I want to start this review by saying that, while I’ve personally played through more than 100 escape rooms and I absolutely love them as a hobby, I cannot consider myself to be an expert on them. Not yet, anyway (although I keep trying – someday there will be an escape room written by my hands!) Instead, I only know what I love, what I like, and what I have not enjoyed at all. Experiment Experiment Experiment
Escapade Games’ first escape room, ZOE, stands as one of my favorite escape rooms ever. The same goes for my ‘Scape Squad (as the group I tend to play with calls ourselves). When we hang out getting food after our most recent escape experience, we often find our talk returning to exactly how creepy and immersive ZOE was when we went through it.
So you can, perhaps, imagine my excitement at getting the chance to experience Escapade Games’ new room, The Last Experiment. After all, it’s listed as being the PREQUEL to ZOE. It’s a second escape room within the same universe as the first one that I loved so much. I jumped at the chance.
But now the question: Was it as creepy at the first one? Was it as compelling or as spine-tingling an experience?
For me, the answer is actually rather complicated – because there are several answers to that question and I can’t really decide which is the best one.
The first answer is this:
I was not as frightened by this room as I was by ZOE.
That’s not to say there aren’t some good jump scares within the experience. There very much ARE such things. But while the original room was more of a haunt in nature, utilizing multiple rooms and an intriguing shape overall, this room felt much more like a traditional escape room in its design.
Anyone with any experience in escape rooms knows the idea of having to unlock a few rooms, crawling through a space to get to clues or answers and going from place to place as you open things. This room felt much more along those lines than the original room did.
How it dealt with those transitions was great and fun. I want to be clear about that. But it simply felt more traditional and in that way suffers a little in comparison to the original, which felt so weirdly unusual in its design.
The second answer is this:
I was strangely compelled by the story of The Last Experiment and appreciated its narrative in a way that was much stronger than my experience with the older room.
While the original room had an amazing aura and playing through it made me more nervous than almost any haunt I’ve done ever, the story of ZOE was secondary at all times. In The Last Experiment, the story takes front and center in what is happening. In fact, in order to succeed in the puzzles within the room, you have no choice but to learn the story and understand it’s meaning or you’re going to find yourself going nowhere fast.
And in that aspect, this room succeeds in a way that the original room did not. There is a growing trend of escape rooms with narratives and this one does quite a good job of weaving tale and puzzle together into a cohesive whole.
The third answer is this:
I don’t know whether I would have enjoyed this game as much if I hadn’t already done ZOE first.
The Last Experiment is a prequel to that game – and they’re not joking about that. By the end of this room, I could completely understand how this tale of Professor Grobel and Robert’s experiments with psychic phenomena equates into the first chapter of the story of the little girl Zoe.
But the rooms are so different in how they feel that I think I would have had a less interesting experience with this room if I didn’t have the ability to connect what I was seeing here with what I remembered from there.
And I’m even less certain whether I would enjoy ZOE if I played the games in their chronological order. Because the two rooms are so different in the experience of them that they feel like they belong to two different companies, one specializing in science fiction dystopia and the other in haunt chic.
Since I assume Escapade Games intends for people to play the prequel as a prequel, I’m not entirely certain that it succeeds in the overall narrative, as the two rooms seem to work somewhat at odds with each other.
In the end, my only real answer is this:
There was a moment where I found myself sitting in a chair that looked as though it might well run electricity through it (and by extension, through my own body). I hate electricity/shock moments and I glared at my companions for putting me in that scenario.
And yet, I agreed to do it – because I was interested enough in wanting to see where the story went that I faced a momentary fear. I wanted to understand how this story connected to the other room strongly enough that I was willing to be shocked if it meant we moved forward toward the conclusion.
Does that mean I enjoyed this room? I think it does. It means that it was compelling and it drew me along, even at my own potential ‘risk.’ It means that the game invaded my consciousness enough to generate a response.
But it also means that I am still contemplating how I feel about it days later. And perhaps that might be the best response any escape room could hope to generate.
Follow Escapade Games on Facebook, and book your own visit to The Last Experiment, as well as ZOE, here. Also, be sure to visit ZOE in Vegas! And check out our Events Guide for more immersive horror events throughout the year.