Date completed: October 2016 (4 players). Succeeded escaping (with extra time)!
Creativity: 9; Difficulty: 9; Atmosphere: 9; Fun: 9.
- Fluent English
- 2-6 players
- At least one person not colour blind
After having a thoroughly enjoyable time playing Mr. Keller’s Magic Emporium at Escape Rooms Canberra (ERC), we recently teamed up with fellow Canberran bloggers from Escape Room Explorers to try House on the Hill. What a blast!
The game is set in Salem, presumably sometime around the late-1690s while the infamous witch trials were taking place. The city is hysterical. Ms Margret, who lives isolated in the House on the Hill since the death of her husband and daughter, is accused of spreading a mysterious illness which has struck the town. Is the illness the work of witches in consort with the devil? Players must discover the truth and escape before the time is up or risk being stuck in the house forever. Because it indeed looks like Margret is involved with supernatural forces…
We were given lanterns as a light source and as we crossed the threshold to the other side, House on the Hill effectively transported us into the mysterious location. There was fog, cobwebs and just enough light. Even though the room itself was not too dark (something we appreciated), the fog created a sense of the unknown and reduced visibility slightly – enough to force us to feel around when searching. It really did help set the scene.
The carpentry and decor in the House grabbed our attention very quickly and ERC did a magnificent job to create a sense of unease within what appeared to be a simple cottage living room. Although typical furniture and items from this sort of setting were present within the House, ERC has creatively designed the puzzles in such way that they did not fit the expectations of escape room veterans. People always expect a music puzzle with a piano right? I won’t say any more on the matter and let you see for yourself. The way the final escape plays out is also ingenious and quite unique. We all loved it.
Although there are a fair number of combination locks throughout the House, there are also a good amount of puzzles which use discrete technology and mechanics which fit the theme of the game. Atmosphere is a very strong component of this escape room as the puzzles and tasks never feel tacked on or like they don’t belong. The puzzles also use a good mix of search, association logic, some basic mechanical play, language and interpreting cryptic instructions.
There are many puzzles and tasks within the escape room, which are mostly laid out in a linear fashion for most part but for a particular point mid-game. Even playing a team of four escape room veterans, we found ourselves constantly occupied and were completely surprised by the end game, which we needed extra time for. When we went to play House, Michael informed us that one of the creepy looking puzzle paths had been added to the start. For us, this new configuration bumped the level of difficulty of House on the Hill from hard to challenging. Pá was particularly worried with the count of 20+ puzzles in a 1-hour room: it means that you must be solving something every 3 minutes. In our case, only three puzzles took us more than that, but it was enough to make us blow our time.
We must say that none of the puzzles by themselves are too difficult or require leaps of logic, there’s just so much to do. Being the first original creation of Michael and Mitch, the desire to include all the best puzzles into House on the Hill is normal . However, there is a fine balance between the amount of amazing puzzles and having a room which is enjoyable and ‘completable’ in the time frame proposed. The way it is, the room is doable and all puzzles match the story very well (which is awesome), but it really demands focus!
(Note: As of September 2017, ERC has made some updates to House on the Hill, which has resulted in the room being slightly easier and would enhance the flow of the game. We thought this was worth mentioning as the changes make the room far less punishing for small teams – its still not easy by any stretch of the imagination!)
A six player team can easily fit into the House on the Hill as there is a lot of space and enough to do. ERC also has to be commended for finding a way to cater for people with mobility issues. Yes there is a point where some crawling is needed, however, the room has been designed so that a team with someone who can’t crawl can still get through.
We eventually got out, thrilled, a bit dirty, highly satisfied with the game. ERC’s method of keeping track of the quickest times for their escape rooms – which was NOT our case -takes into account the amount of players in a team. There is a top time for every team size. Also, the first two clues were ‘free’ and subsequent clues requested by teams will add to their final completion time (you’ll still get the full hour in the room).
After the game, we had a good long talk with Michael and Mitch about how they set up the room, what they intend to do with future rooms and about the industry in general. Their enthusiasm and professionalism really showed. Between ERC, Expedition Escape, and Riddle Room, the standard of escape rooms in Canberra has been set really high. So far, all the rooms rate very highly for creative use of technology, variation in puzzles/tasks, attention to detail for setting and atmosphere. We can’t wait for ERC’s next room to come out!
Out of the room
Service: Michael and Mitch, the gamemasters, were on point again and monitored our progress closely.
Personal belongings are stored in lockers provided by Escape Rooms Canberra. Toilets are decorated with puzzle themed objects – work for your toilet paper!
Communication: Hints, questions and other communication were conducted through walkie-talkie.
Surroundings: To get to the particular area of Phillip in southern Canberra, odds are you’ll have to drive or cab/uber it there. There are buses, but not for the later times at night. The area does have a few cafes in its vicinity including the awesome Hansel & Gretel which does tasty French toasts and also sells freshly roasted ground coffee, chocolate and Dutch stroopwafels!