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Escape Hour Austin – Call of the Ancient

Escape Hour Austin – Call of the Ancient

Room Name: Call of the Ancient

Business: Escape Hour Austin

Location: 2113 Wells Branch Pkwy #4300, Austin, TX 78728

Date of Visit: July 21, 2019

Number of Players: 3-6

Our Group Size: 6

Call of the Ancient

Official Description: Welcome to a twisted corner of the 1930s. A group of Freemasons in Innsmouth, Massachusetts have recently roused an ancient, evil being beyond all mortal control. The brothers thought they could control it and harness its immense power in order to rule over humanity. But they were very, very wrong. Terrifying nightmares and portents have lead you and several others to the front steps of their cursed Masonic Hall. You don’t know exactly what happened inside this building, but you do know that your dreams have called you to this place for a reason. You must lock away the evil within before madness consumes both your group and the rest of the human race.

Difficulty (official): This is rated as their hardest room by escape rate.

Difficulty (experience): Challenging. We used all of our time, and then some.

Time to Escape: Not entirely sure (see review).

Call of the Ancient

Review: It’s no secret that we adore the Lovecraft mythos, and when we found out there was an Elder Gods-themed escape in Austin, I just had to go for my birthday. We had heard good things about Escape Hour and were looking forward to having a great time.

Finding Escape Hour was a little difficult as it’s tucked in an industrial park and wasn’t very well-marked. Once we found their unit we were quickly escorted into a large lobby (filled with plenty of puzzles to pass the time) and greeted by our GM, who was genuinely excited to be running the room for us. Her enthusiasm made us look forward to the experience even more. Previous reviews of the game mentioned that the experience included a sanity mechanic which allowed for some roleplaying and added another layer of difficulty to the game, but our game master informed us that this was no longer part of the experience. Nevertheless we were ready to see what the room had to offer us.

Our group gasped as soon as we walked in. The room was intricately decorated and brought us back to the 1930s. All wiring was hidden and we appreciated how even the electronics adhered to the time period (having an analog clock instead of digital for the room timer, for instance). We didn’t have to stretch our imaginations to believe that we were in an old Freemason Lodge for a second. They even included a creative, interactive way of clue delivery that kept us laughing and having a great time throughout the experience.

The puzzles were well-integrated into the game and provided a great challenge. Escape Hour put a lot of thought and creativity when it came to designing the room and tried to stay away from just lock and key puzzles. We were very impressed with the variety of puzzles provided in the room and how well thought out each element was. And even when we understood how certain mechanisms worked, the room and puzzle elements were so well-designed that they maintained the mystical qualities of the theme of the room. Even a year later we still love talking about them (and how we can’t wait to go back once it’s safe)!

We did run into one snag. We fiddled with one lock for at least ten minutes before our GM realized that a clue hadn’t been reset properly, making the puzzle impossible to solve. She ran in and handed us the clue immediately, and also added roughly ten minutes onto the clock (Thank you!). We loved the level of service that we received here, and we’re grateful that we had that extra time, as we still had plenty of room to explore!

If you’re in the Austin area, Call of the Ancient is not a room to miss.

Call of the Ancient

Hints Used: We used a few and its worth it just for their clue delivery system. It is very thematic and well-integrated into the game’s story.

Clue Quality: Very high. No clues were too vague and none were frustratingly difficult (once we had all of the required pieces).

Puzzle Creativity: Extremely high. Each section of the experience was well-thought out and required interesting puzzles to complete them. We saw entertaining usage of familiar mechs, clever design for cooperative solving, and a challenging logic puzzle that remained thematic and was satisfying to solve.

Rating: 5.5 / 5. This room exceeded our expectations.

Fear Factor:  Some spooky themes and a couple of periods of darkness, but no major jump scares or gore.

Things to note: The room requires at least two people to be able to crawl.

Call of the Ancient

Maze Rooms Austin – Spy Safe House

Maze Rooms Austin – Spy Safe House

Maze Rooms

Room Name: Spy Safe House

Business: Maze Rooms Austin

Location: 5555 N Lamar Blvd Suite K110, Austin, TX 78751

Date of Visit: June 23, 2019.

