I have a bowl, a water dispenser, and of course, an exercise wheel. It’s not much, but it’s home. Well, a home shared with between two and seven others. Oh, and don’t mind the giant rat towering over me. He’s just a doctoral student who’s studying human intelligence. Oh, and definitely don’t mind the vacuum he’s holding up. That’s the old test subject chipper—and if I don’t prove my worth by helping him with his dissertation, I’ll be ground up like every other Lab Rat that came before me. Did I mention, I have a water dispenser and an exercise wheel?
Lab Rat is the first and only escape room (as of this review) by Hatch Escapes.
Now before we go on, I have good news and bad news for you. Good news first? Okay.
The good news is that this is easily one of the best escape rooms we’ve done, with incredible sets, heavy immersion, and a strong narrative. The bad news is that you are the perfect human test subjects for Dr. Ratkenstein, and if you fail, he will turn you into a human meat smoothie. You have an hour to prove your intelligence to this gigantic rat by solving his puzzles and tests, and ultimately, making your way to your escape. If you want an immersive escape room that will definitely challenge you and provide a strong narrative, there’s no need to look further, Lab Rat is it.
Rat Meets World
While there are no actors physically in the room with you, the sets do more than enough to immerse you in the action. The sets play with scale and perspective, ensuring you feel as small and miniscule as possible. For example, expect to see larger-than-life pencils, Rubik’s cubes, and even a picture of Dr. Ratkenstein’s mother. There are plenty of objects that will feel familiar to you, like an Amousezon package and an Ikea bag that will help orient you to your new, shrunken stature. A wall-to-wall projector serves as the rest of the lab and Dr. Ratkenstein’s main interactions with you as he enters the room to both tease and ridicule you.
Players start within a cage, but soon the world opens up into numerous additional areas. The space is massive, and while it is expansive, the design does a wonderful job of making you feel confined and tense. Participants will be running from one end of the space to the other, testing their memory and communication skills, and making sure not to get lost and waste precious time.
Finally, probably the highlight of the room is its use of puns. It’s not hard to see that the game designers have a great sense of humor, injecting it into every space they could find. From Grand Theft Otter to Justin Beaver to The Spice Squirrels, there’s so much to see. I often spent precious moments just to appreciate all the nuances painted onto the walls or hidden in the details in every room. The attention to detail that Hatch Escapes adds makes it easy to see why this is consistently described as one of the best escape rooms.
Smarter than the Average Rat
While the sets are fantastic, the puzzles can often make or break a given room. Luckily, the puzzles in Lab Rat are all clever, innovative, and fit perfectly within the universe. The food bowl, water dispenser, and exercise wheel I mentioned above—yes, all of those are used in wonderfully novel ways. As the world opens up, I wanted to explore this world—not just due to the sets, but also because the narrative was so exciting. I wanted to see what other ways that the rat/human dynamic had infiltrated this world.
As a human in a rat-based intelligence test, players will be asked to do everything a normal test-subject would have to do. Navigating mazes, gathering objects, and taking drugs. You know, just normal things. With the massive amount of space, the puzzles do end up becoming physical, as we ran from one side of the location to another, often having to squeeze past objects or even climb ladders. Participants will likely want to divide and conquer to make the most of their time.
Another clever aspect of Lab Rat is the play on perspective. There are numerous times within the experience where I had an object in my hands, but I just didn’t have the right way to look at it yet. This is a clever way to test out-of-the-box thinking and truly see if we are an idiot, or a superior idiot. There are even some subversions of expectation that is sure to surprise even the most veteran of escape room fans.
Final Rat Thoughts
Lab Rat by Hatch Escapes is easily a must-play for anyone who’s an escape room fan, a narrative fan, or just a fan of gorgeous sets. They combine the weight of a narrative drive with the puzzles of the escape room to create a sense of urgency and suspense that just simply can’t be added to escape rooms with weaker narratives. As evidence of their storyline focus, they pause the clock every time Dr. Ratkenstein enters the room to check on you, encouraging you to focus on the narrative and not try and solve things as you watch.
If you haven’t become a lab rat yet, don’t wait, but scamper over to Hatch Escapes. Sign up immediately and test your intelligence. Grab three or more of your favorite whiskered friends—they’ll thank you for it later. And then make sure you stay for the credits—trust us, they’re worth it.