Next Level Escape – Catch Me If You Can [Review]

Grounded

Location:  Eindhoven, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 9, 2019

Team size: 3-7; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from € 40 / player per team of 3 to € 22 / player per team of 7

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating:  [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+]

REA Reaction

Catch Me if you Can was a game highly recommended by many Dutch escape room fans.

Upon arrival, the staff at Next Level Escape was eager to inform us that Catch Me if you Can was the “number 1 escape room in the Netherlands.”

Given the Netherlands has been my personal favorite country to play escape rooms in, and we were coming off of a day of incredible games, Catch Me if you Can set itself a high bar to clear. It didn’t even come close.

That’s not to say this was a bad game. Catch Me if you Can had fantastic set design, taking us to inventive locations. Next Level Escape baked in some great details and even better scene transitions. It was clear that a lot of love went into this game. I can kind of see why people love it so much.

For me, however, Catch Me if you Can felt like it was leaning on realism to a fault. The best way that I can sum up this game is, “Be given an intense mission, go to cool places, and do the most boring things that you can imagine doing in those locations.”

I’m rarely one to kick a company for including a process puzzle that moves the plot along, but there were just too many of them and they lasted too long. As I solved, I found myself imagining puzzle concepts that would have been way more engaging. This felt like going on a date with a very pretty, very boring individual.

Plenty of people love this game and there were lots of things that I did enjoy. If you’re a traveling player visiting The Netherlands and you’re spending a few days playing the top games in the region, I’d lower your expectations on this one. I’m glad that I saw it, but I wish it were as engaging as it was pretty.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Great scene transitions
  • The final set

Story

Catch Me If You Can was the sequel to The Suspicious Farmhouse (a game that we did not play). We were an FBI team pursuing a violent criminal last seen at the Hold’em Inn Pub. That’s where we began our investigation, with the hope that we could stop this man before he added to his body count.

Setting

The sets in Catch Me If You Can were strong. The pub that opened the experience looked a lot like an Irish pub near where I used to live… albeit with quite a few more sound effects than the real deal.

The later sets, which I won’t describe because… spoilers… were unusual escape room locales executed well… especially the final set, which was extremely realistic.

Plain text reads: "First time in a while that we can’t show you anything. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ The initial set looks like an Irish Pub. It’s pretty much what you’re imagining."

Gameplay

Next Level Escape’s Catch Me If You Can was a standard escape room with a higher level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, making connections, puzzling, and completing substantial tasks.

Analysis

➕ The sets were convincing. The final set was impressively realistic. Each setting in Catch Me If You Can was fun to enter and explore.

➖ Some of the sets were pretty worn… and in one instance, beat up.

➖ Too many of the puzzles in Catch Me If You Can required us to execute mundane tasks. Some of these were so bizarrely realistic as to be boring. Others were just tedious. In their interesting sets, Next Level Escape made odd choices as to how to build in the gameplay.

➕ Next Level Escape included one personalized detail that we appreciated. It was a small thing that made for a neat moment.

➖ Some of the early puzzles required outside knowledge. While much of this was provided as in-game cluing, those clues were onerous. After we had correctly solved a puzzle, we had to take a hint because we lacked the knowledge to correctly apply the puzzle solution to the information at hand.

➖ Catch Me If You Can included a lot of process puzzles. In one instance the emphasis on precision was baffling. The aha had passed long before we’d completed the puzzle. This whole sequence weighed down the game.

➕ Next Level Escape created some phenomenal transitions. They added small details that really sold these moments.

➖ One transition appeared to include a lengthy interlude… until we realized that the clock hadn’t stopped and we were supposed to be playing, despite the situational context. Because of the realism in the environment, we’d instinctively started following the real-world rules of that space when we should have started solving the escape room. This was unfortunate, confusing, and began the final act on the wrong foot.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking garage in the center of town.

Book your hour with Next Level Escape’s Catch Me If You Can, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Next Level Escape provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Dark Park – The End [Review]

That ending.

