Puzzah! – Knight Shade [Review]

Knight Shade is one of the best games in Santa Fe. Here are our other recommendations for great escape rooms in Santa Fe.

Pizza Arcade + Ghosts

Location:  Santa Fe, NM

Date Played: December 15, 2021

Team size: 2-8; we recommend an even number of players, either 2 or 4 adults (+ any kids)

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Puzzah! is a unique beast in the escape room world. Their games are heavily puzzle-focused, with adaptive difficulty, and they are fully automated. In Knight Shade, the outcome of this approach to design was a game with a wide range of challenges that can be enjoyable for both groups of children and groups of experienced escape room players.

What stood out to me in Knight Shade was the number of different challenge types that Puzzah! was able to fully automate. There was at least one challenge for everyone in our group.

Door to "Sir Pizza-Lot"

The cost of automation, even automation that was as branching as this, was rigidity. Knight Shade adapts to how well the team is playing, not necessarily to how much they are enjoying or getting out of an individual challenge. The net effect was challenge spikes that might vary from team to team.

Additionally, we were aware that there was a story in Knight Shade, but at the end of the game, no one in our group could articulate what that story was or agree on what had happened.

Overall, I’m a fan of Puzzah!’s (?) unique approach to escape game design. This set of constraints produces games that feel different, and after a few years of making these kinds of games, Puzzah! has learned how to do it well. If you’re in Santa Fe and looking for an escape room fix, give Knight Shade a try. It’s especially fun to keep an eye on the ways that Puzzah! automates their games… it feels like its own puzzle side quest.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Lots of puzzle and challenge content
  • Deeply adaptive difficulty that can keep a group of children or experienced escape room players engaged
  • Automated escape game design

Story

Rumor had it that the local pizza and arcade, Sir Pizza-Lot, was haunted by a spirit known as Knight Shade. We decided to go for a late-night investigation and see what we could turn up.

A large analog game cabinet shaped like a castle tower.
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New Mexico Escape Room – Bombshell [Review]

Bombshell is one of the best games in Albuquerque. Here are our other recommendations for great escape rooms in Albuquerque.

Syndicate Revolt

Location:  Albuquerque, NM

Date Played: December 14, 2021

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28 per player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: If the transition sequences don’t work for you, you can bypass them.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Have you ever just connected with a game? I connected with Bombshell. Maybe it was because I live in New Jersey, and the villain strongly reminded me of my neighbor… or maybe it was the noir vibes, beautiful set, and the clever way that New Mexico Escape Room massaged escape room tropes into the narrative of this game.

Whatever it was… I got really into it.

A box covered in a white sheet in a warehouse.

Another thing that I loved about Bombshell was that things had weight to them. The props, transitions, lighting… so much of this game had a playful gravitas. When you picked up props, they required a bit of oomph; the story felt the same.

Where Bombshell lost me from time to time were in a few puzzles that required a bit more repetition than was necessary. Those “ok, I get it…” moments weren’t numerous, but in such a smooth game, they stood out.

Bombshell is another one of those must-play games in Albuquerque… so if you’re anywhere nearby, go play it.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Noir fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • A strong narrative-driven game
  • Phenomenal set design accentuated by lighting

Story

For decades Vittorio Bosargio had ruled crime in this city as the Don of Dons. No one questioned his judgment… until recently. He seemed to be losing it, becoming chaotic, violent, and mad. As the leaders of our respective crime families, we’d gathered to put an end to his reign, but Bosargio knew what we were up to…

A spotlit red telephone hung on a brick wall.
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Lost Games – The Fortune Teller [Review]

The Fortune Teller is one of the best escape rooms in Las Vegas. Here are our recommendations for other great escape rooms in Las Vegas.

Luck of the draw

Location:  Las Vegas, Nevada

Date Played: November 28, 2021

Team Size: 2-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $45 per player for 2 players to $39 per player for 6 players

Ticketing: Private

Game Breakage: One puzzle was out of commission at the time of playing

Accessibility Consideration: All players must climb a flight of stairs to reach the room

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Fortune Teller was an ambitious escape room + immersive theater hybrid, jam-packed with innovative gameplay and actor interactions.

We were enthralled by the novelty and cleverness of many individual elements in The Fortune Teller, yet the implementation of certain puzzles lacked the extra bit of polish that would have made the overall experience truly coalesce. While little was broken outright, multiple instances of glitchy tech and overly finicky puzzles compounded throughout our experience.

