SCAM New York [Review]

Magic, comedy, puzzles… and a dollop of vulgarity

Location:  New York City, NY

Date Played: May 30, 2021

Team size: 1-8; we recommend 4-8

Duration: 2 hours

Price: Start at $55 per player

Ticketing: Public… but if you book as a group of 8 you’ll have a mostly private experience

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

New York City’s Society of Conjurers And Magicians (SCAM), blends magic, comedy, and puzzles (more or less in that order).

SCAM is set in a nifty karaoke bar where each room has a unique design. The audience is split between these rooms, and magicians circulate from room to room performing their acts to the small groups. In between the acts, each group has the opportunity to solve a series of puzzles.

The performers are a rotating cast of quality New York City magicians. Some left us dumbfounded, others performed classics with elegance, and they all made us laugh.

Magicians Harrison Greenbaum & Patrick Davis wearing cloaks and dramatically holding candles.
Harrison Greenbaum & Patrick Davis

SCAM was co created by comedian & magician Harrison Greenbaum (the MC for our convention RECON). I tell you this both to disclose that relationship, and to give you a sense of SCAM’s style. He is talented, funny, and vulgar. (He tones this last part down a lot for RECON.) To varying degrees, the other performers are cut from the same cloth.

If you aren’t sure whether you’ll enjoy the humor of SCAM New York, I recommend taking a good look at their secret society logo. Study the details, identify the layers… really take it in… because this shit is hilarious…

Society of Conjurers And Magicians logo depicts many people with devil tails arranged in a circle with their heads up one anothers' asses.
While at SCAM, I recommend asking why the logo is designed this way.

If instead you are bothered by it… perhaps Disney’s The Lion King is more your speed and it’s only a few blocks away from SCAM. No judgement from me; I want everyone to have a good time.

SCAM New York was the first show or game that Lisa and I had experienced post-quarantine. I cannot think of a better show for the era. Meeting up with a small group of friends and spending most of the show in a room with them while entertainment came to us was exactly the speed that we were looking for. If you enjoy magic, comedy, or puzzles, there’s something for you at SCAM.

Who is this for?

  • Magic fans
  • Comedy fans
  • Puzzle lovers
  • People looking for an unusual night out
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • It’s funny
  • It’s entertaining
  • The puzzles do a good job of filling in gaps between acts

Story

We were invited to an initiation into a magical secret society.

A hand reaching out for a small chest secured with a padlock.

Setting

SCAM New York is not in a dedicated space; it occupies the RPM Underground karaoke bar that has more than a dozen uniquely designed rooms. The individual rooms functioned more as stages than as immersive spaces.

The space had a lot of character. It also offered a lot of utility for the performance, including a bar and kitchen.

A magician performing closeup magic with a group in a small room.

Gameplay

SCAM New York was first and foremost a show. The puzzles and gameplay were optional, albeit entertaining interludes. These were proper puzzles that felt well-designed and play-tested. They ramped up in difficulty over the course of the evening. There were points while solving that it became abundantly clear that the designers were avid escape room players.

Analysis

➕ The overall quality of the performances was high. We’ve been to magic events in a number of places and while I will admit with magic the quality bar is usually pretty low, for me, this was second only to The Magic Castle in Los Angeles. It didn’t have the volume of experiences and sights, nor did it have the big stage acts. SCAM New York had fantastic, intimate performances that came to us. We didn’t have to go hunting for shows or get lucky. This was an easy night.

Magician Rachel Wax posing on a table.
Rachel Wax

➕ With closeup magic for a small audience, you get a special experience that doesn’t always shine through with stage magic. Everything at SCAM New York was closeup magic by virtue of the size of each room.

➖ The narrative and storytelling came on strong at the beginning and sort of petered out. I’m not sure that it even mattered, but it did feel like there was a dangling plot thread begging to be tied off.

➕ There’s a full bar and kitchen. Waiters will bring your orders directly to your room.

➕ The puzzles were good, and will likely improve over time. SCAM New York revises and updates its puzzle content.

➖ While SCAM New York seems a little limited by not owning their own space, the more tangible puzzle interactions could stand to benefit from some upgrades.

❓ If you struggle with comedy as a medium, SCAM New York might not be your thing. These folks were funny, and not especially sensitive. Our group enjoyed it.

➕  At the end of the show, you are in a karaoke bar, and you can choose to use your room as such.

➕ SCAM New York has a rotating cast of magicians. When mixed with an updating catalog of puzzles, you can return and expect to some new experiences. We plan to return.

Tips For Visiting

  • Parking: It’s New York City. We recommend mass transit, but there are parking garages nearby.

Book your hour with SCAM New York, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: SCAM New York comped our tickets for this game.

All images via SCAM New York.

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