A small number of tough puzzles rather than a large number of straightforward puzzles or a mixture in difficulty awaits you at Secret Lab. Can you rise to the challenge?
A bit of bumbling at the start of this, with the hosts unable to open up the front door because it was a bank holiday and apparently someone from the nightclub that’s colocated with them had padlocked a door which was usually left open. We eventually crowded in through an emergency exit after a host came around to the main door to see us looking nonplussed.
As venues go, The Escape Room Manchester is well-equipped and very pleasant. The waiting area was one of the best I’ve found, and they were also happy to store several members’ large items of luggage whilst we went off to the city centre afterwards for a couple of hours.
Team Judge had two teams along today each playing two rooms, and there was overlap on Secret Lab, billed as Escape Room Manchester’s toughest challenge. Our host was bright and helpful, giving the room briefing with minimum fuss. One of our members had a minor hearing issue leading to difficulty discerning sounds, and she was able to arrange for the background music to be turned right down before activating the single clock in the room.
I’d like to say this is where we got underway really promptly and started solving a series of problems, but we didn’t really. The only thing that immediately presented itself was one step we could take quickly that revealed a padlock. Progress after that was tediously slow. There were very few puzzles, but the answers were non-obvious and difficult to discover. We found a range of stuff that we thought were clues but really were for the most part red herrings. And the puzzles had lots of extraneous stuff too.
However, one solution tended to crash through two or three different things such as a case with a key lock containing nothing other than the precise combination for another lock (details changed but the intent there).
We carried on into the second room, which was dark and featured the somewhat obligatory UV clues. This was another slow-roller to get to a solution which looks obvious on reflection. The third room followed after a fair amount of mental exercise before being confronted with a dead body and a medical anatomy model – I mention these for the squeamish – and our final puzzle, which we made very heavy weather of before eventually ambling out the final door without much ceremony.
Two of the puzzles crossed the line between difficult and downright confusing. We got through both with some guesswork and some help from the somewhat dishonourable tactic of lock-spinning.
Team Judge 1 finished with 13 minutes to spare, and Team Judge 2 took just 2 minutes longer. Neither team took a hint.
If you value a challenging room involving several really tough puzzles rather than a series of simpler ones, then this is a good choice for you.
Accessibility: First segment has wheelchair access. Steps to later segments, but it seemed to me that there was a flat route outside the room using the emergency exits and the host could accompany a participant around to this.
Alerts: Not suitable for those of a nervous disposition. Fake body parts. One potential jump scare. Dark in the second and third segments.
Capacity: The Secret Lab takes 2-6 players. Five was probably 1 too many.
Cost: We paid £80 for a team of 5, a reduced price due to booking four slots in one go.
Photo: Was taken with a reasonable camera and they asked us explicitly for permission to place it on Facebook. We weren’t able to find it though.
Getting there: 5-10 minutes on foot from Manchester Victoria (National Rail/Metrolink).
This venue shares space with a nightclub and therefore has a premises licence and onsite bar available before or after your game – they don’t keep a float though so if you’re wanting a drink you need to pay by card or exact change.