There is only a few things I hate in this world; warm beer, huntsmen spiders, peanut butter and Harry Potter being forced upon me. Granted, it’s an eclectic list but hey, it’s my burden to bare. You can understand, then, my feelings when I found out I was going to a Harry Potter themed escape room in Melbourne for my sister’s birthday.
I have to be careful about how I talk about Harry Potter. During my time in this world I have discovered that Harry Potter fans are quite devoted. To talk disparagingly about the saviour of Hogwarts is like getting between a lion and an antelope; it’s a poor life choice that’s about to end violently. Considering my entire family are such fans, I am walking a fine line.
I am also an escape room novice. I had avoided the fad for some time with great success for no real reason other than the fact people kept telling me to do one. I am not great with puzzles or riddles so they sound like things that would get me increasingly frustrated until I cracked and alienated those people around me by making smart arse remarks and generally being a hindrance. I’m the type of person who uses a thesaurus on a crossword and cannot contemplate, let alone complete, a Sudoku puzzle.
For the uninitiated, an escape room involves being ‘locked’ in a room and having 45 minutes to solve all the clues in order to find a key to get out. That is about the crux of it. That all seems simple enough so long as you know where to start.
With that in mind I made my way down to Melbourne Town to a place called Trapt, a bar that also serves as an escape room facility. There are several different themed rooms of which the Harry Potter room is but one so if Potter isn’t your thing, there are other options available, like the ‘Espionage’ and ‘Prohibition’ rooms. Previous rooms also included Alice in Wonderland and one that had something to do with zombies. Groups of people were regularly filtering in and out of different rooms in-between sipping cocktails and beers in the waiting area. You do have to book in advance for room times, its not a free for all, and there is a cost involved- around forty dollars each. Essentially you pay to be locked up, but it is 2018, I don’t ask questions anymore.
I should mention as a kind of disclaimer of sorts that it is only Harry Potter ‘themed’ escape room, with no direct Harry Potter links. Technically speaking its called the ‘Alchemy’ room. That being said, for a Potter dullard such as myself it felt like a full blown Potter-fest. With a heap of made up words and whimsical music playing in the background like some kind of subliminal messaging, I may as well have been on set of the next Potter movie. Locked chests, wands, dragon eggs and curious symbols scrawled on the walls greet you; none seeming to directly link with each other and nothing making sense.
It’s hard to review something that revolves around a series of clues, all of which are important to the solving of the problem, without giving away spoilers. It could be that or it could be that we didn’t solve the problem in the allotted time and pride tells me that if I couldn’t do it then you’re all on your own. The truth is that you are not really on your own; when you enter you are given a radio on which to contact the staff for clues if required who in turn flash the clues up on a screen in the room. You can ask for as many clues as you want from the staff and they are happy to oblige. While you start off slow and avoid asking for help early, as time dwindles away, you start asking for clues like you do money from your parents when you are back at university- footloose and guilt free. It doesn’t feel like cheating because it isn’t, anything to get the whimsical music to stop playing.
It might sound like I had a bad time, like it was torturous, but I am a sarcastic person. It pains me to say it but escape rooms are a hell of a lot of fun. Sure, I was a liability to my team, my thought process on a different wave length. While my team mates found clues, I was wandering around aimlessly, looking at coatracks like they would magically open doors or reveal clues. While they interpreted mythical languages and decoded locks I was reading a fake news article hung on the wall.
“Quick, look at the goblin code on the wall.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“It’s got the name of the Petronum in it.”
“What the f**k is a Petronum? That sounds like a sandwich meat.”
“No, that’s pastrami. Never mind, we solved it. Now listen for the sound of a hufflegruff…”
The whole experience was actually fantastic; buzzing around with an increased sense of urgency, trying valiantly to piece everything together and beat the clock. The little victories of figuring out parts of the puzzle and inching closer to escaping are part of the fun.
Escape rooms are extremely popular at the moment and it’s not just Trapt who offer them. Throughout Melbourne there are a quite a large number of places you can look into, all with differing themes and degrees of difficulty. One has even opened in the old gaol in Castlemaine, in country Victoria.
Gathering a group of friends or family together for drinks then attempting to escape a room is a great night out (or day, if day drinking is your preference). However, they are what you want to make of them. If you look at them as something fun and different, you will have an experience worth remembering.
NOTE: drinking is optional and not a requirement for a good time, regardless of what you think of Harry Potter.
Wayward Tip: Make a day of it. Hardware Lane is around the corner and there are plenty of places for a feed.