Escape Haus – Game Suite [Review]

Hey! Uncle Milton! Thanks for the free parking!

Location: New Braunfels, TX

Date played: January 8, 2017

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

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket, $20 per ticket if booking for 5 or more players

Story & setting

Our tabletop game-creating Uncle Milton has passed away. If we can win one final game that he has left for us, he will bequeath his board game fortune to us. If we lose, his estate will be donated to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Built entirely around tabletop and casino games, Game Suite was less visually impactful than the other offerings at Escape Haus. It was cute but pretty sparse.

In game: A one armed bandit slot machine rests in the foreground. A massive chess board is built into the floor.


Game Suite was not the puzzliest of games. There was a fair amount of searching, some deciphering, and quite a bit of counting.

One puzzle was seriously clever; solving it felt like a triumph.


Escape Haus did a great job of incorporating a lot of tabletop games into Game Suite. Nearly every puzzle was born of a game.

In game: a card table with a game of poker in progress sits in the foreground, assorted games and gaming related things reside in the background.

Everything was clearly clued and cleanly executed, even when it wasn’t immediately obvious.

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster reference was an exceptional detail.


The puzzling wasn’t particularly strong. Some of the more task-based interactions overstayed their welcome.

A large set piece wasn’t relevant to the game.

Game Suite didn’t look or feel like it had much gravity.

Should I play Escape Haus’ Game Suite?

Cute and entertaining, Game Suite’s setup had us laughing.

While it wasn’t Escape Haus’ best looking, most challenging, or most compelling game, it was still fun to play.

Game Suite was a solid beginner game; it was player-friendly and unintimidating. Experienced players could sit this one out.

That said, Game Suite would be an exceptional game for families with children. Many of the tasks that turned me off would be perfect for kids.

Book your hour with Escape Haus’ Game Suite, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape Haus comped our tickets for this game.

The Escape Game Austin – Classified [Review]

Bazaar & puzzling.

Location: Austin, TX

Date played: January 5, 2017

Team size: 2-7; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $31.99 per ticket

Story & setting

We needed to stop a terrorist cell by gathering intelligence about an impending attack. This was your typical prime-time television counter-terror staging that steered clear of any specific world events.

We entered a Middle Eastern market. It was detailed, vibrant, and original. The initial setting was striking and beautiful.

In-game, a vibrantly colored bazaar market. Rugs hang from the ceiling. Assorted foods and pots sit on the shelves.

As the game progressed, we found ourselves in a dark and far more generic escape room environment.


Classified was primarily linear.

The challenge came from searching and making connections between relevant finds. It was not a puzzle-focused room escape.


This was our first gamespace set in a market. The initial set was not only original, but also detailed, and polished.

The first half of the Classifed had silky smooth game flow.

Classified included neat, well-hidden physical interactions with some of the larger set pieces.


Classified felt disconnected. The second half of the game lacked everything that made the first half special. It wasn’t beautiful, interesting, or exciting. It also lacked the flow of the first half. It became more challenging, but also dull and tedious.

Should I play The Escape Game Austin’s Classified?

Classified had a great first act. The visual impact of walking into such an unusual and beautiful space was energizing. The gameplay was a older escape room style that made it feel more like a scavenger hunt than The Escape Game’s other offerings. While the initial set was creative and exciting, the second act didn’t live up to the expectation set in the first half. That said, it was still more polished than many escape rooms of its era.

The Escape Game Austin has moved forward since designing this game and we recommend that you try their other games first. We visited Gold Rush, Prison Break, and The Heist at The Escape Game’s Orlando location, but took a peek at them in Austin and feel confident recommending them here as well. They’ve done a beautiful job making slight modifications to construct each of their games into the slightly different space in their Austin facilities.

While Classified wasn’t our favorite of their offerings, The Escape Game Austin is a top-notch facility with excellent staff that will deliver a fun, family-friendly experience.

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

Full disclosure: The Escape Game 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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.

Escape Haus – Kid’s Classroom [Review]

If the teacher doesn’t show up, how long do we have to stay?

Location: New Braunfels, TX

Date played: January 8, 2017

Team size: 6-12; we recommend 6-12 (mostly kids)

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket, $20 per ticket if booking for 5 or more players

Audience: children

Story & setting

The teacher went home sick, the substitute no-showed, and we were locked in the classroom. We had to puzzle our way out in time to make the school bus.

