Lockout Austin – Enchanted [Review]

You shall likely pass!

Location:  Austin, Texas

Date Played:  August 9, 2019

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $175 per team

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Enchanted was a family-friendly escape game that offered up enough challenge and intrigue to keep our excessively experienced team engaged.

Lockout Austin has a style and approach to escape game design that resonates with us. We keep going back to see what they’ve cooked up because their particular blend of in-character gamemastering, puzzles, set design, story, and adventure works. It’s unique to them and that’s no small feat in this industry.

This is one of those companies where I’m inclined to recommend playing though their entire catalog. Enchanted would make a great first game at Lockout Austin, or a wonderful first game for your family. If you’re near Austin, you should check them out.

In-game: Closeup of an elaborate hourglass, a large book, and a plush, fancy chair.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Aspiring wizards
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Strong puzzle play
  • Some adorable design
  • The in-character/ in-room gamemaster & hint system

Story

We had been called upon by the Council of Ancient Wizards to endure their tests. If we could pass their trials, they would grant us admission to their order.

In-game: The wizard's chambers with the desk of the wizard.

Setting

Enchanted was a physically small escape game, with an elegant, deliberately designed set (with the exception of a stark white door or two).

In-game: The Wizard's test chamber.

The space looked solid from floor to ceiling.

In-game: The ornate black and red ceiling,

Gameplay

Lockout Austin’s Enchanted was a standard escape room geared towards families, with a moderate level of difficulty.

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

In-game: A glowing table with building models resting atop it.

Analysis

➕ The theme of Enchanted was fun; we especially enjoyed when Lockout Austin upended a basic design assumption.

➕ Lockout Austin set the gamemaster in the room with the aspiring wizards. He looked and acted the part well. This wizard remained behind his desk, out of the way of the players, but available to us if we needed his wisdom. He was a feature of the experience rather than a necessity, and adaptable to each team.

➖ In an artfully designed, magical gamespace, the doors appeared overlooked, which broke the world just a bit. Even painting them flat black would have been an improvement.

In-game: A locked chest that reads, "How many did we eat?"illuminated by a lantern.

➕ The puzzles were surprisingly deep for a family-friendly game. A number of layered puzzles worked well as group solves, and we liked how these engaged much of the team. They were balanced well with shorter solves.

➖ One segment needed better lighting or better contrast. We struggled for the wrong reasons.

In-game: a metal rod mounted to the wall with many rings hangning from it.

➕ We never got to see the hint system in action, but it was creative and funny.

➕ While Enchanted relied heavily on locks, Lockout Austin incorporated technology to deliver magical interludes that added character to the game. We especially enjoyed these puzzles.

➖ Enchanted needed a climax. There was an opportunity for the final puzzle or the in-character gamemaster to deliver a more dramatic conclusion when we earned our admission into the order. 

➕ There was a moment for the young child on your team to feel triumphant in a room of bigger people solving puzzles.

Tips For Visiting

  • Lockout Austin had many food options nearby.
  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Lockout Austin’s Enchanted, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Lockout Austin comped our tickets for this game.

Lockout Austin – Area 51-2 [Review]

Enter through the gift shop

Location:  Austin, Texas

Date Played:  August 9, 2019

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 5-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27.50 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Lockout Austin did a clever thing in Area 51-2. It’s one of those things that’s so smart that once you hear it, it almost feels like it was obvious: the game is a gift shop and you can buy most of the items in it with real money and take them home with you.

In-game: A class display filled with sci fi toys, and a gumball machine with a green inflatable alien hugging it.

If anyone else has done this before, we have neither seen nor heard of it.

Also… we hope that this doesn’t become overdone by too many companies.

Moving onto the actual game.

Lockout Austin took us on a quirky adventure and made us work for our victory.

Area 51-2 was a particularly challenging escape game compared with most everything else we’ve played in the region. (We set the record and still think it was tough.)

The set and effects seemed deliberate.

All in all, this was a strong game, and we absolutely recommend it for more experienced players who are in search of a bit more of a challenge and some creative game design and storytelling.

In-game: An old CRT TV and VCR with VHS tapes sitting on top.

“512” being the area code in Austin, there were layers of things going on in Area 51-2. The game was quirky, puzzley, and challenging.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • The gift shop
  • Challenging puzzles
  • Strong game design
  • Some cool effects

Story

My uncle had been a conspiracy theorist and the owner of a weird alien museum. With his recent passing, I was left as the sole heir to his business. It was time to see what the man had been up to.

In-game: The Area 51-2 logo painted to the wall of the gift shop.

Setting

Area 51-2 opened in a low-rent gift shop/ museum owned by an alien conspiracy theorist… and it sold that pretty well. It wasn’t fancy, but it wasn’t supposed to be.

Everything in the game was dated, including the technology, merchandise, and pop culture references. It felt like the original owner of this museum/ shop had done most of the work a couple of decades ago. So few escape rooms really nail this kind of detail.

