This is part of a series of articles on games in Brussels – click here for the introduction and links to all the other articles.
Escape the Room in 60 Minutes
Located in the heart of Brussels, on a street that contains three different escape venues, Escape the Room in 60 Minutes has possibly the worst escape room name I’ve ever seen. I’ll forgive them a little, though, because their 60minutes.be URL is at least easy to remember. Although they currently have just a single room, their plan is to add a second in the near future, so there’s a good chance that, by the time you visit, you’ll have two options here. Given the quality of their first game, which has been around a fair while, I’ve got high hopes for their second outing.
Manneken Pis (3.5 stars)
If you’re looking to do an escape room and pretend that it’s tourism, then, at the time of writing, you have two choices: Escape Hunt (which, based on TripAdvisor reviews and previous experience at other venues, I’d stay clear of) or Escape the Room in 60 Minutes. Don’t get your hopes up too high – there’s a pretty prop referencing the central theme but it’s bolted onto the game rather than central to it.
In fact, there isn’t really a theme or story to this game. Maybe that’s enough for you, but I like games to have a goal and, ideally, a sense of progress towards achieving it. This had neither and, in truth, was just a series of unconnected puzzles to be solved. Maybe it was me or the team performance that day, but I felt that the puzzles didn’t flow together very well – there wasn’t always an obvious progression to the room, so we had a very stuttering experience – repeatedly re-searching the space because we weren’t sure which puzzle we needed to solve next or if we’d even found it yet.
The puzzles, however, were good, showing some real innovation. One standard escape room puzzle type had been enhanced in a very clever way that made it way more strategic than usual. There were a couple of interesting physical puzzles where it was obvious what you had to do and there was no real skill to doing it but which had a certain element of suspense while waiting to see if you’d succeeded. It’s not a technique I’ve seen used very often, so it was surprising to see it twice in one game. It worked well, though, and the two “puzzles” were nicely constructed. Some people may feel that these are just taskwork, but neither lasted very long, so I see them as brief, fun distractions from the harder puzzle-solving that fills the room.
There was minimal searching, although one observational part of the game was a little too hidden for my liking. Sadly, the final puzzle felt a bit contrived. The game hit its high point a little too early, with the result that, by the time we got out of the room, we’d been working on a relatively dull puzzle for a while and lost our enthusiasm. We’d resorted to thinking up more and more outlandish solutions until we finally found out what the key missing step was. For me, the final puzzle in a game should always be short and sweet.
The third of three venues on the same street, Quarantine is one of those rarer small companies that spans the genres, with Resident Evil providing a potentially scary experience and Mafia being a friendly introduction to escape rooms. The owner had warned us against playing Mafia, especially since it’s a game for 2-4 people, but we had a bit of spare time so decided to squeeze it into our itinerary and play both games at the venue. I appreciated the honesty, though – many owners would have happily just let us play both.
Resident Evil (3 stars)
Ugh. This game is dark. I mean really dark. And you only get one torch to begin with. As the game progresses, you start to get more light sources, but that’s really tedious at the beginning. This isn’t a game where two people can meaningfully search together, so you’re either following someone around with little control or else wandering around in the dark, neither of which were particularly fun. As the last person to get their own light, the game was a lot more than half over before I got fully involved.
The question I ask myself is, did giving us a single torch to share really add anything to the game? A little, perhaps, but not enough to warrant that reduction in fun. That said, the darkness in this game worked well, when coupled with the somewhat derelict feeling to the space, to create a creepy, intimidating environment. While there are no jump scares (or indeed any scares) in this game, they’d done well to convey a space where danger might have been round any corner and where wandering around always left you just a little bit on edge. If you’re looking for a Resident Evil theme, though, you’re going to be seriously disappointed (fortunately, I wasn’t!)
The puzzles were pretty basic fare that didn’t get me excited. Some searching, a few simple puzzles and one physical puzzle. In truth, the only real reason to play this game is for the atmosphere. It’s a relatively expansive game which gives you a genuine sense of exploration. Sadly, that wasn’t nearly enough to overcome the other shortcomings in the game and, ironically, my fondest memories are actually when I was wandering round in the pitch black without a torch. Maybe the restricted torch option wasn’t such a bad idea after all…
Mafia (2.5 stars)
As the owner said, this is a simple room for beginners, and it pretty much delivered on that promise. The room was pretty enough but lacked anything really exciting or the sense of discovery that you usually encounter in an escape room. The puzzles were pretty basic, and the one puzzle that looked exciting gave the impression that you’d have to do one thing when, in the end, you had to do something that required no real thought.
The only thing we struggled with was a search that seemed massively out of sync with the simplicity of the rest of the room: it was a tough search that we (all of us experienced players) missed, and I wouldn’t expect better of beginners. In a normal room, it would have been fine, but here it felt out of place.
In the end, the owner was right: we really should have skipped this room. Beginners will have a good time with a pretty room and some simple puzzles that are more challenging if you’ve never played before, but enthusiasts should go elsewhere.
That’s all on Quarantine – want to read more about Brussels games? Click here to head back to the main Edinburgh page.