Leiden, Jan 2020
Several companies in the Netherlands impressed me with the quality of their hospitality, and Escape From Wonderland more than any – welcoming us in with drinks and refreshments, friendly in a way that made us feel like guests not just another team passing through – even though, after utterly underestimating the challenge of finding a parking space in Leiden, we straggled in red-faced half an hour late for our booking slot.
The company’s single eponymous game is of course based on Alice in Wonderland. The backstory presents this with a slightly surprising spin, casting us as modern day investigators checking out a sealed-off area where long ago a young girl named Alice disappeared; the high-vis jackets we were given to wear were curiously at odds with the fantasy landscape we found ourselves in.
Wonderland has a quite distinctive puzzle style, one that many not be to the tastes of all players – though I suspect Lewis Carroll might approve. There’s a notable emphasis on more mathematical puzzles, along with logic puzzles and brain teasers; one was reminiscent of something you might find in an aptitude test. Another combined maths and logic in a process-based puzzle of surprising length; we briefly had a nasty moment where I thought an error meant we’d need to redo the whole laborious solution from scratch, but fortunately managed to recover it.
Naturally, whether that appeals or not will be a matter of taste. Our group was, broadly, less keen on that style, feeling some such puzzles were better as online brain teasers than as part of an escape room. At the same time, that describes only part of a game that included plenty of variety. More importantly, every step was built with such lovely detail, so many charming touches and handmade flourishes, that it’ll win over many otherwise skeptical players. Each part of the game is distinct and quirky in its own way, each section has its own set of whimsical decorations. And despite the mathematical slant of many of the puzzles, it’s not at all a dry style of game – a couple of surprises in particular were quite the opposite, and help make this a game to savour. If you like more maths-y, academic puzzles then you’ll love Wonderland; and even if you dislike them then this is a game still well worth putting on your list.