On a windy Saturday afternoon I meet three friends outside the Savoy building on Moray Place.
Where is it? They ask, standing in a confused, huddled circle, looking to me for guidance. Let the games begin.
When I invited my friends to play Escape Dunedin, it was hard to describe what we were doing. “All I know,” I said, puzzled myself. “Is that we get locked in a room, and there are clues inside the room that allow us to escape - eventually.” With a competitive streak and occasional bouts of claustrophobia, I was a touch nervous. My new boyfriend was also along for the ride, and I didn’t want to appear inept before him.
We eventually find a discreet door opposite the stairwell leading to Eltrusco restaurant, and descend into a shadowy basement, our shoes clattering against the cool stone. The man running the game, Tom, briefs us on the rules: no googling on cellphones, no smashing the furniture (this has happened before), and please, don’t strip for the cameras.
“What the quickest time someone has escaped the room?” I ask.
“33 minutes” says Tom. “What’s the average?” I ask, “The slowest?”, as my friends groan, well-used to my need to win. The average is just over an hour, he says patiently, and the slowest was an hour and a half.
“Does anyone need to go to the toilet?” he asks, “There’s nothing in there, and you can’t come out unless you have a health emergency.”
“I do!” I yell, leaping up. “Me too!” says my friend. With a quick glance at each other, the boys follow - what if we’re unaccountably stupid and take more than two hours to get out?
“We’ll free you eventually,” says Tom, with a bemused smile “There are other groups to play”.
Tom leads us down a long corridor with scant natural light, and indicates other ‘rooms’ to either side. “You’re doing the hardest room today, the trickiest one - Contagion”.
We store our bags and coats in a basket and my friend pulls out a banana and a small bag of nuts - “Can I take snacks?” she asks, always prepared. I shake my head firmly, determined we will not be in there long enough to need sustenance.
Wishing us good luck, Tom leads us inside, and locks the door. Suffice to say, I can reveal no more, except that the room is intriguing and great fun.
Thankfully, our team worked well together, with no squabbles or mutinies. I, quite stumped by many of the clues, made it my task to operate most of the gadgets. My friend, Chelsea, later revealing she also felt baffled, made it her job to spring the padlocks when we discovered their codes (really, not easy, don’t feel too cocky!) a job I envied because the springing click! sounded so satisfying.
After 49 minutes, we were free. As we munched on the complimentary gummy bears, I grilled Tom again: how did our score compare, did we need too many prompts, was there a chance we were just a little bit stupid?
Patient, kind, he grinned again “You guys did really well,” he said, watching us throw back the candy, intellectually stimulated and in high spirits. “Very quick,” he said, eye-balling me with amusement.
After having our picture taken we headed back upstairs and straight for Al Bar, where we discussed the game in-depth over pints of Emerson's. Was it surprising Joel was so cool-headed and logical? Not really. Was it surprising I wasn’t as helpful as I thought I’d be? Not really.
As the cold beer slipped down our throats and we let the warm sun tickle our faces, we made plans to do the second Escape room for my birthday in May, and maybe the third room when it was up and running for Quinn’s.
“We’ll do better next time guys,” I said cheerily. “We’re practiced as a team now, we’ll be really fast!”.
My friends rolled their eyes, took large swigs of their beers, and laughed.
Suitable for groups of 2-5 people, and older than 12 years. The games may be too challenging for anyone younger.
Open Wednesday through to Sunday, it costs $99 dollars for teams of 3-5, and $79 for teams of two.
The rooms are large and airy, so if you do have claustrophobic tendencies there should be no issue. Your group is also monitored the whole time through video cameras so if you don’t like it for any reason and want to get out - just wave to the camera and ask. Enjoy!
Post submitted by Eleanor Ainge Roy