Puzzled: Haunted Academy [Review]

puzzled-whiteLocation: Puzzled Room Escape, Holland Park West, Brisbane, QLD, Australia

Date completed: October 2017 (2 players). Oh no, we failed!

Creativity: 7.5; Difficulty: 7.5; Atmosphere: 7.5; Fun: 8.

Requirements:

  • 2-6 players
  • Fluent English

The urban legends of an evil that lurks over the school takes a macabre turn when some of the students begin to disappear for real. In this creepy escape room by Puzzled, players receive a letter from the president of the Supernatural Society seeking help in locating the whereabouts of their vice-president, Sharon Hommes, the last to disappear.

Haunted Academy has a strong horror setting and a few jump scares, so it may not be for the faint of heart. For that very reason, Trapspringer was assigned to open all doors – I’m such a scaredy cat. We started the game with just an electric candle in a school changing room, which seemed to have been the site for something horrible. It was surely not a good day at school…

As well as being physically dark, the initial area of the Haunted Academy had all the hallmarks which suggested that an occult ritual had gone wrong. Something violent had tore through the locker room and belongings of students were strewn everywhere. There was a lot to search through so Trapspringer and I were very methodical in our exploration. We designated a little corner where we gathered everything that seemed important and another for things we already used. Good. Let’s bring some order to this chaos. Some of the puzzles were solved tied to details within the story, so being attentive and organized was important.

academy-1

One thing that players need to be aware is that there is A LOT of reading and text interpretation in the Haunted Academy. Basically, every puzzle solved unlocked a new part of the mystery and directed us to the next task. On many occasions, finding the hidden meaning of the text was crucial. While this was good to develop the narrative, it can be a hurdle for teams which do not have English as a first language.

Interpretation, observation, association and search were important to go through the school and reach deeper areas in the game. Although the puzzles in the later part of the game were more connected to “supernatural” themes, they were not as scary as in the start. The fear factor diminishes throughout the course of the game, but the difficulty rises. Some of the puzzles towards the end require a lot of logic and deduction from players.

The game contained a considerable amount of layered puzzles, but flowed in a very linear fashion (hence our “used/to use” corners). I particularly enjoyed one of the later puzzles, which tied together many of the previous puzzles and the overall story. This will identify those players who have been paying attention from the start.

The props in the Haunted Academy were well integrated with the story and contributed to the horror theme. References to blood and death were plenty, but not to the point of being overwhelming. Nothing seemed out of place, however one large item felt like a red herring to us, despite being just part of the decoration. We also had issues with one of locks in the game which was hard to open due to the weird shape of the prop attached to it.

Unfortunately our skills were not enough to stop the evil from striking again… Time was up when we were in the middle of the last puzzle. Hopefully future players will finish what we left undone and save those poor souls. Although we failed by very little with two players, but there is no physical impediment to complete the game as pair.  It would just be very challenging. A team of 3-4 is probably the ideal size for this room, as more than that would leave people with not much to do.

After the game ended, our gamemaster Tom (who was also the designer of the room) gave a very thorough debriefing showing all the hidden elements of every puzzle. He put a lot of work in there!

In Puzzled we also played Monkey Run!

academy-3

Out of the room

Service: Tom was a very attentive gamemaster who had a nice chat to us after the games, and told us about his process of designing many of the puzzles used in the venue. He also had very updated knowledge about the escape room scene in Australia and some Asian countries.

Puzzled has boxes for personal belongings at the reception. Drinking water and toilet facilities are available. There are also soft drinks for purchase.

Communication: A walkie-talkie radio is provided to facilitate communications with the gamemaster.

Surroundings: Puzzled is located in Holland Park West, a 15 min drive from Brisbane city centre. There is free parking available, and for those using public transport, bus stop is 150 meters away. Most of he surrounding shops are on the DIY style, such as Bunnings and Spotlight.

Haunted Academy was also reviewed by the Brisbane Geek Social Club.

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