It seemed like easy money. You volunteered for the experiment eagerly, but when you arrived the room was empty. Now you are trapped and must escape from The Secret Lab.
“The Secret Lab”
Kosmos, Exit: The Game series
How We Played
6 May 2017
52 minutes 45 seconds
The Secret Lab is one of a recent slate of escape-room-style games for players to complete at home. It belongs to Kosmos’ Exit: The Game series. The series uses a clever card system to control progression. Participants prepare three decks of cards: one for riddles, one for answers, and one for hints. They then use an accompanying booklet to solve puzzles, flipping over answer cards which in turn reveal new riddle cards for use with the booklet to reveal new answers.
It is a neat, well-structured system that provides some thematic flavour. Though the story in The Secret Lab is extremely basic, each puzzle suits the laboratory context and answer cards contain flavour text describing the result of your actions. The one drawback in comparison to Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor is that the game cannot hide any unique or unusual devices that cannot appear on a card, as there are no envelopes. This limits the potential for surprises to what can be printed on a playing card.
The resulting experience focuses on the quality of puzzle solving rather than neat gizmos and gadgets or clever story beats. I think this is a wise move for a take-home escape room experience, as the limitations of working with cardboard and paper bits really requires a simplification of the process.
Fortunately, the puzzles in The Secret Lab stand up to the extra spotlight shone on them. Although – like Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor – all of the puzzles here follow the same structure, with the solution always consisting of a three-part code, the fact that the symbols can represent numbers, colours or images ensures a variety of puzzle types. You will need to use your maths skills, spatial reasoning, simple observation, patter recognition, and more to complete the game.
The puzzles in The Secret Lab are tricky. One reason for this is the booklet that provides the foundation for most of the puzzling. This contains material for almost all the puzzles in The Secret Lab, meaning you begin the game with a huge amount of information available. Figuring out when to use different pieces of information and which clues belong together actually represents one of The Secret Lab’s biggest challenges. Plus, some clues are used in multiple puzzles!
The Bottom Line
Based on my experience with The Secret Lab, I feel confident recommending the games in Kosmos’ series to players interested in challenging and interesting puzzles. However, if you are looking for story and experience, or a family-friendly option, Mystery at the Stargazer’s Manor is better suited.
One further thing to consider with Kosmos’ game is that it is designed to be played once and discarded. Over the course of solving the puzzles, players must cut, tear, write on and otherwise damage components. Though an individual can only play an escape room game once, most of the other take-home escape rooms allow you to pass the completed game to new players with the components still intact. Keep in mind this is not true of The Secret Lab.