Missing Pieces – Cuckoo’s Clock [Review]

High gear ratio

Location:  Edina, MN

Date Played: May 30, 2022

Team Size: 4-10; we recommend 3-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27.50 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Cuckoo’s Clock was a puzzle-forward take on a clocktower theme.

With light narrative framing and a ton of content available to work on in parallel, this style of gameplay would be well suited for medium-to-large teams of newer players.

That said, I played Cuckoo’s Clock solo. I had to work for it and took a few hints, but I made it out in time. More experienced players may also enjoy the extra challenge that comes with a smaller team, as this game’s difficulty comes more from the quantity of puzzles than difficulty of individual puzzles.

A steampunk time machine with lots of large gears.

Most of the puzzles in Cuckoo’s Clock were enjoyable. They involved manipulating physical pieces and had a handmade charm. In the mix, though, a handful of puzzles reflected questionable design choices — red herrings, logic leaps, bits of outside knowledge — that made me lose some level of trust in the game design early on. These puzzles weren’t broken, but they reflected an older style of escape room puzzle design that felt somewhat arbitrary, especially to well-traveled players.

If you are in the Minneapolis area, especially newer players looking for a challenge, give Cuckoo’s Clock a try.

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PuzzleWorks – The Hospital [Review]

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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Trapped Puzzle Rooms – Eternity Battle: A Super Sequel [Review]

What a gem!

Location: Minneapolis, MN

Date Played: May 30, 2022

Team Size: 1-8; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 75 minutes

Price: $34.99 per player for 1-2 players to $25.99 per player for 6+ players

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Eternity Battle: A Super Sequel was a puzzle-filled superhero adventure into a supervillain’s lair.

The puzzles in Eternity Battle: A Super Sequel were an absolute blast. Most puzzles had multiple steps and layers, leading to tons of mental and visual ahas. Eternity Battle: A Super Sequel had a lower number of distinct puzzles than some of Trapped Puzzle Rooms’ other rooms, but this density made for a more concentrated, highly dynamic 75-minute game.

Eternity Battle: A Super Sequel also looked great. A range of textures and vibrant colors evoked a comic book superhero vibe. The set was amongst the most attractive that Trapped Puzzle Rooms has created yet, outpaced only by Witchcraft Alley.

Though Eternity Battle: A Super Sequel had a clear final objective, much of the gameplay felt like a sequence of thematic but otherwise unconnected puzzles. The puzzles were fantastic and flowed well. There was some intermediate sub-theming around certain superpowers. Yet a clearer narrative throughline could have provided players with a more immediate sense of purpose and progression throughout.

A large box labeled "One Million Tons" atop rubble.

Eternity Battle: A Super Sequel is one of the top games at Trapped Puzzle Rooms and in the Twin Cities as a whole. Along with Witchcraft Alley, Eternity Battle represents a noteworthy evolution for Trapped in set design, tech, and puzzle creativity, as well as a loving tribute to a particular fandom. If you are in the Twin Cities and love puzzles, I highly recommend checking out Eternity Battle: A Super Sequel.

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PuzzleWorks – The Dungeon [Review]

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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Trapped Puzzle Rooms – Witchcraft Alley [Review]

Escapiosa!

Location: Minneapolis, MN

Date Played: May 30, 2022

Team Size: 1-10; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $34.99 per player for 1-2 players to $25.99 per player for 6+ players

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Witchcraft Alley was a magical journey into a land of dark spells and wizarding consumerism.

As the newest and shiniest of Trapped Puzzle Rooms’ in-person offerings, Witchcraft Alley balanced densely creative puzzles with a myriad of magical effects and cool transitions. Trapped has always seemed to excel in the puzzle department, and this room was no exception. But Witchcraft Alley also provided a genuine sense of exploration and discovery that was somewhat lacking in Trapped’s previous creations and the Twin Cities escape room scene on the whole. Whereas Trapped’s earlier rooms each followed a predictable progression through 1-3 rectangular spaces, Witchcraft Alley played more with the floor plan and achieved a higher level of environmental storytelling.

Prior to visiting Trapped’s Minneapolis and St. Paul brick-and-mortar locations, I was already quite familiar with their work through having played their entire remote catalog: 9 audio escape rooms and 5 tabletop puzzle games, including their recent Kickstarter game Ruff Bluff. If you’ve read my Hivemind reviews of any of those games, you’ll know I’ve been a big fan.

Witchcraft Alley matched the level of wit, polish, and charm I’ve come to expect from Trapped’s virtual offerings. If there were one primary area for improvement, it would be the inclusion and development of some memorable characters — which was perhaps the strongest feature of Trapped’s Audio Escape Adventures yet was all but absent in Witchcraft Alley.

A wall of crystal balls, dramatically lit.

I love seeing how escape room companies mature, and Witchcraft Alley illustrated a particularly compelling evolution. Witchcraft Alley might be seen as the spiritual successor to Trapped’s related-in-theme Wizard’s Tower, which Lisa and David reviewed back in 2017. I also played Wizard’s Tower during my visit, and the room has held up quite well; yet Witchcraft Alley has leveled up in almost all dimensions.

Witchcraft Alley is a strong must-play if you are visiting Minneapolis, and I believe it’ll serve as the new benchmark for the local escape room scene.

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