Published on July 15th, 2016 | by Dean Love0
Escape Game Brighton, Brighton – Laboratory of a Madman
“The first two puzzles are the ones people generally have to ask for clues on” the host told us on the way out. Which perhaps suggests to me those puzzles are in the wrong place.
This was a first for me – Brighton is, frankly, miles away and wouldn’t normally be on our radar, but one of our team was researching there for a week and I was working in London on one of those days, so we met up, had some fish and chips and decided to take on Escape Game Brighton as a pair. We’d not done a game with just two before, so it was bound to be a different experience.
The site has two rooms, and we were queued outside with a team waiting to do the other room. They asked if we’d ever done anything like this before, and suddenly we felt like those annoying ‘experts’ that go around the country entering pub quizzes and ruin it for everyone else. “Any advice for us?” “Have fun, don’t panic!”
The room itself was small but had a lot of stuff in it, including one corner full of stuff which were told was just for decoration and wouldn’t be needed. And so we set of searching and finding all sorts of things but not being able to combine any of them into anything resembling a code. It went on like this for fifteen minutes. We started second guessing ourselves: it must be something obvious, the first puzzle can’t be this hard, we have to be missing something silly. We eventually give in and ask (via walkie-talkie) for a clue, and are able to solve the first puzzle which required a tricky bit of observation. At this point we’re ready to seriously get going but… that first solve gave us half of what we needed to open something else. Another five minutes and we ask for another clue, and it’s another puzzle that required some clever observation that maybe would have been doable if that’s all we were focused on. But at this point we’ve also got plenty of bits of puzzles for stuff further down the line to consider.
Once those first two puzzles are down we fly through the rest of the room, it being significantly easier that what we’d seen up to there, and only stumble for a bit because we didn’t fully investigate the “out-of-bounds” corner, as it turned out it was just the display case, and not the stuff next to it, that wasn’t relevant.
One of the nice things about the room was that there were two victory conditions: first you needed to find the antidote to the poison you’d been inflicted with. Then if you had spare time, you could also try and track down where the mad scientist had fled to. It’s a great idea in theory, though in practice we knew we wanted to see the entire game, so with 15 minutes to go we asked for a clue because we were still on the first part, only to then solve the first part, and find the second part was just a single puzzle which we solved in five minutes. So it didn’t actually help with pacing ourselves – it’s a nice idea but you need to have some clue how long the extra bit is.
The ending was also a bit of a damp squib. We got a note congratulating us on find the mad scientist. And then… err… can we leave now then? It seemed like there was one operator running both rooms, and with us clearly the experienced players, I can imagine more attention was on the other group (which also perhaps explained why no clues were never volunteered when we spent the first fifteen minutes stumped and why explaining where we were to be able to get useful clues was so tricky, despite cameras in the room). Eventually we got a message over the walkie-talkie. “Yeah, just stay in the room, I’ll be with you in a minute” – not exactly a celebratory ending!
The thing is, the puzzles weren’t bad, indeed one of those first two problematic puzzles was actually really clever. It’s just the pacing of the room was so strange, and essentially having the two hardest puzzles in the room needing to be solved before you could do any further ones was just crazy. Maybe “Laboratory of a Madman” refers to the designer in this case…
Result – “escaped” with about eight minutes to spare.
Date played: 11 February 2016
Team: Dean, Katherine
Summary: Weird pacing destroys an otherwise decent room