Traveling: Escape rooms in Barcelona and MadridPosted on 2019-03-18
Santiago is one of our regular visitors. Always submitting corrections and additions to our database, but this time he stepped it up. After visiting Spain he wrote an article about the rooms he played in Barcelona and Madrid. The result you can read below.
The last time I was in Spain, I did not play escape rooms. As a matter of fact there weren´t any escape rooms yet, so it was a while ago. To celebrate Christmas with family and engage in some touristic activities my partner and I went there. Obviously, being there and not playing escape rooms would have been a crime, so I carefully selected a few (7) to play in both cities. At the end, as you will see, I ended up playing several more, namely 15 and to be honest given the quality I have found there it is a pity I did not play more, so I hope a new visit to Spain will follow rather sooner than later 😉.
Room selection procedure
For selecting the rooms to play I consulted mainly three websites. The results of the Top Escape Rooms Project and the websites of two local couples, who participated in said project: Die Helden, who have played around 900 games and Victor y Maria from El Quinto Elemento who have played around 500 games, and which I am happy to know personally, since their last visit to the Netherlands. In Spain one game master mentioned also Escape Radar, which has also a user-based ranking and one of the greatest advantages is that it shows in real time the availability of the majority of the rooms. It is a great tool for instance to select a game to play on the same day.
Review of the rooms played
As I played some rooms of the same venue at different dates, the order of the rooms will not be strictly chronological.
BARCELONA (18.12-31.12 2018)
Rooms played: Catalepsia, Ouija
Other rooms (not played): Jigsaw
2 players / 30 minutes / Spanish only / Website
Catalepsia is a unique experience for exactly two players. My partner was concerned of not enjoying it, so I ended up teaming up with David the owner of Las Celdas, an escape room in the North of Spain. The whole experience takes place inside of a coffin (this is in the website and therefore not a spoiler), so obviously it is limited to people with normal mobility and obviously not suitable for people suffering from claustrophobia. It has to be said though that the coffin is comfortably sized. There are a lot of things that you can do, when booking in order to personalize your experience. The focus is obviously on the whole experience, but there are nice and logic puzzles, which as expected involve a lot of collaborative work with your “funeral fellow”. The big merit is doing all these puzzles in a confined space, and it is nice how most of the puzzles are also related to the topic. It is therefore not a surprise, that this “room” is ranked very high. All in all, it was a great concept. As it lasts only (max.) 30 minutes it is a little expensive (for the duration), but I can only recommend if they decide to make an English version out of it. As we were both experienced escapers, we managed to make it out in time and avoided an end, that would have proven to be fatal 😊.
2-6 players / 60 minutes (+30 minutes introduction) / Spanish only / Website
David was left without a team, so he recruited me and another person for playing Ouija. Ouija was the first scary escape room I played. These rooms do not exist, to the best of my knowledge, here in the Netherlands (but I am happy if a more informed reader corrects me, maybe Amsterdam Catacombs?). For some reason scary escape rooms are very popular in Barcelona (and surroundings), in general they involve an actor, that will obviously participate in the game to scare the hell out of you. Some are scarier than others, and it obviously depends on your tolerance to this kind of scares. I have to say that I am not a big fan of this idea, but I have almost not played any of those, so I do not have a completely formed opinion, in this regard. Concerning Ouija, I think that if the room did not have this element it would be great anyway. The fear element makes it a little bit more special, as it adds something to the usual adrenaline caused by the race against the clock. The escape room has a great introduction (it lasts around 30 minutes), so by the time the real game starts, you are more than into the mood. The ambiance is really well-achieved, at the level of many of the great games here in the Netherlands, the puzzles are theme related and logical. My two escape room partners were people that got scared rather easily, so I had to be the brave one. I have to say, that although I do not get scared that easily, there were a couple of moment that made me jump. All in all, being three experienced players, we also manage to escape with some time left on the clock. Unluckily in this venue, they did not take any pictures! They argued, that this is due to the data protection regulations now in force in Europe, but they also do not let you take a picture with your own phone. Lots of discussions in the Spanish pages/groups about this, given that it seems to be the only one (?) that do this.
Rooms played: La Mina
Other rooms (not played): Narcos (opened just after we left)
- La Mina
2-7 players / 90 minutes / Spanish and English
La Mina was the first of the rooms I had preselected and I played with my partner and three other people (including David, who decided to join and bring a friend along), so we were 5 (in the picture you see only 4 for mysterious reasons 😉). The expectations were obviously high and they were fully met.
