Maidstone, Mar 2019
Due to time constraints we could only play two of the three games available at Escape Hub, so in addition to their most recent one I picked The Laughing Lair, a game which has you imprisoned by a supervillain who goes unnamed but bears more than a passing resemblance to The Joker. The version I played is the game’s second incarnation, following a revamp in 2018 – as far as I can tell, it re-uses some elements from the original version but is substantially new content.
Clown-phobics needn’t fear; this is not a scary room. It uses the split start style of many imprisonment scenarios, though with a design that seemed closer to that of a versus game. And rather than a grim realism, the style is more flashy comic-book, in an energetic carnival of a game that mixes in plenty of physical tasks with a funfair sideshow feel.
Our team of two was perhaps too small for this game – while we weren’t in danger of running out of time, the main part of the game is a good sized space with plenty of non-linear tasks to tackle, and would I think suit a slightly bigger group better.
The early section of the game felt to me noticeably weaker than the rest. While it included a fun physical task, the puzzle structure seemed confused and sometimes arbitrary in a way that left us trying codes on locks more with hope than confidence – although some sensible padlock labelling kept things on track nonetheless. Similar ambiguities appeared here and there throughout the rest of the game, but in the large space and open puzzle structure they were less noticeable.
I have bad associations with escape rooms that use funky coloured lighting – far too often they combine it with puzzles that rely on colour perception, a disastrous combination. Laughing Lair doesn’t make that mistake, and while colours do feature in the main part of the game, it’s not in a way that requires you to actually see what colours objects are, and therefore works perfectly well.
Most memorable for a particular sequence that must make life a non-stop chore for whichever poor employee gets stuck with the reset job, Laughing Lair fizzes with style and creativity. Some weaker puzzles deflated it a little for me – but only a little, leaving plenty to enjoy. I’d expect it to go down well with larger beginner groups, such as stag, hen and corporate teams; but it’s fun for enthusiasts too, as long as no-one on your team has a sensitivity to loud noises.