Number of Players: 2-8, we recommend 6 max

Our Group Size: 4

Maze Rooms

Official Description:  The year is 1972, and the United States is in the midst of a Cold War with Russia and the entire Soviet Union. America lives in fear of Soviet spies living among them, threatening the American way of life. The government responds by sending the best of the best investigators to catch these spies and send them packing back to USSR empty handed. It’s an era where tensions were high, trust was low, and espionage was thriving!

Difficulty (official): The staff told us this was their easiest room, they pegged it at a medium difficulty.

Difficulty (experience): Medium-Hard.

Time to Escape: Approximately 58 minutes.

Maze Rooms

Review: Maze Rooms Austin is located in a nondescript building; however being on one of Austin’s main roads made it easy to find, just tucked away in a business park. We were questioning if the GPS had led us to the correct place as we missed any signage as we approached and the building looked closed. But this time, Google hadn’t failed us; we found the logo on the door and were let in as soon as we rang the bell.

We spoke with our gamemaster before the game about other rooms both in the area and in Houston and he gave us several recommendations for rooms for which he had previously worked or escaped. We appreciated the chat and the excitement he brought to our event that day and were happy for the new rooms we have added to our to-escape list.

Maze Rooms did a fantastic job with decorating this room. It felt extremely early 70s without going into stereotypes – no disco balls or shag rugs to be found. The apartment looked authentic which made us feel right at home in our roles as federal agents investigating a clever spy. Wires and mechs were hidden well for the most part, and all of the puzzles were integrated well into the rooms. There were few traditional lock and key puzzles but the ones present fit the theme of the room.

The first big reveal was incredibly clever and we loved how seamlessly it fit into the room’s spy plot. From this point forward we fell deeper and deeper into a world of espionage and deception. We encountered a simple but unique clue in the games middle act that got us all excited at its discovery and were most impressed and engaged in the immersion of the room at the reveal of a historic event which was part of the story and a clever clue. For the most part, Maze Rooms put a unique spin on their puzzles and our group appreciated the variety of tasks we had to accomplish.

We did discover a few drawbacks to the room for our experience. Some puzzles felt more scavenger hunt than puzzle; some pieces were hidden in non-intuitive locations and there was no room guidance for how many pieces we needed to find. Our team got hung up on an audio puzzle that we found difficult to understand and decipher even after discovering the correct key. There was also a puzzle in the room that some in our group felt more like busywork than one that led to the final solution. If the puzzle was reworked or taken out entirely, it wouldn’t detract from the game difficulty, perhaps only marginally from the game length.

Overall, this is not a room to miss while in Austin. We look forward to trying the other offerings from Maze Room in the future!

Maze Rooms

Hints Used: Maze Rooms offers five hints per room, we used four.

Clue Quality : Extremely well done with one difficult exception mentioned above. This room excelled with giving wordless hints.

Puzzle Creativity: High. There are still puzzles in the room that we enjoy discussing months later.

Rating: 4.75 / 5.

Fear Factor:  None.

Things to note: The first act of the room takes place in a small space, however this opens fairly quickly and did not provoke claustrophobic feelings. Some areas of the room are lowlight, and there are two audio puzzles that may be difficult for the hard of hearing. There is plenty of parking in the office and shopping center where Maze Rooms is located.

Maze Rooms

Project Panic – End of the Line

Project Panic – End of the Line

Room Name:  End of the Line

Business: Project Panic

Location: 4403 Guadalupe St., Austin, TX 78751

Date of Visit: June 30th, 2018

Number of Players: 4-8

Our Group Size: 8, we recommend 6-8

Official Description: For years there have been rumors that the city’s trusty and seemingly innocent subway system has a darker underbelly – it is home to a number of notorious crime gangs. It’s now time to put these rumors to rest! Acting off a tip that a now closed subway line could lead to a coveted hideout, you and your highly trained team decide to take matters into your own hands and begin an investigation of an abandoned station. Will you take the fast track to deliver justice or take an unexpected detour on the way?

