The Lab

7.1 Overall
Room Quality
Puzzle Design
Fun Factor
Users (0 votes) 0

The Lab

  • Played August 2016
  • Chicago

  • 60 minutes
  • 2-6 players
  • $33-$49.50

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Located in the heart of downtown Chicago (or ‘the loop’ as it’s called) is Fox in a Box: Chicago. We’d heard much about this franchise as we prepared for our trip to Chicago, and were naturally excited to include them among our visits. Everything seemed to be going great except the weather – those who refer to Chicago as the wet and/or windy city really know what they’re talking about. Did Chicago’s Fox in a Box live up to its fame and reputation?

First let’s take a look at the pre-room experience. The location is fairly easy to find, and located in a tourist friendly area of the city. Parking lots are available and close by but you’ll need to factor in the cost of spending a few hours there, or park in a more residential area and use transit instead. When we entered the lobby we immediately noticed a few things. First, the staff and the walls were adorned with the Fox in a Box logo along with their trademark vibrant orange background. Some might find it a bit overpowering for their visual senses, but we enjoyed the atmosphere it seemed to promote. Second, there were several people already waiting for their reservations and/or exiting rooms so there was a feeling of excitement and busy-ness in the air. And finally we noticed a series of nice little amenities like couches, chairs, tables and a small selection of refreshments. Although we were pretty wet, and were followed by other groups who were absolutely drenched, the staff welcomed everyone with a smile and a willingness to help. All in all we were off to a decent start. The Lab was the 2nd of two rooms we did on this particular evening and we were given a different game master from our first room. Although she was incredibly friendly, she definitely seemed prepared to give us an interactive experience with her taunting us as the game master. Our curious eyebrows were raised at what was to follow…

The room quality was fairly good here. Having a lab technician on our review team was an asset as we visited not one, not two, but three lab-based scenarios over the course of our weekend in Chicago. Our ‘labby’ couldn’t help but point out the authentic vs. out of place elements within the room. In this case she felt most things were authentic or at least fairly believable which is good. Where we felt a bit more attention to detail could have happened was in the extra elements that were very out of place (a dexterity puzzle, a couple lamps, and some other odd tidbits which felt more like a local IKEA store).

Immersion is one area where our new friend the game master came into play in a significant way… The story of The Lab was compelling and there were some really interesting puzzles and/or tech devices that supported the theme well. What really took us out of the moment however was the playful eagerness of our game master who kept talking to us over the speakers. Every couple minutes a new taunt, challenge, or partial hint was given. This was a hotly debated point afterwards in our debriefing. Should the immersive experience include the game master’s involvement? If so, then we needed to reconcile that although we loved her energy outside of the room with the pre-story, she was a significant distraction from allowing us to appreciate the atmosphere inside the room. If we take our game master out of the equation, then the immersion goes up quite a bit. In this case our score reflects a balance of the two perspectives because our team couldn’t agree on what was the right way to score the experience.

The puzzles were decent but a large amount of detailed searching was required. Some people enjoy scouring a room from top to bottom to find the proverbial needle in a haystack, and it probably speaks to our lack of patience at times, but our team didn’t enjoy the amount of detailed searching. We felt it took away from what was otherwise a good set of puzzles that had a good selection of variety and team building. The puzzles for the most part were not only in-theme, but they helped the story which always makes this reviewer happy!

Okay, enough of the technical details, was this room fun? Yes…well, sort of. As with immersion, the question we had to ask ourselves was how much do we factor in the involvement of the game master to our experience? Nice as she was, it changed the experience from being focused on the room instead to being focused on a series of playful and cheeky comments. We presume the room would be interesting based on its story and design, and best suited for groups of 3-6 players (newbies and experienced) depending on the level of puzzle engagement and difficulty you want to set for yourself. Overall, I’d say Fox in a Box: Chicago is a reliable bet for your entertainment dollars, but make sure you let the game masters know you’d prefer minimal involvement just in case you get a playful and enthusiastic employee.

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