Escape Challenge – The Dentist [Review]

This is a drill.

Location: Delft, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 12, 2018

Team size: 3-7; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: €109 – €119 per group

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Dentist was Escape Challenge’s first game and one of the first escape rooms in the Netherlands. The Dentist may not be on the same level as the other three games from Escape Challenge, but it was still a strong puzzle-driven game with a well-designed set. If you book knowing that this game represents the early roots of escape rooms in the Netherlands, it’s especially impressive.

If you’re in Delft playing The Freakshow already, tack on The Dentist.

In-game: a large old dentist's chair in a white and worn dentist's office with two streaky bloody handprints on the wall.

Who is this for?

  • Horror fans
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • The opening moments
  • High-end, old-school escape room gameplay
  • A good variety of puzzles
  • Wide open, but detailed set design
  • Good lighting and sound

Story

The Dentist was one of the earliest escape rooms in The Netherlands and had a standard plot: We were locked in the office of a murderous dentist. We needed to escape before he returned and we suffered a horrible fate at his skilled hands.

In-game: a stainless steel pan with many bloody teeth.

Setting

The Dentist was set in a bloodied white oral surgery room filled with steel furniture and centered around an imposing (and comfortable) dentist’s chair. There wasn’t a lot to look at, but those props they had were detailed.

Gameplay

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

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: A gross sink beside a streaky bloody handprint.

Analysis

+ Escape Challenge opened The Dentist with a smart and strangely humorous sequence.

The Dentist was a puzzle-focused escape room.

+ We especially enjoyed employing dentist tools to solve a puzzle.

– At any given point, we had access to multiple locks with the same digit structure. Any given solution could go in any number of places about the room. We spent quite a bit of time trying combinations.

+ Escape Challenge clearly clued reuse. We liked this repurposing of discarded items.

– Escape Challenge tried something different with a lighting change. We loved many facets of this puzzle sequence, but they didn’t quite nail the cluing.

-/+ The gamespace felt a bit too open and empty, but the sparse decor made it that much more dramatic.

+ We appreciated how one in-game clue called back to our experience in the waiting room. It gave The Dentist just a bit more story and added emotion.

– The final sequence fell flat. The reveal felt under-designed and the interaction felt under-clued. It didn’t stand up to the intensity or puzzle caliber of the rest of The Dentist.

Tips for Visiting

  • Drive 1 hour from Amsterdam city center.
  • There is a parking garage across the street.
  • All players must be able to crouch.
  • Escape Challenge has two different facilities: one in Zoetermeer, the other in Delft.

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

Disclosure: Escape Challenge comped our tickets for this game.

Logic Locks – Time Crimes [Review]

Puzzle Trunk Time Machine

Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands (portable)

Date Played: May 9, 2018

Team size: 9-18; we recommend 9-10

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: It’s complicated. Contact Logic Locks. The game is also available for resale.

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Time Crimes was the third game we’ve played from Logic Locks and the first portable game designed primarily for corporate groups that we’ve played in Europe.

Portable corporate games are a different beast from standard escape rooms. With no set, they rely exclusively on a collection of props, puzzles, and game flow. These all came together in Time Crimes. There were tons of puzzles, the props looked good, and the game generally flowed well. While Time Crimes had a lot of content, we think any teams approaching the 18 player maximum, wouldn’t get to appreciate the experience Logic Locks has created.

I’m not sure how broadly available Time Crimes will be for the general player base, but if you like puzzle- driven games, this one is worth checking out.

In-game: A table of assorted puzzle components including a number of locked books, a map, and other

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Time travelers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Large volume of challenging puzzles
  • Humor
  • It comes to you

Story

A rogue time-traveling agent had lured us into his plot to change history. It was up to our crew to jump through time and unravel his plans.

In-game: A table of assorted puzzle components including a Chinese zodiac, a locked box, and other strange puzzle components.

Setup

Time Crimes came in three large packages that we were instructed to spread out across different tables, with a computer projecting the remaining content. The game was overseen by an in-character gamemaster who was eager to engage with us… even when one of our teammates humorously yet aggressively pushed the boundaries of standard player/ gamemaster interaction.

