LAB RAT - Hatch Escapes
This is Escape Mattster's game No. 35.
Venue: Hatch Escapes
Address: 1919 3rd Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90018
Game: Lab Rat
Here is a carbon copy of my Yelp review, posted originally on 09/08/2018:
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LAB RAT // Grade: A++
"...Holy sh*t, mother of God! Orgasmic-ly good!"
Hatch Escapes earned itself as the 3rd stop of our birthday escape room tour, & arguably, it's the most highly anticipated game of the 5. With much hype surrounding this company's very first game "Lab Rat", expectations ran high. Someone even called it "the next level sh*t".
...it really was!
Out of the 35ish rooms I'd done, Lab had instantaneously catapulted itself in the number 1 spot. From the looks of it, it'll be hard for any future game to knock it off the coveted throne any time soon.
First, let's address the elephant in the room--a bit pricey. At $40 per person, it may turn away some customers. To that, I say, THEIR LOSS. Hatch had created the escape room equivalent of a 5-star hotel. As frugal as I can be, I still think this price tag as highly justifiable. (Follow their social media for discount!)
Also, let me congratulate the owners for gaining access to this entire, otherwise ordinary, building. I heard they plan to build more rooms as they expand from floor to floor. If that's the level of quality entertainment they can bring to the table, by all means, turn this entire structure into an Escape Room Central!
Located on the ground floor were the lobby, restroom, & the Lab game itself. The facility was kept clean & had a very fitting vibe, consciously made possible through lighting & decor. The actual game area took place over a large space--that's the genius of having access to the whole building, you can build your game with unhindered space AND imagination. And boy did the designers let their ideas run wild!
Also running wild were us, who were lab humans, in a world run by mice. In this twisted exchange of fate, vermin were the ones studying for their PhDs, & we mere humans were disposable test subjects, caged, fed, & ready to be literally butchered up when deemed too idiotic for experiments. Test subj Group D's (that's us) objectives were to pass all the obstacles under 60 minutes, or... Well, you wanna know what happened to Group A-C?
Aside from the creative premise, the entire escape game was a theatrical experience. Players are literally the stars of your own movie (Think "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"). To fully immerse us in the murine plot, cut scenes were sprinkled throughout the game, played by projectors, in the most convincing fashion possible. (Staff, with much consideration, even stopped the timer while these scenes played. They thought of EVERYTHING!)
In between cinematic experience, there were, of course, puzzles! While I didn't think any of them really used tech that were groundbreaking per se, it was the ways that the designers implemented them that set Hatch wide apart from the competitors. E.g., we've all seen cryptex by now. This game, while having something similar, gave this otherwise common puzzle piece a new breath of life, while simultaneously injecting it with wit, humor, & great aesthetics, AND still managed to stay grounded in its plot line. To achieve such high level of integrations from all aspects of the game was no easy feat.
Speaking of props, many, if not all, of the set pieces, decorations, & clues were custom made. Even when you're not busy solving puzzles, just standing there & marveling at their artful creations was worth at least half the admission. With the way the game incessantly bombarding you with special lighting & sound effects at every step of the way, especially when you had correctly completed a puzzle, it felt both stressful (in the best way) & adrenaline pumping... FOR THE ENTIRE HOUR.
As mentioned, the gadgets & tech used might not be new to enthusiasts, but puzzle presentations could very well be. There were at least 2 instances of riddles that I'd never encountered until today, rendering myself a true escape room artist that had finally utilized all 5 of my senses. The difficulty were ramped up, making it that much more gratifying when your team finally achieved the dr's goals. (At certain point, I was literally given "drugs" as a reward. Much to my group's dismay, I actually ate it. Ha!) As we progressed through the latter parts of the game, communication modalities that we often take for granted were challenged, & certain fears were tested--genuinely making us test subjects.
The ending, though fitting the movie theme, was a bit anti-climatic, especially in comparison to the journey we'd just endured through for the past hour. With only 0.5 minute to spare, we proved ourselves worthy of survival, & we celebrated while a special birthday message rolled through the credits. Thank you, Ricky the gm, for making us feel special.
Though minor difficulties did occur with certain props (semi-stuck button, out-of-order lock box), they in no way detracted the game as a whole to receive a rating anything less than 5 stars & A++. Funny how I always thought the best mouse-related activity was Disney. Nope, it's Hatch.