RATING: 3 Keys RESULT: Win REMAINING: 15:06
We’ve discovered the elusive cure to the zombie virus – and you guys are never going to believe this – but it’s actually dancing the Marcarena.
Our group has been locked in the lab with the late Dr.Leitl, who is now damned to forever walk the earth as a zombie! With only one hour to save ourselves from a similar fate we must follow the clues before being contaminated. As time grows shorter, the chain of the Zombie grows longer and we are all at risk of being quarantined from the rest of the group.
Have you heard of the fairly well known franchise, Trapped in a Room with a Zombie, who has licensed locations all across the United States? Well, welcome to a potentially unlicensed copy of their product. (All we can say for sure is this venue is certainly not listed on Room Escape Adventure’s website.)
Much like the story made famous by that other brand, The Zombie Lab uses a zombie on a continuously lengthening chain as a vehicle with which it hopes to drive up tension and excitement throughout this experience – and to a certain degree, it actually succeeds on that front.
We’ve said a number of times before, but it bears repeating – scenic is the one thing that The Great Room Escape pretty consistently always does right. These guys have a clear understanding of how to create believable, immersive sets that easily bring their storyworlds to life.
The level of detail included in The Zombie Lab’s two rooms is absolutely on par with the best haunts you’ve seen, theatrically lit and scenically aged, this place feels ominous and threatening in all the right ways.
Two actors accompany your journey through The Zombie Lab. One is the obvious antagonist in the form of a zombie on a chain – a high school kid hiding under a latex mask who seems bent on playing “tag, you’re it” and only becomes human long enough to tattle tale on players once they’ve been tapped. The other is the scientist character who, though presented as a protagonist here to help us find the cure is in execution more of an antagonist than the zombie himself thanks to The Great Room Escape’s complete and utter lack of customer service skills, exhibiting a consistent-for-the-brand unwillingness to help players or provide clues even though his clear role is that of game master.
Though the zombie is a vital part of the gameplay experience, the truth is the doctor character is a waste of space that simply gets in the way, proving more of a hindrance to players than a help.
Being our third game at the venue, we certainly walked in expecting the worst in terms of puzzles, and to some degree that did prove consistent. To be fair, The Zombie Lab is the least illogical of their trifecta, but still most certainly has its moments.
This is a game that really screams out for the inclusion of some type of tech, but sadly players should basically expect not much more high school style locker padlocks of varying size. (Perhaps the zombie brings them with him to work after he gets out of class.)
And speaking of the zombie, that (borrowed) concept is at the heart of what this game is about. Much like in the real Trapped in a Room with a Zombie product, the chain lengthens regularly throughout the game, constantly increasing the zombie’s field of reach. Should he touch you, you will “become infected.” ::insert quotey fingers here::
But worry not! All is not lost for you, as Useless Doctor™ knows the cure to the undead virus, and it’s… well, whatever hoop the kid playing him feels like making you jump through to cure his own boredom. During our time in The Zombie Lab, we witnessed Useless Doctor™ force paying guests to do all sorts of stupid tasks such as sing happy birthday, and yes, dance the Marcarena in order to cure their infection.
Everyone say it with me now: Because escape room. Because zombie. Because terrible venue.
Listen, I’m all for having some sort of penalty consequences for getting infected by the zombie. After all it’s a major (presumably unlicensed) aspect of this game. The thing is, if you’re going to do it, have it be something that makes some sort of story sense. Have it be an additional puzzle or something. Don’t just try to make a fool out of paying guests.
The Zombie Lab proved to be a mixed bag, which in truth was probably a better outcome than The Great Room Escape could have hoped for with their history of questionable quality content. Some of this experience was actually enjoyable to play- and there is absolutely a bit of strategy to using certain members of your team as literal human shields in order to avoid the zombie as the last few minutes tick down on the clock.
But I just cannot get past the notion of forcing paying guests to jump through the hoops of doing demeaning and arguably intentionally embarrassing tasks just for your staff to carry a sense of power or control. When I see something like that in a hospitality-based venue, the only words that come to my mind are “How dare you?”
And that, my friends, is the root of our problem here. The Great Room Escape is in the hospitality industry, but has no idea how to actually operate with any semblance of hospitality. They make a professional habit of convincing themselves they are smarter than and better than each and every guest that passes through their doors and as such takes experiences that should be enjoyable challenges and turns them into more endurance competitions to see how far they can annoy players until they finally break and stop trying.
Southern California is a gold mine if escape games – many of which are standard bearers for the industry as a whole. The Great Room Escape, simply put, has a lot to learn about how to operate their venue before they can even dream of being spoken of within similar company.
Venue: The Great Room Escape
Location: San Diego, California
Number of Games: 3
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: 60 minutes
Capacity: 12 people
Group Type: Public / You may be paired with strangers.
Cost: $34.95 per person