Sera looking into the camera wearing a fedora with an expression that screams, "Come at me bro!" The team puzzles in the background.
This photo really captures Sera’s essence.

The boxes contained a wide variety of props representing items acquired from different eras in the past, present, and future. These props looked good when compared with other portable escape games.

In our case, we played in a hotel meeting room, but this thing could be played anywhere that you can comfortably fit the props.

The team working on some puzzles.

Gameplay

Logic Locks’ Time Crimes was a standard portable escape room with a bit of added technology and a high level of difficulty.

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

Lisa & Sharon focused and collaborating on a puzzle.

Analysis

+ Time Crimes began with a more dramatic introduction than we’ve seen from most portable escape rooms. There was more to it than opening a trunk or two.

Time Crimes contained tons of puzzles. We had just about the most intense team that I could imagine and Time Crimes kept us busy far longer than anyone had expected.

David smelling a prop.
Oh look… I’m huffing a prop.

+ Compared to most portable escape rooms, the puzzles in Time Crimes were more challenging.

– Some of the challenge came from detailed searching of the game items. If we missed a crucial detail, it would be impossible to solve the puzzle correctly. Sometimes we knew we were searching-failing. Other times we had no idea why a solution didn’t work.

+/- Time Crimes opened up into 3 separate puzzle tracks. Our gamemaster encouraged us to lay these out such that we wouldn’t confuse the tracks. With a large group, it would be possible – even natural, I’d think – for one player to play through one puzzle track and never see the others.

– There was a lot of content in Time Crimes, but 18 people seems like entirely too many players.

+ There was a tech-driven series of interactions in Time Crimes. This was unusual for a portable escape room. It brought the entire group together for interactions that everyone could experience together.

Lisa intensely puzzling.

– It was challenging to follow the story because we spent the majority of our time with individual puzzles, most of which were thematic, but did not carry the narrative. We had to have retained enough story details as they had been presented to make meaningful decisions at the end.

+ There were some genuinely funny moments in Time Crimes. This is the kind of game where you should puzzle hard, but don’t take yourself too seriously.

Lisa: Focused. Sera: Superhero. Sharan: Focused. David: Stoned.
The range of facial expressions in this photo.

+ Logic Locks took some splendid in-game photos. I don’t know if they do this for every team, but they should. It was good fun.

Tips for Playing

  • Time Crimes needed to be set up in a relatively large space. It worked well in a hotel meeting room, where we played it. (We wouldn’t have been able to play it comfortably in our one-bedroom apartment.)

Book your session with Logic Locks’ Time Crimes and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Logic Locks comped our tickets for this game.

 

Escape Room Zandvoort – The Boat Trip [Review]

I’m on a boat.

Location: Zandvoort, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 11, 2018

Team size: 2-4; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from €59 per group of 2 players to €99 per group of 4 players

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Boat Trip pushed the limits of escape room interaction design. What began as a typical search-and-puzzle escape room then shifted into something unusual. In the final scene, Escape Room Zandvoort augmented escape room gameplay to reach for brilliant interaction design. However, as much as we loved their aims, these mechanics felt under-responsive and unfinished. It’s one of those games we really liked, but wish that we could have loved.

If you’re in Zandvoort, please do check out The Boat Trip. This ride was more interesting than it initially appeared.

Post game green screen photo the team on the bow of the ship.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t get seasick

Why play?

  • Mid-game puzzle sequence
  • Dramatic conclusion
  • The post-game photos

Story

After the fishing boat’s captain had been injured in a seafaring accident, he’d hired us to take his boat out and reel in the day’s catch. The weather looked favorable, but we knew it could turn without warning.

Post game green screen photo the team on the bridge of the boat being rescued.

Setting

We began on the aft deck of the fishing boat. It had a handmade deck aesthetic, with stairs, railings, and a bit of rigging. We worked our way through the boat as we progressed through the game. The set was small but elegant and clearly built with love.

