DarkPark – The Dentist [Review]

[At the time of this review, DarkPark was called Escape Challenge.]

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.

 

DarkPark – The Orphanage [Review]

[At the time of this review, DarkPark was called Escape Challenge.]

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.