It was a bit of a circus.
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date played: April 8, 2016
Team size: 6-12; we recommend 8-10
Price: $30 per ticket
Theme & story
You have happened upon the midnight carnival. It appears for only one hour every 20 years. You must unravel the mystery to break this carnival’s curse.
This was the Brigadoon of carnivals.
The game was themed impeccably as a carnival. The early puzzles were on theme. The later puzzles built towards the carnival’s compelling, cursed story.
For those of you with phobias: there were no clowns. None at all. They weren’t even alluded to.
If you watched the promotional video on Puzzle Break’s website, you might think this would be a horror game. Rest assured, the introduction video was the creepiest part. The setting was bright and spacious. The game was not scary.
The Escape the Midnight Carnival gamemasters entered the space with our team. They were in carnival-appropriate costumes. They gave hints as we needed, but they functioned mainly to protect the set from rogue players.
We needed to be pushed to inspect the set less gently. Puzzle Break may want to revise the rules or the game to account for rule-conscious players who won’t look for clues in areas that are only questionably fair play. Some of the hints were hidden in what felt like a grey area based on our understanding of the rules.
We queued up at the entrance to the carnival and were ushered in through normal carnivalesque procedure. This was an interesting and fun game mechanism.
According to Puzzle Break, this game was calibrated for 12 players. The space was certainly large enough. We played with 8 people. Because of the game design, more players would have made this game both harder and easier.
Easier because there would have been more people to accomplish things.
Harder because late in the game, communication became far more essential and challenging.
Escape the Midnight Carnival’s puzzles incorporated a variety of puzzling skills. Each player had their moment solving according their own skills.
Some people had more than one moment… there was a lot to do.
Scavenging & reading
In this game, both scavenging and reading took time. Together, these tactics kept a large team occupied for an hour.
The heavy scavenging mainly related to the more mundane puzzles and was at times tedious.
Late in the game, there was a lot of reading to get bogged down in.
Logical roller coasters
We did not have a writing surface inside the Escape the Midnight Carnival. Puzzle Break deliberately fostered teamwork among members of a big team by not providing one. It became very difficult for one player to work through multi-component puzzles without involving more teammates.
With this design, a functional and cooperative team can truly succeed together. But it also increases the odds that one problematic person can screw the team over. Or, the player with the solution could become the bossy quarterback.
We played this game in its infancy, pre-win statistics. I imagine that teams will succeed or fail spectacularly depending on how closely they listen to each other and how well they communicate to each other as the game progresses.
Should I play Puzzle Break’s Escape the Midnight Carnival?
The Midnight Carnival was a beautifully themed game that told a fun story.
The staff at Puzzle Break went out of their way to immerse us in the fiction.
For those reasons, this game is absolutely worth experiencing.
That said, this was a large team game that you don’t want to play with just anyone. To fully enjoy the set and the puzzles, you need a team that works efficiently and feeds off each other. Above all, you need teammates that communicate impeccably.
If you play with the wrong people, this game could be tedious and frustrating.
If you play with the right people, this game could be exhilarating.
Choose your team accordingly.
Book your hour with Puzzle Break’s Escape the Midnight Carnival, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Full disclosure: Puzzle Break comped our tickets for this game.