Gameplay

Escape Room Zandvoort’s The Boat Trip was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, and puzzling.

Analysis

– The Boat Trip started off slowly. While we appreciate on-ramp puzzles, the initial scene of The Boat Trip was search-heavy, with not quite enough clue structure and too many red herrings.

– One of those red herrings fit too snugly into something that it really shouldn’t.

+ We enjoyed one portable game element that we could affix to different spaces to produce different effects. It illuminated some of our favorite puzzles in The Boat Trip.

– One of the puzzles in the middle segment was overly sensitive.

– The Boat Trip felt search-heavy. Even when we triggered tech-driven opens, we had to search to figure out what we had accomplished.

+ As The Boat Trip progressed, Escape Room Zandvoort ramped up the intensity of the experience.

+ When we called for help – as one does on a boat in distress – the mechanism worked well, delivering satisfying feedback. We really enjoyed this segment.

– The most critical late-game interaction suffered from lag time in response and unchanging visuals. This added confusion as we weren’t sure 100% what we were controlling.

+ The late-game was revved up by physical effects that added intensity to the concluding puzzle sequence.

+ Escape Room Zandvoort took some of our favorite postgame photos we’ve seen to date, set against their green screen.

Tips for Visiting

  • Drive about 45 minutes from central Amsterdam.
  • There are adorable restaurants along the beach, just a few minutes walk from the escape room.
  • This is not for players who get motion sick or seasick.
  • At least 1 player needs to know how to use a compass.

Book your hour with Escape Room Zandvoort’s The Boat Trip, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Room Zandvoort provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Escape Challenge – The Orphanage [Review]

Enter sandman.

Location: Zoetermeer, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 12, 2018

Team size: 4-6; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: €119 – €129 per group

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Orphanage was dark, with horror overtones. With this newest game, Escape Challenge delivered yet another style of gameplay: The Orphanage had us visiting and revisiting different areas of this abandoned home for girls, letting us get our bearings and then upending any sense of comfort.

The lights, sounds, and impeccable detail from floor to ceiling underscore how carefully this experience was crafted.

If you’re anywhere near Zoetermeer, The Orphanage is a must-play.

In-game: a statue of a nun praying hung high on the wall, above is a detailed wood planked ceiling.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Wonderful interaction design
  • Brilliant sound and lighting
  • Impeccably detailed sets
  • Collaborative puzzling
  • Frightening moments that are scary even if you see them coming

Story

We entered a long-abandoned girl’s orphanage in search of adventure. As the door closed and the lights flickered, we realized that something was wrong with this place. With our entrance blocked, the only way out was through the orphanage.

In-game: the hallway of the Orphanage with a series of hooks for clothing.

Setting

The Orphanage was grim with frightening moments. Escape Challenge built an incredible and immersive environment filled with carefully designed lighting cues. From floor to ceiling, they designed every detail of this set. They even weathered the strike plates and other door hardware.

Each and every space within The Orphanage felt lived in, and had clear purpose. It made the set feel real. 

In-game: A science classroom display with preserved animals and a human skull.

Gameplay

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

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

In-game: a closeup of a human skull.

Analysis

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

+ Escape Challenge teased the scale of the set in The Orphanage. From the opening moments, we could tell it was expansive, but not quite how expansive. Escape Challenge controlled our movement through it, introducing us to different spaces on their terms.

The Orphanage surprised us. After we’d become comfortable with a space, they upended that comfort once again.

+ We loved The Orphanage‘s brilliant take on a childhood game.

– One prop interaction needed additional clueing. We were too gentle with it, and in doing so, erased some of our time.

The Orphanage included a variety of challenging puzzles that were fun to solve. We especially liked one dexterity challenge.

– The final segment delivered dramatic intensity, but chaotic puzzling. It didn’t really fit with the deliberately designed puzzle flow of the The Orphanage. Furthermore, the final solve didn’t bring any closure to the story. The concluding scene didn’t match the experience.

