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.

Red Herring Escape Rooms – The Deadly Inheritance [Review]

Cousins Unite!

Location:  St. Louis, MO

Date Played: March 22, 2019

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $27.50 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [B] Emergency Code

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Deadly Inheritance was our favorite escape room from our 2019 trip to St Louis.

This was a heavily puzzle-centric escape game with a quirky setup. It was a bit old school, but it was well-executed for what it was.

In-game: statues of a lighthouse and a hard-helmet for diving.

The set was worn, however. If you’re the type of player who values set design, narrative, and adventure… it was a little light on those elements. Instead it delivered strong gameplay, great puzzle flow, and some interesting interactions.

If you’re looking for a traditional escape room with a funny setup and solid execution, then this is a fantastic option and we absolutely recommend it if you’re in St Louis.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • Strong puzzle-centric gameplay
  • A quirky, funny setup

Story

We’d received a letter from an attorney representing the estate of our recently deceased Uncle Martin. Our mysterious uncle, whom we had never met, nor heard of, was a pirate and had left his fortune to his nieces and nephews… if we could find it.

In-game: Uncle Martin's house includes an old TV, a fireplace, and an overt nautical theme.

Setting

The Deadly Inheritance was a puzzle room in a quirky nautical set. The room was showing its age. Its focus was on the puzzles rather than the set design. That said, there were some interesting elements to take in.

In-game: a boat and ship light.

Gameplay

Red Herring Escape Rooms’ The Deadly Inheritance was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

In-game: Porthole windows and mirrors.

Analysis

➕ The Deadly Inheritance started with a hilarious intro video. It set the tone for a fun escape room experience that didn’t take itself or its ridiculous scenario too seriously.

➕ The Deadly Inheritance had a weird aesthetic that we enjoyed. It was clearly built on a budget, but built with care. It all came together to create our strange uncle’s abode. When your main character is an eccentric millionaire, you have a creative license to cobble together something interesting… and that’s exactly what Red Herring Escape Rooms did.

➖ The room was worn. Some of the locks needed to be replaced. One of the input mechanisms was finicky.

➕ The puzzles were delightful. They were varied and made use of interesting and unexpected props. Our Uncle had quite the collection of oddities! We solved some layered puzzles and other more straight forward ones.

➖ Most of the puzzles were built into props, but not into the set itself. There was opportunity to use the gamespace to create exciting, memorable moments.

Red Herring's quirky and elegant lobby.
Red Herring Escape Room had a great lobby

➕ There was a lot of gameplay packed into this escape room. The game flowed well, encouraging us to start certain puzzles early, for example, and funneling us away from potential bottlenecks.

The Deadly Inheritance offered a particular style of puzzle-focused gameplay. While the puzzles flowed well, the gameplay felt like solving many unconnected puzzles in an eclectic space rather than solving through a cohesive adventure. Your appreciation and enjoyment of this escape room will depend heavily on your style preferences.

Tips For Visiting

  • It looks like there is street parking.
  • Red Herring Escape Rooms has a gorgeous lobby. It’s a comfortable place to hang out.

Book your hour with Red Herring Escape Rooms’ The Deadly Inheritance, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Perplexium – Incoming Transmission [Review]

Engage!

Location:  Austin, Texas

Date Played: February 2, 2019

Team size: 2-4; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $33 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Incoming Transmission was a sprawling space epic in the vein of Star Trek.

We’ve learned to count on Austin’s 15 Locks/ Perplexium to produce creative and unusual escape games that tinker with the formula. They did just that with Incoming Transmission.

In-game: The bridge of a space ship with multiple control consoles and many glowing lights.
Image via Perplexium

This space-based escape game was less about discovering a physical space and puzzling through it. It was more about learning the ship’s systems and using them to traverse the universe, completing missions and solving the problems of alien species. This escape room felt more like a giant control panel than a puzzle room.

This structure meant that Perplexium was able to produce a replayable game with plenty of dynamic missions to tackle.

With gameplay that felt more like a hybrid of video gaming and some tabletop gaming, Incoming Transmission could be the perfect game for your team or it could fizzle. We enjoyed ourselves and could imagine going back for a second go at space travel if we’d finished playing out the other escape rooms that interest us in Austin.

If you’re a little intrigued by all of this and near Austin, Texas, then you should beam aboard Incoming Transmission. At the very least, you’ll be in for an novel ride.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • 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?

  • Unusual, replayable game structure
  • Great set
  • A humorous script

Story

As cadets in the fleet, we had been beamed aboard the SS Adventure. We had to get the ship running and then traverse the universe to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly solve intergalactic problems.