Location:  Zoetermeer, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 6, 2019

Team size: 3-6; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: € 145 per team Mon-Thurs, € 155 per team Fri – Sun

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

I’m a Dark Park fanboy; I love the way that they blend atmosphere, narrative, and puzzles to create haunting experiences. That said, in our reviews of their previous 4 games, we’d knocked them all for the same exact thing:

The weakest part of all of their games were the endings. No matter what heights they reached, for us, they never truly stuck the landing.

That has ended.

In-game: a rundown scifi-esque wall-mounted logo that reads "END"

The End was a thrilling, weird, and thought-provoking experience from start to finish. It was big. It was cinematic. It was loaded with amazing and unnecessary details that breathed life into a strange world.

The End wasn’t puzzley. It started off with an aggressive puzzle or two… and then it kicked into narrative mode. If you’re going to play The End primarily for puzzle play, then you’re going to leave wondering if you missed something.

We loved The End. It was differently intense and intensely different. If you go in with that mindset, you will be in for a treat.

If you’re visiting Dark Park, I’d strongly recommend playing The Freakshow, The Honeymoon Hotel, & The Orphanage prior to The End. I love all of these games, but their latest creation was truly a cut above.

Who is this for?

  • Thrill seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Technophiles
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • It’s an intense journey
  • Cinematic and memorable moments
  • Shocking and thrilling moments
  • The end

Story

The End began in a funeral parlor, as we made final arrangements for someone…

In-game: a casket in a funeral parlor.

Setting

We began our experience in a compelling funeral parlor complete with sights, smells, and sounds. It included some interesting character-building choices. Suffice it to say, the place felt… lived in.

I’m reluctant to describe where it all led because discovering that was part of the journey.

The world of The End was an ever-changing and unrelenting thriller. Sometimes it was scary. Sometimes it was intimidating. Every space we entered was visually and tactilely compelling.

In-game: An assortment of urns behind a computer desk.

Gameplay

Dark Park’s The End was a narrative-driven escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, puzzling, and exploring the unknown.

In-game: Closeup of an assortment of urns.

Analysis

The End took us on an unexpected journey.

➕ Dark Park crafted The End around discovery. Throughout this experience we felt like adventurers, excitedly (and a bit apprehensively, for those less daring) exploring uncharted territory. This was thrilling.

The End constantly surprised us.

➕ Dark Park created a fantastically detailed world for The End. They also engaged many of our different senses, which added depth to the experience. They didn’t need that level of detail to facilitate the gameplay, but the experience was richer for it.

➕ The technology that powered The End was impressive. In one scene, the gameplay required substantial infrastructure and ingenuity. This worked so seamlessly and invisibly that most teams will never stop to think about it.

In-game: A poster of needles labeled, "The end is the beginning of a new tomorrow!"

The End was fantastically dramatic with a full team of 6 players. We recommend a larger group as it will heighten anticipation and reveals.

➖ That said, the puzzles didn’t fully support the full team of 6. Only a few of the puzzles leveraged teamwork. At one point the puzzle-solving became largely linear and we had to wait for each other for substantial periods of time.

❓ Many of the moments of triumph felt individual. While The End was absolutely a team experience, heightened by the presence of teammates, some of the most intense moments were solo interactions.

➕ At times, The End forced us to wait for our teammates. While this normally grates on us, in most instances of waiting in this escape room, it actually heightened our anticipation of discovery.

➖ In one early instance of waiting, however, it was easy for the idle players to become disengaged. We’d become too familiar with our current space and we didn’t have a puzzle or task to keep us engaged while waiting.

The End was not a challenging escape room, but it had a challenging opening scene. Some of the puzzles may need additional sign posting so that teams don’t spend too much time solving before they come to understand where The End will take them. We played during opening week, however, so we imagine Dark Park will assess and tweak this as more teams play The End.

➖ One input mechanism was too precise, which added to the wait time in one of those instances where forward puzzle momentum would have been optimal.