The game starts the moment you enter the venue, I have to say that this was something we encountered in practically all of the high-quality games we have played. The importance of the active role of the game master is something in which, on average, Spain seems to more advanced than the Netherlands.
One of the great things about this room is the ambiance. Of the many great rooms, we played, this is one of the best scoring in that specific issue. The puzzles are theme related, some really well made and it all converges into a great finale. All in all, a magnificent experience.
Maybe the only thing I can criticize is that there were two puzzles, which had a certain issue, but it was a very minor thing compared to the overall experience. From our experience 4 is a very good number to tackle this room. With 5 it starts to get a little bit crowded in certain areas.
The fact that it can be played it in English makes this room one of the fundamental ones to visit if you are in Barcelona.
Rooms played: Abduction, Abduction 2: El orfanato, Abduction 3: The exam
2-6 players / 60 minutes / Spanish only
After playing Abduction 3, I wanted to experience the other rooms, in particular because we were staying in the Badalona area. Abduction was therefore the second room I played from this venue. As my partner had other plans, I found a player who joined forces with me to tackle this mission. The topic is the fall of the nazi regime.
The game starts the moment you enter the venue. Abduction is the first room of this venue; therefore, the topic and the type of puzzles and ambiance is a little bit more classic. In spite of this, this room is still very good and I would even rate it as above average compared to our national average.
It is particularly remarked that the whole decoration is very realistically made, reproducing some objects, which look very authentic.
The room is also relatively challenging for experienced players, but I would not recommend it playing it with too many people. I played with only a second person, which I did not know before and we succeeded (with the one or the other little struggle) well in time, making a big contribution to end World War II 😉
- Abduction 2: El orfanato
2-6 players / 60 minutes / Spanish only(?)
This was the last room we played from Abduction. Also, a scary one, but I would rate it as less scary than Ouija. My partner was initially reluctant to play scary games, but decided to accompany me, after we heard that it was not “that” scary.
Great ambiance and very nice puzzles, reminded me in some things other rooms I have played in the Netherlands. The puzzles were really nice and original, but in my opinion towards the end the puzzle part suffers a little bit. Nevertheless, it is compensated by a well achieved ending to crown a really nice storyline.
For my partner, it was scary, as a matter of fact for her it was the limit of the tolerable, so it is not ideal for people that get scared easily, but in my case, I did not get scared at all.
- Abduction 3: The exam
2-6 players / 60 minutes / Spanish only
This room was one of the preselected ones, and the first we played in this venue, my partner, me and two other people. 4 is in my opinion the ideal number. Less than 4 is rather challenging, but doable.
I do not want to say much about this room, as is one of these rooms, where the less you know the better. The website says that it is a test that will challenge you physically and mentally, and it is probably the best description there is.
The puzzles are great and to be honest this room deserves a category on its own. I can barely compare it to other rooms I have played, and I think in a way it was one of the most fun escape rooms I have played.
I really hope they adapt it to be played in English, as actually language is not very relevant in this game.
Rooms played: Alien, the origin
Other rooms (not played): El templo perdido, La maldición del faraón, Jurassic Land
- Alien, the origin
4-10 players / 60 minutes / Spanish and English
As this game requires a minimum of 4 players, we teamed up with another experienced couple. This room was also in the original list, and also confirmed its deserved spot there.
What a game!!! They have made a real movie set, with very nice puzzles and games, as well as physical elements, and to top it all a story with multiple possible endings depending on your choices. It is so good, I will just say: Play it!!!
I heard very recently that it is also playable in English now, so it cannot be missed. When I played it was fully booked weeks in advanced, I found one empty spot in two weeks (a couple of weeks in advance). At the moment of writing this I checked and until May, during the weekends it is fully booked, with the exception of one spot in the morning in April (!!!). The times for English playing are limited to times after 17:00 and weekends, therefore booking well in advanced is at the moment a must.
A must is also playing this room. I think 4 is a good number, in certain places up to 6 still ok, specially if you are not that experienced, but I would advise against playing it with more.
4-10 players / 90 minutes / Spanish only
With Catacumbas we played the last of the (expectedly Top) 4 rooms we had chosen to play in Barcelona. After the other 3 games, expectations were of course high. The escape room presents itself, as a cinema (you can check the website), and that is also the impression you get when arriving, including popcorn, because as the girl working there said, what are the movies without popcorn. Already at that point, you quickly realize, that there is a lot of thought in the concept and you prepare yourself for something good coming your way.
