Sunday 8 March 2015

Melbourne International Festival of Games and Play

I love playing games, especially those that require you to have a strong interaction with other players and where it is not so transactional (looking at you Monopoly). This year's Melbourne International Games Festival, Fresh Air 2015 (and hosted by Pop Up Playground), is held over the long weekend in March where immersive, creative and FUN games are played.

I've been going to Pop Up Playgrounds events for a few years now - and even went when I was recovering from a collapsed lung - and the variety of games and experiences they create and present are always unique and enjoyable. Sadly I was only able to only attend two of the events - Escape Room (Van) by Escape Room Melbourne and City Dash by Fire Hazard.

In Escape Room: Surveillance, we are spies who have 45 minutes to find puzzles and solve clues to prove our innocence of being double agents. Whilst I have complete a number of these rooms throughout Melbourne (ten to be specific), Escape Room Melbourne have been far superior in their set up, design and puzzle challenges. The only difference with this one is we are in the back of a van. We have knocked out the driver (who will conveniently awaken in 45 minutes) to search the van for evidence.

Despite the small area, the puzzles are still just as intricate and surprising and there are plenty of "aha!" moments to be had. We managed to "escape" and clear our names with minutes to spare, so my track record currently stands at 7 successful escapes out of 11. There is talk of this van being used elsewhere so keep an eye on their website and try out their other rooms while you're at it. Their Flemington venue game, which I liken to Rick Moranis' crazy scientist dad in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is by far my favourite of all Escape Rooms in Melbourne.

photo by Andi Snelling
In City Dash, in teams of four, we race throughout Federation Square - Southbank - Alexandra Gardens areas finding checkpoints and receiving points for finding them. The harder the clues to the checkpoint are to decipher the more points you get. The catch is, there are "security guards" on patrol who if they spot you and track you down, you not lose points but are banned from getting any more points in that zone until new checkpoints are opened.

It might sound chaotic, but this 60 minute game was such incredibly intense fun. Hints to the checkpoint are sent to you through your phone and as stealthy ninjas you can either run or walk over. We tried both ways, walking and being cautious and running like the wind and found we had better luck with the latter, apart from realising how incredibly unfit we were.

There was literal terror in our group as we spotted "security guards" and had to bolt and hide before they could catch us and I can only imagine what it looked like to all the people out in the city wondering what they hell was going on with us yelling "RUN! RUN! RUN!" with fear on our faces. 

Sadly, we came 12th out of 18 teams but now that I know what to expect with City Dash, I really hope it makes a return and soon! Check out the video below to get a taste of what the game is like.

Both of these events have come and gone but there are still a number of things happening with the Pop Up Playground tonight and tomorrow so make sure you check them out. There are games to cater towards all tastes, and even if something doesn't, just try it anyway and you might be surprised!


  1. Hi Myron, a really thorough review of the escape room experience. Just curious, would you try it again?

    1. Hey Joe, I have since completed 17 rooms in total and doing two more this weekend! Bit obsessed. Are you from QV? If so, I have completed your three rooms too, only escaped from one though :s