Observation: The children in this orphanage had names. Their names came into play multiple times, as we solved various puzzles. These were some of my favorite puzzles. I didn’t realize how challenging it would be to solve these puzzles around Dutch names, which I didn’t recognize and couldn’t easily pronounce. It’s not something I’d ever considered before, and as a name nerd, I was intrigued by this additional challenge. Luckily our Dutch-speaking teammates made this much easier.

Tips for Visiting

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

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

Disclosure: Escape Challenge comped our tickets for this game.

Boom Chicago – Escape Through the Movies [Review]

Yes and!

Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 11, 2018

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 75 minutes

Price: €40 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Boom Chicago is an improv comedy troupe whose escape games explore comedy. Escape Through the Movies wove us through a large assortment of backstage spaces throughout their theater. Each new area that we entered took us into a new iconic movie for puzzles and laughs.

While it was a bit uneven in both aesthetics and gameplay, Escape Through the Movies was a fun assortment of unusual segments that didn’t take itself seriously. It presented great moments.

If you’re in Amsterdam, go with the right group and the correct mindset to experience one of the rare comedic escape rooms created by people who get comedy.

In-game: Promo images of a man operating an old film projector.

Who is this for?

  • Movie buffs
  • Comedy fans
  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who are comfortable going up and down stairs

Why play?

  • Comedy
  • Classic movie moments
  • It’s different

Story

The movies are real worlds and Hannibal Lecter wanted to bridge the gap between our reality and the movies. History’s worst movie villains would conquer our reality unless we stopped them. 

In-game: Promo images of a Matrix-y looking cyber punk woman in black leather and and sunglasses. She is lit and gesturing dramatically.

Setting

Boom Chicago is, first and foremost, an improv comedy theater. Escape Through The Movies was built in various rooms throughout their backstage area. It spanned multiple floors and each new space represented a different movie (or series).

The set design was uneven. Some segments look beautiful, while others seemed thrown together.

In-game: Promo images of 3 hands manipulating a matrix of 8 light switches.

Gameplay

Boom Chicago’s Escape Through the Movies was a standard escape room with some other types of gameplay mixed in. It had a lower level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, light interaction with an actor, and puzzling.

A woman crouched and walking cautiously through a dark vent or tunnel.

Analysis

Escape Through the Movies began with a typical escape room set and game flow. The setting was charming. It set the stage for our strange adventure.

– As we left the first set, we entered into an uneven fantasy world. Some sets seemed to strive for realism, while others did not. Boom Chicago seemed to struggle with how realistic to make this humorous adventure.

+ Boom Chicago chose this plot well. It could justify just about anything… so it took us through some of the most unexpected scenes. And it worked.

+ Boom Chicago added sequences that didn’t follow typical escape room gameplay. Some parts were a little intense and others were silly, but these segments were where Escape Through the Movies really shined.

– The puzzles – and other puzzley activities – didn’t give quite enough feedback. We’d wonder whether we were approaching them correctly.

+ Boom Chicago achieved a massive escape room milestone in creating an iconic movie interaction that so many other companies have clearly wanted to build, but simply didn’t know how to make it work.

– The timing wasn’t always on point. We’d solve something and the escape room would react, but off cue. This confused us.

– We traversed a lot of different sets in Escape Through the Movies. While we enjoyed the concept, it meant we walked through a lot of wholly undesigned space, which broke the fiction. In one instance, Boom Chicago needed better stage directions. We accidentally walked past one scene without stopping to experience it. (Our gamemaster directed us back.)

+ Some scenes were purely jokes. No puzzle/activity content. Boom Chicago pulled this off.

– The ending lacked the drama of some of the early scenes. It had fanfare, but the final solve wasn’t epic enough to serve as a conclusion to such a large-scale experience.

+ Boom Chicago specializes in comedy. Escape Through the Movies didn’t take itself too seriously. It made fun of its subject matter and we laughed along with it.

+ Boom Chicago has a spacious lobby with a bar. It’s a fun place to hang out before or after playing Escape Through the Movies.