In-game: A shelf of alien socks.
We may have purchased the cow socks for Lisa’s Aunt.

Gameplay

Lockout Austin’s Area 51-2 was a standard escape room with a high level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, puzzling… and shopping (if you’re interested).

In-game: Paintings, alien neon lights, and a strange glowing orb atop a cone within the gift shop.

Analysis

➕ Area 51-2. The name was brilliant.

➕ The gift shop concept was genius and novel. The in-game gift shop had amusing oddities for purchase… and we did purchase. This was a great mechanic that I hope doesn’t become overdone in escape games. It would be easy for too many companies to implement this poorly and murder the concept.

In-game: Area 51-2 t-shirts.

➕ Lockout Austin introduced Area 51-2 by setting the scene. Our in-character gamemaster conveyed our role – and his – through humorous dialogue. His introduction was outstanding and his script was expertly crafted to subtly facilitate gameplay. Well done.

In-game: Closeup of Star Trek and Star Wars action figures.

➕ There was a lot to solve in Area 51-2 . It was a puzzle-driven game with a ton of content, some of it rather involved.

➖ In the later portion of the game, many of the puzzles were rooted in similar concepts. Given how involved these were, we would have liked a bit more variety.

➖ Area 51-2 had a small physical footprint. Most players will probably want to bring a team of 6 to tackle the puzzles. There were, however, bottlenecks both in space and in gameplay that will frustrate larger teams. This makes it tough to recommend an ideal team size for Area 51-2 .

In-game: The front window of the museum, below it is the idol from the opening scenes of Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark.

➕ The set was cleverly crafted. In-game, we felt that the set design was uneven… but upon reflection, we think that all of that was deliberate.

➖ In one close-quarters segment of this game, Lockout Austin used a lot of VacuForm. Constantly bumping into it was a regular reminder that the set wasn’t real.

➕ Win or lose, players receive a conclusion to their adventure.

Area 51-2 was noticeably harder than the other games in the region.

Tips For Visiting

  • Lockout Austin had many food options nearby.
  • There is a parking lot.
  • The gift shop accepts both cash and credit card.

Book your hour with Lockout Austin’s Area 51-2, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Lockout Austin comped our tickets for this game.

Lockout Austin – CSI: Murder at the Asylum [Review]

Who are you? Who, who, who, who?

Location:  Austin, Texas

Date Played: February 2, 2019

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27.50 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

In CSI: Murder at the Asylum, Lockout Austin did the crime solver genre of escape room justice.

CSI: Murder at the Asylum was a puzzler’s escape room. It was organized and focused. It combined standard escape room-style puzzles with a larger deduction-based narrative.

Although the setting wasn’t particularly interesting, with their in-character gamemaster, Lockout Austin built just a bit more world around the experience.

Play CSI: Murder at the Asylum for the puzzles and you’ll get just a bit more than that from it. If you’re in Austin, we recommend you stop by to solve this crime.

In-game: A nesting doll sitting on a bookcase.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Armchair detectives
  • Players with at least some experience
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • To solve the crime!
  • Interesting puzzles

Story

There was a murder at Pinnhurst Asylum and for unexplained reasons, the feds wanted to take over the investigation. We had to solve the mystery before they arrived at the scene.

In-game: A wall with 10 profiles of active suspects.

Setting

CSI: Murder at the Asylum was set in a fairly bland office-like environment for the first act and a more interesting asylum in the second act.

While the second half was a little more visually interesting, the set was merely adequate, serving as a container for the puzzles and gameplay, which were the real reason to play this game.

In-game: A big stuffed teddy bear sitting on a chair.

Gameplay

Lockout Austin’s CSI: Murder at the Asylum was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty and a twist. In the first act, we had to solve a crime by discovering alibis and narrowing our list of suspects.

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

In-game: A steel wall for eliminated suspects.

Analysis

➕ Lockout Austin’s gamemasters are characters in their experiences. In CSI: Murder at the Asylum, we didn’t just start puzzling when the door closed. This added intrigue and fun.

➖ CSI: Murder at the Asylum had a dull, sterile set. While appropriate, the set wasn’t invigorating.

➕ The investigation made sense. We searched for alibis to verify innocence. Any fact we learned could apply to one or more suspects, which felt a bit more realistic than what we’ve experience in many crime-scene deduction games.

➕ The puzzles flowed well and were satisfying solves. They became increasingly more challenging as the game progressed, which worked well.

➕ The gameplay was organized. The locks were labeled. The suspects were neatly presented and when we eliminated them, it was clear where to put their pages. No clutter. We could solve with incredible focus.

➖ It was easy to miss the story while focused on solving puzzles. For those paying attention to the story, the ending didn’t really land.

