DarkPark – The Freakshow [Review]

[At the time of this review, DarkPark was called Escape Challenge.]

Step on up. Come one, come all. This is a show that you won’t want to miss.

Location: Delft, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 12, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: €119 – €129 per group

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Freakshow was an intense and physical journey through a twisted circus. Escape Challenge created yet another special game that wound us through a wide variety of sets and scenes as we sought our freedom.

This fast-paced game was not for the faint of heart or body, as it required a bit of balance and dexterity that exceeded the typical demands of an escape game.

There was so much to love in The Freakshow; if you’re anywhere near Delft, please do yourself a favor and play this game.

In-game: The ominous entry way to the fortune teller's wooden trailer.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • People without mobility difficulties
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Beautiful and heavily varied sets.
  • Physical puzzles and challenges
  • Tons of memorable moments

Story

We had been abducted by the carnies. They would force us to perform in their circus freakshow if we couldn’t escape before their next show ended.

In-game: Advertisements for different freakshow performances including Big Hera and New Spidora.

Setting

Freakshow looked great. It took us through multiple set changes. Each new location established a fresh look and new challenges. It was heavily detailed and remarkably immersive with quite a few memorable settings.

Gameplay

Escape Challenge’s The Freakshow was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A series of boxes and props from the freakshow beside a wooden trailer. There is a rabbit in a top hat, and a the image of a fortune teller painted agains the wall.

Analysis

The Freakshow opened dramatically.

+ Escape Challenge expertly built tension with sound and light.

+ As we made our escape, we traversed multiple different sets, each different from the previous ones. These sets captured many different circus aesthetics.

The Freakshow felt unbalanced. We moved quickly through large spaces and spent a long time in smaller ones. While this may have been because some puzzles played more to our strengths than others, we wished our time had been allocated differently.

+ We enjoyed many of the cerebral challenges in The Freakshow. They were mostly thematic and a ton of fun.

+ The physical challenges in The Freakshow added another dimension of challenge. These were exciting. They also involved the entire group.

+/- We felt torn about one late-game segment. It was interesting and appropriately zany… but I’ve rarely wanted to get past a puzzle and a space as much as I did with that one.

– The Freakshow ended abruptly. We were in this crazy, high intensity challenge, in a ridiculous setting. All of the elements for a climax were present… and then we won. And we looked at each other wondering if that was it. The escape felt incomplete. It needed a conclusive reaction from the set, ideally something that punctuated an escape.

Tips for Visiting

  • Drive 1 hour from Amsterdam city center.
  • There is a parking garage across the street.
  • All players must be at least somewhat agile and able to go up and down stairs. Talk to Escape Challenge if you have balance issues.
  • There is a segment with flashing lights that might not be suitable for all players.
  • Do not wear nice shoes or clothing.
  • Escape Challenge has two different facilities: one in Zoetermeer, the other in Delft. This escape room is in Delft.

Book your hour with Escape Challenge’s The Freakshow, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Challenge comped our tickets for this game.

DarkPark – The Honeymoon Hotel [Review]

[At the time of this review, DarkPark was called Escape Challenge.]

Be careful crossing the threshold.

Location: Zoetermeer, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 12, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: €119 – €129 per group

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Honeymoon Hotel took us through our own frightening story arc in a tale inspired by the famed serial killer H.H. Holmes. Escape Challenge’s attention to detail was dumbfounding. Every centimeter of their massive set was carefully designed. We didn’t love the final puzzle, but damn near everything else was incredible.

If you’re anywhere near Escape Challenge, it’s worth going out of your way to play The Honeymoon Hotel.

In-game: A wooden bellhop's desk with a bell and a note.

Who is this for?

  • Horror fans
  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Intense gameplay and storytelling
  • Surprising twists
  • Smart puzzles
  • Beautiful set & interaction design

Story

Inspired by the story of 19th century Chicago serial killer H.H. Holmes, Honeymoon Hotel took us on a journey through the hunting ground of a murderer who married his victims before killing them.

In-game: Closeup of a bloodied sign pointing towards the "Honeymoon suite."

Setting

Escape Challenge are world class set and interaction designers. Honeymoon Hotel was as detailed and immersive as it was intense. Light and sound led us through this escape room, surprising and startling us all along the way. 

Each new space we entered was clearly part of the hotel, but every room had its own character and purpose.

In-game: an old telephone beside a tossed bed.

Gameplay

Escape Challenge’s The Honeymoon Hotel was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A baggage cart loaded with luggage.

Analysis

+ The intensity of The Honeymoon Hotel began as soon as we approached the door of Escape Challenge. It set the stage for the experience.

+ The sets of The Honeymoon Hotel felt lived in. The decor felt homey and comfortable… but not too comfortable.

In-game: The ornate ceiling light fixture on the Honeymoon suite casing a a beautiful shadow.

+ Escape Challenge used lighting and sound to guide us through the experience… and to build suspense as we traversed a new space. Movement was brilliantly orchestrated.

+ The early puzzles felt approachable. As the escape room progressed, the challenge increased along with the severity of the decor. The two worked in tandem to ramp up the intensity of the experience.

In-game: Two mounted deer heads on a wall, above is a heavily detailed ceiling.

The Honeymoon Hotel surprised us. It would present us with something familiar, and then use this in an unexpected way.

– One puzzle relied too heavily on color perception, which varies significantly among individuals.

– The final puzzle didn’t live up to the rest of the experience. It didn’t capture the drama or intensity of the previous scene. It didn’t match the aesthetic of the gamespace. It was also too small to engage the entire team.

+ Escape Challenge’s set design was impeccable; they left no detail untouched. Even as we exited the space, they added closure through a pointed choice of lighting.

In-game: A closeup of an old wooden piano.

The Honeymoon Hotel captured the spirit of H.H. Holmes. It didn’t follow any one of his many gruesome escapades. Instead, it took players on a journey inspired by these harrowing experiences. Players don’t need to know the source material to appreciate the plot of The Honeymoon Hotel, but if you’re familiar with H.H. Holmes, your imagination will make these scenes that much more intense.

Tips for Visiting

  • Drive about 1 hour from central Amsterdam.
  • Escape Challenge has two different facilities: one in Zoetermeer, the other in Delft. This experience is at the Zoetermeer location.

Book your hour with Escape Challenge’s The Honeymoon Hotel, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Challenge comped our tickets for this game.