Tips for Visiting

  • Boom Chicago is accessible from Amsterdam City Center. It is right near the Anne Frank House.
  • We recommend Long Pura for an Indonesian meal across the street.
  • All players need to be able to walk up and down stairs.

Book your hour with Boom Chicago’s Escape Through the Movies, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

 

Locked Amsterdam – The Liebermann Conspiracy [Review]

One fine art break-in.

Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 6, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: ranging from €23 per ticket to €41.50 per ticket depending on team size and weekday or evening/weekend

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

In The Liebermann Conspiracy we set out on a heist, explored elaborate technological interactions, and navigated through a diverse collection of elegant sets. We saw a lot of things we hadn’t seen before, and had a lot of fun, even when we more or less lost the narrative at the end of the game.

I’m glad that we played this one because we almost didn’t (read on to learn more about that). If you’re in Amsterdam and willing to take a short taxi ride, Locked Amsterdam is a really interesting place to play.

In game: a storage area with a ladder going up to the next floor.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Neat gadgets
  • The break-in moments

Story

Journalist Hugo Laanen was hiding after his encounter with the Russian secret service in Locked Amsterdam’s first escape room, The Submarine. While Laanen was maintaining a low profile, he learned of a global conspiracy by the Liebermann Group. Since he was in hiding, he had reached out to us to investigate on his behalf.

In game: a closeup of a server rack.

Setting

The Liebermann Conspiracy’s sets were especially diverse, each space looking nothing like the previous ones. We began in a raw, yet realistic storage area, and progressed from there.

Gameplay

Locked Amsterdam’s The Liebermann Conspiracy was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In game: a storage area with shelving covered in computer and cleaning equipment.

Analysis

+ We brought our tools with us to break in. And break in we did. These small details made for an exciting opening and supported the narrative.

+ The gamespace was composed of custom construction. This was impressive.

+ We were mesmerized by an in-game gadget and how Locked Amsterdam worked it into this escape room.

+ Locked Amsterdam turned a spatial constraint into an intense in-game moment.

+ We enjoyed many of the puzzles in this escape room.

– A flaw in a technological implementation allowed an observant player on our team to circumvent a major puzzle.

+/- We found three possible solutions to one puzzle. Locked Amsterdam didn’t mind that we hacked together something unintended – and we liked our other solutions better than the intended one – but we wished the intended solution had been less clunky.

– While it started out narratively strong, our sense of world broke down late in the game. The Liebermann Conspiracy evolved into an escape room with puzzles for puzzles’ sake, rather than a puzzle-driven adventure.

+ We traversed multiple sets. Each felt so different from the last. We especially loved one artistic late-game set. It was unexpected, but felt legit.

– The final gamespace felt plain and empty. This contributed to the scene feeling forced and out of place.

– The Liebermann Conspiracy lacked a climatic moment. Its best moments were early on and it didn’t build to a finale.

The Liebermann Conspiracy is a 90-minute escape room. While we did spend time waiting for various in-game tech in predominantly linear parts of the game, we didn’t have to feel time pressure because of this.

? Ok… Now for an uncomfortable subject. If we hadn’t enjoyed The Submarine on our last trip to Amsterdam, we would never have booked The Liebermann Conspiracy; we probably would have skipped Locked Amsterdam entirely. In our minds, the name seemed to imply a game related to an anti-Jewish conspiracy theory. Rest assured that this escape room was not anti-Semitic. This was just a name with no stated deeper meaning. Your reaction to the name will likely vary based on whether or not you live in an area where you meet enough Jews to recognize Jewish names. All of that being said, a name change wouldn’t be the worst idea, because I am glad that we played this escape room.

Tips for Visiting

  • You’ll have to taxi or Uber from the city center.
  • At least one player needs to be able to climb a ladder and move swiftly.

Book your hour with Locked Amsterdam’s The Liebermann Conspiracy, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Get Out of Here – The Diamond Heist [Review]

Tune up.

