Online, Jun 2020
Normally I’d say that having played a lot of escape rooms is important for a reviewer, that having a broad range of points of comparison really helps assess a game. With Mad Scientist I wonder if having played too many makes it harder to make a fair assessment in some cases – specifically older games like this, that seem weaker not because of any flaw in their design but simply because elements that were once novel now seem old hat.
There’s little here in the way of theme or story. We were helping our avatar, a scientist who’d accidentally wiped all his memories, to find the memory loss antidote; but essentially this is a pure puzzle game with simple decor and plenty of padlocks.
And there’s a lot to like about it. Firstly, our host ran it smoothly and well, in a no-fuss sort of way, which in a remote play game makes a big difference. Secondly it’s an efficient design where almost everything has a game purpose, and the puzzles are all logical and free from ambiguity.
There was no inventory system but I didn’t feel a need for one, despite playing with a large team. That was probably because we were solving puzzles pretty much as fast as we could direct the avatar towards them. And that gave a good energetic feel to the game, but on the other hand I suspect the reason it went so quickly was because it was composed of puzzle ideas we’d encountered in many other games before.
Mad Scientist is an old game, the first one created by the Adventure Rooms franchise back in the earliest days of escape rooms – 2013, I believe, although I suspect the current version has evolved quite a bit since then. Although I haven’t played it at any of their branches, playing it felt a bit like playing a game I’d done before, with some elements reshuffled and adjusted in places to make it feel fresher. It was full of ideas that I vaguely remember finding cool and exciting the first time I came across them, but which I’ve since seem in one form or another many times over.
I enjoyed playing it, and it worked better in the remote format than do some more sophisticated games, and at the same time it was very familiar territory. It would make a good simple introduction to escape rooms, particularly for those who enjoy an emphasis on puzzles over story. For those who’ve played many games, it’s an unambitious game done well, but one which won’t offer much that’s new.