Great Escape of Central Texas – Lost Tomb of Anubis [Review]

Sand, sarcophagi, and more!

Location: Killeen, TX

Date Played: August 31, 2022

Team Size: 2-8; we recommend 2-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Lost Tomb of Anubis was an absolutely beautiful room with fair, interactive puzzles and fun reveals. Although a couple aspects suffered from tedium, the general feel was adventurous and lavish. We were active, we explored the space, and we earned our escape.

Like many tomb games, we had to overlook the dim lighting. It was haunting and lovely, but also frustrating to navigate when deciphering ancient symbols whose details mattered. As always, more flashlights or at least one well-lit spot would have gone a long way.

The puzzles were generally tactile and satisfying, allowing us to interact with every set piece of interest. The room made good use of a large space and benefited from teamwork. However, the game lost some momentum near the end when a few puzzles felt a bit too similar.

Ultimately, though, this was a solid puzzling experience within a believable environment that we didn’t want to leave. Along with The Mobfather, it’s another reason that Great Escape of Central Texas is worth a short side trip for Austinite enthusiasts.

An ancient Egyptian tomb with elaborate hieroglyphics carved onto the walls, and a sarcophagus and an elaborate pull system of some sort.
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Number One Escape Room – The Shed [Review]

Blood, shed & fears.

Location:  Las Vegas, NV

Date Played: September 12, 2022

Team Size: 3-6; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $40 per player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: All players need to crawl; there is no bypass 

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Number One Escape Room’s The Shed picked up right where their game The Cabin had left off. After managing to escape from a serial killer’s cabin, we were now hiding in a shed in his backyard.

(Note that The Shed is a standalone game; you do not need to have played The Cabin first before playing The Shed.)

Having played The Cabin during a prior visit, I knew to expect a similar disturbing vibe and I was not disappointed. The game was moody and atmospheric from the start, with minimal lighting, blood-spattered walls, sinister-looking tools here and there, and evidence of missing victims on display. Though the room was quite dark, we were happy to discover flashlights that effectively helped us find our way around. 

A wall of skulls.

Puzzles were appropriately creepy, and while we were initially grossed out by the discovery of a rather grisly item, in a short time we were enthusiastically puzzling with said item as if it were a completely normal thing to do. We even giggled at several unexpected moments, including one thrilling effect that unfortunately could only be experienced by a single player due to the nature of the event. Puzzles were approachable and not too difficult, with solutions that came together easily and made sense. Game flow was smooth throughout, except for one early action that lacked adequate feedback, causing a pause in progress. After retracing steps and asking for a hint, we realized we’d already triggered the event. 

The Shed is a fun horror-themed game for both new and experienced players not upset by a little blood and gore.  If you are in Las Vegas and looking to escape the casinos for a while, stop by and play Number One Escape Room’s The Shed

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Lock & Clue Escape Rooms – Agent Z.E.N. [Review]

There’s no place like Om…

Location:  Pawtucket, Rhode Island

Date Played: August 27, 2022

Team Size: 3-8; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per player

Ticketing: Private

Accessibility Consideration: One person needs to crawl on the floor.

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

When I first walked into Lock & Clue’s Agent Z.E.N, I’ll admit I wasn’t impressed. We had just played their game The Sorcerer’s Curse, with an unusual entry and highly immersive medieval game space. The set design for Agent Z.E.N. was high-quality but average, with office furniture, a cabinet with knickknacks and a few pictures on the wall. How could this be their newest room? It just seemed too ordinary. But as we delved further into our search of the agent’s workspace, the set came to life, surprising us and adding depth of character and theme.

Our team of three had plenty to explore, with puzzles ranging from straightforward and logical to clever and definitely different. They all made sense in this covert spy world. One memorable puzzle stood out from the others as a defining puzzle for the game, unique and thematic in its simple execution. But we struggled with another, later in the game, which involved a clue that could be interpreted in different ways and caused our forward progress to stall. We also inadvertently impacted the finale, bringing the game to an awkward end instead of the intended “ta-dah” moment. 

A large Buddha statue sitting against a yellow wall.

Interestingly, this game used a score-based system, allowing us to earn extra points with bonus puzzles to get on the leaderboard. Unlike some rooms with bonus puzzles that are nearly impossible to solve, these were nicely approachable; they were fun and tricky, providing plenty to work on for the whole hour. Solving these mental puzzles was very tempting; in fact, there were a few times I wandered off to continue working on them, to the annoyance of my team who wanted to focus on the main objectives. I just couldn’t resist – figuring out these puzzles was an unexpected personal victory.

We very much enjoyed our time playing Agent Z.E.N. If you are in Rhode Island, stop by Lock & Clue and experience your moment of Zen.

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Panica – Culinary Escape Rooms in Israel

The culinary escape rooms at Panica in Tel Aviv combine classic escape room mechanics with in-room dining experiences. Solve puzzles to unlock various food ingredients and prepare an entree, dessert, or cocktail by the end of the game. Many of the puzzles are themed around food, and a few even use real food items in their solutions.

I love boundary-pushing hybrid escape room experiences, and this particular pairing was especially delectable.

As of my visit in May 2022, however, only one of Panica’s games, Eurovision Pizza Party, was fully available in English. But, with the assistance of some Hebrew-speaking teammates, I was able to play three other rooms at Panica: Mega Burger, Ice Cream Blast, and Free at the Bar.

While I didn’t review the explicitly non-English-playable rooms from my trip, I couldn’t pass up sharing some brief reflections on each of these unique experiences. Bon appetit!

A tiki bar with a beer tap.
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Great Escape of Central Texas – Mobfather – “Brains” Path [Review]

Brains, brawn, or both?

Location:  Killeen, TX

Date Played: August 31, 2022

Team Size: 2-9; we recommend 2-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical

REA Reaction

The Mobfather was defined by an unusual “Choose Your Own Adventure” mechanic that I hadn’t seen elsewhere in central Texas. At several times during the game, we were asked to choose between the “Brains” path and the “Muscles” path. Our combination of choices determined what puzzles we played and ultimately what ending we earned. With that description, we were prepared for some level of FOMO.

Remarkably, the FOMO didn’t bother us as much as we expected. It was indeed hard to bypass many set pieces knowing that we might not get to play with them. At the same time, knowing that everything in the room had SOME purpose in SOME timeline gave a feeling of depth to the room. We enjoyed the puzzles we did get to play along the “Brains” path, and just seeing many of the untouched items was enough to imagine what some of their purposes might have been. I left feeling like I had experienced enough of the world to be satisfied.

That said, the design wasn’t a complete win for players. Less experienced groups might have a harder time following the clue trail between puzzles, making the set pieces from alternate paths more of a red herring risk for them. Also, the game offered no information with which to weigh our adventure choices. The room was advertised as having three specific endings. However, the in-game choices bore little connection to those destinies, making the overall outcome feel random. Lastly, some puzzles repeat among paths, which is somewhat of a deterrent to playing again.

Generally speaking, though, we were surprised at how well this design walked the line between giving us a substantial experience without frustrating us too much at the roads not taken. For me, the room was definitely worth playing once, but that was probably enough. Great Escape of Central Texas has enough quality games to justify a short trip from Austin to Killeen. Include The Mobfather on that list.

A restaurant and deli with a counter filled with meat and a soda fountain.
Image via Great Escape of Central Texas
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