August 25, 2017

Exit: The Game - The Secret Lab

Rob Stegmann brought two escape-room-in-a-box games for us to try out at RPP. We teamed up with Haym Hirsh and Neil Hutchison to give it a shot!

In case you're not familiar with the genre: escape room games were originally short video games where you clicked around, found objects, and solved puzzles to exit a room. In 2007, a Japanese publishing company named Scrap created the first live version of this, called Real Escape Game. Essentially, it is the same idea as the video game, but you're physically locked in a room with friends. I think around 3 years ago folks started producing escape rooms in a box, that try to capture the same feeling in a board game you can play at home.

Exit: The Game - The Secret Lab is mostly card-driven, with few physical components. It does come with a small 6-page booklet, and a code wheel for checking your answers. The answer-checking system worked quite well, it is very similar to Think Fun's Escape the Room series with an extra step. They made excellent use of fairly limited components, in particular packing a lot into the booklet.

I thought the puzzles were fairly good, with a moderate level of difficulty. We had a team of fairly proficient puzzlers, and we didn't need any hints and it took us a few seconds over an hour to complete. Rather than just saying "you lose" after an hour, you get a score based on your time and the number of hints you used, which I thought was nice.

One big negative of this one is that it does require that you write on and alter some components. You could mostly get around this if you had a photocopier or tracing paper handy, but that would be somewhat annoying. At this price point (currently $25 on Amazon), I wish it were re-settable so I could loan it to friends. At $15 I probably wouldn't care as much. The other negative is that there aren't really any neat physical components that you sometimes see in other games in this genre.

Overall, I would say this is pretty solid and worth playing, but I'd start with Escape the Room: Stargazer's Manor instead.

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