Pizza Arcade + Ghosts
Location: Santa Fe, NM
Date Played: December 15, 2021
Team size: 2-8; we recommend an even number of players, either 2 or 4 adults (+ any kids)
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $25 per player
Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock
Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints
Puzzah! is a unique beast in the escape room world. Their games are heavily puzzle-focused, with adaptive difficulty, and they are fully automated. In Knight Shade, the outcome of this approach to design was a game with a wide range of challenges that can be enjoyable for both groups of children and groups of experienced escape room players.
What stood out to me in Knight Shade was the number of different challenge types that Puzzah! was able to fully automate. There was at least one challenge for everyone in our group.
The cost of automation, even automation that was as branching as this, was rigidity. Knight Shade adapts to how well the team is playing, not necessarily to how much they are enjoying or getting out of an individual challenge. The net effect was challenge spikes that might vary from team to team.
Additionally, we were aware that there was a story in Knight Shade, but at the end of the game, no one in our group could articulate what that story was or agree on what had happened.
Overall, I’m a fan of Puzzah!’s (?) unique approach to escape game design. This set of constraints produces games that feel different, and after a few years of making these kinds of games, Puzzah! has learned how to do it well. If you’re in Santa Fe and looking for an escape room fix, give Knight Shade a try. It’s especially fun to keep an eye on the ways that Puzzah! automates their games… it feels like its own puzzle side quest.
Who is this for?
- Puzzle lovers
- Any experience level
- Lots of puzzle and challenge content
- Deeply adaptive difficulty that can keep a group of children or experienced escape room players engaged
- Automated escape game design
Rumor had it that the local pizza and arcade, Sir Pizza-Lot, was haunted by a spirit known as Knight Shade. We decided to go for a late-night investigation and see what we could turn up.
Knight Shade was set in a Chuck E. Cheesey pizzeria-meets-arcade. The space itself was minimally designed, with a series of larger set pieces, each with its own puzzle challenge. This generally worked because the set pieces looked good, and the room was painted and lit to draw your attention towards the arcade games and other large interactive props.
Puzzah!’s Knight Shade was an automated escape room with a variable level of difficulty that adapts to each team.
Core gameplay revolved around making connections, solving puzzles, and inputting these solutions into the main terminals in the space.
➕ Puzzah!’s automation was impressive. There was plenty to solve, but nothing for Puzzah! to reset.
➕ The gameplay adapted based on our performance. For each prop, Knight Shade presented us with more or less challenging puzzles, or levels of puzzles, depending on our skill level. In this way, the props themselves were quite versatile.
➖ The difficulty seemed to spike without warning. This might have been a factor of adaptive difficulty, but as a player, it felt like a bumpy ride.
➕ The puzzle variety encompassed many types of intelligence: logic, dexterity, counting, and searching, for example.
➖/➕ The gameplay was linear, and your enjoyment of any given puzzle will be variable. It was not really possible for one player to explore something else when encountering a puzzle that’s better suited to a teammate. At best, we could observe the other props, to be more prepared when they came into play later. Furthermore, we didn’t initially realize how linear Knight Shade was. We tried (and failed) to solve ahead. That said, for teams with kids, or players who want to experience everything, this linearity will likely be an advantage.
➕ Once we understood the structure for solution inputs, we had a frame for how to think about the puzzles. We appreciated the added complexity – within the set structure – around solving how to input each solution in the second act.
➖ Knight Shade told a story, but it was hard to follow. The experience revolved around puzzle solving, and any story elements felt disconnected.
➕/➖ We weren’t expecting a Chuck E. Cheese-esque arcade pizzeria castle. Points for theme originality. Less points for a bit of confusion around the scenario. A story was absolutely unfolding… but we struggled to follow it.
Tips For Visiting
- There is metered parking throughout the Railyard (where Puzzah! is located), as well as a paid parking garage just behind Puzzah!
Book your hour with Puzzah!’s Knight Shade, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Disclosure: Puzzah! comped our tickets for this game.
Escape Immerse Explore: New Mexico
This game will be featured on our next escape room tour: Escape Immerse Explore: New Mexico 2022. If you’re looking to play outstanding escape rooms with other players who are just as excited about these games, we hope you’ll join us in New Mexico this June.