Location: Utrecht, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 7, 2018

Team size: 3-8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: ranging from €109 per group to €119 per group depending on team size and weekday or evening/weekend

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Diamond Heist’s design aesthetic and construction quality were world class. I’m struggling to think of another escape game that hid technology quite as well as The Diamond Heist. Additionally, Get Out of Here’s comic-booky, noir-esque voiceover narration delivered humor and story with incredible efficiency. The catch: cluing and gameflow were shaky at best and left a lot of room for guesswork and approximation.

The Diamond Heist is almost top tier, and with some game design iteration, I have no doubt that Get Out of Here could achieve true greatness.

If you’re in Utrecht, check this one out.

The escape room briefing area.

 

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A unique setting
  • Expertly hidden tech
  • Beautiful set design
  • Neat gadgets
  • Surprising reveals

Story

Big Harry and Little Charlie — brothers, business partners, and master thieves — had worked together for years without drama. Charlie, however, had grown to resent that his brother called all of the shots. Their last heist had scored the legendary Ephemeral Diamond and Harry wouldn’t even let Charlie see it… so Charlie had hired us to burglarize it from his big brother.

A clothing rack with hunter green jumpsuits.

Setting

Get Out of Here’s The Diamond Heist was set in an automotive garage. The large, detailed space was beautifully designed. It looked and felt real with all of the escape roomy puzzles, interactions, and technology hidden shockingly well.

In preparation for the mission, we were given jumpsuits.

Gameplay

Get Out of Here’s The Diamond Heist was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

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

Get Out of Here has two copies of this game, so it is possible to race through these games competitively.

Analysis

+ Get Out of Here’s custom construction was high quality. They built interesting set pieces into their large gamespace.

+ Much of The Diamond Heist was tech-driven. The tech build was high quality and seamlessly hidden. This contributed to our amazement at one particular reveal.

The Diamond Heist delivered a few badass reveals. These were incredible moments.

– The Diamond Heist lacked clue structure. Much of the gameplay was presented as interactions rather than puzzles. It became increasingly frustrating to interact with the space and to trigger the dramatic moments.

– At times, we felt like digging for clue structure was akin to pixel hunting. The puzzles and their components felt too small for the large gamespace.

+ We enjoyed one thematically appropriate puzzle that combined information from disparate sources into a substantial and satisfying team puzzle.

– One puzzle required highly precise color perception.

+ The comic book-esque voiceover felt like our inner monologue. The adventure narration delivered narrative progression. This was different and fun.

Tips for Visiting

  • Drive 45 minutes from central Amsterdam.
  • At least a few players need some basic agility.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Don’t wear skirts or dresses as they will make it difficult to put on your jumpsuit.

Book your hour with Get Out of Here’s The Diamond Heist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Get out of Here comped our tickets for this game.

 

Escape Room Zandvoort – The Gold Mine [Review]

Cave in.

Location: Zandvoort, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 11, 2018

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from €59 per group of 2 players to €119 per group of 6 players

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

The Gold Mine was at its best when we solved collaborative puzzles through interesting and tangible interactions. While we were frustrated by the lighting dynamic that persisted throughout the experience, we generally enjoyed the puzzles in this underground workspace.

If you are in Zandvoort, it’s worth stopping in search of gold.

Post game green screen photo of the team beside mining carts. David and Lisa are peaking out from behind a post.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who are comfortable in dim lighting

Why play?

  • Collaborative puzzles
  • Exciting conclusion
  • The post-game photos

Story

Almost 200 years ago, this Amazonian gold mine had collapsed. Now, however, a persistent archeologist had succeeded in reopening the mine. He believed there would be gold sitting undiscovered in its depths. Despite local superstitions warning us that the mine might not be safe, we ventured in search of gold.

Post game green screen photo with the team riding a mining cart like it's a rollercoaster.

Setting

The Gold Mine was dark and gritty. It felt like an underground workspace, complete with tight spaces and low doorways. We were glad to have helmets.

Gameplay

Escape Room Zandvoort’s The Gold Mine was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, and puzzling.

Post game green screen photo of the team in a mine about to detonate dynamite.

