Sherlocked – The Architect [Review]

He’s not a software architect; he’s a “real architect.”

Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Date played: May 7, 2017

Team size: 3-6; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: €119 per team

Story & setting

In the basement of Beurs van Berlage, a commodity exchange turned conference space in Amsterdam, we entered the office of the building’s architect, a member of the famed Society of the Crossed Keys, to uncover the Society’s secrets.

The old trading floor of the Beurs van Berlage; the old stock exchange building that Sherlocked calls home.
The old trading floor of the Beurs van Berlage, Sherlocked’s home.

Beurs van Berlage is a beautiful red brick building constructed at the turn of the 20th century. Downstairs, we entered a unassuming room with wood paneling, heavy wooden furniture, and bygone electronics. This was a spacious office.

Puzzles

The puzzles in The Architect interacted with the room and its props. They worked in different, and sometimes unexpected, ways.

Many puzzles relied heavily on observation and communication.

Standouts

We loved a few puzzle mechanics. These were truly memorable escape room moments.

When the narrative took a right turn, the puzzling moved the experience forward. The story and puzzles played off each other to escalate dramatic tension.

Sherlocked created a climactic, exciting conclusion to this adventure.

The puzzling traversed the entire large gamespace in interesting and occasionally unforeseen ways.

Shortcomings

The gamespace was simply too large. The spacious setting and sparse decor dwarfed the scale of the experience.

The setting wasn’t inherently exciting. It was an office.

In a few instances, revised puzzle design could improve the player experience. One puzzle required order preservation, which could easily trip up inquisitive players. Another puzzle could be easily circumvented.

Should I play Sherlocked’s The Architect?

Sherlocked is famous for The Vaulta heist adventure set in the basement of this same building. While not as intense or dramatic, the lesser known The Architect was actually the more complex puzzle experience.

It was also more accessible; you need only to be able to walk downstairs.

The Architect intertwined puzzles, narrative, and a beautiful building. It was not an action movie and the set was less impressive than that of The Vault. Within the puzzles, however, there were still plot twists, cinematic moments, and a puzzle complexity that its more famous brother did not have.

It is a challenging escape room.

If you play escape rooms for the puzzles, at Sherlocked, you may actually enjoy The Architect most. I recommend you book them both and decide for yourself.

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

Full disclosure: Sherlocked provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Sherlocked – The Vault Mobile App [Review]

An app to train for the real thing.

Platform: iOS & Android

Price: Free

Overview & setup

Created by the famed Sherlocked in Amsterdam, The Vault mobile app was a free iOS & Android game that served as a training/advertisement for real life The Vault escape room.

In game: An old safe's number dial with the Sherlocked cross-keys logo on the knob.

This short game was a heist-style escape room complete with puzzles and mechanical interactions. Most of these bore no resemblance to puzzles or interactions in the real The Vault escape room.

The game emphasized learning how to operate an antique safe. This set piece did play a role in the real life The Vault escape room where its operation was a serious challenge.

Puzzles

The puzzles were pretty typical digital escape room-style puzzles; they were neither great nor terrible.

In game: An old safe on a small table in the middle of a large room.

Standouts

The Vault was entertaining. It was also free.

While it was not required training for the real life game, it was great for getting in the right mindset and learning how to operate a particularly cumbersome safe.

In game: An invitation to play the game in real life. It reads: "Well done. You've passed our test. Your job awaits you in Amsterdam."

It may have been an advertisement… but it was a really good one.

Shortcomings

There was no hint system and a few of the interactions were not quite intuitive. When an interaction didn’t click, the game ground to a halt. At that point the only options were to:

  • Poke and swipe at every object until something happened.
  • Hand the game off to a friend and hope that that particular thing would be a little more intuitive to them.
  • Check out a YouTube walkthrough video

Should I play Sherlocked’s The Vault Mobile App?

I’d say so. Here’s my math:

If you’re going to play The Vault in Amsterdam (which I highly recommend), then it is a cute primer for that escape room’s most challenging input mechanism.

If you’re not going to be able to play The Vault in Amsterdam, then it is an interesting innovation for both escape room pre-game care as well as advertising.

It’s fun and it’s free. Why are you still reading this?

Download Sherlocked’s The Vault Mobile App today.

Download iOS

Download Android

Sherlocked – The Vault [Review]

It’s like a movie.

Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Date played: May 7, 2017

Team size: 4-6; we recommend 4

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: €139 per team

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

The Vault was a cinema-style heist adventure that began in a parking garage and led us through a series of different sets staged within the Beurs van Berlage.

There was some set design, but for the most part, Sherlocked made use of the beautiful building that they call home.

In-game: A beautiful brick stairwell in the Beurs van Berlage.

Puzzles

More adventure than puzzle game, The Vault was all about the experience. That isn’t to say that it lacked challenge, as only 8% of teams had escaped as of the date that we played.

The sheer size and scale made it hard to find what was relevant within The Vault. Therein lay the difficulty.

Standouts

It was a brilliant setup to begin the The Vault off-site, creating the illusion of breaking in.

In-game: A photo of the Q Park garage where we began the game.

A coherent (and a little over-the-top) narrative permeated the entire 90-minute experience.

The gamemastering fit the story. Calling for hints never disrupted the narrative.

The building was incredible and well-used.

Limited use of an in-game actor heightened the thrill of the adventure.

Shortcomings

There were two or three moments in this room escape that were difficult to start in on because of the size of the space and limited cluing. I would have preferred if these were clued better and there were a couple of extra puzzles to fill the time.

The Vault contained a safe that was nearly a century old. The door was heavy and it seemed to vacuum shut. We had to throw a ton of physical effort into opening that door. I have to imagine that there are non-destructive ways in which Sherlocked could equalize the pressure (maybe even hiding a bottle of seltzer behind a false back for time-released CO2?).

Should I play Sherlocked’s The Vault?

If you are in Amsterdam, have legs, and they work reasonably well… then yes, you should play Sherlocked’s The Vault.

I’m being slightly hyperbolic. The Vault was an incredibly fun game, but there are a few things about it that might be off-putting to some players:

  • It’s not puzzley; The Vault is about the experience and adventure.
  • It has an actor. The role is limited, but important. If you hate actors in your escape rooms, this might be a deal breaker. I can promise, however, that the role doesn’t feature prominently throughout most of the escape room.
  • You need to have a base level of movement and fitness to play The Vault. It’s not a physically taxing game, but there are stairs, and at least one player on the team will have to crawl.
  • At least one player on the team will need a cell phone that can receive text messages in The Netherlands.

Of the many heists I’ve played, none of them has captured that Hollywood-heist feel like Sherlocked’s The Vault did. If that appeals to you even a little bit, then this is a must-play game.

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

Full disclosure: Sherlocked provided media discounted tickets for this game.