Kid’s Classroom looked like a classroom for young kids. The decor included tiny desks, small chairs, little lockers, and all of the brightly colored educational wall hangings that you expect in an elementary school classroom.

It wasn’t a fancy looking game, but to the best of my memory, they nailed the look.

In-game, small school desks set in a classroom with brightly colored posters on the walls.


I think there were 21 puzzles in Kid’s Classroom. There was a lot to do; especially for our 2-person team. The good news was that all of the puzzles were designed for children, so they were fast solves… unless we overthought something… which may have happened a few times.

The few interactions that took some doing were process-driven. For most teams, these would occupy lots or all of the children for a little while.


I have no problems imagining a small hoard of older elementary schoolers having a blast in this room escape that was clearly designed for them.

Kid’s Classroom was, for all intents and purposes, a classroom.

In game: The wall displays the alphabet and also reads,

There was one larger prop that was used brilliantly in a few ways. It was simple, clever, and slick.


Kid’s Classroom was not a game for adults. This isn’t so much a shortcoming as it is a warning.

One item in the room perpetually seemed like it should hold the right answer to a puzzle. We kept returning to it and inspecting closely. That grew old fast.

The game was broken up into a few tracks and it was challenging to identify where the tracks began. Especially in a game for kids, stronger cluing could remove unnecessary uncertainty.

Children spend a lot of time in classrooms. I can imagine far more fun environments designed for children to investigate. An escape room is an opportunity to explore something fantastic, rather than the all-too-familiar classroom.

Should I play Escape Haus’ Kid’s Classroom?

We saw a group of tween girls leave Kid’s Classroom and they were all smiles and exuberance.

If you’re looking for a kid-friendly escape room, Kid’s Classroom would be a great option. If you’re adults looking for an escape room at Escape Haus, I’d suggest you explore their other offerings. Kid’s Classroom is not designed for adults.

Book your hour with Escape Haus’ Kid’s Classroom, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Escape Haus comped our 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.


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.


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.


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.


Perplexium – Rogue A.I. [Review]

A buggy super computer.

Location: Austin, TX

Date played: January 8, 2017

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

Story & setting

An advanced artificial intelligence went rogue. We needed to gain access to it and change its programming to eliminate the threat.

It looked and felt a lot like Portal 2… which was pretty cool.

Aesthetically, Rogue A.I. was all over the place. Some portions of the game looked fantastically futuristic. “Server room chic” is my best description for it.

In-game: A surreal white room with pillars of varying height. The room is split into small squares by blue LED strips that illuminate the entire space. It looks very futuristic.
This room was white. It photographed interestingly.

Other portions of the game looked drab and uninspiring, especially in comparison to the parts that were otherworldly.


Rogue A.I. was a challenging, puzzle-heavy game. We were the 7th team to escape in its 3-month existence.

Perplexium created a number of largely tech-driven spacial and reasoning puzzles to occupy the hour. They also adapted a few famous puzzles into Rogue A.I.’s gameplay.


Some of Rogue A.I. looked amazing. These parts were fun to explore.

Some of the puzzles were fun, challenging, and fostered teamwork.

The A.I. was a character in the game. It was superbly executed.


Rogue A.I. had a problem with gating, or lack thereof. We frequently received pieces of puzzles and access to puzzle interactions far earlier than we should have. This made the game artificially more difficult than it should have been. It created odd situations where we had solved a puzzle and triggered something to happen in a portion of the game that we did not have access to.

There were a number of construction issues as well, specifically gaps in set pieces where it was easy to lose small items and instructional material.

There was a lack of working surface, which added to the likelihood of placing small objects in precarious places.

While some of the game looked awesome, a fair amount of it did not. These parts stood in painfully stark contrast to the more exceptionally designed areas.

There was a lot to read and far too much of the reading material was useless or unimportant.

We were surprised when the game ended. The final puzzle left us feeling so unsatisfied that it was bizarrely hard for our team to accept that we had achieved the win condition. It’s worth noting that we had (talented) strangers on our team and they clearly also experienced the bafflement that we were feeling.

Should I play Perplexium’s Rogue A.I.?

One of the more interesting aspects of Rogue A.I. was where the difficulty came from. There were challenging puzzles to solve, but they weren’t so hard that Rogue A.I. should have such an incredibly low escape rate.