And let’s be honest, good is an understatement. It was great. I will not say much about the beginning, because it is something you have to experience yourselves, but it is a very original one. The ambiance is also top, really top, and the puzzles are really nice, they make you work, and the minimum number of players (4) is completely justified. Same remark as in Alien, maybe a couple more ok, but not more. We played with the same couple from Alien, and succeeded also in this room to escape.
There were a couple of minor technical glitches, that they elegantly solved, but other than that it was a great experience with a great finale, which in my opinion had a little detail that rounds up a well-thought, well-done escape room, that deserves its spot among the very best.
At the moment it is apparently only in Spanish, they mentioned to me, they had some international bookings, I am not sure if they intend to adapt it to be fully playable in English, but I really hope they do. To play any of the ones mentioned above that are already in English makes already a visit to Barcelona worthwhile, and I really hope the other top rooms catch up with that.
- Training Room
2-6 players / 90 minutes / Spanish only (maybe English in the future according to the website)
Miguel, a youngster player, who has a group (Los Atascaos Escapistas), was looking for some people to play this room, and we decided to join him in this quest. While, this is clearly not a Top Room, I have to say that, as already stated before it is nice, when the gamemaster is not just an employee reciting the rules, but is integrated in the game and accompanying story.
The room was challenging for us three and we managed to escape at the very end. I do not want to enter into details, in order not to spoil anything. There was at least a very nice element, related to the story. The puzzles were solid, and included a variety of them, from more classic to more technological ones, a lot of collaborative tasks, which I like a lot. There were a few minor weak points here and there, either in terms of puzzles or design, and also given the nature of the room the ambiance is not as elaborate as in other rooms, but in all in all a real solid room.
I have to say, that for the experience you get, the game master and the fact that you have 90 minutes, it is a really nice escape room. I cannot compare it to the many there are in Barcelona, so it is difficult to say if this room is an average or an above average room compared to the other rooms there, but it is an enjoyable room.
Doppler Room Escape
- Vientos de Pólvora
2-16 players / 70 minutes / Spanish only
Again in this case someone (Eva) was looking for other people to play this room, which we did straight after Catacumbas. The gamemaster was nice, but did not act any role, so the reception was rather classic. The room is rather a classical room, I would say with less tech elements than Training Room for instance, but maybe with a more elaborate ambiance matching the theme.
Depending on the number of players and experience they offer a normal and an expert version (what we played) and they adapt the number of puzzles and game dynamics depending on the number of players.
We struggled with the initial puzzle, sometimes less people is better, but then the core of the room was rather nonlinear and being 6 was quite ok, although again towards the end it is a little bit much. I think 4 experienced players would tackle this room without any problem.
Again, I cannot compare to the average room in Barcelona, but it is definitely a fun room.
Rooms played: Alicia en el país de las maravillas
Other rooms (not played): Epidemia Z, Academia de magia, they have also rooms for kids and VR
- Alicia en el país de las maravillas
4-10 players / 60 min / Spanish and English
This room was not in the list, and probably it would not have been a room I would select, given the large amount of great and very good games in this region, but I got it as a Christmas present to play in family (large group of first timers and small kids). It was a new experience to play like this for me.
I would not recommend to a group of enthusiasts looking for a game, given that there are probably 100 rooms, which are better, and therefore more value for your money BUT if you are looking for a room suitable for a visit with the family, this might be a very good option.
Many of the rooms in and around Barcelona are either scary, or have scary or military topics, or for some reason or another are not suitable for kids. In this venue they provide a nice experience and is therefore ideal for family or enthusiasts with kids. All the first timers enjoyed the experience a lot, so if I have to sum it up, it is a good room, not top, not addressed at the regular players, but really good to get into the Escape rooms or to play with kids.
Also the fact that the games are available in English distinguishes the room from others of the region, which do not have but a Spanish version.
MADRID (02.01-05.01 2019)
Rooms played: Un caso perdido, Ratas de biblioteca
- Un caso perdido
2-6 players / 60 minutes / Spanish only
This room was one of the three chosen for Madrid, and I am really glad I played it. Also, here the game starts the moment you knock at a mysterious door, or even before, with the whole story related to the reason to be there in the first place.
The whole venue is already part of the ambiance, not a commercial reception, but right into the immersion from the start. Not only due to the decoration, but also and fundamentally due to the game master.
