This is part of a series of articles on games in Amsterdam – click here for the introduction and links to all the other articles.
Boom Chicago is a comedy/improv club in Amsterdam which is, confusingly, not where the game actually takes place. Sadly, Escape through Time has closed its doors since we played the game, but I offer this review partly as tribute to an amazingly fun and funny escape room but also to give people an idea of what to expect when Escape through the Movies is released later this year.
In a slightly unusual twist for an escape room, you’re asked to head to a bar before commencing the experience. Here, you’re given a package to collect which, as well as waivers, gives you a series of puzzles to complete. It was a nice touch to handle a venue that has no separate waiting area.
Escape through Time (4.5 stars)
As you might expect from an improv company, especially one where you’re only allowed to turn up at the game start time, you’re greeted in character without any mention of escape rooms. The premise behind the story is that scientists have discovered time travel and that you’re part of a group going on a secret mission to retrieve a painting from Amsterdam during World War II.
Going into this game expecting a conventional escape room is probably a mistake. Yes, there are puzzles, but I’d approach it primarily as immersive entertainment. There were at least two different moments when I laughed out loud during this game, and there are character interactions during the game as well as in the intro.
That’s not to say the puzzles are bad. While a couple were pretty dull, most were interesting and a couple were genuinely original. There are probably fewer than you’d expect from an average escape room, but this isn’t an average escape room and I certainly didn’t feel shortchanged.
The set is impressive throughout, with reconstructions of wartime rooms and furnishings really helping to build the theme. At times it felt a bit red-herringy, but there was almost always clear direction of the steps ahead, which helped to steer us away from getting too lost. The story was clear and evolved during the game, with a level of comedy that you really wouldn’t expect from an escape room.
A game like this deserves a proper finale, and it absolutely got one. As you progress through the experience, you start to realise how you’re going to finish, and so the final few minutes are spent moving yourself towards that goal but – without wishing to give away spoilers – there’s more to the finish than just turning the key and escaping the room…
Locked.Amsterdam is well outside the city centre so, if you’re thinking of visiting, you’re likely to want to take a taxi, public transport or, given that you’re in the Netherlands, a bike. There’s a huge waiting space considering that there’s currently just a single game and, with games scheduled with a very generous 90 minutes in the room, that’s presumably with an eye to opening additional games in the future.
Submarine (4 stars)
Submarine is all about the journey. The story is simple although with a slightly convoluted build-up: a Russian submarine sank twenty years ago with a nuclear payload on board. A journalist has been investigating the conspiracy theories and thinks they’ve found out where the submarine is and that there’s a dangerous nuclear payload on board. The journalist has disappeared, so it’s up to you to take his evidence, find where the submarine lies buried and save the world.
You start off in the journalist’s apartment and, from there, have to make your way to the sub. The transition between being in an apartment and aboard a sub is obviously hard to manage, but they’ve done their best. I’d encourage players to think of each space as a scene and try to ignore how you get between them.
There aren’t a huge number of puzzles in this game, but many of them are quite hard. They all feel gettable (not least because I don’t think we took any clues) but one puzzle relied on you playing around with something that seemed to be a red herring and gave you relatively little feedback to indicate otherwise. For some teams, I can imagine that being an incredibly frustrating experience; for others, a very rewarding one.
Ultimately, the puzzles never really fully engaged me. They were on theme and often made use of cool Russian hardware but, in spite of that, I found I wasn’t as excited as in other rooms. Perhaps the scarcity and difficulty broke up the flow, or perhaps the linearity of the game combined with talented fellow players meant I never got to find my stride. Either way, I ended up taking my pleasure from the surroundings and the feeling of being on a mission. A mission that ended fittingly with us dealing with the nuclear material and, of course, saving the world.
That’s all about Boom Chicago and Locked.Amsterdam – want to read more about Dutch games? Click here to head back to the main Amsterdam page.