The Great Escape – The Courtroom [Review]

Law & Order: Backsolve Violations Unit

Location:  Zwolle, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 9, 2019

Team size: 3- 6 per group (2 groups can play at once); we recommend 4-5

Duration: 75 minutes

Price: €150 per group per group

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Great Escape did something unique and special in The Courtroom: they made a prison escape game feel both narrative-driven and justified.

We weren’t focused just on escaping custody, but also on ensuring that we could escape justice. We encountered characters throughout our journey. These twists added a depth to The Courtroom that no other “prison escape” has even come close to approaching in our escape room experience to date.

An enraged judge staring into directly into the camera, pointing with a gavel and holding up a book of Criminal Law.

The Great Escape’s physical courtroom looked great. I spent a couple of years working in a court. This one was compelling.

If you’re visiting The Netherlands for escape rooms, check out The Great Escape’s The Courtroom in addition to The Experiment. The Great Escape has a style entirely their own.

Who is this for?

  • Players who enjoy interacting with actors
  • 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?

  • The introductory sequence
  • The actors
  • A sense of adventure and stakes

Story

We had been arrested, interrogated, and brought before a judge in a Dutch court.

Our lawyer had assured us that the judge was corrupt and that he had everything under control… until a new judge was assigned. It was time to switch to Plan B: escape custody.

Setting

As we journeyed through the criminal justice system, we passed through many sets. Having worked in the United States’ courts for a couple years, I say that it felt fairly realistic.

While every room of this experience looked good, the courtroom itself was the aesthetic highlight of the game.

Additionally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how integral the actors were to the experience. They were well costumed and played strong, assertive authoritarians. They were in control.

A gleeful judge watching two lawyers physically grabbing one another with anger in their eyes.

Gameplay

The Great Escape’s The Courtroom combined immersive theater with standard escape room gameplay. It had a moderate level of difficulty.

Additionally, The Courtroom could be played simultaneously by two competing teams in a race against both time and one another.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, making connections, puzzling, and interacting with characters.

In-game: A gavel beside the scale of justice.

Analysis

➕ The actors delivered a powerful, intimidating, and clever introduction.

➕ The Courtroom set, in particular, looked fantastic. The final set was also exciting with added effects that built the intensity of the escape.

➖ Although we loved the set of the final scene, the puzzles didn’t quite make sense in the space. Many times they almost made sense in the experience, but seemed just a little removed from the reality that was conveyed.

➖ One of the earlier scenes of our escape fell flat. This segment had an implied order that we only learned after we solved it out of order. We were hampered by lack of flashlights.

➕ We especially enjoyed one early puzzle that shed light on our escape route. A later puzzle gave us another perspective from a higher vantage point. These were fun solves.

➕ We’ve escaped a lot of prisons. This was something different. It was refreshing to see the courtroom instead of the cells. The Great Escape used an introduction and narrative to justify what otherwise felt like a prison escape.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot, but it’s hard to find.
  • Minimum age is 14
  • At least 1 person will have to climb.
  • Pay with a Dutch credit card or cash (exact change only).
  • There are actors in this experience. Review our tips for escape rooms with actors.

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

Disclosure: The Great Escape provided media discounted tickets for this game.

The Great Escape – The Experiment [Review]

The doctor will see you now.

Location: Zwolle, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 6, 2018

Team size: 4-7; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 75 minutes

Price: €135 per group

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Experiment balanced horror with silliness. The Great Escape deliberately designed every moment of this escape room. While the puzzles were not narrative driven, they were fun to solve and they worked with the decor and the acting to deliver an exhilarating experience.

It’s worth traveling out of your way – and it probably is out of your way, if you’re a tourist to Amsterdam – to Zwolle to play the experiment.

In-game: the entry way for the "Wester Clinics national institute for mental health," beyond it is a lobby.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Intense actor-driven moments
  • Immersive gameplay
  • Fun and unusual interactions

Story

One of our friends had asked us to accompany him to an experiment he’d signed up for. As soon as we settled into the waiting room, we realized that this experiment was something more sinister… and we need to escape.

In-game: the lobby with a magazine wrack, chairs, and a stack of in-take forms.

Setting

We entered a medical waiting room. Chairs lined the walls. The waiting room was decorated with the typical plants, wall hangings, toys, and reading material that we would have expected. (I guess the cliched medical waiting room aesthetic is transcontinental.) All of this foreshadowed the medical theming of the rest of the experience.

Gameplay

The Great Escape’s The Experiment was an escape room that included elements of interactive theater. It had a higher level of difficulty and a high level of tension.

Core gameplay revolved around observing and puzzling, with a bit of improv as well.

In-game: a stack of intake forms in the lobby.

Analysis

+ Through acting, set design, and scent, The Great Escape built the world of The Experiment elegantly and effectively.

+ As we entered the gamespace, we were greeted with a new environment. More than the look, the smell alerted us to the nature of this experience. It worked brilliantly.

+ In the first scene, we got to know the characters. In the scripted part, the actors played off each other. This enabled The Great Escape to develop a menacing character without alarming the players. Interjected throughout the scene were the less scripted interactions with us, which further developed the characters’ roles as well as our place in the game’s world.

– While the puzzles played well, many of them felt arbitrary. They were more escape room-y than mechanisms to drive the plot forward.

+ That said, we enjoyed solving these tangible, large-scale puzzles, and their silliness contributed to the absurdity that balanced the horror-vibe.

– In one scene of The Experiment, we encountered multiple combination locks with identical digit structure. We recommend more variety to make this scene play more smoothly and not stifle forward momentum.

– Height was an advantage. One late-game puzzle presented a lot of information just slightly too high for me to comfortably work with it. The irony was that, given the type of puzzle it was, I was the natural person to solve it… and my three +6-foot (182cm) teammates looked on.

+ The hint system was charming. It worked with the staging.

+/- The Experiment built to a dramatic escape. Our teammates had differing opinions about this ending depending on the roles we took in accomplishing it. From my vantage point (which I shared with David), our clandestine escape operation delivered a dramatic conclusion. Our teammates in another role would have liked more threat of danger/ failure at this juncture. Their ending felt too soft for the experience.

+/- For people who are afraid of the concept of an escape room, The Experiment embodied exactly what they fear: being trapped in an uncomfortable setting that’s just a bit scary. These feelings can be off-putting. For the right players, however, these feelings can also be energizing and exhilarating.

The Experiment was silly-scary. It wasn’t overly horror, but it was intense. The acting, environment, and puzzles came together really well to deliver a deliberately crafted experience.

+ Hats off to the actors who delivered The Experiment to us in their second language. They did a phenomenal job.

Tips for Visiting

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

Disclosure: The Great Escape provided media discounted tickets for this game.