Brisbane Escapes: Dr Irov’s Laboratory @ Puzzled Room Escape

After hearing of unethical experiments at Dr Irov’s Laboratory, our crack team of scientists entered to investigate and put an end to it. But little did we know that the experimental subjects had their own agenda that could spell our doom…

General Details

“Dr Irov’s Laboratory” with BATTLE MODE ENGAGED
Puzzled Room Escape, 1177 Logan Rd., Holland Park West
60 minutes
2-6 players allowed
Listed difficulty: 4/5

How We Played

6 November 2016
5 players (competing against a team of 5 in battle mode)
Hints: 1
35 minutes (a new record!)


The Experience

Brisbane Geek Social Club was recently asked to participate in a beta test of what Puzzled Room Escape describes as a new battle mode. This ties together two of their newest rooms, Dr Irov’s Laboratory (which I played) and Monkey Run (the team we played against). The idea behind battle mode is fairly simple – the two rooms function much the same as they would if both teams were playing them individually, except that the team that escapes first wins and ends the game for the other team. There are also a few ways that the two rooms interact that have enjoyable though fairly minor effects. I will identify any elements of the experience that are specific to the battle mode as I discuss them.

Dr Irov’s Laboratory continues Puzzled Room Escape’s excellent track record when it comes to rooms that integrate narrative with the activities you participate in. The story relates an investigation, and each puzzle is associated directly with some element of that investigation, allowing you to gradually figure out the mystery behind Dr Irov’s illegal experiments. Props and decoration are appropriate, with images of the experiments adorning the walls, cabinets containing mysterious substances, and documents to examine.

It is in the additions that the battle mode brings where the experience really shines. Through an observation window, it is possible to see across to a different room, Monkey Run, where the other team (the monkeys that Dr Irov experimented on) are attempting to complete their own tasks. Puzzled Room Escape has done an incredible job tying two rooms together into a single narrative, with each room’s objective designed to work both independently and in battle mode.

When playing battle mode, it is important that both teams are well balanced, since both games end as soon as one team wins. That might seem like a weakness, but there is a clever twist to the way both rooms connect right at the end that makes even losing a blast (at least I assume it does – I was on the winning team!) I should mention that there are elements to this ending that could be clearer to ensure teams understand what happened when the end comes, but I know the Puzzled Room Escape owners are considering our feedback in that regard and have a few ideas about how to do that.

There are a few other fun points of interaction between the two rooms, but for the most part they are self-contained, which means battle mode is not a significantly different experience from normal mode. If you can get the teams together and they are reasonably balanced, I recommend battle mode as the superior experience based on our test.

Puzzle Design

The puzzles in Dr Irov’s Laboratory are a masterclass in integrating narrative and puzzles. They are structured in a very clear path-based framework, leading to a final metapuzzle that cleverly utilises everyone’s abilities and experience up to that point. Different areas relate to different aspects of the experiments that had been occurring, and you will need everyone to be on the top of their game in order to piece everything together in a timely fashion.

The puzzles also do a very good job of simulating an investigation, with codes used as a way of analogising narrative revelations. This is something that I have found Puzzled Room Escape are generally excellent at, though I think the way it is done in one of the final puzzles in this room is one of the finest examples I have ever come across, bringing everything together in a very satisfying manner. The path structure ensures that everyone on the team will get an opportunity to focus on something and achieve their own area of expertise.

Battle mode has no impact on the actual puzzles, so know that you will get a complete experience either way (unless of course the monkeys beat you!) However, the structure of the room does mean that no single person will get to experience everything the room has to offer. Puzzles are primarily clever association and logic-based puzzles, though they are often complex and multi-step, requiring contribution from more than one person.

There are occasions where the amount of information available feels overwhelming, but part of the challenge in this room is synthesising what is important and what is not. As usual at Puzzled Room Escape, it is important to pay close attention to the story cards, which provide clear guidance. Ignoring these can send you on wild goose chases, but there is always enough guidance to help you sift through what is relevant and what is not. Simpler, though no less challenging observational puzzles intersperse the complex one, allowing you to experience some empowering moments of revelation.

The Bottom Line

Dr Irov’s Laboratory is another knockout experience from Puzzled Room Escape, which I have no difficulty whatsoever identifying as my favourite escape room venue in Brisbane. It integrates a fun story with the feeling of investigating sinister experiments and a puzzle structure that offers a reasonable amount of variety and gives everyone on the team an opportunity to shine. The additions battle mode brings are simple yet effective, transforming the experience into something quite unlike any other room. No matter who wins, you will likely be talking about how your battle ended for some time! However, this is definitely a room for larger groups – three minimum, but you’re probably better off with at least five. With only two players, the structure of the puzzles would make this one significantly more difficult. Furthermore, should you choose battle mode, you will need to carefully balance the teams to ensure they both experience as much of the rooms as they can. Battle mode is definitely recommended for experienced groups only.

Comments 1

  1. I thought I’d chime in with my 0.02AUD. I was also on the winning scientists team in Dr Irvov’s labratory.

    The major feature under discussion/playtesting is the battle mode, where as discussed above, as soon as one team completes the room, the game is over for the other team. After some reflection, I’m not sold on the idea of battle mode. The winning team does get a slightly better experience, but for the losing team, it ends up with there being puzzles that you will never get to experience the joy of solving.

    I have a pet theory that the ideal number of people to have in an escape room is the minimum number of people for which your team will escape. Which is of course a number that you don’t know ahead of time, and depends on how parallelisable the structure of the room is. This room takes 2-6 people – with 2 it would be very difficult to escape and should only be attempted by the best hunters. With 5-6 it is clearly very doable/easy, as evidenced by our time.

    I don’t think I can add too much to the review above. This is very clearly the best escape room I’ve experienced in Brisbane so far (having done Missing Missy at Solve and Unlock, and Bomb at Government House at Escape Hunt), which gives me confidence in returning for their other rooms.

    rating: A.

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