Difficulty (official):  Our host stated that this is the harder of their two rooms. The website lists its official difficulty as 7.5/10.

Difficulty (experience): Medium

Time to Escape: 39:00


We finally had the time and money to do a new room, and our Escape Room RNG pointed to Project Panic, an offshoot of Austin Panic Room and one of the newest escape experiences in Austin. The location was easy to find (signage for the location is on the glass, not the building itself) and had a small parking lot attached behind the building. We were very thankful for this; parking in Austin on the weekends can be difficult, and pricey, in some locations.

The new location is brightly lit and welcoming, however there were AC issues on our visit which made us somewhat uncomfortable. Our game master greeted us immediately and gave a simple but funny explanation of basic game rules before leading us into the game space.

We’ve played a game from this same company (last year’s Cabin Fever), and like Cabin Fever, this space outdid themselves in decoration. The room is divided into station and subway, and they did a great job creating a derelict station with a cleaner subway car. We really appreciated that the decorative touches all fit seamlessly into puzzles, nothing seemed forced or out of place.

End of the Line is notable for its use of technology; all wires were hidden and puzzles that dealt with technology use were integrated extremely well into the room. This was particularly noticeable with one late-game puzzle on which we all enjoyed working.

While the room was very linear, which can cause problems with a large group, there were enough puzzles that needed to be worked on simultaneously that everyone was always busy. The room was very teamwork oriented; each puzzle had at least two people attempting to solve it.  We were happy that while the room had several escape room staples, they included clever twists. This is one of the few rooms where I’ve had to wait to find all the clues before finding answers.

The biggest drawback we felt was the theme implementation. Without giving too much away, we felt that the premise of the room really wasn’t executed well and the experience ended abruptly without really addressing the scenario again —changing the premise to an urbex adventure or a secret subway could add more to the theme.

Hints Used: Three unprompted (one due to a slight technical failure) and one verification of a “Do Not Touch” sticker. Our host was excellent in his hints; he managed to keep us on track without giving us answers.

Clue Quality : Clues within the game were worked extremely well into the room, only one screamed out as an obvious clue.

Puzzle Creativity: Puzzles were very clever, and while we recognized a couple of pathways from having done several rooms and being puzzle hounds in general, there was enough different about them to keep them interesting.

Rating: 4.75 / 5.

Fear Factor:  None, a few moments of very mild intensity.

Things to note: There are several light and color puzzles, colorblind players should probably avoid this experience.

The Escape Game Austin – Classified

The Escape Game Austin – Classified

Room Name: Classified

Business: The Escape Game Austin

Location: 405 Red River Street, Austin, TX 78701

Date of Visit:  May 16, 2018

Number of Players: 2-7

Our Group Size: 5, we recommend 4-5

Official Description: You and your team are a group of military personnel who have been assigned to a critical covert mission. Your objective is to stop a major international threat by gathering details on an impending attack. In this thrilling high-stakes mission, it’s up to you to get inside the heads of the masterminds and infiltrate their evil plan.

Difficulty (official): 7/10, in the middle range of difficulty in their offerings.

Difficulty (experience): Average, not too simple and not too difficult.

Time to Escape: 57:23

Review: I had the opportunity to experience a game in Austin as part of a team-building exercise separate from the usual author of these reviews. I am fortunate enough, however, to work with one of our usual escape partners as many of us like thinking games, and some of us even play casino games too we found thanks to Jake Trelease and others. As we were a large group, I called The Escape Game Austin well in advance of our visit for a corporate booking. They do have an experience that accommodates up to eleven participants, but we expected to have a larger number of players and we opted to pick two rooms that would support our total number. While some of the managers ran off to recover stolen artwork in The Heist, our group of crack agents dove into the terrorist underbelly in Classified to thwart a sinister plot.

As we entered the room I was immediately thankful we had booked at The Escape Game Austin. Classified is one of the best decorated rooms that I’ve experienced to date. As we all took in the ambiance of the room (and slyly looked around for clues) we were presented with a video introduction to escape rooms and to the scenario we were about to play, both very high in production quality. After some additional tips, our game master left us to start our adventure and we began to make quick work of some of the room’s first, most easily visible puzzles.