➕ The hint system fit beautifully into the game world. It was fun to need a hint. In fact, I believe some of our teammates took the hints home as souvenirs.

➕/➖ Although Dark Park is experienced in building fear through environment and technology, The End was their first foray into actor-driven emotions. Our actor fantastically captured a specific and strange persona. That said, I think that a more dynamic persona would have improved the overall experience.

➕ Dark Park’s newest escape room was named brilliantly. There were so many levels of meaning here and unpacking that would spoil… The End.

➖ The story didn’t feel quite complete. Although the culminating scene tied everything together, there was a missing story beat needed to pull the narrative together.

The End was dramatic and thrilling, but also hilarious. Dark Park added humor through audio, video, and elements of decor.

➕ One cinematic reveal left us standing awe-struck and put a bow on an already incredible scene.

The End started as a pretty challenging puzzle game and morphed into narrative-driven adventure. We enjoyed this, but we don’t think it’s for everyone. Some folks will find there aren’t enough puzzles. Others will think the puzzles are too challenging. Know that this game will change what it asks of you. Embrace its ask, at any given moment, and there will be a lot to enjoy.

Tips For Visiting

Book your hour with Dark Park’s The End, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Dark park comped our tickets for this game.

REA’s Best Day Ever Drawing!

In honor of our Sherlock: The Game is Now trigging a new best traffic day ever, Lisa and I decided to celebrate with an impromptu contest where we asked readers to submit the post that they thought had triggered the previous best day ever.

The responses that we received were a ton of fun.

Who Won?

The prize drawing went to Sheryl Howell!

Sheryl will receive some Room Escape Artist swag and a beautiful puzzle from Cryptogram Puzzle Post.

REA swag and a beautifully illustrated envelope.
The small one is a magnet; the big one is a coaster.

Best Guess

The most common guess was 5 Dead, 1 Injured in Polish Escape Room Fire. Honestly, this should be the right answer. While it certainly was well read, it wasn’t even close to the previous best day ever.

There were other really fun guesses and so many posts that surprised us.

The Correct Answer

Look, there was a reason that we were celebrating overturning our previous best day ever.

It’s because that post was our review of the Limited Edition Mystery Oreos. For reasons that were never really clear, that post went viral.

It was funny, but also demoralizing. The post itself was a joke.

Theresa W did, in fact, guess this correctly, but it was because she was over at our apartment playing a tabletop escape game when this thing was going viral. After guessing, she admitted to having a vague memory of this oddity.

Rex M may have been joking, but he came super close by guessing the review of the Mystery Flavor Peeps 2018… which was so similar, and frankly, better written than the Oreos review.

The 2019 Room Escape Conference in San Antonio, Texas

The 2019 Room Escape Conference is going to be in San Antonio, Texas August 6th, 7th, and 8th.

Transworld Room Escape Conference Logo

Our Stage Appearances

We’ll be making at least 2 appearances on stage at the show.

The State of the Escape Room Industry

We’ll be giving the opening free talk on the morning of Thursday August 8th… bright and early at 8AM.

In 2019, the escape room industry is beginning to enter an era of change. The fire in Poland, changes in industry statistics, and shifting player expectations are adjusting the nature of the business. Lisa and David Spira have been covering the escape room industry for 5 years on their website Room Escape Artist, and will demonstrate the lay of the land with a mixture of data and their observations from around the United States and the world.

This talk will provide useful information to guide business decisions as well as actionable information about trends in escape game design.

Safety Panel: The Biggest Threat to the Escape Room Industry

I’ll be on the Safety Panel at 10AM Tuesday, August 6th. This session costs $50 if you pre-register. I encourage you to do so. Amy Philip is a fantastic moderator. Lisa and I are helping to assemble a great group of speakers. Also, this truly is the most important topic in the industry in 2019.

Safety is the single most important opportunity and threat facing the escape room industry in 2019. Our panel will discuss the near and long term implications of the Poland fire, including fire and building code enforcement, legislation, and public perception of escape games. Additionally the panelists will dig into the murky gray area that exists between risky design and dangerous design.

