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.