The Vault Online is a real-life escape room livestreamed and played through an avatar, created by Sherlocked in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Room Escape Artist reviewed the real-life version of this game in May of 2017 and awarded it a 2017 Golden Lock Award. This is a review of the online adaptation.
Style of Play: real-life escape room livestreamed and played through an avatar
Required Equipment: computer with internet connection, mobile device
At least one teammate has to call a European number and use WhatsApp.
Recommended Team Size: 2-5
Play Time: 90 minutes
Price: €149 per team
Booking: book online for a specific time slot
The Vault Online is an adaptation of the real-life game The Vault. It has been substantially changed to fit the online format. In this avatar-led version, the host livestreams the game through Whereby (video conferencing similar to Zoom). You direct the avatar within the set, and also perform some ARG-like solving on the internet, accessing social media and emails, and sending texts.
Hivemind Review Scale
Cindi S’ Reaction
This was my first virtual escape room from Amsterdam, and I had high hopes for an intriguing heist-themed game. It started off fun, with an unusual interaction that had us laughing right away. In fact, there were several instances of interplay between players and characters that could only be done virtually, enhancing the realism of the experience. One part was right out of a Law & Order episode, and I was slightly shocked and yet strangely amused at the same time. Did I really just see that? It was so real!
The footprint for this game is where it started to pale a bit: some parts too big to search and others difficult to see through the lens of the avatar. Still another section was not at all effective in a virtual game. Ultimately this was a mixed bag for me; it was entertaining immersive theater in a space that would have been much more exciting in person.
Kate Wastl’s Reaction
This was less an escape room and more of an escape experience. It was as close to immersive as I’ve seen in a virtual escape room, stitching together live actors, social engineering, and alternative communication methods into one fantastic 80-minute vault break-in. Completed through the eyes of someone navigating the rooms on your direction, this was sometimes challenging due to the vast space available, the presence of at least one tactile puzzle, and momentary technical difficulties leaving us in the dark for an awkward amount of time. The only aspect that I regret is not being able to visit the physical space, as it would have been fantastic to explore in person.
Joel Smileypeacefun Reaction
As the name of this game suggests, we had to break into a vault and retrieve a powerful device.
At its best, the first part of the game required our group to do some fun improvising. Even though the story didn’t really go anywhere, the idea of it was neat. The location looked like an adventurous old vault building.
At its worst, the game was in desperate need of different puzzles. The few challenges we were presented with felt clunky and unsatisfying to solve. There was also some online ARG puzzle-hunting, which didn’t fit the remote gameplay. The otherwise gorgeous set felt unused and had lots of empty spaces. The pace of the game was slow and it never flowed well. Sometimes the gamemaster needed unnecessarily specific instructions; other times he wasn’t able to nudge us in the right direction when we needed some guidance. The lighting wasn’t always in our favor. The video stream and the audio quality were occasionally quite choppy.
I can see this game being a lot more fun played in person. But as a remote version, I don’t think Sherlocked adapted it well enough to create an enjoyable online experience.
The Lone Puzzler’s Reaction
The Vault had a wonderful big game feel about it with a really big set and very amazing staging. However, the game itself was sadly quite lacking in its adaptation to online play. With a 90-minute gameclock (which our team used almost all of), the game was slow and lacking typical escape room challenges – there was a lot of watching and waiting for things to happen or alternative types of “puzzles” that were just a bit off or were offline so that only one team member was solving while others were waiting. At least one puzzle was just entirely trial and error and as a result just annoying and sad. “External knowledge” seemed to be required to perform some of the tasks provided, which might slow down a team without tech skills. The avatar provided a good performance, but was a bit of a hindrance likely due to the material provided – even to the point where we were begging the avatar to go faster. Toward the end of the game, there was a series of very elaborate puzzles that were really cool, but it seemed we had wandered aimlessly for an hour just to get here and as a player I was almost disinterested by that point. I would be very interested to play this game in real life as I expect some of the drag in the game would have not been as obvious. However, with the amount of actual puzzles to play, it seems like the game might not have lasted more than 30 minutes – even with the fantastic multi-room environment. It could have been a lot more than it was, unfortunately.
David Spira’s Reaction
Having played Sherlocked’s The Vault in real life back in 2017, I can confidently report that the online adaptation was substantially different from the original. There was some overlapping content and structure, but in more than enough ways, this felt like a different telling of the same story. I wasn’t disappointed about playing the virtual version, and I don’t think that one version spoils the other in many meaningful ways.
While I generally enjoyed my time in the The Vault Online, I had one larger issue: the bitrate of the livestream. It was too pixelated to appreciate the majesty of the location. More functionally, it was difficult to see some of the puzzles (especially the late-game ones). This could have been compensated for by the avatar… but our avatar was a bit too lackadaisical when it came to supporting and clarifying these issues. (I’m not sure if he fully appreciated how frustrating it was on our end.)
This is a product with great bones. With a change or two, it’s a must-play.
Disclosure: Sherlocked provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.