This is no time to PANIC
Newspaper staff takes team bonding to the Austin Panic Room, escapes to tell the tale
April 24, 2019
The Austin Panic room reached out to the Mac Journalism team and offered us some free tickets. I had never been to an escape room before and was looking forward to giving it a try. I knew the basic premise, they locked you in a room and you had to solve puzzles to find the way out. They are popular destinations for parties, dates and school groups. It was ten people to a room, and the one I was in was called “Abandoned School Room”. The other group went to “Cabin Fever”, which my fellow staffer Kristen Tibbetts describes later.
The escape room building downtown was pretty small and housed several rooms. The one we were going to was actually partially underneath the building. The employee then told us our mission. One of the students in this pretend school was an evil genius and had made some plans to do something bad. We had to find these plans and escape before he returned in 60 minutes. We had a walkie talkie to communicate with the staff and could ask for time updates and for clues, of which we had six.
Then she left, locked the door, and we were on our own. The room we were in was like a small classroom, with a teachers desk, four student desks and some lockers. Nearly all of the drawers had locks, some with combinations locks, others needed keys. There were two doors, other than the entrance and chained exit where we were supposed to escape. One of them was to the science room, the other was to the bathroom.
I’m glad I was in a group with people smarter than me because most of what happened was a blur. There were backpacks which contained scantrons that had names and birthdates on them, which we had to use to find codes to locks on desk drawers and lockers. In the desk, we found one of the “students” diaries, and had to match up the entries with dates on the big calendar on the wall. We tried to find the code on the door to the science room, which was more difficult than we would have liked. We ended up trying so many false codes that the door almost locked us out for good, and had to ask the walkie talkie if the code was right. In the science room, we had to find the weight of a jar of pennies, and mix some liquids then compare the color with that on a chart. We then found the code to the final locker which had the alleged plans that we were supposed to find. We put them on a light table, and with the help of some writing on the bathroom walls, found the combination for the final door. We strolled out with a cool three minutes remaining.
I’m not totally sure what happened, but regardless it was pretty fun. Whether you’re looking for a newspaper staff team building activity, or just to have some fun with friends, I would definitely recommend the panic room.
I was immediately impressed when my group entered the “Cabin Fever” room. Despite being inside a small building in downtown Austin, the room really did look like the inside of a cabin complete with a comfy couch, radio, chess table, fireplace, and a television.
The guide told us the backstory of our room. We were spending our vacation at a fancy mountain resort, but we got caught in a snowstorm while out exploring. With no cell service and no idea where we were, our group had to take refuge in a nearby abandoned cabin. However, the cabin was old and couldn’t withstand the storm for very long, but the snow prevented us from going out the same way we came in. We needed to solve the clues to find out our exact location and escape from the only other exit, a heavily-locked door, so that the resort could pick us up before the cabin collapsed.
Before we began, my group came up with a strategy: most of us would look for clues while one person sat in the middle of the room to assemble data and solve puzzles. I volunteered for the latter position, but my impatience and curiosity got the best of me. I ended up abandoning that plan to explore the room with the rest of my group.
Since we were a rather large group, we unintentionally split up and often were not on the same page. Sometimes clues got dropped in the confusion and we had to ask our guide for help to get us back on the correct path. Nonetheless, we found the cabin owner’s dairy, passports and other helpful clues to open all of the boxes, map out our location and eventually solve the final combination.
We escaped with ten minutes to spare, but the real win was being able to lord our victory over the other group (they escaped with only three minutes remaining). Even though we chose the two least challenging rooms (both with around a 45% success rate), I’m proud of both groups for escaping.
In all, I would highly recommend the Austin Panic Room, even if you are a little nervous about escape rooms. However, if you want to have the full experience, I suggest going in smaller groups of five people or less.