Next Level Escape: The Artefact [Review]

NextLevelEscape-LogoLocation: Next Level Escape, CBD, Sydney , NSW, Australia

Date completed:  November 2017 (2 players). Succeeded escaping!

Creativity: 9.5; Difficulty: 9; Atmosphere: 8.5; Fun: 9

Requirements:

  • Fluent English
  • 2-7 players
  • Acute senses
  • 2 team members not colour blind
  • 75 minute room

It was just another normal day in our escape room enthusiast life when the FBI came got me and Trapspringer into a facility to check out an alien artifact. Sounds interesting, why not? Then we were told that all scientists disappeared and the artefact was doing something strange. Okay…. Then they locked the door behind us and left us with a crazy AI computer compulsively trying to destroy Tasmania. Yep, this is bad – but why Tasmania?!

In late-2017, Next Level Escape opened their new escape room, The Artefact. As we had an excellent experience in their first room, Ex Libris, we were curious to see if The Artefact would keep up with the high standards. The theme was very different from their previous room: out with the magical fantasy, in with the crazy sci-fi. But the complexity, the creativity and the hilarious unexpected moments were still there. Yay!

From the beginning, the experience in The Artefact was intense. The only simple part in the entire game were the first 10 seconds inside the decontamination area, while we listened to information on our mission. From that moment on, things escalated quickly – I admit I was quite overwhelmed when we started exploring the joint. There was just so much to look and to do!

What initially looked like a simple office – with a desk, computer and some notes – turned out to be a depository of secrets, intrigue and err… disintegrated organic material. One really cool aspect of Next Level Escape is how they tie humour and setting into gameplay. When we investigated The Artefact, we also delved into the lives of the two FBI agents who preceded us and their interactions, found through notes and other props. This provided direction to players in subtle ways and gave the whole thing a very Men in Black feel about it. This room is certainly not serious sci-fi, but we found it interesting how there were very few rooms which were sci-fi without also falling into the ‘mad scientist’ category.

As we explored further, more beautiful and sometimes crazy props appeared. Lots of things shone, moved and blinked. People who are mechanically inclined or have aptitude understanding machines/gadgets will have a great time in this room, as most of the puzzles will require teams to utilize the props, and not always in the usual manner.

artefact2

A  HAL-type AI computer, roleplayed remotely by our gamemaster, accompanied us most of the time. The idea was to make our investigation easier, however HAL was pretty moody and had some pretty crazy demands! Some of the best moments in the game happened during our interactions with HAL, so make sure you talk to it. The crazy computer is also your source of unlimited hints, but they may come at a price. Try to keep it happy! The AI made me do things I’m slightly embarrassed of, but it was for the greater good.

Besides the scientists’ office, we also had to unlock and explore the area where the artifact was being kept. Although that area comes later in the game, we personally thought the puzzles were slightly easier in there as they were not as layered as in the office. However, the puzzles here were were flashier in technological execution.

The Artefact itself is a beautiful work of craftsmanship and electronics. artefact1According to our gamemaster Leanne, the same object (with minor modifications) was used in the official Aquaman escape room by Next Level at Sydney Comic Con 2017, so players who experienced that game may recognize the item. To unlock its secrets, we had to solve a series of puzzles that required some creative physical interaction. Without spoiling anything, this The Artefact also has one hell of a ‘control panel’.

As it is becoming a signature of Next Level, The Artefact mixes tons of puzzles with humor and, especially in this room, heaps of lateral thinking.  What impressed me the most was how the game designers managed to create good puzzles out of mundane items and common actions of daily life. They are very layered, sometimes requiring 7 or 8 steps to achieve results. Some puzzles also tested our communication skills and memory, and having a larger team could have eased things a bit.

This room is suitable for 2-7 players, and we recommend at least 3 or 4. Playing as a pair, Trapspringer and I finished the room in 68 minutes, but needed some support from HAL along the way. Next Level charges more than the average escape room in Sydney, but the games are longer and the quality is high.

As in our previous experience in Next Level Escape, our gamemaster Leanne deserves a lot of credit for the great experience we had in this room. She has timing for comedy, besides being a very accommodating host outside the room. We will keep an eye in any new project Next Level decides to work on.

Out of the room

Service: Leanne welcomed us with a smile, had a nice chat with us about their participation in Sydney Comic Con and also played a very funny role as the moody HAL. In the reception area there are lockers for player’s belongings and water.

Communication: You just talk to the walls and the not-so-evil AI (it is actually the gamemaster) speaks back to you. The sound is very clear and hints are unlimited.

Surroundings: Next Level Escape is conveniently located in Hunter Street, in the city centre, so there are hundreds of options to eat and see. They are in the middle of the way between Darling Harbour and the Sydney Opera House, or between the  Wynyard and Martin Place trains stations.

The Artefact has also been reviewed by Escape Rooms in Sydney.

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