In-game: A series of large control toggles.
Image via Perplexium

Setting 

We were beamed aboard a Star Trek-inspired spaceship with an angular, futuristic aesthetic, complete with dozens of blinking lights, buttons, switches, and dials… all of which were active game components.

In-game: A space ship control panel with multi-colored glowing buttons.
Image via Perplexium

Gameplay

Perplexium’s Incoming Transmission combined standard escape room gameplay with atypical elements. It had a moderate level of difficulty.

Incoming Transmission could be played in “story mode,” which combined more typical escape room-style gameplay with video game-like elements. It could be replayed in “points mode” which opened up the star system and allowed crews to go off and have a real-life video game-like adventure without some of the more tangible escape room moments.

The gameplay was similar to something like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.

Core gameplay revolved around figuring out how to interact with the environment, following instructions, and communicating.

In-game: A space ship control panel with glowing buttons.
Image via Perplexium

Analysis

➕ The spaceship set was interesting and beautiful.

➕ As we brought this ship to life and completed missions it reacted with different effects. These upped our excitement about the missions and our feelings of triumph.

➕ There was a heavy video component that involved alien characters appearing on a large screen to ask for help, make demands, or threaten us. It was both Star Trek-y and funny… kind of like The Orville… but without dick jokes.

➕ We enjoyed the escape room-style gameplay of configuring the ship. We especially enjoyed operating the ship’s transporter.

➖ The gameplay often felt more like following instructions than exploring or solving puzzles.

❓ The second act of the game took place at consoles, much like a multiplayer video game. It was fun, but the novelty wore off quickly. We would have liked more puzzle variety or a quicker pace during this segment. Reactions to this segment will likely vary based on individual player preferences.

➖ Incoming Transmission lacked an intense boss flight. The gameplay felt one-note, even as our ship came under fire. We would have liked to build toward the climactic battle.

➕ The replayable “points mode” concept was interesting. There were so many console-based puzzles packed into the game that we could return again and again to play though the challenges from our consoles aboard this intergalactic ship.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
  • This room involves crawling, ducking and tight spaces. At least one player will need to do this.
  • This room includes flashing lights, fog, and loud noises.

Book your hour with Perplexium’s Incoming Transmission, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Book

Disclosure: Perplexium comped our tickets for this game.

Clocked In Escape Room – Priceless Gift [Review]

Ma chérie

Location:  San Antonio, Texas

Date Played: February 3, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $116 per team of 4 (minimum number), more for larger teams

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Priceless Gift asked us to find a treasured object in our grandmother’s home. This premise and the corresponding gamespace were oddly charming.
In-game: An antique white couch in a white room with paintings of France hanging on the walls.
Clocked In Escape Room built a search-and-puzzle escape room with standard puzzle types. Despite a few bumpy solutions, the puzzles generally made sense and the gameplay flowed well. If you’re in San Antonio and you’re looking for a gentler, puzzle-focused escape room – one that isn’t about saving the world or a fantastical situation – visit Priceless Gift. It won’t blow your mind, but it will deliver competent, classic escape room play.

Who is this for?

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

Why play?

  • A tender story
  • Fun puzzles

Story

Our grandmother had passed away. Her will clearly stated that she wanted us to have a diamond necklace that had been in the family since the 18th century. Unfortunately, when she wrote her will, she couldn’t remember where she put the priceless jewelry. The executor of the estate informed us that her house had been sold. We had only 60 minutes until the closing in which to find our inheritance.
In-game: a Singer sewing machine.

Setting

Priceless Gift was set in a bright, white room, with faux stained glass, and antique furniture. Clocked In Escape Room built a visually unusual environment that wasn’t fancy, but still was striking. The inclusion of a few select antiques like a Singer sewing machine added a bit of authenticity.

Gameplay

Clocked In Escape Room’s Priceless Gift was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty. Core gameplay revolved around searching and puzzling.

Analysis

➕ Priceless Gift told a sweet story through escape room gameplay. We don’t see enough of this genre of escape room. It was refreshing. ➕ The puzzles were generally sound, satisfying solves that flowed logically. ➖ A few of the puzzles asked for a larger step in logic. ➖ Priceless Gift could have benefited from a little dusting and maybe a couple of lock replacements. ➕ /➖ Clocked In Escape Room attempted an artistic puzzle in this mostly lock-and-key escape room. We liked the concept, but it didn’t quite stick. ➕ I loved seeing the old Singer sewing machine. Personally, if I were associating a single object with my grandparents, that’s probably it.

Tips For Visiting

  • There is a parking lot.
Book your hour with Clocked In Escape Room’s Priceless Gift, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.
Book