If there's one thing I can't get enough of, it's horror. I just love the feeling of tension and uneasiness that horror brings to the table.
So when the whatNerd crew was down in Melbourne and I got word that there was a place called Lost in Melbourne that did horror-themed escape rooms, I rounded up the rest of the team, picked the room listed as the scariest, and locked in a time slot.
The scariest room is themed around Annabelle, the possessed doll from The Conjuring films. However, the game's host was quick to point out that the room is based around the real-life story of Annabelle that the movie was inspired by, NOT the movie itself.
While I've done quite a few escape rooms, this is the first horror-themed room I've had the opportunity to try, and since I'm a big fan of The Conjuring movies, it's needless to say that my hype levels were off the charts.
Most of the puzzles in the Annabelle escape room are difficult, well-designed, and layered in ways that make you think outside of the box. They're not all perfect, but for the most part, the puzzles are satisfying and they make you feel like you accomplished something when you get through it.
A key aspect of a good escape room is having puzzles that aren't too obtuse that the players can't figure out what the creators want them to do, while still being difficult enough to not be obvious. Annabelle does a good job of walking that line for the most part.
Without going into specifics, there are a few puzzles that are downright inventive throughout the room, including some that make you communicate with the other members of your group in some interesting and unexpected ways.
Another part of the room that deserves some praise is one particular scare. I'm generally not a jumpy person when it comes to horror movies and haunted houses, but there was one scare in Annabelle that did make me jump and got my heart racing.
A pleasant surprise for this old horror veteran!
I was also impressed with the physical size of the room compared to most escape rooms I've done. The large footprint allowed the designers to get creative with the aforementioned puzzles, and that's definitely one aspect that most stands out about the room.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few negatives to the Annabelle escape room that make it not live up to its promises.
For me, the issues started with the very first puzzle. The solution isn't obvious enough, and there's a red herring thrown in that doesn't add much—if anything—to the experience.
Red herrings can be okay if the actual solution is apparent and the red herring isn't something that can easily be confused for the actual solution, but in this case, it left our group of escape room veterans stumped for far too long to no benefit.
Additionally, the first part of the escape room, which ultimately sets the tone for the room going forward, lacks the ambience that would make it feel truly scary.
For example, visible speakers in the room? Hiding them would have made the lightning crashes and other spooky sounds more immersive and intense.
It's little details like this that shift escape rooms from good to great, especially in horror-themed escape rooms that rely on atmosphere to deliver the intended experience.
For a room that was sold as the scariest in Melbourne, it didn't feel scary enough—the actual scares seemed few and far between. Our own Emma Roth, who was terrified before going into the room, didn't seem particularly scared at all once the room got going.
While some of the scares did hit, it would have been nice to see more of them throughout the hour to really keep the heart rate up.
As far as value, Lost in Melbourne offers rates that are competitive with other escape rooms in the area, starting at AUD$49 per person for a group of two, down to AUD$42 per person for a group of five or more.
For a room with a 60-minute time limit, this is on par with what we've grown to expect from the Melbourne market.
There aren't many horror-themed escape rooms in Melbourne right now, so Lost in Melbourne has the market locked down at the moment. Hopefully its success will cause other horror-themed escape games to launch in the area, which will spur competition and force all of the rooms to be better.
In the end, Annabelle wasn't a bad escape room, but there are a few flaws that kept it from being a next-level experience.
Still, the inventive puzzles and solid scares are worth doing, as long as you go into the room knowing that it probably won't scare your pants off.