Escape Room Nederland – The Dome [Review]

I no longer know what’s real.

Location:  Bunschoten-Spakenburg, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 9, 2019

Team size: 4-6; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: € 144 per team Mon-Thur, € 165 per team Fri-Sun

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating:  [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Dome was something special. It was an escape room designed to feel like a hallucination… and through the magic of design and technology, it achieved it.

In-game: A beautiful woman in a tight body suit approaching white and blue sci-fi entry way for The Dome.
Promo image via Escape Room Nederland

We loved the gameplay, the puzzles, and all of the magical things that happened along the way.

The Dome wasn’t perfect. The story was really interesting, but I’d be lying if I said that we completely grasped what was going on while we were playing. Also, one of the coolest bits of tech didn’t push the right buttons for us.

Flaws are fine. They’re humanizing.

The Dome was the kind of escape room that’s worth traveling for. If you’re near Amsterdam it’s certainly worth the trek out of the city. This game was in rare company.

In-game: 4 transparent tubes running along the steel wall of The Dome.
Image via Escape Room Nederland

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Technophiles
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • It feels like a hallucination; it’s unreal
  • Engaging puzzles and challenges
  • Magnificent set design
  • Some of the most impressive escape room tech we’ve ever seen

Story

We’d entered a futuristic facility that had been conducting a study using hallucinogens. We were unsure of what to expect, but we’d been told that a previous test subject named Hector Franssen had escaped the facility… and that we would likely lose our grip on reality while in the experiment.

A beautiful woman in a tight body suit, arms crossed, looking into the camera.
Image via Escape Room Nederland

Setting

We entered into a blue, glowing sci-fi set. It was a sleek series of corridors and challenge chambers. It was gorgeous. We quickly got lost in the experience.

In-game: 4 clear tubes and a strange table that seems to have a door within it.
Image via Escape Room Nederland

I’m at a loss for a way to convey where the game took us without damaging the experience. The level of detail never wavered. We were fully and completely in the world of The Dome.

The first full minute of this trailer was shot in-game:

Gameplay

Escape Room Nederland’s The Dome was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, puzzling, and adventuring.

In-game: A fingerprint scanner mounted to the wall.

Analysis

The Dome was all about discovery. At any given point we had no idea what might come next. This created a magical sense of adventure.

➕ The gamespace opened up… and continued to do so. It was huge, detailed, and amazing.

In-game: The white and blue sci-fi entry way for The Dome.

➕ The gameplay had a smooth difficulty curve. It ramped up slowly, teaching us how to interact with the environment. It then became increasingly more challenging through a diverse array of puzzles. The difficulty dropped off in the end, however, pushing our momentum forward to the conclusion.

➕ As we played through The Dome, we completed a series of tests. As the game revved up and morphed, it stopped feeling like a series of tests and more like a string of hallucinations. We were completely lost in the game world.

In-game: A screen mounted into the steel wall of The Dome.
Image via Escape Room Nederland

➖ Playing The Dome, we couldn’t quite follow the story. Escape Room Nederland explained it clearly after the fact, and looking back it made sense, as much sense as hallucinations do, but as we escaped The Dome we wished for just a bit more clarity on what had just taken place, narratively.

➕ Many of the interactions in The Dome were enormous. Everything in this game had layers.

➕ The puzzles in The Dome varied enormously, requiring largely different skill sets to complete. Our favorite puzzle shed light on the kind of design that made this experience beautiful.

In-game: The entry way for The Dome opened, a sign reads, "Butterfly Safe Zone.".
Image via Escape Room Nederland

➖ One amazingly cool segment overstayed its welcome. This was admittedly one of the coolest innovations in The Dome and my inner 5-year-old loved that it existed. From a gameplay standpoint, however, we found it more frustrating than energizing.

The Dome creatively played with the concept of success and failure.

The Dome excelled at transitions. These were some of the most dramatic and captivating moments of the experience.

➕ There was a ton of technology within The Dome, but it never felt like tech… it felt like magic.

In-game: The Dome's logo glowing on a steel wall.
Image via Escape Room Nederland

Tips For Visiting

  • They have games in the lobby.
  • Leave time after your game to watch the highlight reel.
  • Minimum age is 18.
  • There is a parking lot.
  • You need to be able to walk up stairs and climb a little bit to play this game.

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

Disclosure: Escape Room Nederland comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Room Netherlands – The Lab Room [Review]

When a lab setting isn’t boring as purgatory.

Location: Bunschoten-Spakenburg, The Netherlands

Date played: May 8, 2017

Team size: 4-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from €99 per team

Story & setting

Trapped in a mad doctor’s lab, we had to escape.

The Lab Room was dark and bright, clean and dirty, polished and ragged. While not horror, per se, it kept us on edge. All of the set’s contradictions created an emotional ride. It was the most intense lab scenario we’ve encountered to date.

In-game: Image from the security camera of a menacing lab with a work table, and a cage surrounded by barbed wire.

