Event: BMW X-Cape, Sydney (5-7 Apr 18); Brisbane (12-13 Apr 18); Melbourne (26-27 Apr 18)
Creativity: 2; Difficulty: 1; Atmosphere: 5; Fun: 5.
- Native English speaker
- Full mobility to reach the location
- Up to 30 minutes
Chances are that if you have been in Sydney recently, you would have come across ads promoting an escape room experience associated with the release of a new model of BMW, the X2. Located in the carparks below the Sydney Opera House, the online bookings for this event pretty much got taken within 3 hours of release. Sounds exciting right? We gave the BMW X-Cape a try this weekend and found that it was less an escape room, and more an abstract experience. But hey, free alcohol….
To be clear, the BMW X-Cape experience is not associated with all the other ‘X-Cape’ named escape room businesses out there. Neither the one in Sydney, Melbourne nor Wellington (although this is one of the most common escape room names around the world). According to its website, BMW X-Cape was curated by Jonnine Standish, who was responsible for the VR Ghost Train experience at the Sydney Festival 2018. The website also describes the BMW X-Cape as ‘part riddle part work of art’. In this sense they are not wrong.
Making the rendezvous at the pre-arranged time, we were taken down the interesting rabbit warren of tunnels below the Sydney Opera House to a literal underground location, which was pretty cool. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks were available free of charge with a few brain teasers spread around the waiting tables. We didn’t have to wait long before we were taken into the game by a mysterious robed host, who also acted as the gamemaster, and put on a theatric experience.
What to say about the game though? As we said previously, this experience isn’t really an escape room and felt more like an abstract artistic short film. There were no more than five tasks, with only one really being a puzzle. Most of the others were more riddles that frankly required a native English speaker as they contained phrases not known to those who grew up in non-English speaking backgrounds (Pa was clueless on them). Although they allow you up to 30 minutes to escape, the whole thing lasted no more than 10 minutes, and we can’t see how it would last much more than that.
In our opinion, this felt like a missed opportunity as the event was rendered too simple in (apparently) an attempt to cater to the general public. This would be an underestimation, as all sorts of people happen to stumble into escape rooms and don’t do too badly. We actually had trouble understanding which demographic this was aimed at. Those interested in the idea of “fully immersive x-cape experience”, which was how this was marketed, would go in expecting puzzles and tasks with a certain degree of depth or difficulty. Granted, this whole thing was designed to market the BMW X2, however, the activity was too short for the references to X2 to take effect. After we completed the room, we were taken by the friendly hosts down to inspect three BMW X2s and were given passes to conduct test drives with them in the future.
Now, the event was enjoyable, it’s just that it was an interesting short duration interactive experience. But since it was marketed as an escape room, we scored it as such.
Anyhow, I’d warn any escape enthusiasts out there who have booked this to temper your expectations. This is not a drive-around-in-a-car-escape-room like the one done by Ford in the US in 2016.
Out of the room
Service: There were a number of staff working, and we were never alone. There could have been a bit more interaction with them, but in general they were friendly – especially the dude explaining the car’s specifications at the end.
Communication: An actor/GM stays with the team the entire time. His outfit and performance provided some mysterious tones to the game.
Surroundings: In Sydney, the activity happened in the carpark under the iconic Opera House, a place worth visiting by itself. There are plenty of places to eat and drink around – although a bit pricey due to the location.