But we were not on our own! An in-room actor playing the fortune teller’s assistant fully committed to an enjoyably campy performance. The actor not only communicated key plot points but also allowed for a plethora of puzzle answer formats, more varied than what is possible in most escape rooms. While we enjoyed engaging with the actor’s energetic and funny character, there was room for additional polish — especially with regard to the actor’s timing — given the complexity of the role.

The Fortune Teller was far from a traditional escape room, both in puzzle style and gameplay structure. If you don’t enjoy actor interactions or are turned off by mystical tarot imagery, this probably isn’t the game for you. But if, like us, you appreciate escape rooms that take risks, and have some tolerance for a bit of jankiness, you too may be enchanted by what The Fortune Teller has to offer.

An illuminated bell in a fortune teller's parlor.
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Bust Out Escape Room – Jumanji [Review]

Jumanji is one of the best games in Albuquerque. Here are our other recommendations for great escape rooms in Albuquerque.

When you play the game of Jumanji, you win or you die.

Location:  Albuquerque, NM

Date Played: December 15, 2021

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $31 per player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: To fully experience this game, you need to be able to go up and down stairs.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

This was the strongest representation of Jumanji that I’ve seen in an escape room.

Bust Out Escape Room started with an Indestroom game and heavily modified it, making it their own. The mid- and late-game effects within Jumanji really sold this adventure.

A living room with a fireplace and a painting an elephant.

The early game wasn’t especially engaging… which is a common trait of Jumanji escape games. There was also an opportunity for Bust Out to add some spot lighting in key areas to facilitate gameplay.

Beyond that, this was a fantastic game. When we visited Bust Out at 8:30pm on a Wednesday night, this was the only game on our schedule… after playing it we ended up booking two more games. Needless to say, we had a great time. If you’re in the area, I recommend Jumanji, especially if you’re already a fan of the book or movies.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Jumanji fans
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Wonderful Jumanji-inspired props
  • Engaging effects sequences

Story

We entered a home where a game of Jumanji was already in progress: the drums beat, the jungle was alive, and the animals were hungry. The only way out was to finish the game.

Closeup of a Jumanji board game.
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Escape Blair Witch [Review]

Escape Blair Witch is one of the best escape rooms in Las Vegas. Here are our recommendations for other great escape rooms in Las Vegas.

“She’s coming…”

Location:  Las Vegas, NV

Date Played: December 17, 2021

Team size: up to 8 in a public booking; we recommend a private group of 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $45.99 per player for General Admission or $65.99 per player for Private VIP Experience

Ticketing: Public (General Admission) or Private (Private VIP Experience)

Accessibility Consideration: You’ll experience dim lighting, loud noises, and fog. At least one person needs to crawl.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Blair Witch Project was an interesting phenomenon back in 1999. The first-person “found footage” style of this horror movie blended with its fabricated legend and a bit of clever marketing to leave some asking the question, “Is this real? Did this really happen, like in real life?”

Now, if you knew me back in ’99, and posed that question, I would have informed you that “of course it wasn’t real… it was a theatrically released horror movie, not evidence of supernatural murders.” And I would have said that in the most condescending teenage tone possible.

The good news about Escape Blair Witch is that it is real… or at least, it feels real.

The Blair Witch symbol lashed together from twigs and twine, hanging from a tree branch.
Image via Escape Blair Witch

A lot went into building the set and crafting the experience of Escape Blair Witch, and that’s really how I recommend looking at it: as an experience.

Escape Blair Witch was experientially strong, creating an intense horror experience with an actor who adapts to the skill level of the team. The puzzles and story themselves were unremarkable; it was about the adventure.

The big catch with Escape Blair Witch is that it is a public game, with the option to pay extra to make it private. In my opinion, this game must be played with a private group; it’s worth paying the extra money. If you don’t, you’re likely going to find yourself crammed into a room filled with randoms (and it’s not just randoms you’d be playing with – it’s randoms in Vegas). The game doesn’t support a group of 8, and it especially doesn’t support teams of mixed skill level.

Escape Blair Witch was experientially the strongest escape game we played in Las Vegas, and I recommend checking it out if you’re in town and looking for an intense time. Just buy the private tickets… or don’t bother.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Blair Witch fans
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • Fantastic set design
  • Strong haunt effects
  • A great actor who read the room and adjusted to our team’s skill

Story

After a few college students had disappeared in the Black Hills Forest, we set off to investigate their mysterious disappearance. Our search began in the Burkittsville Ranger’s Station. Was this an accident? Was there foul play? Or was this something else entirely?

A man in the woods looking scared.
Image via Escape Blair Witch
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