Location: Texas City, TX
Date Played: March 7, 2023
Team Size: 4-10; we recommend 3-4
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $35 per player
Accessibility Consideration: None
Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock
Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints
Terror Isle blew us away — and not just with the intense storm battering our pirate ship.
When visiting haunt companies that have escape rooms, I’ve come to expect amazing sets and generally disappointing gameplay. With Mystic Voyage, Terror Isle subverted these expectations by delivering strongly on all fronts.
Across three chapters, we experienced a continuous, coherent story about the ghosts of rival pirate captains, a voodoo priestess, and the battle over an island and a treasure. These three chapters — Mystic Voyage, Nefarious Offering, and Dungeon of the Drowned — are meant to be played in sequence, and a final chapter coming soon will slot into position three in the narrative, between Nefarious Offering and Dungeon of the Drowned.
The set for Terror Isle’s seasonal haunt is the same set used for their escape rooms. During haunt season, they remove the puzzles. During the rest of the year, certain doors and windows used for haunt jump scares are surreptitiously closed off. It was always clear that these closed passageways weren’t part of the game.
Through this clever reuse of scenery, Terror Isle’s escape rooms had a level of grandeur that’s unusual amongst escape rooms in the United States. Within each game and in the passageways between games, we were given small peeks into other games, further extending the scale and interconnectedness of the world. Our initial entrance into Mystic Voyage was especially spectacular: walking down a lantern-lined alleyway, we rounded the looming hull of a pirate ship before entering on the far side. Floor-level lighting attempting to mimic water was still a work-in-progress and slightly broke the illusion, but it was breathtaking nonetheless.
Even though the puzzles were designed to be removable or hidden during haunt season, they were impressively well integrated into the set and story. When there was a cool thing in the set, we usually got to interact with it. Barely any props felt like red herrings. Our interactions throughout Mystic Voyage had clear functions within the story.
The set of Mystic Voyage also felt alive, employing a treasure trove of haunt industry tricks to enliven skeletal characters and make us feel like we were truly on a ship at sea.
Our adventure continued beyond the confines of the Mystic Voyage set. For team photos, Terror Isle had constructed a fantastic multi-level facade in their lobby, complete with pirate-y props, photo-friendly lighting, and a ship’s wheel clearly branded with Terror Isle’s name and website. Escape room companies that still take team photos in front of a blank white wall with kitschy signs: this is your competition in 2023.
The multi-part saga at Terror Isle was greater than the sum of its parts. Overall, Mystic Voyage was the strongest of the three chapters. As the story progressed through Nefarious Offering and Dungeon of the Drowned, the set design remained spectacular, but elements of the gameplay increasingly faltered. The puzzles remained playable; they just weren’t as consistently polished or integrated into the environment as in Mystic Voyage.
If you can only play one room at Terror Isle, it should be Mystic Voyage. But if you’re able to make the time, we highly recommend playing all the rooms back-to-back for the full experience.
For escape room enthusiasts visiting Houston, Terror Isle is well worth the hour-long drive out of town. Especially once their full vision is implemented — adding a final chapter which narratively comes between Nefarious Offering and Dungeon of the Drowned, along with cutscenes between chapters — this will be a truly epic experience worth traveling for.
Who is this for?
- Scenery snobs
- Adventure seekers
- Puzzle lovers
- Any experience level
- A gorgeous set that felt like the lower deck of a full-scale pirate ship
- Whimsical animatronics
- Cohesive, narratively-linked puzzles
- A continuous story between games
Our crew boarded the ghost ship Ravager to aid the captain with a centuries-old rivalry with another captain. We had to prepare the ship to land on the island, thus commencing our invasion.
In Mystic Voyage, we set sail on a massive pirate ship. Though we only explored a small portion of the ship’s interior, its full-scale exterior facade felt grandiose and real. Small details were thoughtfully accounted for, like wood grain and shadows that were perfectly painted to complement the space’s flickery lighting conditions.
Terror Isle’s Mystic Voyage was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.
Core gameplay revolved around solving puzzles and making connections.
➕ The set of Mystic Voyage was expansive, detailed, and highly immersive. Smells, sounds, vibrations, and changes in temperature all contributed to this immersion. A clever layout and in-world entrance to the space made it feel even bigger than it actually was.
➕ Simple, clear interactions directly advanced the narrative and expanded the world. It was consistently apparent where we were, what we were doing, and why we were doing it. The gameplay touched on a number of classic pirate tropes in a fun way.
➕ Animatronic characters instantly established a distinctive tone for the game and narrative. Continued small movements kept these characters from feeling too static even when they weren’t actively performing. With this, along with various other uses of haunt tech, Terror Isle leaned into their core strengths in a way that meaningfully enhanced the escape room experience.
➖/➕ A journal contained more text than necessary and was the only prop that didn’t feel like it visually belonged in the environment. That said, it didn’t feel like a run book and is was immediately clear what info was useful.
➖ A creative concept had room for clearer visual cluing and was a bit too easily solvable by accident.
➕ With thoughtful spotlighting, it felt dark without ever being too dark. Especially with the aid of bright lanterns, it was always easy to see what we needed to see.
➕/➖ The audiovisual feedback while inputting puzzle answers was generally stellar throughout the game. By contrast, we doubted ourselves it the few places that lacked the same level of clarity.
➕ The game ended with a bang. Even after we finished solving puzzles, our exit route was scenic and cinematic.
➖ Terror Isle’s online marketing is not currently up to the quality of their in-person experience. Contrasting with the beautiful illustrations elsewhere on their website, their room photos are grainy and poorly composed. It’s not immediately clear that the games are narratively in sequence, and I wonder whether “Chapter 1/2/3” subtitles would help. The “Book Now” button is a minimum 3 clicks away from the home page. These are awesome experiences and they’re not being showcased to their full potential.
Tips For Visiting
- The escape rooms at Terror Isle are available from November 13 through September 30. From October 20-31, the puzzles are removed and Terror Isle functions just as a haunted house. The exact dates may vary by year.
- Mystic Voyage is lightly spooky but not scary.
- Free street parking is available nearby.
Book your hour with Terror Isle’s Mystic Voyage, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Disclosure: Terror Isle comped our tickets for this game.