The main challenge stemmed from little flaws that reverberated off of one another to create frustration and friction. We lost pieces twice, one to a gap in a set piece and another when the tech triggered a door to fling open and launch a piece. We wasted time with puzzles that we had access to, but didn’t have all of the pieces or information. The crazy part was that we solved them that way. We had people spending the entire game trying to make sense of large written passages when it turned out that we barely needed any of the reading material.

All of this was compounded by having too many people. Rogue A.I. was far too intimate a game to sustain a large team. The physical space had plenty of room, but the space around the puzzles was usually tight.

Rogue A.I. didn’t feel like a finished product; we felt like beta testers.

If Perplexium were to reduce the reading material, fill physical gaps in fixtures, limit puzzle interface access until it was relevant, provide solid workspace, and add a finale worthy of their creation, they would have an exceptional game on their hands.

Beginners ought to skip Rogue A.I. in its current form. It will eat them alive.

Experienced players could find the space and concept entertaining, and the challenge a worthy undertaking, so long as they can secure a private booking and bring a smaller team of strong puzzlers (we got very lucky with our random teammates).

Rogue A.I. has a ton of potential and I hope that it is realized soon.

Book your hour with Perplexium’s Rogue A.I., and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Perplexium comped our 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.


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.


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.


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.

Escape Hour Austin – Lab Rats [Review]

[At the time of this review, Escape Hour Austin was called 15 Locks.]

“Gee Brain, what do you want to do tonight?”

Location: Austin, TX

Date played: January 8, 2017

Team size: 8-18; we recommend 7-11

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per ticket

The 2017 Golden Lock-In award, the REA logo turned into an open padlock with a golden ring around it.
2017 Golden Lock-In Award winner

Story & setting

We were the subjects of a psychological study; solving puzzles would lead to our escape. While the final challenge alluded to rats trapped in a maze, there wasn’t any pretense of story. The excitement was in solving unusual challenges to earn our freedom.

In-game: The Yellow Room features a variety of interactions colored yellow. A blue locked box is mounted to the wall in the foreground. The Red Room is through a glowing doorway in the background.

Composed of three rooms, each in a different primary color, Lab Rats used big color blocks and toy-like interactions to create a children’s tube and ball pit aesthetic (without the tubes or the ball pit). These rooms were laid out such that players in any given room could interact with players in any other room. Most of the puzzles were constructed around the perimeter of a room, or at a station in the center, leaving plenty of space for maneuvering.

Lab Rats unfolded in three rounds of puzzling. While we remained divided throughout the hour, we weren’t necessarily trapped with the same few individuals or puzzles. 15 Locks included a mechanism for the transfer of players between rooms upon the completion of each stage (should they choose to transfer).


The puzzles in Lab Rats were largely themeless. They were simply fun challenges to conquer. This was a puzzler’s escape room.

Much of the puzzling was hands-on, constructed into the rooms. In this way, many of the challenges involved spatial reasoning. However, that was by no means the only type of puzzling available.

In-game: The Blue Room features a variety of interactions. Through a barred window, the Red Room is visible.

Lab Rats forced collaboration and teamwork both within and between the rooms. In fact, some of the puzzles were rendered difficult mostly by the need to properly communicate.

Many of the puzzles, as well as the game mechanics, were tech-driven. There was no shortage of ways to interact with this room escape.


We loved the concept for Lab Rats: a puzzle-focused, collaborative experience for a large group in an abstract environment.

15 Locks steered into their color-block aesthetic. While Lab Rats didn’t look like something specific, or transport us to a fictional world, it did immerse us in a world unlike our own.

The combination of the almost child-like set design, continual puzzling, and collaboration across environmental barriers created this frenetic energy that lasted throughout the experience. We were excited and amped up.

In-game: The Red Room features a variety of interactions pained shades of red.

Lab Rats relied on technology-driven puzzles and game mechanics. We were “locked” in our rooms by an invisible barrier that sounded an alarm should anything pass through it incorrectly. Players could check in and out of the various rooms at specific times using an RFID bracelet. The game knew how many players were in each gamespace.

With players separated and so much action taking place all at once, our gamemaster had plenty to do. 15 Locks designed both audio and visual feeds, such that we could communicate with her from any of the three rooms and understand when she was preoccupied with our teammates. Gamemastering Lab Rats was a tall order, but the communication and hint system worked well.

Given the three-room structure, if a player chose to spend their entire game in only one room, they could pretty much replay Lab Rats 3 times and only have to hold back on a few puzzles.


