This is part of a series of articles on games in the Netherlands – click here for the introduction and links to all the other articles.
As part of the Up the Game conference, we headed down to Breda in the south of the Netherlands and, while we were there, played some escape rooms. They weren’t particularly noteworthy, and there are plenty in the country that are highly rated, so I wouldn’t recommend making a trip but, for the record…
Port Santa Alicia, Pirate Ship (2.5 stars)
An escape room aboard a boat. Sounds fun! Well, except the boat isn’t in the water. No matter – the water doesn’t really make much difference to the fun of it in the end. The host gave us a quick briefing, and we went inside. There didn’t seem to be a huge amount to do – we scoured the interior and eventually found enough information to get us started. After a while, we realised that the space we were in wasn’t locked, and so we were sitting trapped for no reason (our GM actually told us this beforehand, but I figured I’d misheard given no one else tried to leave…).
It was a pretty nice idea: leave the boat, go into a tavern, then descend into the secret pirate cave. It felt like a bit of an adventure, but the puzzles never moved much beyond simple decoding and counting puzzles. Fun enough in a small group with bright light but, in a larger group in semi-darkness, it was a bit tedious.
It’s fortunate that they didn’t lock you in there, given that the place was full of real candles. And made of wood and with hangings that… Let’s just say you should be careful if you play.
Escape Room 076, The Mail Room (3.5 stars)
The best of the three games we played in Breda, The Mail Room took advantage of the venue’s history as a PTT (Post, Telegraph and Telephone) depot to craft a room that had a surprising amount of atmosphere given how bare the space was. They’d grabbed hold of various original PTT furnishings to add to the scene and, while the puzzles were very much escape room logic, they were at least themed around the postal service.
There wasn’t much of a story beyond what we’d been told at the beginning, but the puzzles kept us interested throughout, with some variations on ones I’d seen before, continually moving us around the space.
As the game went on, we moved towards the finale: a huge prop that we’d been able to see from the beginning and knew would be the final piece in the puzzle. They’d played nicely with the setup to make this just a little bit more interesting than the average finish of this sort and reward teams who thought things through carefully.
All in all, a good game that I’d recommend to players in the area. Three to four enthusiasts would be a perfect number and, if you happen to be travelling with a local, you may find it just a little bit easier!
Escape Room 076, The Forgotten Office (1.5 stars)
Oh, how I wish I could have forgotten all about this game. We had reasonable expectations given we’d had fun in the other room at the same venue, but this was a pretty terrible experience. First off, it really was just an office with almost no immersion. There was some sense of story running through the experience, but it was confused and with little meat to allow the vague references on the side to be enjoyable.
The big issue was on the puzzle front, with two main problems. First, almost the entire game was a logic puzzle. That’s a pretty tedious form for a game to take and, if you want it to be fun, then you have to craft it carefully. That brings me on to the second issue: the puzzles felt sloppy and the central logic puzzle itself was flawed in that it relied on assumptions that just weren’t reasonable. You might just have got away with that if you could be sure you had all the information required. Sadly, however, there was no way to be confident, so we ended up trying those assumptions out too early, for want of something better to do, and then almost giving up on them when the time was right. On top of that, a translated puzzle left a total red herring in the room (which is fair enough because the English translation was an afterthought and the clue was permanent, but they should really have warned us). The one thing in its favour was that the puzzles were parallelisable, so we could take advantage of the five players to at least move reasonably quickly.
The finale was almost as bad. Once you’d got past the logic puzzle, the remainder of the game was short but very confused and, when you entered the final space with time rapidly running out, the code to exit the game was merely written above the final door as if they’d decided they couldn’t afford to fit in one last puzzle.
That’s all about Breda – want to read more about Dutch games? Click here to head back to the main Amsterdam page.