Analysis

+ As we solved the puzzles, we furthered our mission in the mine. We appreciated how the puzzles moved the narrative forward.

– Before we entered the mine, the “team leader” received a special helmet-mounted UV light. The rest of us entered with flashlights. While we never enjoy searching an entire space for UV cluing, we were particularly put off by the team dynamic created by the tool imbalance and the room lighting. David, who’d volunteered to lead our expedition, felt like he was constantly asking us all to turn off our lights, or shine them in a different direction. The rest of us felt we couldn’t play freely because we kept having to step aside for the UV searching.

+ The Gold Mine had a great transition.

– We didn’t always know when we’d solved a puzzle. The Gold Mine would benefit from spring-loaded releases or pointed lighting to signal opens.

+ There wasn’t a ton of light in this mine, but sometimes it gave us an interesting perspective.

+ We enjoyed the collaborative nature of the late-game puzzles.

– By the time we escaped, we’d had enough of the looping soundtrack.

+ Escape Room Zandvoort took fantastic postgame photos set against their green screen.

Tips for Visiting

  • Drive about 45 minutes from central Amsterdam.
  • There are adorable restaurants along the beach, just a few minutes’ walk from the escape room.
  • Do not wear nice clothing. You will get a bit dusty in this mine.
  • The helmets were necessary. Beware of the low doorway.

Book your hour with Escape Room Zandvoort’s The Gold Mine, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Room Zandvoort provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Real Life Gaming – Prison Escape (Exclusive English Edition) [Review]

80 actors, 170 players, 1 actual prison.

Location: Breda, The Netherlands

Date Played: May 10, 2018

Team size: up to 400 players; we recommend ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Duration: 3 hours

Price: €79.99 per ticket

Ticketing: Very public

REA Reaction

Prison Escape was no escape room; it was a massive and intense roleplaying game with 80 talented actors and a gigantic cast of players. Prison Escape was a living, breathing entity, an organism with systems that impacted one another. A disruption here trickled down to there.

From their extensive prison intake introduction, to the various escape conspiracies, Prison Escape was a factory that produced individual moments for its players to experience. Some of those moments were epic; others were dull snippets of prison life. They all came together to form a story arc for each player.

The planning, coordination, and care that went into Prison Escape was mind-boggling. When we stop to think about what they have achieved, it’s impossible to be anything but impressed.Lisa's Prison Escape mugshot in an orange jump suit.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • LARPers or people who are willing to be social
  • Players who are comfortable knowing that they will not experience most of the things that this game has to offer

Why play?

  • Fairly open-ended gameplay where with some luck, you’ll get out of it what you put into it
  • Playing a prison escape game in an actual prison
  • The actors were phenomenal.
  • Prison Escape was truly massive in scope.

Story

We were all new convicts serving 10-year sentences in the Breda Prison Dome. We could either find a way to make a new life behind bars or attempt to escape.

The crowd of 180 players gathered outside of the Breda Prison Dome.

Setting

Prison Escape was played in and around the Breda Prison Dome, the retired prison that also hosted Up The Game. While some key components like prison locks had been removed from the structure, this was an otherwise authentic setting. It would have been impossible to ask more of the set.

The Prison Dome was massive, imposing, and strangely beautiful. While we had just spent two days in this building for the conference, it felt a lot less friendly under these circumstances, devoid of stage lighting, booths, and conference infrastructure.

David's Prison Escape mugshot in an grey jump suit.

Gameplay

Real Life Gaming’s Prison Escape was not an escape room at all. Prison Escape was something between a real life game and an immersive theater.

Core gameplay revolved around observation, conversation, and a willingness to take action.

Exterior of the Breda Prison Dome with barred windows and barbed wire.

Analysis

This is an ever-evolving production so these points may not be relevant. If you’re planning to play Prison Escape, I strongly encourage you to skip the spoiler boxes below as the information contained therein may impact the way you choose to play the game.

Have your own experience first. Then return to read the rest of this review. You’ve been warned. 

