Published on September 27th, 2017 | by Dean Love0
Locked In Edinburgh – The Secret Lab
Technology in escape rooms is an odd thing. Ultra high-tech rooms, ones that look like a spaceship or something out of a science fiction film, are notoriously expensive to build, at least with a level of resiliency you need to deal with some of the more “heavy handed” escape room teams. Hence technology and “lab” style rooms often elect to go back in time a few decades, where the props are cheaper and easier to modify and manipulate. Often they’re even more delicate, of course, but ways can be found around this. And so it is with The Secret Lab: you’re re-entering a lab that was sealed off in the 70s, and trying to recreate a vaccine in order to save the world.
It’s an impressive looking room that channels that high-tech-for-the-70s look really well. It’s a large space, but you’ll soon realise that much of it is sealed off. Unlike other games where future areas are hidden away behind secret doors, everything in this room is visible from the start. It’s just that many parts of the lab are sealed off by huge metal gates. This serves two helpful purposes: firstly, you can see what’s in those areas. So as you find things around the room, and attempt to figure out what goes with what, you have near to complete information. If you find a bunch of triangular rods, and can see a machine with triangular holes, you know that you’ll probably need them for that later. You won’t spend five minutes trying to see if you can build a rudimentary fishing rod out of them. Not that this is often an issue if you pay attention in the briefing: you’re given a very helpful hint that, most of the time, you find things near the area they need to be used in. It’s a subtle point, but especially useful if you’re an experienced team that naturally tend to gather clues together in one place. The second purpose of the sealed off areas is that you can easily track your progress through the game. Each area has a big red light above it that turns green once it’s open. A quick upwards glance therefore gives you a nice estimate on progress.
It’s also worth noting that while the lab is large and potentially overwhelming, some of your team may well find themselves starting behind some of the closed gates, with an entirely different task. To give you an idea of the scale of the game, there were four of us and two were trapped away at the start. It took them almost ten minutes to get free, at which point the other two of us were still doing our preliminary search of the lab, and hadn’t solved a thing.
Which I guess brings me to the next point: it’s a tough game. We were playing with four, which is the minimum, but it can take up to ten. It’s one of very few games that I feel might actually have enough content to keep ten people busy. We spent most of the game split into pairs (although switched up partners a fair bit because we’re just that damn kinky) but even doing that, it often felt like we were working on just two of the three things we had to do. Another pair could easily have picked up different tasks, and those individual tasks are complex enough that having groups of three rather than two wouldn’t be a problem.
The puzzles utilise the lab equipment extensively, and there are some really cool interactions here. It’s hard to talk about them without spoiling anything, but it involves using some bulky 70s/80s tech in some fun ways. Clues are sent to you via an automated type-writer, which is both neat and creepy. They were provided at sensible intervals and nudged us in the right direction when needed, without ever having to spell out any answers. Like Locked In Edinburgh’s other games, the puzzles tend towards the cerebral end of things, although there’s a good teamwork/dexterity puzzle near the end that you’ll be collecting parts for throughout the game.
There’s a definite finale to this game, and it works wonderfully. It requires you to pool knowledge from throughout the game, and in our case that meant that not only was everybody involved, but there were also moments of “where did you find that out?” “oh it was in the <SPOILER>” “wait, there was a <SPOILER>, how did I miss that?!”. In a game that essentially forces you to split up in order to cover enough ground to get out, it’s good to have an ending that brings everyone together.
Overall this is a terrific game, and for those who enjoy the more cerebral elements of escape rooms, it’ll easily be one of your favourites. Highly recommended.
Result – we escaped in 54 minutes
Date played: 16 August 2017
Team: Dean, Kat, Cameron, Paul
Summary: A terrific game that should be near the top of your to-do list if you're a fan of challenging cerebral puzzles or 70s technology.