You are hustled into a dark room, lit only through the cracks of the boarded up door swinging closed behind you. You let your eyes adjust and begin to look for clues. Does the graffiti on the wall hide the answer to your escape? Do the buttons trigger any revelations? Does the voice over clarify your mission?

The answer is yes…eventually.

Welcome to Escape Rooms Canberra’s newest room, The Vault. The Vault opens for business this Friday 1 September, on Escape Room Canberra’s one-year anniversary.

Since its grand opening last year, directors Michael Wilkinson and Mitch Young, have had overwhelming support and gained growing popularity as the high quality and seamless challenges of their rooms have become well known.

I sat down with Michael Wilkinson to hear his inspiration for the new room. We both couldn’t help but laugh as he tried to explain the strange ideas and inspiration behind The Vault.

The Vault has been in the making almost as long as Escape Rooms Canberra has been open itself. Originally built to be a bank heist, the guys thought it worked much better as a nuclear holocaust escape. And damn were they right!

“The new room has gone through a bunch of different theme changes. We started off originally wanting a bank heist theme and built it according to that. We did a few tests and didn’t like the concept so we changed it, got a bunch of junk from the green shed and chucked it in there to make it post-apocalyptic,” Michael says.

Although Michael spoke very casually about the ideas behind The Vault, there is no question that an immense amount of thought, planning, building and testing has been done to make the room such a challenge.

“The story is just over-the-top. You have to abort a nuclear launch, saving the world from ending…twice. We have always planned to have a room called ‘mutually assured destruction’, where you have to prevent the end of the world the first time. This room is a sequel to that, the end of the world again. We are going to eventually make the prequel, so all of the stories can connect,” Michael explains.

“There’s a possible three separate outcomes. You can not save the world and not escape. You can save the world and still not escape. Or you can save the world and escape, if you’re really good!”

The amount of tech in these escape rooms is astounding, as the craziest of ideas are brought to life with some creative thinking and tricky wiring. Mid-interview, we were interrupted by a small battery fiasco as The Vault was set up for my looming mission. It genuinely amazes me how this team can smoothly run three rooms simultaneously with so many moving parts and technical liabilities.

“We give teams walkie-talkies when they go in. We try not to interfere but if you need a clue you can radio through. Most of our record holders have done it without clues. We do have pretty difficult rooms and we anticipate the vault to be no exception,” he says.

“All of our rooms are very different as well, so I don’t have a favourite, but The Vault is great because there’s so much going on. There are more obstacles to get through and physical elements to it as well. We have had a whole year to perfect it and get it right.”

After a not-so-quick test run, I was absolutely astounded by the genius that has gone into making this room. As I scrambled for clues before the clock ran out, I had to overcome obstacles, decipher riddles, patterns and codes, and complete a number of tasks I could have never imagined.

It was all too close to a miracle that I escaped, with my shoes lost to the depths of the vault and a stupid smile. I can’t quite explain the sense of achievement you get from an escape room. It’s something you just have to try for yourself.

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