We didn’t fully understand the game mechanics at the onset of the game. This was particularly true of the room transfer check in/out mechanic.

The game was structured in 3 phases, but we didn’t realize this at first. Each room had to complete phase 1 before the game would move to phase 2. However, we couldn’t always understand when we had completed everything available to us at a given time, and kept checking back in with the gamemaster for clarification. There was a light system meant to alleviate this confusion, but since colored lights could mean multiple things, we weren’t all able to follow these indicators.

The three-phase structure provided order to what might otherwise have been chaotic puzzling and player transfer. However, when one room struggled and fell behind during a phase, the rest of us could only look on from behind a barrier as our teammates flailed. This occasionally became frustrating.

Similarly, the final challenge was exciting for those involved, but wasn’t inclusive enough for a game of this size that had generally succeeded at keeping everyone thoroughly involved throughout.

The technology seemed occasionally buggy. In one instance a broken light made a puzzle vastly more difficult than it ever should have been.

Regular alarm buzzing became irritating.

Additional thoughts about perception of color

In designing these large, color-blocked rooms, 15 Locks used shades of color – light blue, medium blue, and dark blue, for example – to keep it from feeling flat. While this worked well aesthetically, in a few instances, this actually confused our team.

A few of our teammates couldn’t understand what pink meant. We owe our confusion about pink to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which holds that the structure of a language affects its speakers’ perception of the world. Because we say “pink” rather than “light red” we perceive pink and red to have a different relationship than that of light blue and dark blue, even though both pink and light blue are composed of a primary color plus white. Our knowledge of the word “pink” caused us to continually ask “what does pink mean?!” 15 Locks isn’t to blame for the English language, but they might want to head off this confusion in their introduction to the use of color.

Additionally, the choice of lighting made orange particularly hard to differentiate from certain shades or red, yellow, and pink.

While the primary colors signaled the rooms, the use of purple, orange, and green signaled interaction between the rooms. This was clever, but sometimes confusing. It wasn’t necessarily clear whether a secondary color meant that we would be receiving or giving information. This became part of the puzzling.

In some tech-driven puzzles, a green light could indicate “correct” but players wondered whether that indicated a forthcoming inter-room interaction instead.

Lab Rats relied on our perceptions of colors for everything from aesthetic, to puzzle design, to game mechanics. In some ways, perception of color was an additional layer to puzzle through. It certainly made us think, long after we’d escaped the room.

Should I play 15 Locks’ Lab Rats?

You need at least 7 puzzle-lovers to play Lab Rats. Because of the game’s reliance on communication and collaboration across barriers, ideally, in order to succeed, you should collect a team of puzzle-lovers that are collaborative and cooperative.

That said, we haven’t seen many games that can entertain and excite a large team as well as Lab Rats did. Whether or not you escape, you will enjoy the fun set, tech-driven game design, and intense puzzling.

This would be an incredibly challenging game for newer players. We recommend that at least the majority of the team be versed in escape room puzzling so that they can help with the communication that is vital to a team’s success.

Note that given Lab Rats’ reliance on color for communication and collaboration, this game would be particularly challenging for colorblind individuals.

I’ve expounded upon many concepts in the shortcomings above, much of that is because Lab Rats explored so much exciting and new territory. While it wasn’t perfect and at times felt a little like a highly functional prototype, it managed to deliver an incredibly fun experience for all 10 of our teammates, new and more experienced alike. It was truly a joy to escape this room.

Book your hour with 15 Locks’ Lab Rats, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: 15 Locks provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Out of the Box – The Seventh Room [Review]

Truth in advertising: It was honestly out of the box.

Location: Austin, TX

Date played: January 8, 2017

Team size: up to 8 for online booking; we recommend 2 – ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29 per ticket

There’s no shortage of escape room companies that claim that they are different. Usually, “we’re different, you’ve never seen anything like this,” means that it’s a standard escape room with a small twist.

Out of the Box was legitimately different.

On their website they claim, “The Seventh Room is the most unique escape room concept in Austin.” I’ll endorse that claim, and add that The Seventh Room as unique an escape room concept as I have encountered to date.

But was it fun?

Story & setting

Here’s how Out of the Box describes their own game:

The Seventh Room mixes room escape games, choose-your-own-adventure stories and interactive theater to create a real-life puzzle solving experience for attendees. To make the experience even more memorable, a cast of improv-trained actors are armed with riddles, back-stories and cryptic clues to help guide participants through the puzzles. During the challenge, participants explore several theatrically-designed rooms to look for clues where they will encounter lock boxes, riddles, hidden compartments and colorful characters.”

