An Escape Enthusiast Abroad: The Netherlands Day 4
Now that the conference is over, it’s time to focus my rapidly dwindling energies on my very first European escape rooms!
There were offers to do some escapes in Rotterdam for the day, but three days of non-stop action has finally been catching up to me. I decided to be a bad enthusiast and use the day to chill and explore a little more of Breda before the Prison Escape in the evening.
I am glad I did it! It’s been wonderful meeting so many people but talking takes a lot out of me. It was nice to meander through the city center and try out whatever I came across.
These things included:
A park with random chickens and roosters.
A castle that was sadly not open.
A dollhouse/miniature museum! It was really crazy!
A begijnhof, which was a sort of convent/cloister for a group of women who were not really nuns but wanted to live the lives of nuns. There was some neat history there.
Canadian Bumpkin Status- Back up to 80% thanks to my crappy Dutch and a woman scaring me with stories of pickpockets in Amsterdam
As predicted, I have quickly abandoned any Dutch I learned and have switched to English. It’s easier on all of us. It has driven me to want to learn more though. Still, I feel bad to abuse my English privilege.
The walk signals at traffic lights emit quick machine-gun like sounds when it’s safe to cross. This prompts me to try and dash across as fast as I can.
Tipping is not a thing. Or maybe it is? Sometimes if I say nothing the waiters just give me the bill and tell me the price and I silently hand them my credit card. If I reveal my Canadian bumpkin status, they tell me the space I can use if I want to add “extra”. I always add extra. It feels weird not to.
I have discovered that buying a coke is the same price as buying a beer here. The Netherlands is turning me into a beer drinker purely because it’s more cost effective.
The roads in Breda are a medieval design, which means it’s mostly pedestrians with a few bikes and scooters racing by followed by the occasional car that just tries to clear a path for themselves through the crowds. My weirdest moment came watching a car drive through followed very closely by children on roller blades.
And now! The Prison Escape!
Well, that was an experience.
For those that do not know, the Prison Escape is a large, theatrical interactive escape experience that involves being incarcerated in an actual prison.
The project is insanely ambitious. It involves 80 actors, usually 400 players (in our game it was only the 100 from the conference), and multiple storylines that are impossible to see in one playthrough. The setting of the Prison Breda dome only increased the immersion factor. So I really appreciate all of the work that went into it.
The beginning worked well to get us into our roles as inmates. The guards made sure we knew our place. In fact, most of the first hour was spent simply being integrated into the system: receiving our bades, our prison uniforms, being led from one line to the next and finally meeting our warden.
Admittedly, I felt bad for those that arrived first. They had to stand in a silent line and wait for the rest of the players to get ready. From what I heard, that aspect grew tedious.
We were then randomly placed with our cell mates (mine ended up being David Spira…so not so random). And then the game began!
I’m obviously not going to reveal many of the details of my playthrough of my time behind bars. My overall experience amounted to a lot of wandering around lost interspersed with moments of tense fun.
Listening to other player stories, there seemed to be some inconsistency in the experiences. Some players found every single minute to be packed with excitement. Some players started out strong but then ended up with nothing for the second half. Some players, like myself, spent much of the first half either figuring out what to do or performing somewhat pointless tasks and then having a really exciting second half.
There were instances where it sounded like the other players were doing very interesting things while I simply waited in my area for something to do. Sometimes when I volunteered for a task, it led nowhere. Finally, I managed to get a task that led to a really fun interaction with a prison guard.
The ultimate goal was to escape and luckily I succeeded. I ended up being swept up in one of the plots and the ending was a very satisfying one that made for some great stories. I kind of wish my entire experience had felt like that. The general consensus was if you did not manage to get on a good storyline fast enough, you were pretty much doomed to watch other players have more fun.
I think what was frustrating for the losing teams was that they did not get an ending of any sort. A team does not need to necessarily succeed to receive a satisfying ending. Fail states are something I would actually love to write about someday.
Overall though I still had fun and would recommend. In fact, I think I would play it again now that I know how it works. I liked there were multiple paths you could take depending on what clues you found early on. I liked the interactions I did manage to have with the actors. I LOVED my ending. I just think there were aspects that could be tightened up.
Having run similar events in Toronto, I know how insanely difficult it is to plan out player flow on such a large scale. The fact that the team mostly managed it with multiple story endings is impressive. I love seeing an escape company trying such new and big things. I will be interested to see what they come up with next for sure.
In the meantime…my feet are sore…prison floors are hard.