London, Oct 2017
Bamboozled is one of City Mazes’s new stable of purchased game designs, currently available both at their London branch and in Cardiff. Unlike their earlier homegrown designs, the new ones have visible inspiration from TV or movie franchises, and Bamboozled is fairly explicitly based on the film Jumanji. Following the movie, the story is that you’ve discovered a mysterious board game, and playing it has trapped you inside a jungle world.
A major centrepiece of the room is a physical board game. The host went into some detail about this in his intro, so I’m not counting that as a spoiler, though I’ll pass over the details here. Suffice to say that it forms the centre of the game, providing a central focus and structure to the puzzles. This board is a nice piece of kit, although the eccentric standard of English on it betrays the game’s origin as an imported design.
The rest of the room mixes some decent props with half-hearted jungle decor. It seems an odd complaint to make, but the space is perhaps too big for the game; or rather, the core components that make up the game are spread too thinly, without enough other decor to fill in the gaps. In any case, the effect is a room with some jungle decor rather than an attempt at an immersive jungle environment.
Bamboozled is the sixth City Mazes game I’ve played, and the first one free of glaring flaws. There are some minor frustrations (a solution that could be applied in either of two ways, and for which the sensor was slow to notice when it had been applied correctly; plus another instance where the operator had to tell us to re-try a correct solution that hadn’t registered with the electronics), but nothing very significant. Even so, I found it oddly flat as an experience. I think that was down to the quality of the puzzles, which were often variants on ‘hidden number’ puzzles or simple written clues. These weren’t horrible puzzles, they just weren’t difficult enough to give much of a sense of satisfaction in cracking them. Clearly that’s not a universal reaction: the first timers playing Bamboozled while we were in their other game were quite audible in their excitement.
This is perhaps a room best suited for beginners or for groups with younger players. On that basis, it has a fair amount to recommend it. There’s an early quick win and an ongoing very clear structure to what you’re doing that also signals progress and makes it clear when you’ve done something correctly. It needs to signal game completion more dramatically – we were briefly uncertain whether we’d finished, until we heard the exit door click open – but the penultimate step was a fairly physical task that was interesting and fun despite being something of a bottleneck.
I find myself in the odd position of having rated Bamboozled higher than its sister game Lost Cabin, while considering Lost Cabin to be a more interesting game. That’s because Lost Cabin also had more potential for frustration; Bamboozled is more straightforwardly average. It didn’t win me over, but it was a simple, acceptable game as long as you’re not looking for something a little more taxing.