 CSI: Murder at the Asylum missed an opportunity for an exhilarating and memorable moment. They set it up, but it came too soon and lacked the necessary sound or lighting effects to stop all players in their tracks.

➕Lockout Austin repurposed one escape room cliché for a legit solve. It worked really well.

Tips For Visiting

  • Lockout Austin had many food options nearby.
  • There is a parking lot.

Book your hour with Lockout Austin’s CSI: Murder at the Asylum, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Lockout Austin comped our tickets for this game.

Lockout Austin – The Cursed Ship [Review]

The Lost ship.

Location: Austin, TX

Date played: January 6, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Story & setting

Stranded on a desert island, we stumbled upon a ship that had run aground. We had to power the ship and lift its curse in order to set course for freedom.

Lockout Austin had crafted an island-meets-ship-esque design into the room. While by no means a convincing vessel, the design worked in a storybook sort of way. It was a playful shipwreck adventure.

In-game: Closeup of an anchor tied against the side of the ship's wooden hull.

Puzzles

On The Cursed Ship, we unearthed quite a bit to puzzle through. We always understood what to puzzle with, and while a lot was happening, it was also clear which puzzle components connected.

Much of the puzzling was interactive, incorporating the ship-esque set components.

Standouts

The Cursed Ship included a few particularly fun puzzles.

Lockout Austin designed this room escape to force teamwork. Before we’d solved any given puzzle, multiple people had interacted with the components. This all felt natural and deeply satisfying as a group experience.

In-game: The ship's wheel and control console.

Despite the team-oriented design, individuals still experienced their own starring moments.

While the curse-lifting was a tad hokey, Lockout Austin pulled it off through the playful design of the set and story, and the energetic vibe of their overall customer experience.

Shortcomings

While fun, the story and set design were not as compelling as the puzzles.

Many of the puzzles also didn’t jibe with the narrative. We opened a few too many boxes of puzzley things. All of these containers of stuff, so to speak, felt like a shortcut in design and construction. More integration would have greatly benefitted the overall experience.

Should I play Lockout Austin’s The Cursed Ship?

The Cursed Ship was about the puzzles rather than the narrative or the set. Throughout the game we continued to uncover puzzles as we pieced others together. Despite the volume, they flowed logically, and perhaps because of it, the puzzling naturally produced teamwork.

This would be a challenging escape room for newer players, but it would still be approachable.

The Cursed Ship was a playful nod to Lost. It wasn’t scary or particularly realistic, and we were all smiling throughout the game.

This was the spirit of Lockout Austin. Under an adorable happy birthday sign in the lobby, the staff greeted us with a riddle. Everyone we met was engaged and clearly having a good time with their clientele. It was a joy to play their games.

Book your hour with Lockout Austin’s The Cursed Ship, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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

Lockout Austin – Blue Meth Breakout [Review]

I am the danger.

Location: Austin, TX

Date played: January 6, 2017

Team size: 2-8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Story & setting

Previously on Breaking Bad: We were enslaved by a drug lord and forced to produce blue meth in his lab.

The meth lab felt more like the dingy, hacked together RV from season one, not the pristine lab of Gus’ creation in later seasons.

In-game: A hand handcuffed to a workbench holding a graduated cylinder. Lab equipment sits on the dirty bench.
The handcuffs in this game actually made sense.

Puzzles

Some puzzles in Blue Meth Breakout required light chemistry. I have no idea what chemicals we handled, but I’m 99% sure they were innocuous. Interestingly, more than with most puzzles, our teammates either really wanted to mix chemicals, or wanted absolutely nothing to do with the interaction.

Beyond the chemistry, there were plenty of things to find and puzzles to reason through. Our whole team kept busy. This was made more impressive by the fact that many of the puzzles carried bits of story.

Standouts

The in-character game mastering was shockingly compelling… and memorable.

The storytelling captured our collective imagination. We were caught up in it enough that we didn’t trust the voice giving us hints until pretty deep in the game.

Three buckets of "Los Pollos Hermanos Fry Batter." A reference to Breaking Bad.

There were a few brilliantly constructed props with great interactions cooked into them.

The puzzling and task-based interactions were a lot of fun.

The ending.

Shortcomings

The hint system was hard to understand and hard to trust. This was an accidental byproduct of the character building.

So much of Blue Meth Breakout flowed smoothly and fit into the narrative that the moments that didn’t quite work really stood out.

Should I play Lockout Austin’s Blue Meth Breakout?

Blue Meth Breakout was fun, funny, and a little intense.

Given the drug cooking theme, it was surprisingly approachable, as long as you won’t be bothered by Lockout Austin’s decidedly non-PC handling of the subject matter.

Beginners can absolutely enjoy this game, but I expect that they’d enjoy it more with even one other game under their belts prior to playing.

Experienced players should absolutely get locked up in Blue Meth Breakout.

Book your hour with Lockout Austin’s Blue Meth Breakout, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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