A summary link will be posted here when all parts of the guide are published.
Early last year, just before lockdown kicked in across much of Europe, I took a four-day trip to the Netherlands and Belgium to play some of the best games that region has to offer. The standard is ridiculously high and, despite already having made three escape room trips to the area, we still managed to visit 10+ games that were world-class (and another ten that were merely very, very good!). This is part of a series of posts that rounds up the set of games I’ve played across those countries – this time focusing on Belgium.
I’ll link the high-level summary here when I’ve posted the full set. If you’re planning a trip across Belgium and the Netherlands (rather than just Belgium), I recommend you start there.
De Gouden Kooi
De Gouden Kooi has a number of escape rooms plus an escape experience, The Secret of Saint-Rumoldus. On other enthusiasts’ recommendations, we only played the last of those, but I was very glad we did. This, to me, is the natural evolution of escape rooms. They’ve upgraded the game in virtually every way imaginable. There are strong puzzles that are beautifully woven into the room and plenty of content to entertain our team of five. It’s an expansive set with a real sense of exploration that takes you on a journey within the story. There are moments of excitement and an impressively big conclusion. They’ve even made it a 70-minute game. Everything about this experience is top quality, and I have incredibly fond memories of our team rushing back and forth around the set solving puzzles in parallel before experiencing the impressive finale. Again, it’s a game where I don’t feel a summary is good enough, so I’ll be posting a full review in a few days.
I usually think that escape games are similar to action movies: there’s adrenaline, surprise and a sense of rushing headlong towards the finish. Erzsabet, from Escaping Belgium, didn’t feel like that at all, with its refined storyline and calmer unfolding of the game. Well, at least not to start with: the tension definitely notches up in the latter part of the game. The experience begins in almost complete darkness, which I found a disappointing way to start proceedings. That’s a particular shame, because they’ve created a beautiful set, and the low light levels meant we couldn’t appreciate it till later. On the other hand, it certainly created the sense of foreboding that would be built upon throughout the game. After solving a few puzzles, that stops being an issue, though, and I could enjoy the rest of the game without hindrance. There are several chunky puzzles to interact with across the room, and I enjoyed some tougher-than-average challenges along the way. It’s a good game that I’d recommend experiencing, but I’d particularly recommend it to anyone that likes games steeped in local history or with strong atmospheres.
They’ve recently opened their second game, based around a photography pioneer – I’m excited to see where they take that. They’ve also got an outdoor game that gets you to wander around the local area solving puzzles. We saw the finale of that (which is on public display in the conference centre where their room is located), and it looked absolutely delightful – I wish we’d had a chance to check it out.
Escape Room Antwerp
Located on a farm, away from the usual hustle and bustle of escape room city-centre sites, Escape Room Antwerp has the perfect venue for Hunting Season. Combining a sense of isolation with the rural location fits beautifully with the serial killer story that sees you become the hunter’s prey.
They’ve taken full advantage of the extra space available at the venue to provide a sprawling set but, not content with that, they’ve have added some theatre into the mix to create a more immersive atmosphere. The set’s relatively varied, with some areas feeling like they’ve put a lot of effort in while others feeling quite bare (albeit thematically so). I enjoyed the puzzles in the game, although there were a few rough edges – such as a mechanism that didn’t work smoothly and another puzzle that felt a little tedious to complete.
It’s worth noting that there are a couple of moments in the game that require mobility. Both are entirely avoidable by any individual member of the group but, strangely, they actively told us that the whole party had to complete them. Personally, I enjoyed the experience and saw the mobility aspects of it as adding to the fun, but other members of my team really hated the combination of the exclusion caused by those challenges, the instructions from the GM that they were required and safety concerns over their implementation.
If you are thinking of visiting, they’re about to open a new experience: The Toy Factory.
Honestly, I’m not sure if Locked Gent will re-open after being heavily restricted over the last two years due to COVID and fire safety concerns. It’s an amazing experience, though, so, if you get the chance and you have precisely four people, I’d highly recommend booking into Kubus. Full reviews here.
If you want fun, well-implemented games, then I think Escape Prod in the heart of Brussels is an excellent choice. The two games I’ve played (Blacksad and Les Daltons) don’t push the boundaries of escape rooms, but what they do, they do very well indeed. Les Daltons has quite an unusual take on game structure that I think enthusiasts will find interesting, while Blacksad created a cool noir fiction vibe. They’ve also got an enjoyable walking-tour-of-Brussels game if you fancy something outdoors. You can read my reviews of their three experiences here and here.
Since I last visited, they’ve opened two new games (Mission Museum and Space Alert), as well as launching a second outdoor walking game (The Art Challenge).
Fancy feeling like James Bond in an escape room experience that takes immersion to the absolute limit? Well, look no further. Escape Rush is a drop-dead gorgeous venue where you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d turned up at entirely the wrong location, given the total commitment to building their world. The set is absolutely phenomenal from store-front to reception, through the briefing area, and then across the whole game. The puzzles were OK but nowhere near the standard of the decor. Having said that, I’d definitely recommend that enthusiasts drop by for what is a true experience. Full review here.
Since I visited, they’ve opened one new game (The White House) and are about to open another (The Tokyo Lab).