Feb. 12, 2019 By Jon Cronin
Queens residents will soon be able to put their puzzle and mystery solving skills to use with the opening of Puzzle Break in Rego Park next month.
Puzzle Break, which has locations across the country and on Royal Caribbean cruise ships, is planning to open its doors at 62-33 Woodhaven Blvd. in the middle of March or beginning of April, according to Justin Williams, one of the company’s owners.
The gist of Puzzle Break involves putting a team of people in a “locked” room and then giving them an hour to sort through clues and puzzles that provide hints on how to get out.
Puzzle Break describes its adventures as, “You are trapped in a room. As you look around you start to notice strange objects and messages – or are they clues? – hidden around the room. Can you and your team solve the puzzles, decode the locks, and escape within one hour?”
Williams said that there will be three themed rooms at this location: the Escape from 20,000 Leagues, the Grimm Escape and Escape the Midnight Carnival.
Williams said they chose the location, the former Queens Chronicle office, because of its proximity to the Queens Center Mall and Atlas Park. The office is large, he said, providing them with the opportunity to build a sizable event space.
“We also like it because it’s a community focused area,” he said.
“Puzzle Break is great for birthday parties, team building events and a fun, unique night out with friends or family,” Williams said. “When you come and play, you’re going to absolutely love being transported into the world that we’ve created.”
He added that the company can cater to any event. “We’ve had quite a few people get engaged in our rooms,” he noted.
Puzzle Break, the first escape room company in America, was co-founded in Seattle six years ago by Nate Martin, 36, who was inspired by the dominance of escape rooms in Asia.
Martin, who has held senior executive positions at Microsoft and Entertainment Arts, said, “My own background is primarily in video games and you can draw a straight line from real life room escapes to video games.”
He said that as a teenager in the 1990s he loved puzzle solving video games like Myst and the Secret of Monkey Island. As an adult, he still loved them and then learned that people in Asia are doing it in real life. “It was nothing but a group video game in the real world,” he said.
“I knew we had to do this in America because I knew it would be a hit,” he added and opened the first Puzzle Break in Seattle in 2013. He said the Rego Park location will be the company’s fifth.
Regarding the design of the puzzles, Martin said Puzzle Break can create games that are a focused experience with narratives that target a certain audience or broader stories that don’t engage a lot of people. “We want to walk the middle,” he said.
“Every game has a bit of a different level of story,” he said.
He explained that in an escape room it is difficult to tell a complete story. “You have different people doing things in different places. Imagine a story where people aren’t looking at the screen or looking at different screens.
He agreed with Williams, that the puzzles are physical and cerebral and, “because we’re all off-line,” he said, “We can incorporate the physical and take advantage that we are all not in front of a screen.”
“First and foremost, it is puzzle forward, but we always want to tell a story that people want to remember.”