+ The Breda Prison Dome was a phenomenal venue. This setting that had felt friendly days before was suddenly foreboding. It was an incredible transformation back to its natural state.

Prison Escape had an imposing introduction. It established the game world. It put us in character and costume. The prison warden delivered a badass welcome to hell speech.

Introduction - Discussion

+ The costumes – both ours and the actors’ – further solidified our characters in this experience. The prison guards had a clever technique for efficiently getting each prisoner into a prison jumpsuit that fit them perfectly, without ever disrupting the intense introductory sequence or breaking the fiction.

– The introduction took a long time. We spent a good portion of the first third of Prison Escape standing at attention. The novelty wore off quickly and discomfort set in.

– The grand introduction didn’t matter all that much. Prison Escape shattered that world just as soon as they had established it. We played the rest of the experience in a much looser, more zany prison world. As players, we had a bit of trouble accepting this transition. For quite some time, we were convinced that the harsh reality of the introduction would return. It didn’t. This dramatically impacted our understanding of the game’s world.

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Prison Escape set up epic individual moments. As an individual (or a small group), we’d be dispatched to accomplish a task that would be central to one of the plot threads. We had to come up with our own strategy and proceed. Succeed or fail, Prison Escape created memorable individual moments. For both of us, and most people we’ve talked to, these were the highlights of the experience.

Mid-Game Discussion

+ Prison Escape left a lot of breadcrumbs to lead players into a plot thread of their own. From found objects to the actors, if we observed carefully and made some basic connections, we’d find a plot thread to follow. Prison Escape worked hard to ensure that every player – even those with no experience in this type of gameplay – could engage with it.

+/- The different plot threads affected one another dramatically. When one plot succeeded long before it was intended to, it shattered another plot thread that hinged on an affected character. One group’s win caused another group to fail.

– After a certain point, if a plot thread failed, there was nothing else to do in Prison Escape. There came a point where it was impossible to break into the other storylines. There were no new plots taking shape. When David’s plot was disrupted midway through, there was no more fun to be had at Prison Escape

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+/- Many of the escape plots were comically ridiculous. This was a ton of fun. It was strange, however, when juxtaposed with the serious tone established in the introduction.

End-Game - Discussion

– The few dozen people who didn’t escape didn’t get an end to their story. They got to watch another group’s plot resolve, but they weren’t participants anymore, only onlookers. They didn’t get a conclusion. We don’t recommend that everyone win. We do recommend that everyone receive an interactive ending.

– About 80% of the participants in our play-through escaped the prison. This seemed like a high number. It diminished the victory for those who succeed and added insult to those who did not. While the escape was fun, the best moments of the experience weren’t in achieving victory. We don’t think everyone needs to escape to enjoy Prison Escape. There was a missed opportunity to catch some plots in action and bring back the intensity of the introduction.

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+ The actors were phenomenal. Furthermore, they were all speaking in their second language. This was the first time Real Life Gaming had run Prison Escape in English. We were seriously impressed with the English and the acting, especially all of the improvisation.

+ In Prison Escape, we were responsible for our own experiences, to a point. If we observed, conversed, played, strategized, and engaged, it could be a truly epic experience.

? In Prison Escape, the game structure was responsible for our experiences, to a point. There was a fair bit of luck involved in getting started. The actions of actors and other players would also affect our experiences, both negatively and positively. We weren’t entirely in control of our own destiny, which made sense in a prison.

Prison Escape is not consistent. It is not a stock experience, David and I had profoundly different experiences. Your game will be unique, as will your individual experiences within it.

The Breda Prison Dome lit at night.

Tips for Playing

  • Wear comfortable shoes. There is a lot of standing at attention.
  • Do not wear a skirt or dress.
  • Bring as few personal effects as you can. You’ll be locking them in lockers during the experience.
  • Be open to the highs and lows of the experience.
  • Take action. You have to actively play if you want anything to happen.

Book your event with Real Life Gaming’s Prison Escape, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Real Life Gaming provided media discounted tickets for this game.

 

Escape Challenge – The Freakshow [Review]

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.