Great Escape of Central Texas – Mobfather – “Brains” Path [Review]

Brains, brawn, or both?

Location:  Killeen, TX

Date Played: August 31, 2022

Team Size: 2-9; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical

REA Reaction

The Mobfather was defined by an unusual “Choose Your Own Adventure” mechanic that I hadn’t seen elsewhere in central Texas. At several times during the game, we were asked to choose between the “Brains” path and the “Muscles” path. Our combination of choices determined what puzzles we played and ultimately what ending we earned. With that description, we were prepared for some level of FOMO.

Remarkably, the FOMO didn’t bother us as much as we expected. It was indeed hard to bypass many set pieces knowing that we might not get to play with them. At the same time, knowing that everything in the room had SOME purpose in SOME timeline gave a feeling of depth to the room. We enjoyed the puzzles we did get to play along the “Brains” path, and just seeing many of the untouched items was enough to imagine what some of their purposes might have been. I left feeling like I had experienced enough of the world to be satisfied.

That said, the design wasn’t a complete win for players. Less experienced groups might have a harder time following the clue trail between puzzles, making the set pieces from alternate paths more of a red herring risk for them. Also, the game offered no information with which to weigh our adventure choices. The room was advertised as having three specific endings. However, the in-game choices bore little connection to those destinies, making the overall outcome feel random. Lastly, some puzzles repeat among paths, which is somewhat of a deterrent to playing again.

Generally speaking, though, we were surprised at how well this design walked the line between giving us a substantial experience without frustrating us too much at the roads not taken. For me, the room was definitely worth playing once, but that was probably enough. Great Escape of Central Texas has enough quality games to justify a short trip from Austin to Killeen. Include The Mobfather on that list.

A restaurant and deli with a counter filled with meat and a soda fountain.
Image via Great Escape of Central Texas

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Mobster wannabes
  • Any experience level

Why play?

  • To play with fun, varied props and explore a rich environment
  • To experience a multi-path game

Story

As employees of Satriale’s Meat Market, we were also part of the Gambino crime syndicate. That was all well and good until the FBI caught onto us. Now it was time to finish our work and make some critical decisions that would affect our future. Would we snitch, escape with the cash, or go out in a blaze of glory?

Advertised as a “Choose Your Own Adventure” experience, this game had a variety of pathways that indeed led to different outcomes. That said, other than choosing “Brains” or “Muscles” at various junctures, we had no insight into how our choices would lead to those outcomes.

The tables and soda fountain in a deli.
Image via Great Escape of Central Texas

Setting

We found ourselves hard at work at our place of employment, Satriale’s Meal Market. It was adorned with all the delightful things you might expect to find in a meat market. The set was both realistic and playful, a common result of decorating with fake meat.

As the game progressed, we were impressed with the variety of set pieces we encountered. We were consistently surprised by the reveals and found all spaces to be of equally high quality with enticing components. This admittedly created disappointment in not getting to fully explore them all in our single playthrough.

Closeup of a deli's meat counter.
Image via Great Escape of Central Texas

Gameplay

Great Escape of Central Texas’s Mobfather was a multi-path escape room with a varying level of difficulty, depending on the choices we made in the game. At several junctures, we had to choose whether to pursue the “Brains” path or the “Muscles” path. We could stick to the same path throughout the game, or we could alternate. Our decisions determined the puzzles we played and the ending we earned. As inferred from the company’s posted escape rates, the “Muscles” path is the easiest, then “Muscles and Brains,” and then “Brains.” We played the “Brains” path, which had a moderate level of difficulty.

Gameplay in the “Brains” path involved environmental awareness, making connections, deductions, and discipline in following clues. The linear puzzle path was reasonably signposted, but the abundance of potential puzzles might be distracting.

Analysis

➕ The set was rich, varied, and interesting. It was fun to play with props in semi-realistic ways. We enjoyed the set pieces we got to interact with and ogled the ones we didn’t.

➕/➖ As experienced players, we found the cluing from puzzle to puzzle to be clear and reasonable. We never had to guess at what we were supposed to be doing. That said, the set pieces and locks from other pathways might distract newer teams. Despite the cluing, we WANTED to believe we’d get to interact with all of the cool stuff, and it took discipline to ignore it.

➖ A few puzzles suffered from fidgety props and triggers. They worked, just not on the first attempt.

➕ The gamemasters did a stellar job of complementing the few rough edges in the room with timely redirections and focused troubleshooting.

➖ Aside from choosing “Brains” or “Muscles” at decision points, we didn’t have enough information to steer ourselves toward a specific ending. The lack of informed decision-making undermined the “choose your own adventure” branding. There’s a huge opportunity here to embed short narrative snippets that imbue our choices with meaning and tie them to our ultimate outcome.

➕ Although not overly complex, the puzzles were conducive to teamwork. Even though the game was linear, all four of us were able to stay involved.

Tips For Visiting

  • There was plenty of parking right outside of Great Escape of Central Texas.
  • The owner recommended Arepitas, a local Venezuelan restaurant. It did not disappoint.

Book your hour with Great Escape of Central Texas’s Mobfather, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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