We step into the room. A desk, a barber’s chair, a barber pole. As Brisbane detectives, it is up to us to search for the clues that will tell us who perpetrated the Murder in the Barber Shop.
Escape Hunt, West End
How We Played
5 June 2016
4 players (competing against another team of 4)
34 min 10 sec
Escape Hunt remains the slickest dedicated escape room venue in Brisbane, with a spacious and comfortable waiting area, two copies of each of their three rooms, free tea and coffee, and multiple dedicated staff. We took advantage of the room’s duplication in order to arrange some friendly competition. This is great for large groups, as it means that even though you have to split up, everyone comes out having had the same experience and won’t spoil things for each other.
Escape Hunt has also incorporated a slightly updated hint system. Rather than communicating via intercom or walkie-talkie (though this is still an option), the countdown screen now reveals hints directed at the puzzle you are currently working on if you seem stuck. The lack of control here is a mixed blessing. One of the hints we received told us something we had already figured out, while the other was timed perfectly to pull us out of a frustrating roadblock. It is nice to have that guidance in such a non-intrusive way, but at the same time some groups might wish to have more control over being able to solve puzzles in their own time.
Once you have done a couple of Escape Hunt rooms, you tend to know the drill. Murder in the Barber Shop follows a familiar structural pattern, hiding clues around the room in various clever ways. The room is lightly decorated, and most of the props end up being laminated cards, so there is limited opportunity to play with cool toys and props.
The furniture and dressing are sturdy and solid for the most part, though the barber chair in particular seems to have suffered a little from Escape Hunt’s “things can be hidden anywhere” policy. Murder in the Barber Shop tells a story, but it does so in a straightforward manner using laminated dossiers. There is a murder to be solved here, but for the most part the puzzles are unrelated to that.
Murder in the Barber Shop is structured linearly apart from one or two puzzles that can be solved at other times. It is ideal for a small group, though you will want at least one participant with solid mental arithmetic and another with good search skills. Though things are a little easier to find than in Bomb at Government House, there is still a lot of searching.
Puzzles are straightforward searches for combinations to open particular locks. There’s nothing particularly novel about any of them, but they do their job, and one or two have cool twists.
Murder in the Barber Shop has a narrative divorced from the puzzle solving. The official story is that the murderer has a guilty conscience and has left clues for the detectives to use to catch them, but really it is an excuse to offer a series of historically-themed puzzles strung together loosely by a central murder mystery. For a room that integrates the investigation into the puzzles, check out Forensic or Puzzle Tech Murder.
That is not to say there isn’t plenty of material to read over. Fans of murder mystery stories will have a blast reading the profiles of suspects, and these are all written in an interesting and entertaining manner. You are also given the tools to solve the murder. It is simply that this is more of a separate, if parallel, activity, rather than an integrated one.
The Bottom Line
Escape Hunt is a great venue to introduce groups to the escape room concept, with a comfortable and inviting waiting room, event spaces, and slick customer service. Murder in the Barber Shop offers an easy introduction, with few really complex puzzles, some fun surprises (that veterans will see coming a mile off), and a comfortable and slick shopfront. It provides an inoffensive, familiar theme coupled with basic searches and puzzle-book style puzzles, without having any particular standout elements.