Panic Room challenges students to escape through puzzle play

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Lauren Sanchez

Austin Panic Room is one of four locations in Texas that offers a unique experience for those who enjoy puzzles and brain games.

It is comprised of five rooms, each with their own theme that change every ten to twelve months.

Panic Rooms are rooms with a specific theme and puzzles geared towards getting participants out of the room.

Puzzle-solvers are given an hour to complete all the puzzles and get out. If the puzzles are not solved, then players face storied consequences like freezing to death, getting caught by the police or getting captured by a mad scientist.

When we arrived to Austin Panic Room, what my friends and I thought would be a large complex, was actually just a quaint house with a small parking lot behind it.

After arriving we sat in a small living room with five other people and our handler, Ivan, who began explaining the story and the general rules.

No cell phones were allowed inside and there were certain doors or vents we couldn’t touch. Each “staff only” areas are marked with a sticker so a player wouldn’t accidentally damage the house.

Ivan also gave us a walkie talkie and told us we could ask any five questions while in the room to help guide us along the journey.

As someone who isn’t very good with puzzles, I was nervous about going in without any idea as to what to expect. I booked the room called Cabin Fever because the story was mysterious and caught my attention.

Basically, you and your teammates are on a ski trip when a blizzard unexpectedly hits and you’re forced to take shelter immediately in a nearby cabin.

The cabin can only withstand the storm for so long, and in order to survive, you and your friends must solve all the puzzles within the cabin. The solution wasn’t very clear from what I read, which made it all the more interesting.

The descriptions for the other rooms gave you the solution plain and simple, but the fact that Cabin Fever sounded so ambiguous left us even more interested.

We went into the “cabin” and were immediately impressed with how realistic it all looked. All the decorations, furniture and even the wooden boards adorning the walls made us feel as if we were trapped in an actual cabin. There were cabinets, closets and small boxes scattered about the room, all with padlocks secured onto them. My group and I quickly found all the padlocks and began working to solve the puzzles.

After we felt like we were making some progress, Ivan spoke up from the walkie talkie, telling us we only had twenty minutes left.

We had managed to keep our heads since we entered the room, but after hearing we had twenty minutes left, we began to panic. Each wrong combination we put into a padlock earned louder groans of frustration and each incomplete puzzle had us biting our nails.

We finally got to the door which was our exit and put the combination into the last padlock, silently praying it was correct.

The first combination was wrong, but on our second try, the lock finally gave way and we all exited the room, finally exhaling a breath of air none of us knew we here holding in. All with ten minutes to spare.

As I said before, I’m not a big fan of puzzles, but the Austin Panic Room manages to exercise your brain in a way that makes you forget you’re actually trapped in a puzzle.

My friends and I have spread the word about our experience since then and we plan to return soon, ready to beat our previous record.