of 5-6, preferably formed by experienced players. This is a difficult room and it is actually impossible to finish with less than 4 people. There’s a very interesting teamwork task towards the end that will require as many hands as you have. As you go exploring the place, you find more and more areas. Mission’s website says Dr. M is the biggest room in Sydney, which we believe is right.

You should also have a very diverse team in terms of skills. You will need good searchers, good communicators, mental speed, coordination, flexibility, memory, raw logic… In terms of variety, Dr. M nails it. There’s a puzzle for every kind of person. The puzzles and tasks also require inductive logic, correlation and associative thinking. You will deal with a myriad of props, from the simplest ones to the high tech stuff.

Similar to Vampire Castle, there is a lot of movement. My favorite part (Pá here) was one that required special body control from team members. We could see that the puzzle was designed to involve many players and the props were positioned in a clever way so no one could deal with more than two. For once, it was nice to have an advantage for being the smallest person in the room! 😀

At this point, you might be wondering why we gave a relatively low score on fun given all the ingredients of an excellent game. We would have loved to give Dr. M a higher score in that category. We can see how groups could have an awesome time there, as seen by the positive reviews from other blogs and Tripadvisor entries. Unfortunately, we can only review what we saw, and the way our gamemasters handled our game affected the entire experience. There were a few issues with the running of our game which made us frustrated by the end of the game:

  • Our blindfolds smelled weird. We mentioned this and received no answer. We decided not to make a fuss about it as we were already moving into the room but it felt…. slightly disgusting…. (this was not an isolated fault and affected more than one player).
  • As soon as the game started, we found an issue with the resetting of the game. A main door was not locked – as we tried to move the door, a lock on the other side just fell onto the floor. One of the gamemasters had to come in to remedy this. Clock keeps ticking.
  • 20 minutes into the game, our walkie talkie stopped working. Not a major problem but we did want to ask for a hint. The gamemasters did not notice this so we  tried to get their attention by waving at the camera and knocking on the entry door. Still no answer. After spending 5+ minutes acting like madmen in front of the camera to get their attention, the gamemaster finally comes to the door.
  • When the gamemaster came in the room to check what happened, I showed him the mute walkie talkie. “Oh, it’s not working because you changed the channel”. I kept the walkie talkie in my pocket up to this point. What about a solution to the communications going down and why did we have to wait for over 5 minutes before a response? Anyway, I held my temper and just asked for the hint we needed. He pointed directly to where a prop was located and asked: “Haven’t you guys seen this yet?” No. And I asked for a hint, not the answer.
  • It happened again later, when we had trouble with another puzzle and asked for a hint, and where told through the walkie talkie that “the numbers are behind XXX”. I wanted a hint, for god’s sake, not the answer!
  • Some of the technological components need to be refurbished. The volume of the narration through the sound speakers was too low at times and none of us could hear what was said at certain points.

All this happened in the first half of the game. We got really frustrated and, by that point, just wanted to go on and finish the game. Maybe the gamemasters were having a bad day, maybe they were tired, but Mission Room Escape could ask for more preparation from its staff, especially if they are working on a busy weekend shift. Either way, we’re not asking much from gamemasters to be paying attention to what is happening in an escape room. It’s kind of their job right?

We usually don’t mind when things fail, but the way the gamemasters deal with issues makes all the difference. We’ve seen very good examples at Escape Hunt Melbourne, ERM and Unexpected Exit, where attentive and responsive gamemasters averted ‘disasters’ by providing solutions quickly and in a nice way. There’s a quote attributed to jazz musician Miles Davis that goes “It’s not the note you play that’s the wrong note – it’s the note you play afterwards that makes it right or wrong”. This certainly applies to Escape Rooms.

Out of the room

Service: We had issues with Dr. M, but we will note that the same did not happen when we played Vampire Castle. On that occasion, gamemasters were fairly responsive. Between the two games, it was inconsistent.  Briefing was ok and very short, probably because we all said we had played escape rooms before.

Personal belongings are stored in lockers provided by Mission Room Escape and there is water and Mentos available for waiting players. Of note, if you are looking to make a booking with them, do so with at least several weeks in advance. These guys are very popular.

Communication: Hints, questions and other communication were conducted through walkie-talkie.

Surroundings: Mission Room Escape is extremely close to the Queen Victoria Building and Town Hall train station. It’s pretty easy to find food in that area and fellow geeks will be happy to know that this place is pretty close to King’s Comics, Kinokunya and Games Paradise. 😀

Dr. M has also been reviewed by Escape Rooms in Sydney who had a better run of this than we did. Escape Room Reviews has covered this room as well.

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