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The promise

Escape games are flourishing around the world, challenging people to test their sleuthing skills and get out of a locked room. The founder of Victoria’s original Escape Room Melbourne, Owen Spear, says about 18,000 amateur detectives have tried their luck in the past 18 months. He doesn’t reveal if some have never made it out.

The reality

Hec, a businessman biker in leathers, Asha, a tertiary student and me, a cafe latte-drinking Sudoku nut, form Team Rhuarc (pronounced Rork) Pet Supplies. The story is we have discovered a secret door in a garden (Owen’s mum’s Flemington backyard). It leads to a room untouched for decades; we must work out why. We’re locked in a black room armed with torches, one on the blink. The need to escape feels real. Clues abound, but sometimes we just scratch our heads. Our first victory is working out the numbers to unlock a box covering a switch. Lights! But very dim. I keep my torch handy; pity it’s the one blinking.

The pay-off

There are multiple brain-teasers and each of our team brings a different mindset to the challenges. We trust each other’s instincts. While my mates are unlocking things, I work out a word puzzle and solve it, revealing a sentence – but have no idea what it means. Asha does. We’re off.

The pain factor

We are allocated 70 minutes to get out. We make it to an “exit” sign in 33 minutes. High-fives all round. Oh, oh. The door is locked. More puzzles. More brain freeze. Hec comes to the fore. We make it out in time – just.

Who should try it?

Anyone who feels an affinity for aspiring sleuths and The Riddler. It is a fun way to bond with friends, family and workmates in a team.

The bill

The Flemington Escape Room is $79 for two, $110 for three, $132 for four and $160 for five. Minimum two-member teams.

Would I do it again?

Yes. ERM has different themes in its Flemington room and two rooms in South Melbourne (one a magician’s emporium). There’s also a venue in Chadstone, with another opening soon.