I would describe it as an eclectic house of puzzles, curiosities, and intrigue.

The game began with a self-administered puzzle in the lobby. Upon completion, we were led into the first space where an actor in the character of a librarian explained the rules and structure for us.

Essentially, we experienced 4 quarter-hour segments in different rooms within Out of the Box’s facility. The librarian ushered us around, chose the rooms in which we would play, and provided a curated experience.

Whimsically designed, yet detailed, the various rooms were created to identify our comfort zones and then give us a gentle shove out of them.

In-game: An actor standing at a mysterious bar.
Image via Out of the Box

If there was a story embedded in The Seventh Room, we never caught so much as a whiff of it, which was fine.

We saw a lot of the facility but played in only about half of the spaces. Each individual space had a distinctive look and feel. While each looked great, some were more compelling and polished than others.

Rather than escape or stop some calamity within 60 minutes, we aimed to maximize our points. In that regard The Seventh Room was like Epic Team Adventures’ Volcano God, but it didn’t take place in a single room or allow individual players to lean on their strengths to maximize the score, because at the end of a 15-minute segment our guide chose the next set of challenges.

The Seventh Room was a points-driven room escape with 5 very different games (counting the lobby), broken out into exceedingly different spaces, all guided by an actor.


Your experience will vary, but we enjoyed many tavern puzzles, riddles, and wordplay, as  bit of well as some decipherment and problem solving.

We also had a few non-puzzley interpersonal challenges to tackle.

We succeeded in a big way in The Seventh Room. So much of this game and our success in it depended on collaboration, team dynamic, and a no-ego approach to the game. It was clear in each section which teammates had the right skills to thrive. Once that was established, the rest of the team shifted to support those players.

In our case, we experienced a high puzzle density game because we solved things so rapidly that our dear librarian was at times falling behind our solve rate. Note that we brought an incredibly puzzle-experienced team.


The adaptive experience worked well and kept us busy throughout our hour with Out of the Box.

Our guide/actor was exceptional. She was in character throughout our time in the facility and she was great fun to play with.

Each room had its own set of rules. Those rules were delivered upon entry to the space and without the clock running. It made it easy to take them in and abide by them.

In-game: an actress sitting in a window surrounded by a variety of brightly colored symbols.
Image via Out of the Box

There was continual mystery as we never knew where we were going next, or what would be demanded of us.

This led to some moments that really did force some of our teammates out of the comfort zone.

The Library set was awesome, brilliant, and so impressive.

The Seventh Room was honestly replayable, for at least a few playthroughs. When I am next in Austin, I will, without hesitation, return to play again.


Not all rooms within The Seventh Room were created equal. We found ourselves in one space that wasn’t particularly compelling. Once we had solved the puzzle in the room, we found ourselves stuck completing the same task over and over for additional points until the end of the segment.

More than with most escape rooms, I would not want to play The Seventh Room with strangers.

In the optimal presentation of The Seventh Room, each individual room has a different actor who presides over it. We had the librarian lead us through the entire hour on her own. She was superb, but a fraction of what we imagine Out of the Box could deliver under the best of circumstances. I imagine the full experience would be costly, but the website and marketing promised more than it delivered.

Should I play Out of the Box’s The Seventh Room?


If you’re a newbie, the actors can help make the experience more approachable.

If you’re a seasoned puzzler and escaper, Out of the Box is truly different and will fill your hour with puzzles. For those of us who are accustomed to playing through an average game in roughly half of the allotted time, that’s a pretty big deal.

If you’re a serious puzzler, give Out of the Box a heads up before you book and ask them to put together a tougher game for you. The librarian told us that they will accommodate that request.

The only folks who might not be keen on The Seventh Room are those who are seeking a cohesive narrative. If that’s the case, Out of the Box likely won’t be your thing.

Our team size recommendation was: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. This is a first for us, but we’re fairly certain that the game would be adapted to accommodate as few as 2 and many more than 8 without sacrificing the experience in anyway. Out of the Box allows for custom bookings over the phone for parties larger than 8.

Out of the Box’s sets were great, the actor we saw was wonderful, and the puzzles were non-stop.

Book your hour with Out of the Box’s The Seventh Room, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Out of the Box comped our tickets for this game.