Hatch Escapes – Lab Rat [Review]

Human race.

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: August 25, 2018

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $40 per ticket

Ticketing: Private

REA Reaction

Lab Rat created a world for us to explore. They built a fiction, presented a complete story with a beginning, middle and end, and thrust us into it with scaled-up set design and fully justified gameplay.

Hatch Escapes produced an intense, joyous, and funny escape room that managed to be outlandish and grounded at the same time. It was quite a feat.

While we didn’t love the middle of the game as much as the opening and closing, this was the kind of game that shifted how we think about escape room storytelling.

Lab Rat is a must-play. It’s worth traveling far to test your human intelligence in this lab.

In-game: A sign that reads, "Keeps test humans alive. For a while."

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Fun scenario
  • Scaled set design
  • A sense of exploration
  • Interesting puzzles

Story

In Lab Rat, we were the “lab humans” in a facility where giant rats tested human intelligence, or lack thereof. If we could complete the a series of tests and puzzles, the presiding rat scientist would be able to write his dissertation. If we couldn’t prove our intelligence and deliver him a passing grade, we’d end up in the chipper.

In-game: a massive hamster water dispenser, lit purple.

Setting

We were locked in a cage for lab humans with food, water, and our exercise wheel. Outside the cage we had access to a maze, created by the rats out of cardboard boxes and the like. The scale of the set punctuated our role reversal into the test subjects. We were tiny; cereal boxes, pencils, and toys were huge.

In-game: a food bowl with letters and symbols printed on it in a large cage. Beside it is a gigantic box of "Fruity Kibble."

Gameplay

Hatch Escapes’ Lab Rat was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, puzzling, making connections, and communicating.

In-game: a large hamster wheel in a cage.

Analysis

+ Hatch Escapes built a phenomenal set for Lab Rat. The scale brought the escape room scenario to life. The maze made the set feel expansive and delivered a sense of exploration. The representations of the supposed construction materials were funny and supported the backstory. From the initial moments of Lab Rat the set upped our energy level.

+ Hatch Escapes provided backstory through entertaining video cutscenes. Since our time paused during these interludes, we could enjoy the videos without feeling a competing urge to solve the puzzles in those moments. Hatch Escapes incorporated video into the set with a thoughtful layout so that it never felt out of place.

+ We enjoyed one puzzle sequence that wasn’t as it had originally appeared and jabbed at human intelligence. It was amusing.

In-game: A box cover for "Grand Theft Otter"

+ Hatch Escapes used light, sound, and motion to bring the team together for a triggered event. This wasn’t even a puzzle, but it was a moment of joy, wonder, and anticipation that everyone enjoyed together.

– At one point, Lab Rat transitioned to a segment that didn’t live up to the rest of the experience. The gamespace felt a little out of place. The clue structure felt choppy; we could sense ghost puzzles haunting the space. While we appreciated the contrast between this space and the rest of the experience, we left unsure how to connect this segment to the larger whole.

+/- Lab Rat included a humorous late-game segment in an entirely unexpected gamespace, providing an unorthodox and surprisingly entertaining challenge. The gamespace operated a seamless transition to stage this segment. As players, however, we approached this unusual gameplay cautiously and could have benefited from more in-game cluing to get us rolling. Finicky tech also contributed to our hangups moving through this sequence.

+ Hatch Escapes incorporated a concept we’ve been waiting to see for… I don’t even know how long. It worked beautifully in the lab human scenario.

– One pivotal prop felt underused. It had intrigued us from the initial moments of the escape room, but when it came full circle in the culminating sequence, it didn’t deliver on the intrigue. It was one of the weaker puzzles in the Lab Rat in a moment that begged for something stronger.

+ Hatch Escapes presented Lab Rat as a theater piece. From the cutscene videos to the final credits, it was delivered as a narrative-driven, interactive piece of art. Authorship and credit is so often missing from escape rooms. We appreciated this delivery of escape room through the lens of another storytelling medium.

+ Hatch Escapes did a great job with story structure. Our tale had a beginning, middle, and end, complete with character development. Few have pulled this off and Hatch Escapes did it with style.

Tips for Visiting

  • There is street parking.
  • At least one person needs to be comfortable climbing a ladder.

Book your hour with Hatch Escapes’ Lab Rat, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Hatch Escapes comped our tickets for this game.

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