This was the first room I have played in which small items in the room that were not part of the game, or at least that did not need to be moved/removed, were all secured down in place. While there were still a number of items with which to interact in the room, this helped us focus our attention away from certain areas which likely helped us blaze through the first few puzzles.

While none of the puzzles were difficult, we did run into a few snags as we missed a couple of details and fought with what I believe was a mechanical failure. While we were able to complete the puzzle, the game master’s explanation did not seem to differ from our approach which cost us significant time in this game. Nevertheless, we did discover all of the clues in the game, and came to their logical solutions as intended.

There is a linear quality to the first act of the escape with several simple puzzles. A larger group may feel that they are standing around a bit if they aren’t the first to a particular clue, but after the first few puzzles are solved, many more opportunities are available for an entire group to explore. The room does have standard escape room fare like traditional padlocks and a combination safe, but it also incorporates some tech and a fun, mechanical puzzle that was rewarding when we discovered the solution.

Ultimately we didn’t find the puzzles themselves to be the most difficult, but the room took us nearly the entire time to escape (again, with the mechanical “failure”). We returned to the lobby to meet the other half of our group,who had beat our escape time by a full ten minutes on what the operator described as a slightly harder room. Still, we enjoyed the room and the escape room newbies who were with us also all had nothing but positive things to say about their experience. They were lucky, we chose a great location for our event.

Hints Used: 4, with unprompted hints given when we veered a bit off track.

Clue Quality: Good. Clues are uncomplicated without being too direct. Nothing is difficult to understand or unclear.

Puzzle Creativity: Where the puzzles were simpler, their discovery was novel and exciting. Other puzzles used varied and unusual methods for discovery and solution.

Rating: 4.5 / 5.

Fear Factor:  None. The subject matter is a little dark but nothing is intentionally scary. You are excluded from a visible section in the room at the start of the game which makes the space a little crowded at first, but this doesn’t last very long.

Things to note: There is one section of the game that may be challenging for an individual with mobility concerns, but it can be completed by just one member of the group or, failing that, can be skipped due to necessity with the assistance of the escape room staff (they are quick to point this out). There is paid parking in the garage above the escape room or on the street (carpooling is encouraged). The Escape Game runs monthly contests on their Facebook page and runs promotions on Groupon.

Austin Panic Room – Cabin Fever

Austin Panic Room – Cabin Fever

Room Name: Cabin Fever

Business: Austin Panic Room

Location:  1205 Rio Grande St, Austin, TX 78701

Date of Visit: August 5, 2017

Number of Players: 4-10

Our Group Size: 10

Official Description: A fierce blizzard has hit your secluded ski resort! So much for that relaxing trip. Caught in the snow, you and your friends were forced to take shelter in a nearby cabin. But beware! The old wooden structure can only stand the brunt of the storm for so long. Can you find a way to save yourself and your companions? Or, will you succumb to the fury of the blizzard?

Difficulty (official): Medium, according to our room operator

Difficulty (experience): Medium (hard for the last puzzle)

Time to Escape:  51:06

Review: Happy birthday to me! This was both my birthday celebration and our first experience with teaming up with strangers to solve a room.

We did not have a hard time finding Panic Room Austin; there is a clear sign on the front of the building. We were greeted quickly and led into the small waiting room. We did not see any of the warm-up puzzles or riddles found in other escape rooms.

We then met our room operator, who gave us a good explanation of the room including the difficulty level and was available via walkie-talkie throughout the experience. She did a great job of helping us when we needed it, but we did have a couple of first time players in our group and there was no basic explanation of how these games work.

The room itself had incredible decor. Panic Room has done a terrific job of turning a room into a winter cabin for people who are not used to winter. We loved all of the touches in the room that made us feel like we were taking a ski vacation, despite us being in the middle of summer in Texas. The clues were very well integrated with the decor except for one, and we had a great time exploring.

The majority of the puzzles weren’t difficult to figure out, but they did require deductive reasoning and finding several pieces scattered around the room ( even a week after finishing, we are still talking about one particularly clever puzzle). One particularly fiendish puzzle kept us occupied for nearly twenty minutes, which did get to the point of being too frustrating. There were a couple of red herrings in the room, which is something that we haven’t seen prior to this.

