Edinburgh, Apr 2017
Secret Lab came with quite a reputation to live up to, having been described as the best game in the UK by probably the three most experienced escapers in the country, including a certain well-known reviewer. Did it live up to the hype? In a word, yes.
The decor is more high-tech and ambitious than the other games at this venue. If that makes it not quite as authentic-looking as those, it makes up for that in visual impact and ‘wow’ factor; and it is in any case packed with fantastic, convincing, confusing and intriguing pieces of equipment of all sorts. There are half a dozen things, all used as part of the game not just as decorations, any of which would be a memorable highlight of most games.
There is a great deal to do, and even experienced teams will find it a challenge to finish within the time limit. Divide and conquer is the only sensible approach. On the other hand, several tasks require communication and cooperation between two or more players, and the many intertwined strands of the game structure keep players from breaking into separate groups for long. Good coordination is essential.
Plenty of games have players in a laboratory attempting to find a vaccine for a deadly virus. This one puts a light tongue-in-cheek spin on the familiar plot which later resurfaced unexpectedly. The subtle humour shows through elsewhere too in small touches (search thoroughly!).
I guess I could find things to nit-pick about Secret Lab: for instance, one of the codes is discovered in a very naturalistic way, but the rest exist with no explanation, simply as puzzles for the players to solve. But that comes across not so much as a weakness as a stylistic choice; and in any case that’s a bar that almost no escape games manage to meet. I guess if you hate padlocks and keypads then that might put you off… but it shouldn’t, because there’s so much here that’s so good, and it would be a terrible shame to miss it for any reason.
This is a fantastic game that is memorable and original right from the outset, and maintains its quality through to a finish that manages to be simultaneously frantic, tense and amusing.
Secret Lab combines a wide range of puzzles and puzzle types. It feels fun and the puzzles are each themed to match the lab. There’s plenty for a team of 4-6 to do and the game has a few surprises at the beginning and end. There are very few bottlenecks so this game works with a slightly larger team than usual. Excellent fun.