Regional Review Marathon

Back in February the Room Escape Conference sponsored our massive review marathon of San Antonio and neighboring Austin.

If you’re curious what games to play or what to expect, we’ve got you covered.

San Antonio Games

All San Antonio Reviews

San Antonio Recommendations

Austin Games

All Austin Reviews

Austin Recommendations

Register Today

Buy your ticket now. 

We hope to see you in San Antonio this August!

Archimedes Inspiration – MAD [Review]

Brain Breaker

Location:  London, England

Date Played: May 5, 2019

Team size: up to 5; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 70 minutes

Price: £30 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Previously known as Kill M.A.D., Archimedes Inspiration’s MAD wrapped an escape room around an award-winning short film. To our surprise, it worked.

If you had asked us going in, “Do you think that building an escape room around a short film is a good idea?” we’d have been pretty dubious of the concept… and still kind of are. However, Archimedes Inspiration picked the right film and found a clever way to essentially turn it into a compelling and justified cutscene.

It was worth playing MAD to see how Archimedes Inspiration pulled this off. We especially recommend it for players looking for something different.

In-game: The hallway of an asylum with patient clothes hanging from hooks on the wall.
Image via Archimedes Inspiration

Now, as with Project Delta, this attempt at deep storytelling through gameplay stumbled in places. In the case of MAD there were two bigger issues that we found. The initial two thirds of the game were pretty standard escape room fare. The execution was fine, but nothing special, which was juxtaposed strangely against the interesting ending.

Additionally Archimedes Inspiration used a fairly recent real-life disaster as a plot point, which put an unnecessary social burden on this escape room.

Those challenges aside, MAD was worth playing for all of the things that it did differently. It was exciting to see the climax come together. That’s the memory I’ll keep from this game. If you’re interested in storytelling and don’t mind that the game is set in an asylum and pulls from a disaster in living memory, then MAD is worth your time, energy, and thought.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • The strange and twisted story
  • Strong integration of an award-winning short film
  • A memorable ending

Story

Strange and terrible things were happening at Sally Star King Hospital. We entered this psychiatric institution to investigate unusual reports about its staff and patients. What we found was twisted…

Setting

MAD’s staging wasn’t fancy, but it was atmospheric. Archimedes Inspiration used each location that we visited within the hospital to convey something about the characters. It was spooky.

In-game: The hallway of an asylum with patient clothes hanging from hooks on the wall with the lights turned down.
Image via Archimedes Inspiration

Gameplay

Archimedes Inspiration’s MAD was an atypical escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, making connections, and puzzling.

In the end, we had to truly understand and internalize the story to earn the “optimal” conclusion.

Analysis

MAD’s story featured the 1993 sinking of the MS Estonia in the Baltic Sea. This was the second deadliest sinking of a European ship, claiming 852 lives (the deadliest being the Titanic). If the use of a real disaster from living memory is going to present a problem for you, then you should skip this game.

➖ We were unfamiliar with the MS Estonia going in. (I have a vague memory of it from when it happened.) Archimedes Inspiration’s website should disclose this aspect of the game. I’m not really sure what the MS Estonia added to MAD. If they had swapped in a made-up disaster, it would not have substantively harmed the game. It might have improved it by eliminating this whole discussion.

❓ While this escape room presents puzzles, it was more about the characters than the gameplay.

➕ Each environment within MAD conveyed something about the characters. The spaces were dreamily, yet eerily themed. It worked well.

➕/➖ Throughout most of the experience, the puzzles were good, but not particularly interesting or exciting. They worked pretty well. With the exception of the final puzzle, however, they weren’t memorable.

➖ One puzzle required us to coordinate an effort against really tight tolerances and some finicky tech. This was the low point of the game.

➕ Archimedes Inspiration incorporated an award-winning short film into the narrative and gameplay of this escape room. This was unusual and strangely captivating.

