Escape Rooms Canberra: The Vault [Review]

ercLocation: Escape Rooms Canberra (ERC), Phillip (South side Canberra), ACT, Australia

Date completed:  September 2017 (4 players). Succeeded escaping!

Creativity: 9; Difficulty: 9; Atmosphere: 8.5; Fun: 8.5


  • 2-7 players
  • At least one person not colour blind
  • Acute senses
  • Full mobility

In an alternate timeline, the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine which governed Cold War geopolitics between the US and the Soviet Union failed to keep these superpowers in check. Who knows who fired first? In any case, nuclear football was played and the world is in a post-apocalyptic state. A madman with the keys to the remaining nuclear arsenal is intent on finishing the last surviving remnants of human civilization.

Pa and I plus two friends, who had never tried escape rooms before, embarked on this mission to infiltrate The Vault to stop the launch of these missiles in one hour and save the last humans on Earth. As the Escape Room Canberra (ERC) website claims in the description, ‘survival is not guaranteed’.

Opening up with a very Fallout feel, we began the mission in a spartan security room. It was interesting to see how  our friends, a teacher and an engineer playing for the first time, intuitively picked up the concepts in the starting puzzles. Although the puzzles were not simple, understanding them was made easier by the game design within The Vault, which used multiple types of association and utilised space very efficiently to encourage teamwork. “Start from the most obvious point”, was the only instruction we received- and it was enough to unleash an entire adventure.

The Vault has a very different theme from other ERC rooms (Keller’s Magic Emporium and House on the Hill), however one trait is common to all of them: complexity. ERC came up with a new series of layered puzzles that will pose challenges to even experienced players. We needed all four of us searching, thinking and working together from the start, otherwise the necessary associations and solutions would not have happened. You’ll need to put your brain and senses to work as the tasks in this escape room required many steps and may be difficult innitialy. One puzzle in the first area had our entire team involved to solve it in a smoother way.

The series of brainy puzzles was soon balanced by a sequence of mechanical and physical tasks. Pá, using her (hilariously awkward) flexibility, opened the path for the rest of us go deeper into the vault. More hands on activities followed, one of them involving the unexpected use of a daily prop (which may not be intuitive for non-Australians, but still deductible). We spent some time in a sensory puzzle mid-game due to overthinking, but our well timed free hint solved the issue – more hints add minutes to your final exit time.

The detailed setting is not there just for the sake of decoration: most elements were actually part of the game and lots of things shone, moved or beeped when interacted with. We appreciated how The Vault had a good mix of logical and hands-on puzzles requiring different types of intelligence.

Toward the end, the beautiful ‘a-ha’ moment happened when the teacher outshone everyone with an out-of-the-box solution for a pretty innovative puzzle. It was brilliant. After that, everything happened really fast: we found the nuclear launcher to deactivate and did not have much time left to solve it. Actually, we could already hear a female voice launching the destruction mode and doing the final countdown. That was when our engineer friend, in the most epic-anime-drama-style, told the rest of us to run for our lives while he would stay behind dealing with the circuits. I gave him the last pieces I had for the puzzle and fled with the rest of the team. DISCLAIMER: no engineers were hurt in the resolution of this room.

Kinda crawling, kinda running, we found the exit of the compound. Our friend managed to finish the circuit and escape with us with barely 2 or 3 seconds left on the clock. We were all thrilled (as only a last-minute escape can make you feel) and really enjoyed the experience. At least for now, the human race survived.


Out of the room

Service: Our gamemaster gave a very clear briefing, easily understood by everyone in the group. He also monitored our progress closely. By the end of game, we had a nice chat with Mitch, one of ERC owners.

Personal belongings are stored in lockers provided by Escape Rooms Canberra. Toilets are decorated with puzzle themed objects – not that you have to work for your toilet paper!

Communication: Hints, questions and other communication were conducted through walkie-talkieIn The Vault you have limited free hints – any extras will incur in a few minutes added to your final escape time.

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 many car dealers around, if you are interested in buying your own transport…). 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!


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