PuzzleWorks – The Hospital [Review]

The Hospital is one of the best escape rooms in St. Paul. Here are our recommendations for great escape rooms in Minneapolis/St. Paul area

A matter of the heart

Location: Saint Paul, MN

Date Played: May 31, 2022

Team Size: 2-10; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per player for the first two players, $26 for each further ticket

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

I’ve played countless escape rooms in medical settings, and they have almost always been horror themed, with blood-spattered operating tables and ungodly torture tools. PuzzleWorks’ The Hospital was decisively not that. It took the hospital theme more seriously… and did so with a healthy dose of hilarity.

Our objective was simple: break into a hospital to return a heart that a heart surgeon had accidentally taken home instead of his lunch. A reverse heart heist, if you will.

The puzzles in The Hospital were solid, standard escape room fare, appropriately themed around what you’d find in a hospital, with a few fun twists here and there. The set sufficiently conveyed “hospital” yet felt a bit underdressed. But I will most remember The Hospital for its sense of humor, from the initial premise up through the final scene.

A hospital room with a beg and imaging equipment.

If you are visiting PuzzleWorks and only have time for one room, The Dungeon features a much more immersive set and a higher density of dynamic and more fully developed puzzles. But if you have time for both, The Hospital is a stellar game that would make a delightful addition.

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PuzzleWorks – The Dungeon [Review]

The Dungeon is one of the best escape rooms in St. Paul. Here are our recommendations for great escape rooms in Minneapolis/St. Paul area

We didn’t avoca-do it!

Location: Saint Paul, MN

Date Played: May 31, 2022

Team Size: 4-10; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per player for the first two players, $26 for each further ticket

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: Climbing stairs (at least one player)

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

In The Dungeon, PuzzleWorks showed off their ability to put a slight twist on the mundane to make something hilarious and memorable.

Most of The Dungeon was a standard, solid take on a medieval dungeon theme. The puzzles were joyous and clever, well themed and well tested. The game began with a split start that gave all players something interesting to work on. The set was lightly cartoonish and beautifully constructed — amongst the most immersive of escape rooms in the Twin Cities area.

Had this been all there was to The Dungeon, it would have been yet another medieval-themed game with a high density of particularly fun puzzles.

But there was the twist. Why were we imprisoned? Why, because we’d been accused of stealing an enchanted avocado! The choice of an avocado was brilliant in its simple absurdity. As a California-dwelling millennial, it wouldn’t be a far stretch to say that I have an emotional attachment to the fruit. And it’s most definitely not something I or most associate with medieval dungeons. PuzzleWorks took this gimmick and ran with it to great effect.

A golden hand in a cage holding an avocado.

The Dungeon is a must-play if you are in the Twin Cities. And while you’re visiting PuzzleWorks, I also recommend checking out The Hospital if you have time. Though it’s not quite as pretty as The Dungeon, it’s perhaps even funnier.

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PuzzleWorks – The Vault [Review]

The Vault is one of the best games in St. Paul, MN. Here are our other recommendations for great escape rooms in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

“I am a Prince and I would like to give you my fortune in exchange for your social security number and some puzzles.”

Location: St Paul, Minnesota

Date played: August 20, 2017

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per ticket, $25.64 per student ticket

Story & setting

The emails were true! The exiled Prince of Yurgmurgistan really did need our help proving his birthright. If we could break into the National Bank of Yurgmurgistan and steal back his most prized possession, he pinky swore that he would shower us in money.

Staged in the National Bank of Yurgmurgistan, The Vault looked incredibly bank-like… which was to say a bit drab except for the large vault door. Beyond the massive metal enclosure, we found things to be far more surprising.

In-game: A cash register in the foreground of the bank set, a massive metal vault door in the background.

Puzzles

The Vault was a deeply puzzle-focused escape game. Initially the puzzles felt typically escape room-esque. As the The Vault progressed, however, the puzzling became increasingly more tangible, grand, and creative.

Standouts

The second half of The Vault was exceptional: both the set and the puzzles, as well as their integration, were entertaining and innovative.

As a result of many design decisions, The Vault usually had at least two puzzling opportunities available at any given time. Most of these could engage at least 2 players. The Vault occupied our team of 5 people from start to finish.

This room escape was pretty damn funny.

In-game: The wall sign for the Yurgmurgistan Nurgunal Burg.
PuzzleWorks committed to the gag.

Shortcomings

We didn’t enjoy one early puzzle and we were thrilled to stumble upon the solution.

I know that Minnesota is inhabited by the gigantic descendants of Vikings, but there were a number of key interactions that would be difficult for shorter players to execute.

One of the most brilliant puzzle/ setpieces in The Vault was also difficult to manipulate. This was clearly a tradeoff that resulted from the PuzzleWorks’ creative direction, but it was cumbersome nonetheless.

Should I play PuzzleWorks’ The Vault?

I loved this escape room; I don’t say that often.

The puzzle flow and gameplay were fantastic.

The set started a little drab, but that changed in the later half of the experience.

The level of creativity in The Vault was phenomenal. PuzzleWorks brilliantly and creatively spun the traditional bank heist escape room story… and simultaneously made it funny.

The Vault was a challenging escape room. I don’t recommend that newbies dive in here because if they are focused on basic escape room how-to, they will miss what makes this The Vault special. It’s doable for first-timers, but they will need help.

That being said, The Vault is a must-play for experienced room escapers. It’s smart. It’s strange. It’s fun. It’s funny. Go see for yourself.

Book your hour with PuzzleWorks’ The Vault, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: PuzzleWorks provided media discounted tickets for this game.