Puzzah! – The Curse [Review]

Puzzah Express

Location:  Broomfield, CO

Date Played: September 6, 2019

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 2-Family

Duration: 30 minutes

Price: $25 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Curse felt like a miniature 5 Wits.

This Puzzah! location was in a mall, right by the food court. The Curse was a compact, tech-driven, family-friendly puzzle game. It was bright, colorful, and approachable.

In-game: wide angle view of the Mayan tomb, a pyramid in the middle of hte room, an large wall mounted puzzle beyond it.

The Curse looked good. It played well. It was not deep. This was a game made for a general audience; for that audience, it was great.

If you’re a diehard escape room player, play The Curse to experience something a bit different. This game had solid automation and adaptive difficulty, which was lovely to see, even if the game was not designed for me and my team.

Bring the kids and convince grandma to come too. This one is for the whole family.

Who is this for?

  • Newbies
  • Children
  • Families
  • Technophiles

Why play?

  • A vibrant family-friendly environment
  • Interesting automation and technology
  • Puzzle play that will engage a family

Story

We descended into an ancient Central American temple on contract with industrialist Victor Maragana. Our mission was to reason our way past the temple’s traps and obtain a long-lost coin.

In-game: A sun etched in the wall of the ruins.

Setting

The Curse was a compact, bright, colorful, and tech-driven Central American temple for families.

Calling it kiddie evokes a cheesiness and cheapness that wasn’t accurate. This was a solidly-constructed space that seemed designed to feel like an adventure without sending anyone home with a nightmare.

The adaptive technology was a smart touch to keep things fair and flowing for players of all ages and skills.

In-game: A large cube resting atop a pyramid in inside of bright ruins.

Gameplay

Puzzah!’s The Curse was a family-friendly escape room with a low level of difficulty.

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

In-game: closeup of a radio and a blacklight.

Analysis

➕ The Curse was designed for families, new players, and casual players stopping by while strolling through the mall. This 30-minute escape room was the right level of not-too-challenging for its intended audience.

➕ Aesthetically, The Curse was “ancient Aztec meets grade-school classroom.” It was thematically a Central American tomb, but it had bright colors for kids to follow to solve the puzzles. It was a bit strange, but it worked well in this context. It felt deliberately designed and looked polished.

➕ The Curse had a gentle on-ramp. It taught players how to interact with the space.

➕ The puzzles were solid. They were fun, team-based challenges. Puzzah! would present additional complexity as teams built mastery.  

➕ /➖ Puzzah! built a lot of puzzles into a small space. On the one hand, we appreciated the different ways they used the same props and input mechanisms. On the other hand, by the end of the game, the use of the same items was feeling redundant and we wanted more to interact with… or even just interplay between different props.

The Curse encouraged teamwork and sharing by design. When puzzles could only be solved by one person at a time, it even told the group that the next person should step up and take their turn at this trial. I can see this working wonders on sibling nonsense.

➖ The Curse lacked a boss fight. We wanted that final puzzle to be a more challenging, epic battle that necessitated teamwork. Also, we couldn’t actually hold the coin. When we won, we left the room empty handed. This seemed like a missed opportunity.

Tips For Visiting

  • Puzzah! Broomfield is located in the FlatIron Crossing Mall. Puzzah! Broomfield is at the South Entrance just beside Old Navy, right next to the food court.

Book your hour with Puzzah!’s The Curse, 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.

Puzzah! – KAZAM! [Review]

Automagical

Location:  Denver, CO

Date Played: September 7, 2019

Team size: 2-5; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

KAZAM! was a puzzle-driven escape game with a collection of generally high-quality challenges.

Additionally, Puzzah! had an interesting approach to automation that seamlessly injected bonus content into the experience, based on team performance.

In-game: another view of Kazam's study, the wall is covered in clocks and a strange mechanism is mounted to the wall.

That said, we felt the limitations of hint automation rear their head from time to time. Also, a recurring visibility obstacle was cool at first, but grew way too old by the end of the game.

As puzzlers we really enjoyed KAZAM! and absolutely recommend it to puzzle- and tech-minded players.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Technophiles
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Interesting automated puzzles
  • Strong team-based gameplay
  • Adaptive difficulty

Story

We entered the attic of famed and missing stage magician Kellar Kazam. The question at hand: where did his final disappearing act take him?

In-game: A computer with a white screen on a desk in a strange old study.

Setting

KAZAM! was built as a quirky space. It was an office. It was decorated and themed against the golden age of stage magic… and there was a modern computer. I have no idea what year it was supposed to be in the game world.

Now all of that might sound negative, but it wasn’t; it worked. I attribute this to the fact that Puzzah! clearly put a lot of effort into the space. That was evident from the unusual ceiling as well as the integrated tech.

As with all of the Puzzah! games we played on this trip, Kazam! had tech-driven adaptive difficulty piloting the game.

In-game: a bird cage with a glasses wearing skull.

Gameplay

Puzzah!’s KAZAM! was a linear escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

It was unusual in that a computer interface gated all the puzzles.

