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