Wigan, Jun 2019
Recently opened in Wigan, Adrenaline Escape had been operating six weeks when I visited and was still so new that there was a distinct smell of fresh paint in the briefing areas. Located in the Marketgate shopping centre, they had two games with at least one more in the works. The first of those is Lab 3436, which is a time travel story: the scientist in charge of inventing time travel has vanished, and you need to investigate his lab to find his secrets and work out whether he’s in trouble or has gone rogue.
This game’s setting is part office, part laboratory, both themes that often translate to rather simple decor; and Lab 3436 presents a quite stripped down environment – think shelves and desks, but also some interesting old-style electronics cabinets. While not the most exciting room to look at, the plain exterior hides some very cool moments – one in particular was a remarkably clever and original effect that brought the theme to life better than elaborate decorations could have.
Our gamemaster highlighted in the briefing that it was a non-linear game, and it’s a good one for divide-and-conquer tactics. The majority of puzzles resolve to codes for padlocks, and despite the plentiful locks it’s usually clear which one a code goes with because of the variety of lock type used. I admired the efficiency of design, where sooner or later almost every element in the room tied into a puzzle in some way.
A couple of times Lab 3436 gave us something that looked like it could be used immediately but was actually for much later in the game. I’m not keen on that since diligent players then have to spend time fruitlessly using the code/tool/whatever everywhere it might apply. There’s an argument that that makes it all the more satisfying when the players finally reach the right place to use it, but for me at least it seems to add a small but unwanted element of frustration.
I also found the story a little confusing near the end; it felt like the game railroaded a particular path where it could have given players a genuine dilemma. Even so, the way Lab 3436 unrolls its story is one of the game’s strengths – the other being some unusual tech used very well. For immediate visual glitz you’d want to pick Adrenaline’s Labyrinth game over this one, but if you’re less fussed about a room’s appearance and more keen for unusual or distinctive ideas, then Lab 3436 would be a good one to try.