➕ The final sequence was beautifully lit and delivered a satisfying culminating reveal.

❓ At its core, MAD was a giant deduction puzzle. Our experience through the sets, puzzles, and gameplay would help us execute a final cerebral puzzle. There was no “correct” answer, but there was an “optimal” solution. This was an unusual approach to game design. We imagine that some folks will appreciate this approach to narrative and interpretation more than others.

Tips For Visiting

  • Take public transit to Bermondsey Station on the Jubilee Line.

Book your hour with Archimedes Inspiration’s MAD, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Archimedes Inspiration provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Escape Plan – Battle for Britain [Review]

“… We shall fight them in the puzzles…”

Location:  London, England

Date Played: May 5, 2019

Team size: up to 7; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: £89 per team off peak / £120 per team peak

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Battle for Britain was fantastic blend of delightful, quirky design with an elegant but humble construction.

In-game: A slide viewer
Image via Escape Plan

Escape Plan created an entire escape game around directing the response to the Luftwaffe’s attack on London. Our job was to set the battle plan by placing squadrons on a gigantic map. When all was said and done, we watched the information come in on the success (or failure) of our plans… and it was a great moment.

Battle for Britain was a thoughtful game built into the right building. Escape Plan nailed the right details. This one is absolutely worth playing if you’re visiting London.

Who is this for?

  • History buffs
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • A charming set
  • A unique mission
  • The massive battle map setpiece
  • The end sequence

Story

With the Luftwaffe inbound and poised to attack London, we had to decipher their ciphers, determine their targets, and dispatch fighter squadrons to intercept them.

In-game: a dartboard in a pilot's bar.
Image via Escape Plan

Setting

Battle for Britain was built into a beautiful old building that was brimming with charm. The various props and setpieces integrated perfectly into this space, like they’d always belonged there.

Escape Plan spread the game out over two different spaces: a pilot’s bar and a war room. The centerpiece of the entire game was the gigantic map of Britain, which we used to order squadrons about.

In-game: The door to the Operations Room.
Image via Escape Plan

Gameplay

Escape Plan’s Battle for Britain was an atypical escape room with a lower level of difficulty.

Our goal wasn’t to escape, but to order the fighter squadrons to the correct intercepts.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, puzzling, and keeping organized.

In-game: The war room map.
Image via Escape Plan

Analysis

➕ The charming set and props in Battle for Britain felt like they belonged in the building. They were fun to behold and manipulate.

➕ That giant map. The gameplay would have functioned just as well with a smaller map, but the battle wouldn’t have been the same. That map made all the difference.

Battle for Britain presented contained searching. While it was a search-heavy game, all searching was directed. We knew what we were looking for and how many items we still had to find. We didn’t mind searching because we weren’t searching blindly.

➖ The puzzles were themed, but not story driven. While they made use of the props, most of them rested on top of the mission rather than within it.

➕ Teams need to stay organized to succeed at Battle for Britain. Escape Plan provided all the tools to do this easily.

➕ The gating for the final battle was cleverly crafted to avoid teams triggering the climactic scene before placing all their squadrons.

➖ There were some in-game instructions that were out of character. While there will always be the teams who need this, it would be great if it could hit you over the head while still feeling like part of the game world.

➕ Teams don’t win or lose Battle for Britain. Instead they watch a battle unfold and see how well their squadrons performed. This unorthodox game design was intriguing and kept us engaged through the final scene, watching the battle play out. It was a memorable finale.

➕ Escape Plan minded the historical details, but not to an extent that it broke the game. They took liberties as needed for gameplay, but the escape room felt true to the source material.

Tips For Visiting

  • Battle for Britain is at Escape Plan’s Kennington location.

Book your hour with Escape Plan’s Battle for Britain, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape plan comped our tickets for this game.

REA’s Best Day Ever!

A gold trophy

Yesterday we had our best traffic day ever! We’re celebrating with an impromptu contest and video:

So… no planning (or ya know… hair styling), but hopefully this is fun.