The only real negative for this room was the puzzle we spent so much time on. We’re probably a little salty as this puzzle cost us breaking the room record, but even with ten people focusing on it, it took us quite a while and hints from our operator to solve it.

Hints Used: Three (two for the aforementioned puzzle).

Clue Quality: Very clever. There were a couple of outright clues, but most of them required puzzle solving.

Puzzle Creativity: Most puzzles fit very well into the room; there was one that didn’t seem to fit the theme at all. However, it was still a nice little challenge.

Rating: 4.5 / 5.

Fear Factor: None. This room is technically two adjoining rooms, and was easy to maneuver at max capacity.

Things to note: Panic Room offers a very limited parking lot (a permit is required but can be obtained by an employee) and some street parking. We recommend carpooling. This room is family-friendly but is probably more enjoyed by teenagers than younger children due to the puzzle difficulty. Groupon is available.

Lockout Austin – The Cursed Ship

Lockout Austin – The Cursed Ship

Room Name: The Cursed Ship

Business: Lockout Austin

Location: 1700 South Lamar Suite #330, Austin, TX 78704

Date of Visit: May 28th, 2017

Number of Players: 2-6 Players

Our Group Size: 6

Official Description: Stranded on a desert island, you find an old ship. On board, you discover a captive who gives you harrowing news: You have 1 hour to escape, or the island is coming for you. What exactly is happening? Can you escape?

Watch the room’s trailer here.

Difficulty (official): This room boasts a success rate of only 22%. Our room guide stated afterwards that this is the hardest room available at this location.

Difficulty (experience): Medium-High. We were able to figure out what we needed to do for different puzzles, but there was trial and error involved as we tried to figure out the correct answers.

Time to Escape:  50:18

Review: Lockout Austin is situated in a nondescript building in a strip mall. We had no problems finding the location. When we entered, we noticed two lobby areas (a pre-holding/check-in room and the actual lobby). The staff greeted us cheerfully and check-in was very smooth; we were then allowed into the lobby. The lobby itself has a variety of puzzle warmups (metal detach puzzles, brain teasers, and a few more that were being used while we were there.) Another staff member then demonstrated two of the more unusual locks that we would encounter in the room (very helpful!) and also went over basic rules. After the briefing and setting the scene, we were allowed into our cursed ship.

This was the first room that we’ve done that had a live actor involved, and he was invested in setting the scene without giving any of the room’s secrets away. We were then free to explore and solve puzzles. The room’s decor is very thematic–a lot of love and care was put into making us feel like we were on a deserted island–even the locked boxes and chests kept up with the theme. We kept noticing little touches and nods to pop culture in the puzzles, which made it even more fun to solve. The room has several puzzles, and all of them required good teamwork–within our group, no one solved a puzzle alone. We cheered our escape, groaned when we were just two minutes away from making the leaderboard, and had a great time from start to finish.

While this is a small room, the amount and complexity of puzzles requires a moderate to large sized group. We recommend a group of at least four attempt this room.

Hints Used: We asked for a nudge when we felt stuck at one point and we were given four unprompted clues, three of which we had not yet figured out.

Clue Quality: Clues ranged from simple and outright to clever, but nothing was vague or without a logical answer.

Puzzle Creativity: High. A number of riddles and interesting interactive features, along with a mixture of unique combination locks and custom mechanisms made the room much more than searching for the key to the next Master Lock.

Rating: 5 / 5. This was an awesome room and we all thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Fear Factor: There are some moments of intensity especially at the start of the game and when certain items are revealed, but nothing is frightening. The room is quite narrow which may induce some feelings of claustrophobia, but I (as the lone claustrophobe in our group), felt all right as the room has a high ceiling.

Things to Note: As Lockout Austin is in a strip mall, there is plenty of free parking available. The Cursed Ship room may frighten young children due to thematic elements and mildly intense moments.

Lockout Austin offers Groupon deals Sunday through Friday.