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
Continue reading “Bam Kazam [Review]”

ESCAPE:chandler – Kate’s Motel [Review]

The cheerful staff are always eager to lend a hand

Location:  Chandler, AZ

Date Played: March 12, 2022

Team size: 3-9; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 90 minutes

Price: from $46 per player for teams of 3 to $37 per player for teams of 9

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Kate’s Motel was a traditional escape room executed really well.

The set looked like a convincing motel, the horror was playful (not terrifying), and the puzzles were mostly strong.

Information pamphlet for "Kate's Motel, Kate Bates, Manager" held up in the middle of the lobby of Kate's Motel.

There were a couple of puzzles that left us thinking, “there might be a better way to clue that,” but overall, this was a cleanly executed game.

If you’re in Phoenix, and seeking a traditional escape room, for us, this was the strongest of the batch we played. I’m glad we checked into Kate’s Motel; we could feel that a lot of love went into it.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A lot of puzzle content
  • Playful horror atmosphere
  • Solid execution

Story

Kate’s Motel had been the last known sighting of many missing persons. The ominously named Kate Bates was suspected of murdering her patrons. Our team of private detectives had been hired to investigate.

A large, wooden check-in desk in Kate's Motel lobby.
Continue reading “ESCAPE:chandler – Kate’s Motel [Review]”

The Nemesis Club – Mogollon Monster [Review]

CAW!

Location: Phoenix, AZ

Date Played: March 11, 2022

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $35 per player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: There is a portion of the game that shakes.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Nemesis Club is a special place: an escape room speakeasy set behind a phenomenal milkshake shop. It was surreal seeing tons of people buying milkshakes and legitimately having no idea that there was a world class escape room company hidden in the back.

Mogollon Monster itself was a grand adventure built around capturing an Arizona Bigfoot. Set in a Monster Rangers’ campsite, this narrative adventure was structured around tracking, baiting, and capturing a photo of the monster.

An outdoor campsite with a burned down campfire, Monster Ranger uniforms hung on a lashed-together structure, in the background is an RV with an archery target.

Mogollon Monster was exciting and hilarious, with layers of jokes, some of which were deep cuts that you’d have to have some background in scouting to appreciate. I’m a former Eagle Scout, and there were a number of points where I dropped out of playing the game and just dug into the props and materials because they were so delightful and rich.

Finally, the finale of Mogollon Monster was genius; it felt like we were on a ride.

The Nemesis Club is a world class escape room company, and I am completely confident that we will be seeing amazing things from them long into the future. I cannot wait to play more of their work.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Cryptid fans
  • People with a connection to scouting will get something extra from this game
  • Best for players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • It’s really funny
  • Clever storytelling
  • Incredible set design
  • Brilliant interactions
  • Challenging puzzles
  • Nemesis Club’s ambiance
  • Milkshakes

Story

Our Monster Rangers group (which is an actual group that exists in a delightfully strange realm between scouting parody, art project, and sincere group of people) set off on an adventure to track and document the existence of the Mogollon Monster (an Arizona Bigfoot).

Painting of a Monster Ranger in uniform with a camera, behind him is a monster lurking in the woods.
Continue reading “The Nemesis Club – Mogollon Monster [Review]”

Paragon Escape Games – Return of the Pharaohs [Review]

“Ra, save us!”

Location: Mesa, AZ

Date Played: March 12, 2022

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27-$30 per player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: There is sand on the floor throughout the entire experience. (You do not have to dig in it.)

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

We’ve seen a lot of Egyptian tomb escape games, and Return of the Pharaohs was a special one.

In addition to its gorgeous set, Paragon Escape Games created fantastic gameplay loops that had us really exploring their game world, and working for our solves. From a gameplay standpoint, this may be my most memorable trip to escape room Egypt.

Imposing statue of Thoth in an Egyptian tomb.

My one gripe with Return of the Pharaohs was that there was a lot of text that could be translated, but didn’t need to be. The game did a good job of making it clear through translation when we didn’t need to continue, but there were times where I just wished that it wasn’t even on the menu. There was plenty of content and challenge in this game without it.

On the whole, Return of the Pharaohs was as stellar as it was memorable. If you’re in Phoenix, this is a must-play game, and we’ll be keeping an eye out for future games from Paragon Escape Games. I have a feeling that they are going to be a company to watch in the future.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Indiana Jones fans
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • An absolutely gorgeous Egyptian tomb set
  • Unusual and clever game design
  • Fantastic effects

Story

We were the souls of Egyptian gods trapped by Set, the god of chaos. We had to free ourselves from Set’s trap, our only ally was Ra, whose powers were waning.

Statues of Egyptian gods inside of a tomb.
Continue reading “Paragon Escape Games – Return of the Pharaohs [Review]”