Puzzles

We puzzled linearly through The Lab Room. With each successive solution, new information and triggered events opened to us.

Much of the puzzling was tech-driven. Props didn’t necessarily open in the manner one would expect.

Standouts

Escape Room Netherlands’ use of set, lighting, and sound design in The Lab Room was brilliant. It both kept us on edge and also functioned as clue structure. More than in most room escapes, lighting was an integral component of the experience.

Not everything was high-tech. There was a great low-tech puzzle that fit well with the laboratory theme.

The technology was well-hidden and seamlessly integrated into the escape room. This wonderful execution drove much of the experience.

The Lab Room was full of surprises. Even when I knew a surprise was coming, I still jumped whenever the room reacted to us.

Shortcomings

The narrative didn’t really come through. The drama was environment and technology driven, but didn’t tell a story in the way that the Girl’s Room did.

Given how well thought-out most of The Lab Room’s details were, some of the puzzles seemed a bit random.

The ending happened abruptly and didn’t really feel like an ending.

Should I play Escape Room Netherlands’ The Lab Room?

The Lab Room was the first escape room in The Netherlands. It set the tone for many of the thrilling adventures, detailed sets, and impressive technology we experienced in our weekend of 10 Dutch escape rooms. Despite its location about 50km outside of Amsterdam, Escape Room Netherlands had a profound impact on the growth of the industry throughout the region.

With this original escape room, Escape Room Netherlands leaned into the set, crafting a gamespace that would elicit reactions from players. They integrated technology masterfully to create the emotional roller coaster of The Lab Room. 

It’s thrilling, but once you know what Escape Room Netherlands did next, it’s rudimentary. For a truly integrated experience, with puzzles, narrative, set, and story, play The Girl’s Room. If that’s too much to handle, emotionally or physically, play The Lab Room instead. It’s older, but it’s on a higher level than many newer escape rooms you’ll find.

Ideally, play them both, in the order in which Escape Room Netherlands created them. You really have to go out of your way to visit Bunschoten-Spakenburg. It’s not the easiest place to get to, but it’s so worth it.

Book your hour with Escape Room Netherlands’  The Lab Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape Room Netherlands provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Escape Room Netherlands – Girl’s Room

Brace yourself for this one…

Location: Bunschoten-Spakenburg, The Netherlands

Date played: May 8, 2017

Team size: 4-6; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from €119 per team depending upon size

The 2017 Golden Lock-In award, the REA logo turned into an open padlock with a golden ring around it.
2017 Golden Lock-In Award winner

Story & setting

Not for the faint of heart, Girl’s Room was a magnificent horror / thriller escape room. Aesthetically, the set was nearly flawless in a dark, twisted, and dirty sort of way.

You should probably just watch the video:

Puzzles

The puzzles in Girl’s Room were tech-driven and tied to the narrative (sometimes directly, other times in more abstract ways).

There was plenty to puzzle through. It felt like the game delighted in initially making things seem tantalizingly attainable, only to throw a wrench into the gameplay with evil twists in the puzzle mechanics.

Standouts

Girl’s Room contained some of the most memorable moments that I’ve had in a room escape.

In-game: The Girl's Room with a bed, a baby carriage, a dollhouse, a magnificent chandelier, and a cage.

The set. The level of detail in Girl’s Room was insane. There was a gigantic set piece in the middle of this game that really didn’t need to be there at all, but they put it there and integrated it into the experience. It was amazing.

The tech was well embedded and used to powerful effect.

The story, horror, and thriller elements were incredibly well executed. When the game wanted us on edge, we were on edge.

Escape Room Netherlands’ lobby was awesome.

Shortcomings

Some of the jump scares were really effective, but as Girl’s Room progressed, many of the late-game scares felt annoying and unnecessary. (Find more information on jump scares in room escapes).

I think that the final puzzle may have been a little buggy. It was still solvable, but it got tedious.

The hinting wasn’t tailored to a team’s specific experience. This was a major issue for Lisa’s team (who played after my team). When they were stuck on an early puzzle that maybe should have had more clear cluing, the hints only delivered information they already knew, apparently unaware of the team’s actual misinterpretation of the puzzle. For Lisa’s team, this soured what was an otherwise brilliant room escape.

Should I play Escape Room Netherlands’ Girl’s Room?

Girl’s Room was exceptional. It was frightening, well built and brilliantly designed. It still managed to include a strong puzzling component.

It’s not an escape room for people who struggle with mobility or are averse to horror.

I also do not recommend that brand new escape room players take on Girl’s Room. It’s a profoundly special game, but it is also intense and difficult. So many of the things that make it incredible will be completely lost on a newbie.

Located about 50km outside of Amsterdam, Escape Room Netherlands is challenging to get to. If you’re seeking a truly special thrill, however, it is absolutely worth the trip.

Book your hour with Escape Room Netherlands’ Girl’s Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape Room Netherlands provided media discounted tickets for this game.