With five minutes to go, we cracked the safe door, ecstatic that we could liberate the Enigma machine and foil the Nazis. Then we spotted the hieroglyphs on the wall and the padlocked boxes.
Before we started, Brigette (she played a Nazi guard) sat us down and laid it out for us in a thick German accent. It’s World War II and we’re all in the White Rose Nazi resistance movement. There’s an opportunity to steal the master Enigma code-making machine and it’s up to us to take it. When we go behind the curtain, it’s on.
After 59 minutes of frantically searching the room for clues and solutions (in whispers for the first half, as Brigette was “sleeping” in the corner with a killer theatrical snore), fellow player Henry, a physicist, is holding up the literal last pieces of the puzzle. He’s trying to get the one remaining piece of information that will allow us to succeed.
I look at the timer, the red sliver getting smaller. Henry fumbles, there’s a loud ring. We’ve failed.
“Well at least we didn’t need any hints,” says player Joel, with enough sarcasm for the actor to break character with a stifled laugh.
Our mission over, Brigette walks us back through each of the puzzles and what we did to solve them – a nice touch that made us feel smart for everything we discovered, and daft for all the help we needed. They are a mix of hide and seek, logic puzzles and maths. Hints were perfectly timed to keep us progressing while maintaining a sense of urgency and some level of satisfaction. If you were a purist, however, you could ask to progress without any assistance.
Second Telling Missions is a long-term pop-up that runs two escape rooms themed around non-violent movements. Paulina Klimek and Patrick Lavery, who created and run the rooms, love the medium and went on an escape-room world tour to research before opening.
“It’s social, physical gaming. The name grew out of the original games where you were locked in a room and you had to get out, which actually grew out of online games,” says Lavery. “It’s a strange one, where the physical thing has come from the computer game.”
Lavery likes how accessible the games are to different ages – older players are often the best.
“I love the social aspect; if they’re doing it with their children or grandchildren and they enjoy it. I think it’s a fairly rare thing that brings those generations together.”
It’s not just families though.
“We occasionally get one side of a first date wanting answers to the puzzles before they play, so they can impress the other.”
And there’s an open title if you want to truly impress your date – Sabotage the Enigma, the room I played, has never been completed without hints.
Entry to Second Telling Missions is $39.50 per player. Groups can be between two and seven players.