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Review: The Puppeteer’s Workshop

4 Key

RATING: 4 Key         RESULT: Win          REMAINING: 26:03

You know what? I’ve been the puppet far too long, it’s about time I learn to be the puppeteer!


Mysterious stage puppeteer Harry Keller has returned from an unexplained hiatus, and he is searching for a new apprentice.

You will need to solve a series of challenging puzzles if you wish to pass Keller’s tests and demonstrate your potential for the role. But, pay close attention, because everything is not as it seems…

Will you be able to escape Keller’s curious workshop in time?

So this was all that I given when I first went to their website, which left me wondering why it was so short and if I it would even be worth booking. It’s a brand new room and we would be this venue’s FIRST paying customers. To be honest, I wasn’t sold. After rationalizing some of the more odd attributes and seeing some unique characteristics just from the website alone, I made the plunge. It turned out to be a great decision; as soon as I booked I received the following in-character email elaborating on the story a bit.

From the desk of Harry Keller,
                                                         World’s Greatest Puppeteer

Congratulations! You have been selected as a final round applicant for the position of Puppeteer’s Apprentice. If successful, you may accompany me on my upcoming world tour.

As I have had a number of unfortunate experiences involving my previous apprentices, I intend to be highly selective about my choice of replacement. Before we can proceed to a final face-to-face interview, I require proof that you possess the requisite ability to succeed in this role.

I have created a series of puzzles within my workshop to test your wits and your capacity to “play well with others”. As you can see from the attached newspaper front page, interest in this position has exceeded even my expectations, thus, you will have only 70 minutes in which to solve my puzzles and uncover my secret. If you fail you will be asked to leave the premises immediately.

I have arranged for you to meet with my tour manager, Dr Michael Spurrier who will explain the rules of your engagement.

Please do not disappoint me!

Yours sincerely,

Harry Keller

Well then…….Here we go!


The Puppeteer’s Workshop is unlike any other room I have done. Scenically the room was quite plain, but clean.  It didn’t appear that the owner had spent thousands of dollars to try and create this. It looked more like this was a resourceful owner who was using creativity, what he had access to, and a little bit of capital to try and get a game off the ground. But here’s the thing – It worked!

This game focused on the psychological attack on more than one occasion.  When I walked in the “lobby” and saw that it was a VERY small, VERY dark corner of a larger room that had been walled off using old looking suitcases and antique dressers it felt……off. But at the same time that feeling made everything a little more real. If I’m being honest, it made me feel uneasy, and I have never had that feeling playing a game before.

The use of some light classical music inside the room was a nice touch. As the music mixed in the air with the clean hardwood floors I couldn’t help but catch myself thinking of scenes from “Hannibal” where he cooks his victims with the same style of music playing in the background.

I must be losing my mind! This is a completely safe game…right?!? Why is the music getting louder?

That was the last thought I had before things took a turn to a the next part of the story that included an area both my wife and I were sure someone was going to jump at us (despite being told multiple times it would not happen). The sparse use of immersive scenery mixed with some very well put together mind tricks made this feel real at a meta level (more on that later).


Short of a few exceptions, the puzzles in The Puppeteer’s Workshop are not going to blow you away. They are simple puzzles that I am sure you have seen before, but again, it works! The puzzles were fun and all of them tied into, and built upon, the entire storyworld.

There was some smaller uses of technology including a single puzzle that I had not seen before. When you completed it lead to a pretty neat “Wow!” moment.

Outside of the use of technology, the manual puzzles were satisfying as well. When the solution to one of these low tech puzzles presented itself I found myself satisfied and impressed with the owner’s creativity to get the game to flow and give the information he intended.

There was no logic leaps to these puzzles either; they all made sense. When you got an answer you knew exactly what it was and what to do with it.

The previously mentioned “psychological attacks” were not just limited to the scenery and the meta game – some of the puzzles take direct aim at your psyche as well! I really don’t want to reveal anything about it because when it happened, it stopped me dead in my tracks! I had thought I had figured out all the tricks to this room and had finally convinced myself that the “uneasy” feeling from earlier was all in my mind. When the answer to the final puzzle was revealed I wasn’t sure if we should walk out of the exit thinking someone might be waiting to jump out at us. It was a nice little twist that made me think twice!


Overall, on a scenic and puzzle level The Puppeteer’s workshop is a solid game, but it is not just about those things.  As you have seen riddled throughout this review the real games at this place are the psychological ones!

The thing that started everything for me was the fact that the website flat out does not give out an address in San Francisco. It only gives you a BART (Local mass transit system) station that is within walking distance. Once you book you finally get the address and when you look it up – well let’s just say it’s not a location you would expect. All of that is before you step foot in their facility!

Once you show up, Micheal (pictured above), meets you and welcomes you. Once inside the lobby it felt as though all the rules I was familiar with may not be in play with a company that does everything just a bit different.

It turns out there is a reason for these mind games; this place is owned by a group of psychologists! Talk about playing to your strength. This meta game preyed upon the human minds tendencies, and for that it, it gets itself a 4 Key rating!

This completely different approach to an escape room made me want to find out more. No matter how much my mind said NO! (and it did, a few times) my curiosity wouldn’t let me quit. The biggest escape wasn’t using my mind to escape the room; it was how the room used me to escape my mind!

With a quick remodel just completing I highly suggesting giving this unique venue a play as they re-open!

Venue Details

Venue:  Head Games

Location: San Francisco, California

Number of Games: 1


Duration: 70 minutes

Capacity: 6 people

Group Type: Private / You will not be paired with strangers.

Cost: $59+ for 2 people (price varies by group size, minimum 2)

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