RATING: 5 Keys RESULT: Win REMAINING: 5:22 / 23 fragments
Enter a fragmented world to find a mysterious card game that’s part escape room, part interactive theater – and we’re all in!
The mind of J. D. Howell has been fragmented and broken, and the man himself has wound up in Ethos. Streeper Industries invites you and all able-minded test subjects to come play a simple card game and solve a few trivial puzzles in order to assist us in piecing together the life and times of Mr. Howell in order to…rescue him.
Yes, that’s it. Save him from himself. We would like to just find Howell and help him out is all. Absolutely nothing else. Nope. No ulterior motives here. We are the good guys. No doubt about it. Yep. Your assistance in this Streeper Industries Scientific Endeavor will be crucial to the overall success of the project. Apply today.
Though the story comes in a bit vague to the players, The Puzzalarium sets us up for a unique experience from beginning to end. We start our journey into the mind of J.D. Howell with the usual briefing on the room, and are asked to wait in the lobby for further instructions.
Whilst waiting, we hear a phone ring. This is where the mystery and puzzles come right in to play. A soothing voice on the other side tells us our journey starts now, we are welcome to enter The Parlour.
Walking through the door to The Parlour, we arrive in a dimly lit space. The focal point is a card table, with a dealer waiting for our arrival. An open hand beckons us to join him for a game of cards. We take our seat and begin our journey.
Entering the room the mystery starts immediately, this is no ordinary escape room. A dimly lit, sparsely decorated room greets us.. A few pieces of furniture here and there, a shelf with miscellaneous knickknacks, and a large cabinet are all that fills the room. Even with this small space, The Puzzalarium finds a way to cram in a dense set of puzzles and experiences.
As our game progresses, our dealer sets out three unique card games. Each new game transforms the room experience. As each card game comes to a close, the room itself transitions as well. Audio clues give us a new focus along with a change in lighting. A sense of tension and wonder fills the room with each transition, as we dive deeper into the strange parlour that J.D. Howell has set out for us.
The “puzzles” here are what really shine. Our dealer is essentially an actor who serves to both give us hints, and set the pace of the room with the card games dealt out. What looks like a nonsensical arrangement of cards at first quickly transforms into a game that we learn on the fly using almost all of our senses. One must be observant in all aspects of this room to beat the dealer at his own games. Each card game dealt has new rules that we must learn increasing in difficulty over time.
Our dealer is there to closely monitor all our are actions and meet them with appropriate responses. As a result, if one asks a question, they will receive an answer, but it may not be what you expect. Interact with an object, and you may get a whimsical response, or a valuable nudge in the right direction. Certain interactions can lead to unlocking achievements, earning bonus points at the end of the game. One of our favorite achievements was finding a way to not officially start the game for three minutes using a clever trick in the wording given to us by our dealer.
During the game players will discover fragments, an in-world currency, which can be used to purchase items. These items can greatly benefit the player by giving them unique powers, or unlocking potential achievements. Items will range in both value and usefulness, such as keys to open up new puzzles, to a journal with notes from previous participants in this game.
The beauty of the fragment currency system is that if your group is completing the main puzzles quickly, you can buy more optional puzzles for increased difficulty. Completing these side puzzles can yield various results. Your team can earn more fragments, the ability to help out with another puzzle, or unlock more achievements. It’s the perfect mix to keep both new players and highly experienced crews engaged in the room with new things to do. Who could have ever thought that butterflies would lead to so much head scratching in an escape room?
The Puzzalarium is a very unique experience for all enthusiasts. It is not your standard lock and key combo escape room, nor is it the tech filled wonderland that some of the newer games are becoming. Instead this feels much more like we are players inside of a new game world, we must figure out how exactly to interact with this world, it’s objects, and the puzzles our dealer has set out in front of us.
The Parlour immersed us in their own world, transforming their set along the way and utilizing a small space to its maximum potential. At times this game feels ahead of its time, with unique interactive use of an actor and currency system giving players many options at any given point in the game. However, it feels natural once you get into the swing of things, bringing in a nice change of pace away from the average escape game.
Venue: The Puzzalarium
Location: San Diego, California
Number of Games: 3
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: 60 minutes
Capacity: 6 people
Group Type: Private / You will not be paired with strangers.
Cost: $35 per person
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