Puzzle Effect – The Reel [Hivemind Review]

The Reel is a real-life escape room livestreamed and played through an avatar, created by Puzzle Effect, based in Denver, Colorado, with locations in California, Arizona, Idaho, and Oregon.

A pair of hands holding up a packet of popcorn kernels.


Style of Play: real-life escape room livestreamed and played through an avatar

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 2-4

Play Time: 75 minutes

Price: $29.95 per connection (minimum of 4 connections)

Booking: book online for a specific time slot

Puzzle Effect operates this game in 3 of their physical locations, which means that for large virtual groups, they can host up to 18 players (3 groups of 6) playing this virtual adaptation of The Reel simultaneously.


In this game, you’ll try to sneak into a movie theater to steal the owner’s famous secret popcorn recipe.

This is an avatar-led virtual adaptation of an in-person escape game. It includes an inventory system.

The Puzzle Effect's The Reel, a very 80's looking character is on camera.

Hivemind Review Scale

REA's hivemind review scale - 3 is recommended anytime, 2 recommended in quarantine, 1 is not recommended.

Read more about our Hivemind Review format.

Joel Smileypeacefun Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

Sneaking in a movie theater to find a secret popcorn recipe sounds like a fun night to me. There’s even some candy!

At its best, the gamemaster was crystal clear on instructions and descriptions, which made for a smooth playthrough. The puzzles had a good variety with a nice balance between physical challenges and tech inputs. While the in-person game is 60 minutes, they added 15 minutes to the online version, so first-time groups can get comfortable with the remote format.

At its worst, the set wasn’t over-the-top whimsical and the story was also minimal. Even though the puzzles weren’t too easy, it felt like there should have been more content or more layers to the puzzles. The solutions were often numbers. These codes could use more diversity.

This is a very straightforward puzzle room, which is my type of game. If you’re looking for world-building and story twists, however, this game will probably be a bit too one-dimensional for you.

Theresa W’s Reaction

Rating: 1 out of 3.

I was really excited to play this game. I’ve heard great things about Puzzle Effect IRL, but unfortunately the online adaptation of The Reel just felt like it had no personality. There were some clever interactions with some decent puzzles, yet the translation to the online format made the game lose all of its charm and energy. There were a handful of puzzles that if they were tweaked, would be solved more smoothly than in their current implementation. Overall, The Reel just didn’t scratch my escape room itch.

Cindi S’ Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

Get your popcorn and choose your seat; the show is about to start! The Reel is a cute escape room with clever puzzles in a movie theater theme. The game was immersive; after not having been in a theater in over a year, I found myself wanting to skip the game and watch a movie instead. The puzzles were not too difficult and made sense with the theme. This is a good room for beginners, and while enthusiasts can appreciate the playful theming, they might find the puzzles a little familiar. Though the finale was a bit underwhelming, it didn’t spoil an otherwise entertaining game.

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

The Reel is a fun, yet overly expected virtual take on a movie theater theme. The avatar is a blank slate who is “not that good at making choices” – a neutral non-character who was borderline competent and rather boring. Most of the puzzles were well themed in appearance, but failed to serve any real narrative function. As with much early escape room design, the objective set out at the start of the game was exactly what we accomplished by the end, with little in the way of story structure or meaningful discovery. A few tactile process puzzles translated poorly to the virtual medium, and I am miffed by a seemingly intentional red herring in one puzzle. As an enthusiast, I didn’t find all that much of interest in The Reel, but those looking for a cutely-themed stream of standard, easy puzzles will likely enjoy this game.

Disclosure: Puzzle Effect provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.

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