By the time the four of us had been in the room for an hour, we had figured out many things — mostly about ourselves. It turns out that some of us are better at logic, and others at visual clues. One of us has a tendency to be loud (OK, we knew all along that it’s me). We all look ridiculous in big, round glasses.
We also realized that we’re a good team of pals. At one point or another, each of us did or said something stupid or something smart, and we were all pretty forgiving of the former and exuberantly supportive of the latter. Also, eating a pot cookie whose strength is untested can be a great idea, or … not so much.
The one thing we hadn’t done? Solved the puzzle.
We were racking our brains at Puzzah, a local “puzzle room” that’s part of the still-growing trend of escape rooms. Here’s what that means: Your team (best made up of 2 to 4 players) is given a puzzle-based goal with a story built around it, and in 60 minutes you have to figure it out by following clues, decoding messages and playing nice with your teammates, even when everyone gets frustrated. You’re in a closed room, you’re given very few clues to start, and you may have to do some silly things to get through it.
Especially if you go with the mission we tried: It’s called “Kazam,” the newest of Puzzah’s three rooms, and we were one of the first groups to test it out (the others sport a heist theme and a bomb-disarming mission). It’s hard. Or we’re dumb. Or maybe a combination of the two. Our goal was to “unravel the mystery of one of the greatest magicians of all time,” and while we were sooo close (just give us another couple of minutes!), we failed.
The elaborately conceived room — created by Puzzah founders Sarah Cai, Derek Anderson and Ryan Pachmayer — uses high-tech software that adapts to the players. So as you work through the puzzle (or are completely stymied by it), the computer knows what to reveal or not to help things move along.
It must have been really annoyed by us.
The “Kazam” mission has a difficulty rating of 8 out of 10; the other puzzle rooms at Puzzah are rated 3-4 out of 10. That made us feel slightly better.
“Many of the marijuana groups that come in do pretty darn well and have a blast,” says Pachmayer, who insists that no one is watching the people in the rooms; it’s all computer-generated (we may have gotten a little paranoid). “The drinking groups, conversely, do the worst.”
Ultimately, we did have a blast, and spent the rest of the weekend discussing our (doomed) strategy and plotting our return (to be vindicated by one of the easier rooms, of course). We also couldn’t have imagined not being stoned — it made everyone more agreeable. We laughed until it hurt a few times, and we decided that what happens in the puzzle room stays in the puzzle room.
It’s best to do this with a group of non-judgey people who don’t give up easily — friends who will say things like, “No! That’s a terrible idea!” but mean it in a good way. Also, take a few bottles of water in with you, because once you get a bit worked up, cotton mouth comes on fast.
Location: 1440 Blake St., Denver. 303-534-5477. Cost: $80 per room for up to 5 people. Booking hours are Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10:15 p.m. Click here for more details