Bam Kazam [Review]

Pffff sigh

Location:  Scottsdale, AZ

Date Played: March 10, 2022

Team size: 3-6; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 120 minutes per ticket

Price: $34 per player for up to 2 hours

Ticketing: Your group plays privately, but there are also other groups playing at the same time.

Game Breakage: There were many broken props and interactions.

Accessibility Consideration: This experience requires some agility. At times there are flashing lights.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Bam Kazam is a Boda Borg-style venue produced by the folks from Escape The Room… And I left thinking, “Well, they certainly made the Escape The Room of Boda Borgs.”

^ If you aren’t especially deep in escape room culture, let me assure you, that line is funny.

Let’s start with some history. Boda Borg is akin to an escape room amusement park, but with more physical challenges than an escape room would typically have. You can read all about it in our various pieces on their Boston location. The Boda Borg approach to things is awesome, which is why we are featuring them as part of RECON Boston this year.

Bam Kazam is an overt copy of Boda Borg’s game design and business model, which isn’t inherently a bad thing. Level99 (also part of RECON Boston) took the Boda Borg approach in a different direction to great effect… but that’s not what’s happening here. Bam Kazam feels like someone copied off of Boda Borg’s homework and still managed to get a lot of answers wrong. So let’s explore that, because the failures here are legitimately interesting:

Pop art logo for Bam Kazam! Features a lit bomb.

Price

The first thing that jumped out to me was the price of Bam Kazam: $34 per player for up to 2 hours.

Boda Borg Boston costs $24 per person for up to 2 hours or $36 for up to 4 hours. And it’s just outside of Boston… where I can guarantee that the cost of damn near everything except maybe water is way higher.

Games

Boda Borg Boston has 21 games.

Bam Kazam has 6 games… and while the staff talk about new games “coming next month,” they haven’t arrived. I called and checked just before we published this; nothing has opened since we visited. I also spoke to people who went to Bam Kazam months before us, and they told us the same story. The game offerings are stagnant.

Bam Kazam’s website lists only a couple of games… but laughably includes nonsense “game numbers” implying that there are thousands of Bam Kazam games.

Website screenshot, text reads, "Game #4712 Rat Trap"
Website screenshot, text reads, "Game #2986 Cat Burglar"

This just feels like someone over at Bam Kazam knows just how anemic their lineup is and tried to puff the organization up.

So, Bam Kazam is offering fewer games for more money than Boda Borg.

Craftsmanship & Upkeep

Boda Borg has been operating for years. On our most recent trip there, everything was working and looking great.

Bam Kazam has been operating for months and seems about as well maintained as a Russian tank:

  • Broken props were haphazardly taped together.
  • Games felt unfinished. In one case there was an empty room in the middle of a game.
  • Interactions mysteriously failed us, even when we were confident that we had done them correctly.
  • In a facility where you are allowed to climb, set pieces weren’t always fastened to the walls or the floor.
  • And in one incredible moment, another team was let into our game without us having finished it… which felt a lot like having someone walk into the bathroom while you’re using it. Everyone involved knows that a mistake was made, but none of us knew who was at fault. (It was, in fact, Bam Kazam’s fault.)

So, Bam Kazam is offering fewer games of lower quality for more money than Boda Borg.

Basic Affordances

The thing that really got me was that none of the games in Bam Kazam even had their names over their respective doors. Nor did they give any kind of indication as to whether these games were mental, physical, or both.

Boda Borg does all of this stuff… and honestly, this is the easiest, cheapest thing that Bam Kazam just ignored.

So, Bam Kazam is offering fewer games for more money than Boda Borg… and they are neglecting the basics.

Should I Play?

Bam Kazam has one thing going for it: the concept is inherently fun… even when it is this poorly executed. So, if you’re in Phoenix, and are able to enjoy physical challenges, there are lots of worse things you could do with 2 hours and $34.

Just know that this place is a shadow of what it could and should be. Given Escape The Room’s resources and experience, it certainly feels like they choose mediocrity. It’s a shame; I used to respect them and I’d like to be able to again someday.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Athletes (for some challenges)
  • Any experience level (but experience certainly helps)

Why play?

  • A wide assortment of mental and physical challenges

Setting

As of publication, Bam Kazam had six gamespaces within their facility. Each presented a different game with its own theming.

Similar to Boda Borg and Level99, we would enter a game and play until we either succeeded or failed. If we succeeded, we were passed to the next challenge. If we failed, we were sent back to the lobby where we could try again or attempt one of the other five games.

Games that were available for play were indicated by a glowing green symbol over the door, while games that were occupied had a red bomb.

Green illuminated bomb indicates that the game is free.Red illuminated bomb indicates that the game is occupied.

To enter, someone from our team had to tap an RFID bracelet to a sensor. The games did not know how many players were in them and did not scale the challenges or difficulty accordingly.

A nautical set within the mouth of a whale. There are assorted seafaring props.

Each set looked reasonably well designed, although the aesthetics were marred by heavy wear and in some cases damage.

