In the past few years, "escape rooms" have become a ubiquitous form of immersive entertainment, with often even the smallest towns offering some. Amsterdam-based experience design studio Sherlocked has become a world-renowned, celebrated player in this field by taking the concept of escape rooms to a whole other level. Their award-winning productions The Vault and The Architect are globally recognized as best in class, and this December they will launch their latest production: The Alchemist.
In my personal adventures in the world of escape rooms, I've learned there are three major factors contributing to the success of a playing experience:
1. The setting—the place itself, the style and quality of its decorations, the beauty of where the actual game is taking place.
2. The puzzles to be solved—their originality, the cleverness of design and conceptual elegance.
3 The narrative—the storyline that holds everything together, hopefully in a coherent and engrossing way. This last one is probably the trickiest of all factors: very often the narrative is virtually non-existent (beyond the obvious "you-need-to-solve-some-puzzles-in-a-given-time-to-escape-the-room"), or falls short to actually capture the players' imagination.
When these three factors are masterfully blended the result is a deeply enjoyable, exciting, and memorable experience. Sherlocked cracked the code to successful design, bringing the escape room format to new heights, both conceptually and aesthetically.
Three years in the making, the brainchild of creative team Francine Boon and Victor van Doorn, The Alchemist is Sherlocked's most ambitious project to date. As Sherlocked co-founder Victor has described it:
"The Alchemist is Harry Potter directed by Christopher Nolan; a magical ride full of twists and turns."
Having had the pleasure of taking a peek behind the curtain of its work-in-progress, I can fairly say that such statement is pretty accurate. This is going to be a full-on magical experience.
As part of the lead-up to the launch of The Alchemist, Sherlocked will be hosting a 6-week free online puzzle contest, from November 24th to December 29th. Weekly prizes will be awarded to the winning puzzle solvers, with the final prize being a VIP ticket to play The Alchemist, including a rare behind-the-scenes tour of Sherlocked's process, and a two night stay at a design hotel in Amsterdam.
So, puzzle freaks out there: you're welcome to play your hand and give this a shot.
For anyone else traveling to Amsterdam, if this sounds like your type of fun, do yourself a favor and plan to stop at Sherlocked.
Photos courtesy of Sherlocked