🍷 The gateway drink.
Location: Morristown, NJ
Date played: July 31, 2017
Team size: 1-10; we recommend 2-5 thirsty puzzlers
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $37 per ticket
Story & setting
Puzzles & Corks was not an escape room. It was a light puzzle hunt that rewarded solves with a round of wine tasting.
Staged at high tables in the lobby of Trap Door, Puzzles & Corks was a puzzling spin on the girls’ night out genre popularized by Paint Nite.
Each month Puzzles & Corks offers a series of puzzles and wines. We visited for the German wines.
Puzzles & Corks was rooted in paper puzzles, presented in slightly more tangle ways. Played in the absence of large set pieces, the puzzle components all fit in small boxes and on small tables.
All puzzles led to a lock… and another one ounce taste of wine for each player.
Puzzles & Corks introduces puzzling by combining it with a more popular leisure activity, wine tasting. It’s an unintimidating initiation for anyone wary to spend an hour entirely focused on puzzles.
The gamespace, sectioned off from the rest of Trap Door’s lobby, was conducive to both tasting and puzzling. There was room to maneuver, crowd around a puzzle, or move off to an empty table with a tasting pour.
The pacing worked well. We didn’t spend too long on any one puzzle or any one wine.
The wine was delicious.
If you like the game, you can play it 12 times per year.
While the wine was themed, we would have liked to see a more cohesive collection of puzzles, along the lines of Puzzled Pint. This would make the puzzles more engaging.
Some of the puzzles seemed not quite complete. For example, we’d derive numbers, but then guess at an input order. On multiple occasions strong puzzles had a weak finish. One puzzle was too imprecise.
Should I play Trap Door’s Puzzles & Corks?
Trap Door created Puzzles & Corks for a different audience – not the avid puzzlers who spend their weekends in escape rooms. The puzzles were less involved, non-immersive, and less engaging than what we’ve come to expect from escape rooms. For non-practiced puzzlers, they are also less intimidating, but certainly still challenging… especially if you aren’t an avid puzzler.
With Puzzles & Corks, Trap Door has a business model that caters to repeat business in a way escape rooms cannot. With less involved construction, the puzzle elements can be swapped out each month and the customers enticed with new wines. We hope that Trap Door can keep up with the puzzle design and play testing necessary for a monthly cycle because this idea is pretty great. We know that there is a large audience of people who are intimidated by the escape room concept. Puzzles & Corks provides a fantastic soft entry into the hobby.
For escape room enthusiasts and other more experienced puzzlers, know that Puzzles & Corks is not designed for you. It was a fun time, but it was a different sort of activity. It was as much about sipping wine as it was about solving puzzles.
Book your hour with Trap Door’s Puzzles & Corks, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Full disclosure: Trap Door comped our tickets for this game.