Eindhoven, Jan 2020
Catch Me If You Can is in fact a sequel to the venue’s original game, which we hadn’t played (and weren’t able to squeeze into our schedule); but all that we really needed to know of the backstory was that there was a bad guy named Jeffrey, and it was our mission to track him down. To get you into the mood, you’re equipped with police jackets plus an interesting piece of equipment for later use.
Your starting point is your quarry’s favourite bar, but this is not the entirety of the game. In fact, it’s not much of an exaggeration to describe Catch Me as two rather different games. Of those, the first half is very good. The second half is truly special, and is the reason why I’d recommend making quite a long detour to Eindhoven if necessary to play this game.
While it boasts plenty of strong puzzles, the puzzles aren’t the main reason to play, and they include a couple of weaker points. One early puzzle seemed to me to have a glaring error, in that we needed to work out the answers from a set of clues, where four answers were already given and we needed to find the other four; but the intended logic didn’t work correctly with the four provided examples, and as a result we spent some time trying to find other ways to solve it. There was also a significant search element involved, as well as another puzzle whose logic I wasn’t entirely convinced by.
None of that mattered. I came out of Catch Me on as big an endorphin high as I’ve had from any escape game anywhere, and that comes down to its remarkable immersion. ‘Immersion’ is a word that gets thrown around with a variety of meanings, but this was a game that took a very familiar situation and recreated it with a detail and realism that I’d never have expected to find in an escape room. After playing many hundred games, it’s pretty rare for anything to really blow me away, but Catch Me managed it.
Although it has a reasonably serious story, I thought there was an admirable sense of fun in the design, from simple touches such as they way they encourage simple dress-up to get you into the story. And ‘story’ is the key element here. While there’s lots to solve, it feels like an action adventure with you at the centre of it, and layers on the suspense to boot – on a trip round the Netherlands playing back-to-back some escape rooms that were as strong as you’ll find anywhere, Catch Me managed to be a stand-out.