Puzzah! – M.A.S.K. [Review]

Spy Trainer

Location:  Denver, CO

Date Played: September 7, 2019

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

M.A.S.K. was a family-friendly puzzle game with a light 5 Wits vibe. There was a lot of great content in this fully automated experience.

In-game: The MASK training facility. There are puzzles on the walls, and a red, blue, and black mechanism with letters on it.

A few puzzle sequences that weren’t particularly tangible or engaging held M.A.S.K. back. Additionally, when we got stuck late in a puzzle, the hint system had no idea where we were and we had to grind through unhelpful nudges until we got the assistance that we needed.

If you’re looking to play as a family, M.A.S.K. would be a good fit (although I think that I’d recommend The Curse first because it really caters to family dynamics.)

All in all, I really liked this escape game. There were some great puzzles and it was fun to see how they reset themselves. It was also cool seeing a company commit to building and iterating on complete escape room automation. If that sounds like your kind of good time, it’s worth checking out.

Who is this for?

  • Technophiles
  • Newbies
  • Children
  • Families

Why play?

  • Crafty automated puzzle design
  • A vibrant family-friendly atmosphere
  • Adaptive difficulty

Story

An evil organization known as INTERCEPT had been terrorizing the city with dastardly cyber attacks.

A secret organization of crime fighters known as M.A.S.K. was the only thing standing in INTERCEPT’s way… and they had called upon us to join their ranks.

We had to answer the call, receive training, and foil INTERCEPT’s plans.

In-game: the MASK logo features a globe with a mask on it.

Setting

M.A.S.K. was an escape room in two parts: hero training and heroing. (It’s a word because you know what it means.)

The training segment placed us within the exact setting that a kid imagines when thinking of a spy agency. It looked sleek, clean, and techy.

The city streets had a kid-friendly grit to them: intimidating, but just grim enough to feel like Batman might swoop in.

In-game: The city streets set with graphittied and a massive city map.

Throughout this experience, the adaptive technology adjusted the volume and difficulty of the puzzles.

Gameplay

Puzzah!’s M.A.S.K. was a points-based escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

A single interface gated all the puzzles. Gameplay was linear and railroad-style.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, and puzzling.

In-game: Field Connection terminal has a series of inputs beside it.

Analysis

➕ M.A.S.K. was a points-based escape room. The game kept throwing puzzles at us until we ran out of time. We aimed to solve them as quickly as possible in order to attain the best score. This was unusual and fun.

➕ M.A.S.K. was a high-energy escape room. We were in a rush to solve quickly, not to escape, but to earn more points. Seeing the points tick upwards gave us momentum. The interface gating the gameplay spoke to us robotically, moving us forward on our mission.

➖ Thematically, M.A.S.K. seemed like it couldn’t tell whether it was a spy thriller or a superhero story.

➕ M.A.S.K. onboarded us cleanly. Since the gameplay revolved around a single interface, the initial moments introduced us to the world while teaching us how to input puzzle solutions. It was elegant.

➕ Puzzah! designed puzzles that allowed us to build mastery. The game would present the level 1 puzzle, and once we solved it, it presented the next level. (Not every puzzle worked this way, but many did.)

➖ Sometimes the puzzles didn’t make any sense in the game world. In one instance, as the puzzles built complexity, they became more interesting abstract puzzles, but narratively entirely too far-fetched.

➕ Puzzah! designed the gameplay and puzzles in a style akin to 5 Wits. We moved from one room to the next, never backtracking, so that another group could start in the room we’d just completed. The puzzles were self-resetting because (a) the solved state was the initial state for the next group, or (b) the game required us to put items back, or (c) the puzzles were solvable without moving any physical items. For this theme and setup, this gameplay style worked well.

➖ Puzzah! should increase the soundproofing between rooms in this game.

➖ Because of the no-reset design, many of the puzzles didn’t involve any physical interactions. We recognize that it’s a challenge to make this type of puzzle more tangible. In one instance where we did take an action, however, we wanted more resistance from the mechanism, to make it feel believable.

➖  Because M.A.S.K. was entirely automated, it struggled to hint us appropriately. Hints were always delivered in order, regardless of where we were stuck. At one point, we understood exactly how to solve a puzzle, but failed to find one piece of information in the room. The game had no way to tell us we’d search-failed and could only hint us step-by-step at solving the puzzle.

Tips For Visiting

  • There are nearby street parking and public parking lots.

Book your hour with Puzzah!’s M.A.S.K., and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Puzzah! comped our tickets for this game.

Disclosure: Our trip to Denver was sponsored by the Denver escape room community. Contributions were anonymous.

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