The Cipher Room: The Cabin [Review]

TheCipherRoom_LogoLocation: The Cipher Room, Newtown, Sydney , NSW, Australia

Date completed:  July 2017 (3 players). Succeeded escaping!

Creativity: 9; Difficulty: 8; Atmosphere: 9.5; Fun: 9.

Requirements:

  • Intermediate English
  • Acute senses
  • 2-8 players

Your team of detectives got a promising lead that may shed some light of the investigation of a serial killer. Someone acting suspiciously has been visiting an abandoned old cabin and strange noises were reported coming from it. Armed with a search warrant and a good dose of courage, you must go in and try to find out what is hidden in The Cabin.

This detailed game, crafted by the designers from The Cipher Room, has borderline creepy elements and one of the most interesting plot twists we’ve seen in Australian escape rooms.

We started our game in this dark wooden cabin that apparently belonged to some sort of fisherman or hunter. Some equipment was laying around, buckets, tools… at first glance, nothing seems much out of place. Our initial challenge (literally) was to shed some light into the shed and find clues that would help our investigation.

While the early game pretty much comprised of using the elements around you to solve puzzles, it was not an easy task. Most puzzle parts are not obvious, as they are embedded in the environment of the cabin. Prepare yourself to assess everything you can perceive to be able to advance.

cabin

The attention to detail we had seen in Cipher Room’s other game, Espionage, was also evident in The Cabin. Much has been studied about serial killers, but it is still hard to understand their behaviour or nail down their motives for performing the hideous acts they are infamous for. However, the designers of Cipher Room were able to select subtle but effective characteristics of these criminals (such as the obsession for particular things, bizarre art or trophy collecting) to add into the room. There are no jump scares in this game, but the level of creepiness raises as you advance and unveil new areas.  The soundscape was excellent and helped immensely to place players in an isolated cabin in the woods.

If you pay attention to the props used, many of them may suggest that someone just left the cabin, and that person had evil intent… Or is that just your mind being biased by your mission?

Situational awareness was a skill challenged many times along the game and a closer examination of the objects strewn about the setting and the puzzles also revealed a lot about the killer. Puzzles also involved association, very basic logic and math and a touch of hands-on mechanical activities. Some of them are doable even if you don’t identify all the clues involved – our friend solved one of the ‘jigsaw-style’ puzzles by logical thinking, and elimination plus association helped us a bit ahead.

Gameplay is non-linear at the start, converging to a common path midway. Even so, it is possible for larger groups to work on more than one thing at a time, as there are layers of puzzles that may be tackled. The Cabin is doable with 2 people, but 3-4 is probably the ideal team size.

We uncovered a lot of information about the person in the cabin, and while some were expected (as we were dealing with a serial killer investigation), some were not. It took us a while to absorb the data we found by the end game, that again, was done in Cipher Room signature style: hidden in plain sight. We got out of The Cabin, thrilled, at 47 minutes. On a side note, I liked how the story of The Cabin evolved. Too often, escape rooms use the trope where police investigators must escape a room before the killer arrives. Come again? The killer is going to come back to the scene of a crime with the evidence? I may as well make a cup of tea and plan my ambush for his return. In The Cabin, players are actually charged with entering an area with a warrant to learn more about the suspect. In my view, this is a welcome change in narrative.

We had a great time in this room and loved how the passion for escape room craft was evident all over the experience. We would recommend The Cabin, as well as Espionage, to any enthusiast visiting Sydney.

Out of the room

Service: The staff at The Cipher Room were excellent and the briefings were very well conducted. The gamemastering was not intrusive at all and the hints provided the necessary guidance for us to progress through the game.

The reception is small, but enough to accomodate two teams starting at the same time, maybe even three small teams. The toilet area was also quite cute.

Communication: At the time we played, a walkie-talkie system was in use. Since then, the Cipher Room has switched to a ‘voice of God’ system where players just talk to the walls and the GM replies to them through the sound system.

Surroundings: Being where they are in Newtown, it’s probably easiest to travel to The Cipher Room by car. During our break between Espionage and The Cabin, we had a wonderful lunch and coffee at the South End Cafe pretty much next door. That area is full of other good restaurants and cafes as well so food is not an issue.

The Cabin has also been reviewed by Escape Rooms in Sydney, Escape Me and TimeOut.

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