REVO Escape – The Lab: Lockdown [Review]

Prison Simulator

Location:  Scarborough, Ontario, Canada

Date Played: May 2, 2022

Team Size: 4-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 75 minutes

Price: It’s Complicated

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: Players need physical dexterity and strength to fully participate in this experience. At minimum, 2 players need to be fully physically capable.

Emergency Exit Rating: [B] Emergency Key

Physical Restraints: [B] Mechanical Release

REA Reaction

The Lab: Lockdown took two of our least favorite escape room settings – prison and lab – and smashed them together. In some ways playing this game felt like an absolute disaster, while in many others it was a triumph. It was a weird game, from a strange company, so buckle up, because we’re going on a journey.

As far as labs and prisons go, REVO Escape made both sides of this experience unique and compelling. Setting us in a dystopian sci-fi narrative where we were prisoners being experimented on allowed them to create a sense of purpose for both the prison and the lab. Neither felt generic (which is part of why these settings usually disappoint). The story was legitimately interesting… I bought it.

A lab for human study, there is an assortment of equipment, but it looks in disarray, there is blood spatter on the fllor.

Where things got really unusual in The Lab: Lockdown was the punishing physicality of the entire experience. REVO strives for mimetic design, which means that they want you treating everything like it’s an actual scenario, and The Lab: Lockdown had a MacGyver theme to essentially all of its challenges.

To that end, the bonkers solution to the first challenge seemed unreasonable… and it truly was unreasonable. Doable? Yeah… but it mostly involved 2 teammates; no one else could help them in a meaningful way. In our case, David sat in his prison cell with essentially nothing to do for 40 minutes. Yes, it took us 40 minutes to complete the first challenge.

Beyond that, there was an obstacle course that included scaling an 8-foot wall with very little headroom at its peak.

There was also a challenge in this game that David and I completed together. We have never felt more accomplished in an escape room than we did after defeating this monster.

Throughout it all, we picked up many bruises, cuts, and scrapes. I’d guess that the REVO Escape staff are more familiar with their first aid kit than any other escape room company we’ve visited.

Lisa's elbow with a big bruise on it.
One of many.

The Lab: Lockdown was a weird beast. Switching almost at random from boring to exciting to curious to punishing, the entire experience felt chaotic, unapologetic, and unforgiving. It was as easy to love this game as it was to hate it, and frequently both all at the same time.

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Studio Stamp – On Circus Grounds [Review]

Toxic Coworkers

Location: at home

Date Played: September 2, 2022

Team size: up to 5; we recommend 2-5

Duration: 2-5 hours

Price: back on Kickstarter at €41

REA Reaction

On Circus Grounds provided us with a wonderful evening of tabletop sleuthing with friends.

I’m a social puzzler, and what I liked most about On Circus Grounds was how many interesting threads it offered. The characters had relationships and motives. I loved when someone brought up some new information… and across the table something clicked into place for someone else.

While On Circus Grounds was ultimately a deduction game – we were investigating a murder, after all – the puzzles were varied and satisfying. Most impressively, the puzzles made sense within the context of the plot and characters.

One major story/ gameplay thread fell flat for us, which was disappointing, but it had potential to be the most impressive part of the experience. We hope Studio Stamp can tweak this so that it lands consistently.

An assortment of mostly paper evidence, each on different stock and with beautiful designs. There is a gold locket and chain as well.

There are a lot of tabletop deduction puzzle games on the market, and the creators at Studio Stamp have clearly played many. On Circus Grounds is a narrative puzzle game that does both narrative and puzzle well… plus the materials are great to handle.

The kickstarter is already 400% funded, and there are only 5 days to go. If you enjoy collaborative tabletop solving, back this one before it’s too late.

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Crypto Escape Rooms – The Extraction [Review]

Corporate Invasion

Location: Newmarket, Ontario, Canada

Date Played: May 2, 2022

Team Size: 4-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30.98 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: If you’re worried about set movement, speak to your gamemaster beforehand.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The beauty of The Extraction was in Crypto Escape Rooms’ restraint.

They created a beautiful and robust world with incredible interactions. They could have allowed us to linger on the details of their world, but instead they showed us glimpses that left us wanting more. Where many creators would have overdone a single idea, they resisted this temptation. The result: even more special and memorable moments.

Whereas in Golden Lock Award-winning Below Zero, a character led us through our adventure, in The Extraction, the characters and narrative were more subtle. We went on a winding journey complete with puzzles that tied the beautiful world to the story.

A long corridor that looks like a cross between a sewer and a machine with various wheels and switches.

While the set and story took unexpected twists and turns, the puzzles leaned heavily on a single style. Although we appreciated the different iterations on a theme, if this is not your type of puzzle, this gameplay could easily feel repetitive and frustrating.

Few companies rival Crypto’s ability to blend narrative, gameplay, and set into a cohesive experience. Crypto Escape Rooms is located outside of Toronto in Newmarket. I guarantee it’s worth going out of your way to visit them.

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