To Enter the Contest

  • Leave a comment (on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, or the blog) with your guess for the post that had triggered our previous best day ever.
  • One entry per person. If you enter more than once, we’re going with your first entry. Please only enter once.
  • Anyone who guesses correctly will be entered into a drawing. We’ll use a random number generator to pick the winner… assuming someone guesses right.
  • If no one gets it right, we’ll do a random drawing among all who submitted.
  • You have until 11PM Eastern on Sunday, June 16th to submit your entry.
  • If you win and don’t respond to our messages, a new winner will be drawn.

1 Ticket Left for Escape, Immerse, Explore: New Orleans

And as noted in the video, we have 1 ticket remaining for our New Orleans Tour.

The purple, gold, and blue Escape Immerse Explore New Orleans Logo

For more details, checkout the tour description.

If you’re interested, shoot us a message.

We’d love to have you join us!

Sherlock: The Game is Now [Review]

“You look but you do not see.”

Location:  London, England

Date Played: May 5, 2019

Team size: 4-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 100 minutes

Price: £54 per player

Ticketing: Private or Public

Emergency Exit Rating: meets amusement park code

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Sherlock: The Game is Now carried a lot of hype:

  • It was made in partnership with Steven Moffat, Sue Vertue, and Mark Gatiss, the writers and producers of the BBC’s Sherlock.
  • Sherlock: The Game is Now featured audio and video performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Mark Gatiss, and Andrew Scott, the show’s Sherlock, Watson, Mycroft, and Moriarty.
  • The entire experience was “Presented by Time Run,” one of the most impressive escape room companies that we’ve had the fortune of visiting.
  • There are 5 copies of Sherlock: The Game is Now built within a 17,000-square-foot facility.
  • At £54 per ticket (approximately $71 US when we played), Sherlock: The Game is Now is almost certainly the most expensive escape room on earth as of publication.

With all of that in mind, Sherlock: The Game is Now is a fantastic experience if – and only if – you are a fan of Sherlock.

You have to be excited to spend a couple of minutes hanging out in 221B Baker Street. You must look forward to having Sherlock and Mycroft condescend to you for 75 minutes. To enjoy The Game is Now, you have to be eager to step into the world of the show.

Andrew Scott as Jim Moriarty.
Andrew Scott as Jim Moriarty

Sherlock: The Game is Now stood out for us because of 3 key factors:

  • the amount of worldbuilding
  • the Sherlock-esque deduction
  • Andrew Scott’s performance as Moriarty, which stole the show

All of this boiled down to an appreciation of the world of Sherlock.

If you’re just a fan of escape rooms or you saw the show a few years ago and kind of enjoyed it… or kind of remember it… The Game is Now is just a very fancy, very expensive escape game. The stuff that made it special will fall flat for you.

Similarly, if you were a diehard fan of Time Run and you’re eager to play the third Time Run game, this won’t be it. This was something different. It was not necessarily worse, but it served a different purpose for a different audience.

Go play Sherlock: The Game is Now if you love the show or you want to see big-budget immersive fan service done well. Make sure you leave plenty of time to hang out in the bar after the game.

Brush up on Sherlock season 1, episodes 1 & 3 and season 2, episodes 1 & 3 before you visit this game. You’ll want to have a strong grasp of the story and characters.

The living room of Sherlock's cluttered London flat. The wall is graffitied, "THE GAME IS NOW."

Who is this for?

  • Fans of the BBC’s Sherlock
  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Great performances from the show’s original cast
  • To hang out in 221B Baker Street
  • Detailed sets in a physically massive game
  • The deduction puzzle
  • Andrew Scott’s killer performance as Jim Moriarty

Story

As new recruits in the clandestine service known at The Network, our new boss Mycroft Holmes had brought us in to assist in an investigation. His dear brother Sherlock was out of the country and we were the best he could find on short notice.

The Doyle's Opticians faux storefront. .

Setting

Sherlock The Game is Now was a pretty game.

