Too Much Free Time

Discussion and reviews of games for NES, Intellivision, DOS, and others.

Lab 14

Posted by Tracy Poff on February 7, 2010

Lab 14 by SuperCasey4 is a platform puzzler, though a very nontraditional one.

Lab 14 title screen

I’ll note, first, that this review will contain spoilers for several of the levels, and to best enjoy the game, you should play it through, at least partly, prior to reading my comments.

The game starts, deceptively, with a totally mundane first level–not a puzzle at all, simply an empty screen with a door at the right. Walking to the door takes you to the next level.

The game quickly becomes more interesting. The rooms following this all have hints, of a sort, written on the wall, apparently in blood. Sometimes the hints give very literal advice:

In the room pictured above, walking to the left, rather than right, will teleport the character to the door. In fact, in one case, the hint text is itself a hint:

As you can see above, the hint text, “HINT”, is, or is placed on, an invisible platform that is used to reach the door. Not all hints are to be blindly trusted, though:

The room pictured above is exactly what you’d expect: the boxes are to be stack in order to form a platform so the player can reach the door. Sometimes, rather than being misleading, the hints simply aren’t very helpful:

“UP AND OVER” is obviously what you need to accomplish (barring some trickery), but there’s no clue how to do it. Eventually, you reach the boss:

He reveals a little about the ‘plot’ of the game, then attacks with the red triangles you see. If you can work out how to beat him, congratulations! You survived Lab 14. For now…

I’ve got to give this game credit for challenging how we perceive the games we’re playing, and the assumptions about what the rules really are. Completing Lab 14 requires you to interact with the game in ways you wouldn’t ordinarily expect. The ‘plot’ revealed at the end is underwhelming, but that’s not really the point of the game. Some of the puzzles are very easy to work out, and some are rather more difficult. I got stuck a couple of times, but I doubt it took more than a half hour to beat the game, and it can be beaten in only a few minutes, if you know what to do. Sadly, that means there’s no replay value at all, so while it’s fun to work out the solutions, the only way you’ll want to come back to Lab 14 is if you no longer remember how to solve it.

Lab 14 (or, more accurately, the version of Game Maker it was made in) doesn’t work in Vista, so if you want to play it in Vista, you’ll need a little tool.

A complete, annotated walkthrough of the game is below. Play it first!

Gameplay: 6/10
The controls work pretty well, and some of the puzzles are quite clever. The total lack of replay value, and the couple of stupid levels keep this from scoring higher.
Graphics: 7/10
The graphics are very simple, but not bad. The all-white-and-grey look does get a little boring, though.
Audio: 5/10
There are no sound effects, and the background music isn’t terribly inspiring. A little more here might have made for a much-improved experience.
Personal Slant: 8/10
I enjoyed it. I admit to getting a little frustrated when I got stuck, but I eventually worked my way through.
Total: 6.5/10
Lab 14 is pretty good. If you enjoy puzzles, and have a few minutes, give it a try. None of the individual elements of the game are spectacular, and some of the puzzles are less than stellar, but it’s still a good experience, and the price is right.
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