Date completed: March 2016 (2 players). Succeeded escaping!
Creativity: 9; Difficulty: 8.5; Atmosphere: 8.5; Fun: 9
- Intermediate English or Italian (only for hints)
- 2-5 players
- At least 1 team member with full mobility/acute senses
We found out about Secret Rooms while looking for things to do in Milan on Trip Advisor. Looking at rooms in there is a bit of a hit and miss, for reasons well discussed in this post by Escaperoomer. However, this one was certainly a big hit: Nightmare was a very elaborate, complex and bold room. Thankfully, not TOO scary! 😀
The story is simple. You wake up and you find out that you’re not in the real world anymore. Your spirit is trapped in some sort of nightmare. You must use the power of five mystical medallions and your wits to escape this creepy realm. This room makes excellent use of technology and does not require language for the puzzles – you only use a bit of English or Italian if you need hints.
The first thing we noticed after we entered Nightmare and solved the “warm-up” area was how the room was heavily decorated in an old office/library style. You will need an excellent searcher in your team, as there are many nooks and crannies to explore. Many of them are not obvious at the first sight. If you believe you are missing something, it is very probable it is hidden somewhere! Also, be aware that many items are there just for decoration. Do not overthink, or you will be flooded with red herrings.
The room is non-linear and a team of 4 players would be easily occupied. We played with 2 and it was quite demanding: most of the time, we had to do a physical and a mental task simultaneously, or we would not have covered everything. We didn’t have the luxury to ‘take a step back and think’ :D. There is beautiful use of technology in this room and often tasks trigger actions that force you to look at things in a new light. The mix of mechanical puzzles with high-tech ones was very well done and we often felt like it was the ghosts, not the technology, that changed the environment.
Speaking of which, there is a lot of engagement with the environment. Move things, open things, position things properly. While most escape rooms we have played tend to base the majority of their puzzles in pattern association type thinking, Nightmare is very strong in search and mechanics. You will find some traditional items, but they will be used in creative ways. It is a breath of fresh air to see that game designers in Secret Rooms did not opt for easy or lazy options in developing their puzzles. Also, being a nightmare setting, it made sense to find some objects that do not make ‘total sense’ – whose nightmares do anyway? In general, most props not only fit the theme but also looked good, such as the door handle above and other gothic style pieces. It is very hard to describe Nightmare without giving any spoilers, because many of the props are related to a puzzle, but it feels like you are locked in a room were Edgar Allan Poe could have written The Raven.
The room can easily be accessed by wheelchair, and as long as the team has at least one person with full mobility and is not composed entirely of colour blind people, the game is suitable to all kinds of teams. Nightmare actually requires a certain physical task that we had never done before in a escape room. It was fun and unexpected.
Our gamemaster was a very enthusiastic young lady, who despite apologizing for her “bad English” (which was not bad at all), sent us two hints with perfect timing and wording, without giving out the answers. She was lovely the entire time and celebrated when we came out at 53.30 and offered us free water.
We really enjoyed the experience in Nightmare, which we would recommend for those who visit Milan. In Secret Rooms we also played Sabotage, a game with strong immersion and puzzle-plot relation.
Out of the room
Service: The staff at Secret Rooms were very friendly. It seemed like they were updating their scheduling system, so there were some papers lying around they had to sift through before they found our booking at the reception. However, our gamemasters were good and spoke very good English, besides their native Italian. Briefing was very simple and to the point.
You take your belongings into the room with you, so choose well were to put them! Secret Rooms has a water filter for players to drink from.
Communication: You do not talk to the gamemaster during the game. He/she will send images or text hints through a screen if they believes you are stuck. You can also request extra hints talking out loud.
Surroundings: Secret Rooms is a short walk from Lima or Milano Centrale train stations. During the day there is plenty of commerce around to shop or find something to eat. We played after visiting Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, The Last Supper, located on the other side of the city, inside the Santa Marie delle Grazie church. Bookings must be made in advance as only a limited number of people per day are admitted to see the painting.