The rooms are nicely done, with challenging and interesting puzzles, but the thing that makes these rooms really special is the game master, who plays a fundamental role in the whole story and gameplay. The rooms of this venue bring theatrical elements into the game to a level I have never encountered before, to the point that your actions and interactions change the course of the game.
Unluckily, we failed at the very last puzzle, but even that, leads to a great ending. Due to the theatrical elements, it is only playable in Spanish, I think it is difficult to achieve the same without a fluent command of a second language. It would be nice though, as it is a great game. If you manage to play with a Spanish speaking person, the room is doable, but you will miss out a lot ☹.
- Ratas de biblioteca
2-6 players, 60 minutes / Spanish only
Ratas de biblioteca is the newest room from this venue, and for me it is as good as its predecessor. I do not know why the ranking in escaperadar are lower for this room. I really do not feel it is justified. I believe it is as good as the other one, and all my comments made above apply equally to this room. Cool storyline with interesting twists. In this case, we managed to succeed with one second on the clock!!!
For both rooms the venue recommends 3-5 players, I think 3-4 is a good number for experienced players.
Room played: Operación Steampunk
Other rooms: Misterio flamenco
- Operación Steampunk
2-5 players / 60 minutes / Spanish, English and French
We had not so many days in Madrid, so we thought of only playing the three rooms, we had selected, but due to an unexpected change of plans, I decided to look for some players to play spontaneously an escape room. Destiny answered in the form of Aitor, the owner of La Mina (yes, the room mentioned above) that joined us in playing this room
Due to a series of events, we had a lot of fun after the game, when also the owner “Lola” arrived. Probably one of the most fun “after game” situation I experienced. Anecdote aside, while this room is not a Top room, it has been mentioned by several enthusiasts as a very good room and I can understand why.
The ambiance is nicely done, the puzzles are fun and logical, and theme related. There is a nice flow and a nice hint system, which makes the whole experience quite fun. An “in-character” game master rounds up a really nice experience.
For experienced players 2 or 3 is a good number, due to the difficulty, structure and size of the room. I would not recommend playing with more.
Cubick Room Escape Madrid
- La entrevista
2-7 players / 80 minutes / Spanish only at the moment, website mentions English is planned to be incorporated
With La entrevista a similar comment applies to that Abduction 3, the less you know the better. The translated description according to the website is the following:
"A reputable company has the need to cover certain empty positions. It requires a high qualification and desire to work hard to get juicy rewards. Cubick Room Escape has put at its disposal its rooms for the main test of the selection process. If you want to be part of the process, you must present yourself at our facilities at the agreed time. Your personal and professional data is not necessary, since we already have them. Do not think about coming alone, you will need helpmates more than ever ..."
La entrevista was the last of our planned rooms and, yes, it was great. Great atmosphere and puzzles, but the most important component is the game dynamics. Sorry, I cannot say more, but you should try it if an English version becomes available. This game can also be played in Mataró, which is very close to Barcelona.
Barcelona and Madrid have great quality rooms. In particular Barcelona (the province) nucleates more than 400 games in a reduced geographical location, with top quality (at European level) rooms. The only limitations in said choice are either due to language barriers or people that do not enjoy jump scares or scary rooms in general. Most of this quality games get you in the game from the very beginning or introduce you into the game in a way that achieves a great immersion. I hope to see more of that happening in the Netherlands. The downside of this, is that not always a bathroom is immediately available at the start of the game. So, just to be sure, go before. ;-) The price is slightly lower than in the Netherlands, in some cases much lower, as most of the rooms have 2 players price, compared to several top rooms in the Netherlands that offer only an hourly rate. Moreover, several experiences are longer than 60 minutes, so more value for your money.
The scene is very active and social, I have the impression than considerably more than in the Netherlands. I got to play with a lot of different people, including owners and bloggers and there are several WhatsApp and Facebook groups, which are useful to find players. People are more open to play with other people. Even people that play in fixed groups and have their own opinion blogs are open to build teams with people from other groups or strangers, like us. Maybe also something to learn from there.
Many cities are regularly mentioned by travelers like Budapest and Prague, I have not been there, but based on the reviews I have read I believe that Barcelona should be mentioned much more as an escape destination. If this has not been the case due to language barriers, there seems to be a positive development, and at least some of the top games can already be played in English. If you have questions, feel free to contact me.
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