"Mine Escape" is not the best place to be if you're still new to escape rooms. Nor is it a title that inspires confidence when you're claustrophobic and the word "underground" conjures up a scenario where you and your friends may be trapped.
Despite this, I decided to give "Mine Escape" a go. Designed by a pair of psychology Ph.D.'s with a love for gaming, "Mine Escape" is part of the collection that makes up Escape Room Melbourne. In this one, you enter the head office at a mine site expecting a regular shift; instead, you find the facility deserted.
After you enter the room, all you know is that the workers on a previous shift went to check out a disturbance in the mines. From this point forward, the goal of the game is simple: figure out what happened and bring them back to safety. The only problem? You only have seventy minutes before the entire operation goes belly up.
For those of you who have never used an escape room before, they're a bit like a real life video game. In the case of "Mine Escape," it felt similar to a dungeon crawl. Upon entering the room, the first impression is that "Mine Escape" really is a dungeon where you have to solve puzzles to get out.
If you have a fear of small spaces, don't worry: claustrophobia will not be an issue. Like all escape rooms in Melbourne, you're not actually locked in due to building regulations. Prior to entering, the staff at Escape Room Melbourne also make sure to lay out all the safety features that have been built into the game. They don't answer any of the puzzles ahead of time unless you ask, but they make it clear there's a lifeline and a way out of the maze should you need it.
"Mine Escape's" puzzles are numerous and complex, and they definitely get your brain working. It was great to see how each of the mysteries came together so logically, and once they do you get a feel for the room and fall into a rhythm for solving the game. It also helps to give you a more accurate sense of the "theme".
Fans of escape rooms will be happy to know that there are no red herrings here. Every puzzle served a larger purpose, and this in turn gives the puzzles more weight. As I was working through these clues with my team, I started to think about real-life mining disasters and wondered how I would react to being in one. Would I be as collected and calm about being trapped in a room if my life was actually on the line?
Probably not---but let's not put that hypothesis to the test.
While we genuinely enjoyed this room and had a few laughs where one (or several of us) stumbled through a jump scare, I personally prefer in-depth narratives for all my media. "Mine Escape" had very little story to it, if any, so if you're big on narrative you may get bored.
On a design level, the room we were in could have used some soundproofing. Escape Room Melbourne contains several scenarios, but when another group is in one of these rooms at the same time as yours, you can hear them speaking. By hearing their conversations, it can really break down that sense of immersion that "Mine Escape" has to offer. This is a shame, as the props and sound design beyond this were great.
whatNerd was lucky enough to visit Escape Room Melbourne prior to this, where we had the chance to review "Fractured: Remember Me." We also got to talk with one of the creators of Escape Room Melbourne, Owen Spear.