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. I wasn’t willing to publish reviews at the time – it didn’t seem helpful to the companies (given they’d locked down soon after) and I didn’t want to encourage people to travel. So, this and the subsequent articles have been languishing in my drafts since 2020, waiting till I was back playing escape rooms and contemplating travel again. At long last, that time has come.
The standard in the Netherlands 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 the northern part of the Netherlands.
Escape Room Nederland
Without a shadow of a doubt, The Dome is the most impressive, enjoyable game I’ve ever played. It has a set that is staggering, with a real sense of exploration, great puzzles (including the single most beautiful puzzle I’ve ever had the joy to solve) and an overall experience that is jaw-dropping. If it has a flaw, it’s that it’s light on story, but don’t let that put you off. This is an absolute must-play. It’s so good, in fact, that a summary isn’t enough – expect a more complete review in a few days.
It seems unfair to have the Girl’s Room at the same venue as the Dome, because it pales in comparison even though it’s a truly impressive game too. It’s scary (although not as unpleasantly creepy as the intro video suggests) – expect jump scares and darkness, but there aren’t any actors in the room. There’s an impressive set with a real sense of exploration and good use of space. The puzzles here weren’t quite up to the standard of the Dome, but they were still enjoyable, and I particularly liked their physicality. In fact, I loved the physicality of the room in general (so be warned: if you’re not mobile, you should let them know).
The third game at the venue is the Laboratory, but I wouldn’t book it unless you’re keen on seeing the first (I think) Dutch game and understanding the journey that they’ve been on.
Sherlocked Escape Rooms
Almost since I started playing escape rooms, Sherlocked has been held up on a pedestal as one of the finest escape room companies in the world. Full reviews of their games are here but I want to highlight the Vault, which was one of the first games where I felt a real sense of adventure while playing. The puzzles might not be the best but from start to finish, this packs a punch with beautiful settings, theatre throughout and a level of immersion that I’ve rarely seen in escape rooms.
Set in the same building as the Tower of our Lady in Amersfoort, Rock City has an intimidating location. It’s the sort of venue that one could well imagine being used on a stormy night for a horror film, which is fitting because this is a scary game. There’s a creepy introduction to get you in the mood, but things ramp up throughout the experience until the impressive finale. It delivers on all fronts with a great set, good puzzles from start to finish, a sense of exploration and a finale that rounds off the experience nicely. I particularly enjoyed the sense of parallelisation with the early puzzles which kept our whole team occupied. It’s worth mentioning they’ve now launched a second game, Soup du Jour.
The Great Escape
We played two games at the Great Escape, The Experiment and The Mission, one at each of their two sites in Zwolle. The Experiment is an immersive experience that may feel a little uncomfortable for players who are more used to traditional escape rooms. In fact, the actor interactions felt downright scary at times – something that really helped set the tone of the room right from the start. It’s a big experience with no sense of how you’re progressing, which is particularly difficult in an immersive game where you aren’t just following puzzle logic to escape but thinking about what the right thing to do next is in your narrative. We struggled in this room, falling far short of escaping. Disappointingly, they don’t attempt to get you close to the end, so we missed out on what looked like a pretty fun finale – learn our lesson and don’t be afraid to ask for hints!
The Mission is a little more traditional but still has some cool, thematic moments. I found it a little stop-start in its style, and it was perhaps let down slightly by the lack of immersion in comparison to the Experiment. Having said that, it’s still a pretty set with some immersive moments and a small amount of actor interaction, so it’s definitely one to visit if you’re in the area.
Both games are worth playing, but Zwolle is well off the beaten track, so I’d probably skip it unless you’re playing a lot of Dutch games and the detour feels like a decent return.
With Steampunk Express and Judgement Day, I think you’ve got two strong games that make MyEscape.Club worth a visit. I have to confess to having a soft spot for well-implemented steampunk themes but, even if you’re not, I still think this is a game that’s worth visiting. Good quality puzzles and a very pretty set with some fun physical interactions as you might expect with the theme.
Judgement Day is a Terminator-themed experience that throws you headlong into a mission. Again, there’s a definite physical theme to the experience, as well as a move away from pure escape room logic across to something that felt more like just trying to solve the problems on our mission. Definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re a fan of the Terminator franchise.
You can read the reviews from my two visits here and here.
Assuming that you can cope with scary experiences, Catacombs should probably be top of your list of games if you’re in Amsterdam. It’s an actor-led immersive experience that takes place beneath a church, which really helps to reinforce the storyline. Expect scares and twists throughout and, at least at the time of playing, a scoring system that ensures even seasoned enthusiasts will be pushed to their limits.
Eliza’s Heart pales in comparison, but it’s still a fun traditional game that I’d recommend if you’re aiming to play a handful of games in the city. It’s creepy rather than scary, but it’s still filled with fun puzzles and interactions plus a little humour along the way. As you’d expect with Logic Locks games, there’s an impressive intro and wrap-up from the GM.
Full reviews can be found here for Catacombs and Eliza’s Heart.
Escape Room Zandvoort
Set right out on the coast, Escape Room Zandvoort isn’t somewhere that you’re likely to pass by accident but, with three very solid games, it’s worth a visit if you’re near Amsterdam. While these aren’t the stunning games that you’ll find spread across the Netherlands, they deliver enjoyable experiences with compact but impressive sets and good puzzles. If you love after-photos at escape rooms, you’ll be pleased to hear they have an amazing setup with a proper green screen, a high-quality camera and a choice of two (I think) backdrops for each game.
Full reviews can be found here.