Outside the room
The third company that I’d selected for the weekend was Exit Madrid. Same reasons as before – good reviews on TripAdvisor (in fact, I think they were top) with experienced players rating them highly. Not too far from the centre, and as luck would have it, perfectly placed on the way to the airport, which I’d be heading to straight after the second game. Exactly what I was looking for. As a bonus they were happy to take a €12 deposit and get you to pay the balance when you arrived, which meant I didn’t have to sort out the exact numbers in advance.
First impressions were good – easy to find and we were immediately welcomed by one of the staff, who got us seated and showed us the lockers (plenty big enough for the usual rucksacks, but they were happy to leave larger items of luggage in the manager’s office). I liked the layout of the place – a central corridor with the rooms off to the sides, and little corners here and there filled with groups of five stools round a table. Perfect to separate out the groups and allow you to hear the briefing.
We’d booked back-to-back rooms in Exit Madrid, and first up was one they’d advertised as on the easier end of their scale, “The Laboratory”.
You’re a group of students of Professor Calm, an eccentric Chemistry professor. You’re at the end of his course, and tomorrow you sit one of his notoriously difficult exams. You know that your only chance of success is to find the exam paper today, so you waited till he headed off campus and broken into his office…
In an unusual twist for escape rooms, you’ve got 66 minutes at Exit Madrid. 10% better value?
Inside the room
Immediately on entering the room, you’re shown a short video to give you a little more backstory (although really not much), and then the timer begins. That done, we each headed off and started searching the rooms for clues. There were plenty of things for the four of us to investigate, but while they might yield some form of clue, they didn’t get us past anything substantial.
Little by little (and with the odd unrequested, but welcome, hint from the host) we started making progress. One aspect that I particularly enjoyed was building up pieces of puzzles where it wasn’t obvious how we were going to use them until well after you’d started seeing they would be important. There’s something satisfying when you predict it correctly, but even when you don’t, it forces you to discuss with your team mates which generally makes the experience more enjoyable.
A couple of the puzzles were really fun and quite different from others I’d seen. One was beautifully camouflaged in the room. I’d searched the area of the puzzle from right next to it, and totally failed to spot it, but when I gazed from the other side of the room, I realised something wasn’t quite right, and quickly came up with a hypothesis. There was a certain amount of “are we really meant to do this” about the puzzle, and I held my breath as we solved it, but we took it slowly, with the host hopefully watching on from the camera (and not complaining!) and we were soon rewarded with the next clue.
I really liked the “exit” puzzle, which we spotted early on and I suggested was likely to have one of two solutions. There’s something nice about a puzzle that you get to see and logically solve well before you get the clues to enable that. I guess it’s about avoiding frustration – giving the players the puzzle early on gives them plenty of time to think over what they might need to do. The other cool puzzle was a little bit unfortunate, because it was designed to give you a certain clue to help with another puzzle. Unfortunately, we’d managed to derive that clue without help, so the cool puzzle became unnecessary. Having said that, it was a great variant on a puzzle I’ve seen before, so I didn’t mind too much.
There were a couple of red herrings in the room, which I think is probably the right level – they were only mildly distracting, and certainly didn’t waste us any time. Like one of the other rooms we did over the weekend in Madrid, there was a puzzle that made use of colour, but the colours were very distinct, so unless you suffer from monochromatic vision, I don’t think you’d find it an issue.
In the whole of this room, I found only a couple of negatives. Firstly, there was a lack of “Wow” puzzles. I think every room needs something which you desperately want to tell your friends about. That might be a particularly fiendish puzzle, complex mechanic or something about the theme. The Laboratory, while a good room, had no single aspect that made it stand out.
The second negative isn’t really a negative for me at all – it’s more of a comment. This had the hardest maths of any room I’ve done. Nothing very difficulty, but generally escape rooms don’t require you to do anything other than simple mental arithmetic, and I’m not convinced your average team would have been able to manage it, but there’s a whiteboard, so if mental arithmetic isn’t your thing that’s not a problem.
We got out of this room in just under 50 minutes (so those extra 6 minutes turned out to be irrelevant!), the first team to do so. Setting a second record time of the weekend was great fun. A nice touch was that when congratulating us, they commented on how well we’d communicated in the room.
The Laboratory is a very good escape room, with enjoyable puzzles. It lacks the wow factor or strong theming that would drag it into five star territory, but this is a very enjoyable room that should provide even good escapers with a decent challenge. It’s family friendly too – I could well imagine children getting involved, being helpful and, most importantly, enjoying it.
Detailed Room Ratings