Project Panic – End of the Line [Review]

Tickets please.

Location:  Austin, Texas

Date Played: February 2, 2019

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

As a New Yorker, Project Panic’s End of the Line is kind of what I think non-New Yorkers think New York is: a subway with criminal gangs ruling everything.

In-game: An authentic turn style before a subway car.

End of the Line captured the subway aesthetic. It was a fun set to explore. While we enjoyed many of the puzzles, we wished Project Panic had instilled them with more narrative and purpose.

End of the Line was a puzzle-forward escape room within an exciting set. If this sounds like your kind of ride, check it out next time you’re in Austin.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Fun set
  • Interesting puzzles

Story

As investigators for the subway agency, we had been dispatched to look into rumors that a notorious gang was using the old station and lines as a hideout.

Setting

End of the Line was Project Panic’s take on a subway escape game. We entered through a turnstile, puzzled on the subway platform, and worked our way through a train car.

The environments were all reasonably convincing and hit enough of the right notes to feel pretty great.

In-game: A subway platform with a train.

Gameplay

Project Panic’s End of the Line was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, and puzzling.

Analysis

➕ End of the Line flowed well. The puzzles progressed, taking us from one gamespace to the next.

➖ At times, the puzzles bottlenecked, with nothing for other players to do but wait for their teammates to complete something… at least there were seats on the subway.

➕ The gamespaces were interesting and generally well designed. We were excited to step into each new gamespace and we enjoyed the various subway props.

➖ A big generator switch that didn’t trigger anything was a missed opportunity.

➕ / ➖ We enjoyed most of the puzzles. They were thematic and made use of the decor and the props. They weren’t connected to each other, however, and didn’t help us feel a narrative.

➖ The mission switched in the middle of the experience… but we didn’t notice. We would have moved along solving puzzles if our gamemaster hadn’t interrupted to deliver the story notes. While we appreciate this choice in game design, the mission switch needed to be more readily apparent.

➖/➕ The final puzzle didn’t make sense in the context of the experience. Although it was a good puzzle and made use of a fun prop, it also didn’t feel like a finale.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a tiny parking lot next to Project Panic, but that is for the adjacent business. Project Panic’s parking lot is around the back. It’s probably best to check with Project Panic to make sure you’ve found the correct place to park.
  • Project Panic and Austin Panic Room are two locations for the same company.

Book your hour with Project Panic’s End of the Line, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Project Panic comped our tickets for this game.

Austin Panic Room – Phase III: Human Trials [Review]

Why don’t mad scientists maintain clean labs?

Location: Austin, TX

Date played: January 9, 2017

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Story & setting

We had been kidnapped by an evil surgeon doing evil things in his research lab / murder basement. After being injected with something evil, we had to find the cure and the way out in order to survive.

The grimy set looked relatively compelling, and at the very least, unwelcoming. It was less convincing as a lab where we might make the antidote we needed. Still, it looked pretty much in character as a place for murder.

In-game: Corrugated aluminum wall, a brick floor, and a rusty bed with medical equipment on a table beside it.

Puzzles

The puzzles relied primarily on basic decipherment and determining what was relevant when.

Many of the puzzles were buried under a fair bit of text.

Standouts

Phase III looked thematically appropriate; the ambiance worked.

In a few instances, Austin Panic Room incorporated interesting ciphers.

We appreciated the warnings on the website that Phase III has low ceilings and includes a short segment of flashing lights. We wish more companies included similar cautions.

In-game: A coffin with a transparent top. Inside are bloodied bones.

Shortcomings

At times there was a lot of accessible information that wasn’t actually in play. In fact, because of this, halfway through we worried that we may have somehow bypassed some of the puzzling. It turned out that we hadn’t.

One larger prop was breaking in such a way that it required the use of excessive force. We weren’t sure how to interact with this item and, under our gamemaster’s direction, I’m pretty sure we made the damage worse even as we tried not to.

The tech in Phase III didn’t elevate the experience. This included a beeping noise that persisted throughout the entire game, long after we’d interacted with it. Also, in one instance, poor interface design misdirected us for quite some time.

Finally, there was an exposed fan blade in this room escape. This was an unnecessary safety hazard.

Should I play Austin Panic Room’s Phase III: Human Trials?

Phase III wasn’t a bad game, but it wasn’t particularly fun or satisfying either. It had too many elements meant to confound or annoy. The difficulty came more from these factors than from the puzzles.

If you’ve played a room or two and are excited by the evil murder dungeon concept, I recommend visiting at night when you won’t have any light coming in from outside and you can enjoy the unpleasant setting of the experience.

In terms of puzzle design and logical flow Cabin Fever, while not challenging, was the more enjoyable escape room of the two we played at Austin Panic Room.

Book your hour with Austin Panic Room’s Phase III: Human Trials, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Austin Panic Room provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Austin Panic Room – Cabin Fever [Review]

The Texas Snowpocalypse.

Location: Austin, TX

Date played: January 9, 2017

Team size: 4-10; we recommend 2-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Story & setting

Cabin Fever was a ski adventure gone wrong. When a blizzard hit our ski area, we took shelter in a cabin that would soon collapse under the weight of the snow. In order to escape, we needed to determine our own location, find the “tractor key,” and unlock the door to our crumbling shelter.

Having grown up skiing, the story felt to me a little like a Texan’s interpretation of a snowmageddon.

Austin Panic Room went to great length creating the wooden aesthetic for this cabin. It was spacious and well lit. It felt like “Texas meets Vermont.”

In-game: A cabin with wooden log walls, a leather rug, a fireplace, space heater, and a plaid couch.

Puzzles

The puzzles were relatively basic, using common escape room props and puzzle designs. They flowed logically. The puzzle design was solid, if not challenging.

Austin Panic Room incorporated a few tech-driven interactions into the cabin experience.

Standouts

Cabin Fever relied on many locks, but it was always clear where to input any given puzzle solution. The room escape had good connective tissue.

There were some very cute puzzles.

While the story didn’t ring true to us Northerners, we did appreciate the originality and aesthetic.

Shortcomings

The final puzzle lacked an elegant solution. Whereas everything had come together so smoothly up until that point, there was no graceful way to derive that last bit of information. This made the conclusion less satisfying than the rest of the game.

Cabin Fever felt light on content.

The win conditions didn’t make a ton of sense, even once we’d won.

Should I play Austin Panic Room’s Cabin Fever?

Cabin Fever was game for new players. The puzzles weren’t particularly challenging and it was easy to find the thread of gameplay and follow it to the escape. The set was adorable, even if the story was not believable.

Cabin Fever would be a fun introduction to room escapes.

While there wasn’t enough game within Cabin Fever to truly satisfy a team of experienced players, this might be a good choice for an experienced player to play solo or an experienced team to speedrun.

Book your hour with Austin Panic Room’s Cabin Fever, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Austin Panic Room provided media discounted tickets for this game.