Date completed: July 2016 (3 players). Success! The Boss is safe! We have the drugs and guns!
Creativity: 8.5; Difficulty: 6.5; Atmosphere: 8.5; Fun: 9.5.
- Fluent English
- 2-8 players
- 1 team member with full mobility
Ever fancy yourself a member of an organised criminal syndicate? In this exciting escape room from Labyrinth, players take on the role of hardcore enforcers from a Mexican Cartel. A deal has gone South and the players make their way to a safehouse with a stash. However, trouble follows and a rival cartel ambushes the players at the location, capturing them there. Players have one hour to break out from captivity, retrieve the passport of the boss and escape before the rival cartel members return to execute them in grisly ways.
We were recently invited by Labyrinth to trial Mexican Cartel. After excellent experiences with Insane Asylum and Mad Scientist, we were very curious as to what Labyrinth had to offer! After all, the Mexican drug war isn’t something you normally see for the setting of an escape room. We have certainly never heard of the setting being used before. Mafia? Criminal heists? Sure. Something that reminded me of the movie Sicario? That’s new. We weren’t disappointed either.
The start of Mexican Cartel has players blindfolded and cuffed. While this might sound like the beginning of many other escape rooms, Labyrinth brings one of it’s strong points to the fore by incorporating this start with a wonderfully crafted elaborate set piece puzzle. Depending on the amount of players you have, there are more ways than one to defeat this initial situation. Unlike many other escape rooms we have been to where captivity is a feature initially, we also found that every player can do something regardless of where they begin. Essentially, no one should feel ‘helpless’.
The start of the game can be quite non-linear and allow several activities to be tackled simultaneously for larger groups bigger than four. Past that point, the game resumes to a more linear structure. However, the flow of this game was excellent and we never felt stalled.
The puzzles in Mexican Cartel are not too hard and present challenges in mechanical intelligence, interpreting veiled instructions, some association based logic, observation and search. Interestingly, none of the puzzles were based on raw deductive logic, and this was not a bad thing. One of the signatures of Labyrinth are their custom-crafted puzzles, and there is one in Mexican Cartel that will make fans of games like The Incredible Machine really amused.
The difficulty is in part increased by Labyrinth’s five hints only rule. All players have to agree to use the hint which places an additional teamwork dynamic and actually forces team members to consider their options.
Moving through the escape room, the setting really stands out, particularly from mid game onwards. Labyrinth has done a great job in creating a Latin feel for their room and many of the props are beautifully done and make complete sense with the plot and it’s organised criminal elements. The puzzles tap into the setting by making good use of these props and the game builds up to a hectic end game where we had tons of fun being the bad guys.
Mexican Cartel is also very spacious and can be played for people with mobility issues, as long as one person in the team has full range of movement. We finished the game in 49 minutes, loaded with (fake) guns, (fake) drugs and (fake) money, which generated lots of laughs, considering Pa was the smallest player and was carrying 90% of it. Our gamemaster Joan, one of the owners of Labyrinth, went through a very detailed debrief and asked our sincere feedback on the game, which we gave. She explained that there may be some adjustments made to the room in the future. If it’s going to improve, then it will be an super-amazing room, because it is already excellent.
Out of the room
Service: Labyrinth has a simple but clean waiting room, with lockers for player’s belongings.
Joan once again hosted us and the service was nothing short of excellent. She monitored us closely and provided a very thorough debrief of how we did in each part of the game. She also listened to our feedback and we had a great chat about escape rooms. She is clearly passionate about the subject!
Communication: You talk to the walls and they reply back. Simple like this. But you can only ask for five clues, so think twice before saying things out loud!
Surroundings: Parramatta is a district a bit far from Sydney CBD and driving is probably the best way to get there. If you do, you will find many places to eat on the way.