Need… more…. torches!
You are required by law to attend the mobile testing facilities for exposure to the zombie virus. With those who fail the test kept on site these mobile labs teeter on the edge of a Containment breach … What would you do if the Containment failed whilst you were being tested? Let’s find out!
I do love a good zombie film, and therefore, a zombie themed room; I like to know if I’m clever enough to make it through the apocalypse, what can I say? So after a quick break for some water to rehydrate after successfully defusing The Bomb, we were locked into The Lab. Once again, after a short room specific briefing, we were left to escape from the horrors within.
Game play unfolded in a very linear fashion and the puzzles throughout the room, in general, made sense in the context and were logical. When we play horror-themed rooms, I’ve come to expect that rather than making particularly clever puzzles, designers instead rely on what we like to call “difficulty by darkness,” and The Lab was no exception to this. The majority of the game was played in low to no light, and with very few torches between our team of five, certain aspects of puzzles became more difficult than they otherwise might have been, and often saw some of the team with nothing to do but stand in the dark. (In fairness, the company’s website does warn players about the lighting situation.) That being said, with the low light, there were puzzles that relied on more than just your sight, and although there were no real “wow” or “ah-ha!” moments for us, the puzzles were well thought out, and not terribly frustrating.
However, in addition to the darkness, the game felt as though it had a number of red-herrings, with several things in the room that we never did find combinations or keys for. As an experienced team, we’ve become adept enough at taking in our surroundings, but not focusing too much on the various locking mechanisms until we have a combination, however, I can see less experienced teams focusing on these things, and being distracted from the real goals, as even we had moments where we thought, “But we still haven’t found a combination for that thing – are we really finished?” even as we were in the process of making our escape.
Containment have gone for a more immersive feel in this room. The design in general is quite simple: stark white walls and metal tables give the space a clinical feeling, making it easy to believe you are in a lab, and as it’s a mobile testing facility the shipping container that houses the game is the perfect setting. With screens showing CCTV images of the infected that may breach containment at any time, and blood and gore on the walls, plus a few jump scares, The Lab has a definite creep-factor. I could see this game incorporating a live actor at some point for extra scares around Halloween (or just for fun) but at present, the venue hasn’t introduced this element to the game.
The game design incorporated the use of digital keypads to bar several doors, and this was perhaps one of the most frustrating elements of the game. The idea is sound, and the mechanisms worked well in the context. This particular version of keypad, however, would lock the user out for several minutes after 15 failed attempts; again, this shouldn’t be an issue, and 15 attempts is really quite generous. However, what we weren’t aware of was the fact that this model counted simply being activated as a failed attempt, even if no code was entered, and sometimes simply getting too close to the keypad was enough to activate it. We managed to time out both locks, losing at least ten minutes. Once this was due to our own stupidity and a team member guessing at combinations, thinking he had several more guesses before being timed out, and the second happened when we couldn’t work out the final digit for the escape combination; assuming we had 15 attempts, Gord decided to systematically work through the only ten possible combinations only to discover that we had unknowingly activated the lock throughout the course of play about ten times. The moral of the story: Stay well away from the locks until you’re at least reasonably sure you have the right combination, or you may find yourself twiddling your thumbs for five minutes or more.
Like in the other games at this venue, the clue system is integrated into the story, making for a more immersive experience. In this case, they are delivered over the tannoy in the guise of Zara, the Lab’s AI system (think the Red Queen from Resident Evil). As with The Bomb and The Sub, clues were limited to five, but when they were required were helpful and enough to get the team back on track.
Due to the set design, there were points when the space felt a bit cramped (i.e. hallways). Containment recommend a maximum of five players for this game, but I would go so far as to say that five felt like too many, and would recommend a smaller team size of three to four. You’ll have to fight less over the torches that way too.
Team: 5 players (escaped in 50:28)
Address: Merrist Wood College, Holly Lane, Worplesdon, Guildford GU3 3PE