Pike/Pine’s Puzzle Break builds business on ’live-action’ games

“Welcome to the room. You have one hour to escape.” This mysterious introduction leads you into Puzzle Break’s brand new game, Escape the Midnight Carnival, which opened last weekend. Located in the studio spaces below 10th Ave, this unusual “live-action” game business has called Capitol Hill home since debuting in 2013.

The idea for the new puzzle came from the company’s “Chief Creative Officer,” Lindsay Morse. “We agreed to do no clowns,” said Nate Martin, CEO and co-founder.

Using a broad range of themes, Puzzle Break’s games are designed to each be their own world, a niche experience, like walking into a period piece. Their last puzzle, a nautical themed adventure titled Escape from 2,000 Leagues, is still open for playing.

“Our chief creative officer has a huge number of themes, and when it becomes time to open a new room, we sit down and see what we are feeling, what kind of puzzles we can shape to an overall theme, so when you are solving a particular puzzle it feels appropriate and it furthers the story of the theme,” Martin tells CHS.  This attention to detail is what makes the game work — and now you’ll know more about bugs and Mayan mythology than you ever thought you would.

Down the ramp to Puzzle Break (Image: Kate Clark via Flickr)

Down the ramp to Puzzle Break (Image: Kate Clark via Flickr)

CHS first reported on Puzzle Break in 2013 as the small company from a product manager at Electronic Arts and a visiting assistant professor, Classics at the University of Puget Sound, began its venture dedicated to “designing and tuning puzzles and environments.”

Puzzle Break has now been in operation for three years. The first puzzles were bootstrapped, the co-founders sourcing much of the tools and props from thrift stores, creatively making ends meet. But, as they soon found out, people love puzzles. Their popularity continues to grow, and tickets often sell out for weeks in advance. From 2014 to 2015, Puzzle Break’s revenue increased 270%, with over 20,000 players and counting, the company touts. Tickets run $30 per person and group sales are a big part of the business. The strong financials have allowed Puzzle Break to research and create increasingly sophisticated and intricate puzzles.

Many of the puzzles in the new game were designed and built through a partnership with SoDo MakerSpace. Laser cutting, 3D printers, and beautiful craftsmanship made the puzzles and props authentic and charming.

Escape the Midnight Carnival, which involves multiple types of beetles, the Mayans, and a gaggle of codes to break, continued to gain more and more depth as we played it, the game revealing new layers of detail and plot as discoveries were made. Similar to learning the method and language of a crossword puzzle, you get better at it the longer you play. Teamwork is critical, communication is key, and you must beat that clock.

Puzzle Break Seattle is located at 1423 10th Ave. To find out more and buy tickets visit puzzlebreak.us.

Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

Comments are closed.