If all this time spent at home makes you yearn to be locked up somewhere else, yearn no more: Logic Locks have got you covered. This award-winning Amsterdam-based escape room company are renowned for coming up with some of the best, most creative, escape rooms on the go. For those that haven’t done a team-bonding day in the last decade, think The Crystal Maze, minus the spinning platforms and (hopefully) incompetent contestants. They go like this: a small team of you enter a themed room – these can be anything from detective agencies or dungeons to the apartment of a nymphomaniac stalker (Sicko from PanIQ Entertainment in San Francisco). Once inside the door shuts, the clock starts and you have to limited time to pull together, solve the puzzles and find a way out. Along the way, you are given annoyingly cryptic clues, by an omniscient observer. Teamwork, speed, creativity, and camaraderie are what they’re all about. Hence they’re a staple for the start of stag and hen parties when everyone’s a bit shy and it’s too early to drink. Cool, you’re maybe wondering, but how the heck do you do that without leaving the house?
Fortunately, Logic Locks have found a way. In pre-Covid days, the Amsterdam Catacombs was rated fourth-best escape room in the world, and the single best horror one. Now it’s been converted from a traditional challenge into an immersive, online, theatrical experience. Meaning instead of jumping on a plane to Holland, and spending two weeks in quarantine, all you need are friends with computers and decent internet connections. HorrorCultFilms had the good fortune of being invited. It was a fine night for it: dark outside, with rain falling and wind blowing against the windows. Armed with notepads my team, including three others and myself, assembled in an online chat room where we met our guide: a Dr David Fimblewood, with a PhD in religious studies. After giving us some background info, he took us into the catacombs, below Posthoorn Church, in central Amsterdam, via a live stream. Telling us he’d been looking into the closure of the catacombs, and other strange occurrences, he explains that he needs us to help him solve the mystery in one piece.
I don’t want to say what happens since that’d be literally giving the game away. However, I can tell you Logic Lock have worked hard to make you and your “fellow researchers” feel like you’re in an interactive movie. Things move unexpectedly, there are loud noises and the events within straddle multiple horror subgenres. As horror fans, we’re used to shaky cams in dark locations, making Amsterdam Catacombs a perfect marriage of format and theme. Granted, it’s initially quite jarring to see ‘step here’ and ‘move that there’ style puzzles in a found footage movie. Still, the further in you get then the more convincingly they’re linked to what’s a surprisingly strong story. The production values are also high, with dead detailed props and eerie sound effects. While I can’t say I was scared per se, others on my team, who don’t watch these sorts of films for fun, were. Nonetheless, as the ante was upped towards the end, I felt compelled to hold my breath, yell at my screen, and frantically check my notes for that clue from four pages ago.
We managed though! We got Fimblewood out of the bowels of a church from our respective homes in Scotland. Which if the post-game feedback is anything to go by, is no mean feat. It was a decent challenge, and everyone contributed something to it. I’d also say our team of four was about the right size – depending on how competitive your friends are, add or subtract one. Though people shouting over each other may make the scary bits even better, it’d maybe risk ruining the equally rewarding quiet bits. As any genre fan knows, you need the two. It’s this pacing, that saw Amsterdam Catacombs transcend the trappings of the typical escape room format that’ll make it stick with me for some time. And why, months from now, when people ask me if I went out much during lockdown I’ll be quick to tell them about my trip to Amsterdam.