Gameplay

Bam Kazam was not an escape room. This facility was home to a collection of games that played sort of like in-person video games. We had to deduce what each gamespace wanted us to do to solve it, and then accomplish the solve as a group.

Some games required physical prowess. Others relied on more mental acuity. Most required some blend of the two.

After solving a challenge, we’d progress to a new gamespace with a new challenge. If we failed, or took too long, we had to leave the space and reenter to try again.

We scanned our wristbands to unlock a game from the hallway. In-game tech then interpreted if we’d succeeded or failed at a game, and passed us along to the next space or sent us back to the hallway.

The gameplay structure replicated that of Boda Borg in Malden, MA.

At the time we played in March of 2022, there were six games open and room for many more.

Yellow RFID bracelet.

Analysis

βž• We appreciated the onboarding. A staff member went over how to use the wrist bands and how to interact with the space. They brought us to the most intuitive game and made sure we understood how to approach these games before setting us loose in the facility.

βž– The production was shockingly cheap. If they were going to buy curtains at a store across the parking lot, they could at least remove the label. We shouldn’t know where they went shopping. Games were often sparsely decorated. Paint was always worn. These games weren’t even old… but they were very beat up.

βž– The set construction wasn’t safe. In one game, a wardrobe wasn’t bolted down. This is a facility that invites you to climb. Even if this game didn’t require climbing, the freedom to do so and lack of sturdy construction was a disaster waiting to happen. Other safety hazards included green lasers at eye level, a slippery slanted floor, and flashing lights without warning.

βž• The games varied enormously. In our group, we all had different favorites. There was something for everyone.

βž– Theming was inconsistent. In one instance we went from Victorian Manor (I think) to Medieval Dungeon (I think).

βž–Β The lack of game name labels above the doors was disorienting, and made it very difficult to talk about the games. Names are basic. Why is this missing?

βž– On the subject of labeling, there were no indicators of how physical (or mental) a game was. Not all players will want to engage with all variety of challenges. THIS IS BASIC. WHY WAS THIS MISSING?

βž• Teamwork was essential. Everyone in our group of 4 contributed. Everyone had their moment to shine.

βž• We were trying (and failing) at one game for a while, alternating tries with another group who was also trying, and failing. In the hallway, we’d detail our attempts. We eventually hinted each other through the first room. Yay for serendipitous camaraderie with strangers!

βž–Β We also had an awkward moment due to a technical malfunction. In one instance, another team walked out of the first room of a game to find us in the middle of solving the second room of the game. That’s an inexcusable tech fail. This experience felt a lot like having someone walk in on you in the bathroom… everyone involved was just looking at each other trying to figure out whose fault this was.

βž– We also encountered unfinished construction that wasn’t acknowledged within the game. In one game, when we solved the first challenge, we ended up in a purgatory between the first room and the second room where there was no challenge. Somehow we were supposed to know to progress through another door. Luckily, a staff member noticed we were stalled and told us to move though. The staff aren’t always watching, however. We enlightened a few other groups who were also trying to solve a room of nothing. They could at least clue forward motion and clarify that this game was unfinished in its current state.

Closeup of a prop looks broken and taped together. Some of the tape looks old.

βž– Major props were entirely broken. Behold this seatbelt that was taped together. There were four such seatbelts affixed to this prop. It looked downright terrible.

βž– Furthermore, I am convinced this seatbelt interaction was broken in other ways too. We were so confident in our solution to this puzzle that we wrote down the audio clue and solved it on paper to confirm. Yet we could not get this room to register a successful solve. We spoke to another player who had the same experience in this game months earlier… and he made a staff member enter the room with him and see that the correct solution didn’t work.

βž– Bam Kazam is bright, with 80s pop music playing in the hallways and 60s pop art in the lobby. However, the games were all dimly lit. I’m happy to be transported to a new world for each game. I just wanted as much care in the game world as in the lobby. The dissonance was confounding.

❓ In this style of gameplay you have to do the first room over to get to the second room of a game. This can become exhausting or tedious. However, it is true to Bam Kazam’s video game roots. Your mileage may vary.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.

Book your session with Bam Kazam, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

2 thoughts on “Bam Kazam [Review]

  1. “Pffff sigh” to “The dissonance was confounding” was an impressive display of taking a disappointing ER experience and creating a humorous, educational and constructive dissertation for the reader. There are so many opportunities for all of us to learn from these experiences but they are rarely (never) written/described/analyzed in a way to glean all the valuable lessons. For me, this is the reason I am a REA devotee. I can read a review of an ER that tells me the game was poorly designed and executed, yata, yata, so save your money and go elsewhere. However, the depth and nuance of REA analyses go far beyond and are fun to read as well. I might not have been made smarter by playing this game, but I am damn sure smarter for reading about REA’s experience and critique. Well done!

    1. Thank you David. We truly appreciate the kind words, as what you’re describing is what we strive for… and I think achieve on our best days.

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