By Clifford Hart
Photos: (Parlour, Vampire Castle) Michelle Handler; (The Surgery) Adam Strick
The growth of the gaming industry over the past 40 years has been remarkable, largely catapulted forward by advances in digital technology. From the basic bleeps and blinking lights of the consoles of the late 1970s to the wide array of virtual reality and 3-D game “experiences” now proliferating on phones and other devices, gaming has gone through an amazing transformation in a very short period of time.
Given this development, it is perhaps surprising that one of the more successful new arrivals on the gaming scene is something that, at its core, does not require much technology at all. Known broadly by the term “escape rooms,” these new experiences are generally defined as physical adventure games in which players must solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, hints and strategy.
While escape rooms are in fact a derivation of the popular “escape-the-room” video games, their success is mainly due to the fact that they involve human interaction (versus digital) to solve a problem. The first escape rooms cropped up over ten years ago in Japan; they have since grown in popularity and now exist in many places throughout the globe. Happily, the Hudson Valley can now claim to be home to one of those places—namely the Puzzle Parlour in downtown White Plains.
The Puzzle Parlour sits inconspicuously on a side street not far from the city center, and perhaps that is fitting because very little of what the Puzzle Parlour holds in store is immediately apparent upon walking in the front door. That’s not to say it isn’t intriguing. A generous reception room is filled with curios that look to be from the Victorian era, and there is a distinctive “steam punk” feeling to the décor—as if you might’ve walked onto a Sherlock Holmes movie set.
And you almost have, given that your primary assignment at the Puzzle Parlour (if you choose to accept it) is to play the multiple roles of sleuth, investigator, spy and decoder to achieve the stated objective. Ken Huling, who with his wife brought the Puzzle Parlour to the Hudson Valley from its initial home outside Kansas City, explained that “while we still consider ourselves in the general category of ‘escape rooms,’ we wanted to put a different spin on some of our offerings—meaning that there are other goals in play rather than just trying to escape. For us, the narrative is just as important as the end objective—we believe that giving customers a good reason to play along with the theme helps to immerse them in the adventure.”
Indeed, the Puzzle Parlour currently has three hour-long adventures available (a fourth is slated to be offered soon), and only one of them, “The Surgery,” technically has the objective of escaping the room before things go south. The other two offerings—“The Heist” and “Vampire”—both involve more proactive problem-solving, giving participants the opportunity to work together for a (hopefully) positive outcome.
Above all, the Puzzle Parlour appears to promote the very best that gaming has to offer: namely, a chance to work collaboratively with others to problem-solve in real time with real people. Perhaps that is why, in the short time since it’s opened, the Puzzle Parlour has already found a strong following among family and friend groups for special events and parties, as well as company groups striving to improve team-building.
For more information and to book an adventure, go to www.thepuzzleparlour.com/white-plains. █