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

In-game: wide view the Kazam's study, clocks, and other items hang on the walls.

Analysis

➕ The puzzles were the star of KAZAM! Puzzah! took familiar concepts and added clever twists.

➕ KAZAM! had one of our favorite searching puzzles of all time. Puzzah! used riddles and puns to clue a finite amount of searching.

➕ While ciphers can drag on in escape rooms, Puzzah! dodged this in KAZAM! by integrating an entertaining mechanism into an alternating cipher.

➖ As much as we enjoyed the puzzles, at times we felt that Puzzah! could have added cleaner cluing.

➕ KAZAM! had an enticing magical study vibe to it. It was a fun place to explore.

➖ For a game set in the golden age of magic, it relied heavily on a computer. This seemed out of place. (I’m not sure what year it was supposed to be.) It also slowed the pace of gameplay.

➕/➖ KAZAM! opened with a gimmick that added intrigue to the opening moments of the game. We expect this will be novel for most players. We appreciated how this forced teamwork. We felt, however, that as the game progressed, this mechanic overstayed its welcome and became annoying.

➕ Puzzah!’s games are automated. KAZAM! will present more puzzles to players who move through the game quickly. We appreciated the “bonus” content. It seemed integrated well enough that players who aren’t presented with it won’t miss it.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is nearby street parking and public parking lots.

Book your hour with Puzzah!’s KAZAM!, 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.

Puzzah, Denver Colorado – The Steal [Review]

A work of art that falls flat as its about to hit high notes.

Location: Denver, Colorado

Date played: May 10, 2015

Team size: 2-4; we recommend 2-4

Price: $79 per team Sunday – Friday, $99 per team Saturday

Plot

“Test your skills in “The Steal”, a heist mission where steady hands and clever wits are all you have. Your job is to steal a priceless Qing dynasty coin from INTERCEPT, a shadowy criminal organization. Your team must outwit security sensors and alarms to retrieve the coin. You cannot fail this mission, or it will be your last…”

the_steal

More heist, less escape

This game is more of a heist than an escape. You’re “breaking” into the private museum of some anonymous bad guy to steal some stuff. Technically you have to “escape” at the end, but the escape is not the focus; the setup is cool.

Before you walk into the room, you learn the basic structure: You must circumvent an alarm system in order to steal a series of artifacts. When the light on an alarm is green, you can make an attempt at circumvention. When the light is red, you’re in danger; you must reset and wait for the light to turn green before you can make another attempt.

Thoughtful business owners

Puzzah Waiting Room

Puzzah has a beautiful waiting area complete with puzzles for sale, and lockers for players to stash their belongings. They’re even building a mini puzzle game to occupy players while they wait their turn to enter their room.

Puzzah Lockers

Theses are nice touches that I have not seen from any other company.

Beautiful

This is a beautiful room.

The designers minded the details in an admirable way. Everything from the floor to the ceiling is deliberately crafted to make the small room feel like a private museum… Seriously there was a point in the middle of this game where I found myself gazing up at the ceiling and admiring how perfect it was for this game.

Hint heavy

This room is very technology heavy, and tied to that, the hints seem automated. They are tied to various actions that you could take within the room. As you wrestle with the rooms “alarm systems,” hints are delivered based on home much the system thinks you’re sucking.

The room is very linear. Often we figured out how to disarm an alarm, but needed to make a few attempts at it… The hints started to feel a little patronizing, telling us things we already knew.

Uncertainty

We figured out all of the puzzles in the room reasonably quickly. Some of them we figured out before we had the gear we needed to complete them.

In spite of the fact that we figured out the puzzles, when we went to resolve them, we were never really sure if we were doing it correctly. The alarms felt wonky, and at no point were we sure that they were going to turn off after we stole an artifact. This made this room fall flat.

Each time you steal an artifact should feel like a moment of triumph. The puzzles were clever, so solving them is fun… But then spoiled by the total uncertainty of whether or not we just lost because maybe the alarm wasn’t going to shut off. And in the end, that’s exactly what happened to us.

We solved the final puzzle correctly, stole the aforementioned coin, and the alarm didn’t turn off. Our game master walked in, told us that we lost, and then when we made him explain why the alarm didn’t turn off, he looked at our solution and confirmed that we did it correctly.

We left with a lot of mixed emotions.

Confused & confounded
Confused & confounded

Should I play Puzzah’s The Steal?

The Steal was such a great idea. The look of the room was spot on. The puzzles were fresh and clever… Yet I left feeling letdown.

The Steal’s crime was that it sets huge expectations for itself, and consistently fell just short of delivering.

There were so many good ideas in this game, and the alarm system was one of them… But it needed to be tuned for fun and accuracy. You cannot build an automated system that tells you that you lost when the puzzle was solved correctly; especially on the final puzzle.

I’d love to recommend The Steal, but I cannot in its current form. It needs tuning.

That being said, I love what Puzzah is trying to do, and am excited to play their second game.

Book your hour with Puzzah’s The Steal, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.