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 warmup 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 out of 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.

Outer Rim Escape San Marcos – Silicon Valley

Outer Rim Escape San Marcos – Silicon Valley

Room Name: Silicon Valley

Business: Outer Rim Escape San Marcos

Location: 700 N LBJ Dr. Suite 112, San Marcos, TX 78666

Date of Visit: May 20th, 2017

Number of Players: 2 (the website lists two, the leaderboard shows larger groups may be allowed, up to 4)

Our Group Size: 2

Official Description: You’ve received a disturbing video message from your friend David Chen asking you to come by his workplace. David works for a leading tech company in the valley and his video leaves you worrying his life might be at stake if you don’t come down there immediately. Upon arriving at David’s office his door slam shuts and a video on his computer starts… Your life, his life, and the lives of millions of people hang in the balance of what happens in the next hour. Can you and your team figure out what David left for you?

Difficulty (official): The owner has stated on social media that Silicon Valley is the easiest of their three rooms.

Difficulty (experience): Medium, mostly due to the time used to decode items.

Time to Escape:  45:00

Review: We arrived at Outer Rim Escape and were promptly greeted by a staff member, who both did a great job explaining the room and helping us through a payment problem. She confirmed that we understood how to use certain items within the room before leaving us to solve and explore. Some technical issues early on hindered our puzzle experience, but they were quickly solved and we got right down to solving.

The room itself has visibility issues (no overhead lighting, light is provided by standing lamps), as well as visibility issues concerning one of the puzzles that we found more frustrating than the puzzle itself. The puzzles are quite linear and there are very few, but the room gets creative with its technology theme, and we enjoyed having to use electronics to figure out puzzles versus pen and paper. Having an available whiteboard was a great touch, though.

What we found disappointing was how the room itself is styled. We both work in technology environments, and found the room to be lacking in decoration (no posters or toys, not even a coffee mug or general office accoutrements.)  Our excitement over the puzzles wasn’t enough to mitigate the lack of theme in the room.

We enjoyed escaping this room (and will be back to try out the other rooms). The staff is invested in providing a fun, quality experience in San Marcos, and they are reaching their goal.

Hints Used: One prompted hint that we had not fully explored an unlocked item.

Clue Quality: Clues are very linear and all lead to the end puzzle. We were a bit disappointed that unlocking one puzzle gave us all the clues to the next puzzle versus having to unlock several things to piece it all together.

Puzzle Creativity: Medium. Some fun surprises, but there weren’t very many puzzles to judge on.

Rating: 3.5/5

Fear Factor: None. The room is large and easy to move around in. The door in this room is locked but the players can unlock the door from their side at any time (e.g. emergencies).

Things to note: Outer Rim has several Groupon promotions. It is situated in a shopping center with plenty of available parking. This room may pose difficulties for people who have poor low-light vision.

Escape Haus – Game Suite

Escape Haus – Game Suite

Room Name: Game Suite

Business: Escape Haus

Location: 1671 Interstate 35, New Braunfels, TX 78130

Date of Visit: February 4th, 2017

Number of Players: 2-6 Players

Our Group Size: 4

Official Description: As a child, you spent 2 weeks every summer at your Great Uncle Milton’s house. Each year you tested the new games his company developed. Uncle Milton has died and named you as his sole heir, but he wants to play one final game. You must use the clues he has left behind to escape his Game Suite within 60 minutes or his fortune will be donated to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Difficulty (official): Not listed

Difficulty (experience): Easy

Time to Escape:  50:38

Review: Our group this time included two people new to escape rooms, and we chose on a whim to revisit Escape Haus for our second room. The staff was again quite friendly and we amused ourselves with riddles that had been set out as warm-ups.

Escape Haus makes a good effort in decorating their rooms, and one thing that we noticed was that this time, there weren’t several locked boxes lining the walls (which detracted a bit from our enjoyment of the Egyptian Mysteries room.) There were several flavor items included (such as other board game boxes that weren’t part of the escape). The casino machines and the oversized chessboard were fun touches.

While we enjoyed the flavor in this room, we did notice several items that we recognized from the Egyptian Mysteries room (particularly a certain puzzle item), and wished that there was more variety in the puzzle offerings. The clues were clever, however, and fit the game theme perfectly.

Hints Used: Two unprompted hints because we overlooked one clue and because we were not finished with another and we had put it away.

Clue Quality: Clear and direct (except for one that we had overlooked). The staff member told us that most players in this room miss that clue.

Puzzle Creativity: A few clever moments, but mostly ‘find the key and unlock the box’ puzzles.

Rating: 3/5

Fear Factor: None
Things to note: Escape Haus has plenty of available parking and at this time does not have Groupon. The rooms are all very family-friendly, and $5 is deducted off the ticket prices if you book a group of five or more at once.

Escape Haus – Egyptian Mysteries

Escape Haus – Egyptian Mysteries

Room Name: Egyptian Mysteries

Business: Escape Haus

Location: 1671 Interstate 35, New Braunfels, TX 78130

Date of Visit: October 30th, 2016

Number of Players: 6-12

Our Group Size: 9

Official Description: Your mentor, a world renowned Egyptologist, has made a history-changing discovery. Before he can announce his discovery, he is kidnapped. Apparently, some very powerful factions want to keep this discovery hidden and are on the way to destroy your mentor’s study. You have 1 hour to piece together the clues left behind that will lead you to where this discovery is hidden. If you can’t decipher all the clues, your mentor’s life’s work will be destroyed.

Difficulty (official): The staff has stated that this is their hardest room.

Difficulty (experience): Medium

Time to Escape:  58:00

Review: We booked Escape Haus’s Egyptian Mysteries room for our very first escape room, mostly because of me loving ancient Egypt as a kid. We found the building easily and were greeted promptly. As we were the only group waiting, we had plenty of time and space to try out the warm-up puzzles in the lobby. It was then that we were informed that we had inadvertently booked the hardest room, however we persisted on and requested hard mode for our hints (nothing unprompted).

The Egyptian room is meant to echo an Egyptologist’s study rather than a tomb as in most Egypt-themed rooms, and the room evoked a study/museum theme. Our room operator told us prior to starting that his mother was the one who painted the room’s murals, which fit in well with the theme.

Unlike other rooms that we have encountered, Escape Haus has the operator in the room with the players for the entire hour. However, just as we had requested, he did not give us any hints until an item in the room broke. However, this was quickly fixed and we escaped the room with two minutes to spare. The puzzles and clues were well executed and were integrated well into the design and theme.

The one distracting item was a series of locked chests lined up on one wall, which did not fit the theme in appearance. We felt that it was clear we had to open those boxes, and we were disappointed that so many found objects were in one position rather than being interspersed among the set pieces or other puzzles. After playing other rooms and seeing how well locks and chests were integrated into the overall design of the room, we found this to be a negative in an otherwise fascinating room.

Hints Used: Only the aforementioned nudge

Clue Quality: Clues were written clearly, and were challenging without being frustrating.

Puzzle Creativity: Out of all of the rooms we have played at Escape Haus, Egyptian Mysteries has the most creative puzzles. There were several multi-step puzzles as well as an overarching puzzle needed to fully solve the room.

Rating: 4.5/5

Fear Factor: None

Things to note: Escape Haus has plenty of available parking and at this time does not have Groupon. The rooms are all very family-friendly, and $5 is deducted off the ticket prices if you book a group of five or more at once.