We began in a “front.” We entered an optometrist’s office in a London mall. It was fairly convincing.

From there we explored a number of familiar locations from Sherlock. Each set was detailed with show accuracy in mind. (We encountered the exact phone from Mycroft’s desk in the show.)

We exited Sherlock The Game is Now into the experience’s bar, The Mind Palace. Like the game, the bar was beautiful. It was also fairly well stocked.

A skull and preserved bugs in 221B Baker Street.

Gameplay

Sherlock The Game is Now was an atypical escape room with a high level of difficulty.

The experience progressed through a series of sets, each presenting a unique collection of challenges. We had only a certain amount of time in each set before we were moved on to the next scene.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, deducing, and puzzling. The deduction component was an intriguing addition to the game.

A smiley face spray painted and shot into the wall of 221B Baker Street.

Analysis

➕ From the moment we entered the optometrist’s store, we were in the game world. Our gamemaster’s introduction was entertaining.

➕ Before the game started, our gamemaster led us through a deduction exercise to get us thinking as detectives. It was a humorous in-world onboarding.

❓ The onboarding was long. If you don’t want to engage with the actor – or aren’t sure how to – it will likely drag on. For escape room players who understand the idea of deduction and aren’t fans of the show, it will likely feel tedious. That said, it was worth playing from both a narrative and a gameplay perspective.

Sherlock The Game is Now was at its best when it asked us to deduce, (almost) as Sherlock did in the show. For us, this scene was the strongest in the game because it zeroed in on what made Sherlock Holmes special.

➖ Although we enjoyed the lab’s deduction puzzle, that scene lacked some cluing, which was especially evident in the presence of a lockout safe.

➕ Mycroft’s office had some nifty input mechanisms. They were fun to manipulate and worked well. They also felt believable in this spy-esque office, but were hidden enough that the office felt like a set pulled directly from the show.

A silhouette of Sherlock Holmes flanked by profiles of John Watson & Mycroft Holmes. A yellow spray painted overlays the image.

Sherlock The Game is Now included audio and video from the original cast. It was exciting to meet the characters again and solve mysteries along side them. Andrew Scott’s killer performance as Jim Moriarty was exceptional.

➕ 221B Baker Street was true to the show. We enjoyed poking around in this familiar space. The women playing before us were huge fans of the show, but not escape room players. This was their favorite part of the experience. Additionally, the transition out of this space and into the gameplay worked well.

➖ If you don’t know the show, you’ll feel a lot of dead time in this game. 221B was purely experiential, with no action you could take to further the game. The actors perform information, which could easily be more accessible in other medias and through other interfaces.

➕ The hint system was a part of the gameworld. We enjoyed Sherlock’s jabs at our intelligence, or lack thereof. The hint system was designed for players who need a lot of hinting. If they are dragged through the puzzles, they’ll enjoy that process because it was another tie-in with the show. (That said, for escape room players, the hint system might feel overly pushy, especially in the first act.)

❓ The premise of the crime felt a little haphazard and impersonal for a Sherlock mystery.

❓ The memorable moments were delivered as an extension of the show, to the fans. They were the moments spent in Sherlock’s world, touching his things, hearing from to his friends and enemies, and experiencing that charming condescension first hand. The gameplay worked, but the moments were largely forgettable. Your mileage will vary.

➕ Post-game, our gamemaster presented a personalized analysis of our team’s performance at each stage of the game. It was funny and felt pretty accurate.

The Game is Now let us out into their own bar, The Mind Palace. The bar was beautiful and well stocked.

The Mind Palace's wooden bar.

Tips For Visiting

  • Sherlock The Game is Now takes place in a mall.
  • There are 5 copies of this game. Most bookings are private, but there is 1 copy always reserved for public bookings.
  • Watch the following episodes of Sherlock before your visit: season 1, episodes 1 & 3 and season 2, episodes 1 & 3.
  • Leave time to visit the bar after your game experience.

Book your hour with Sherlock The Game is Now, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Time Run comped our tickets for this game.