It is likely that at some point you will get stuck and require a nudge in the right direction. Don’t let pride get the better of you, there is no shame in asking for hints! You’ll have a more enjoyable time if you progress consistently through the room and see most of the puzzles even if you don’t quite make it out in time. Sometimes it can be hard to get started when there is so much to take in. Don’t wait longer than 5 or 10 minutes to ask for your first hint to get the ball rolling, because you might never make that time back if you burn up any more valuable minutes with no progress!
When you find important props and puzzles, it can help to keep them all in one place so your team can easily inspect or retrieve them when necessary. A good room won’t let you ‘break’ a puzzle by disturbing prop locations, but bear in mind that the proximity of some items may be deliberate in a way that will make the puzzle easier to understand. Exercise caution if something looks meticulously set up.
Rooms are rarely 100% linear, so whilst it can be tempting to follow the action, 5 people watching someone complete a maze to retrieve a key is not the best use of time. Try to find your own avenue of exploration and work on props and areas that the rest of your team is not. If you are working on a puzzle, especially a physical one, and are having difficulty, don’t be afraid to get a teammate to take over. Different approaches to problem-solving is key to succeeding. Also, nobody likes a puzzle-hog! Admit defeat and act in the best interests of the team.
Puzzles in an escape room should be fair and logical. Thinking outside the box will be required at times, but start with basic solutions and a rational approach to problem-solving. Do not start throwing random numbers and codes in locks. Not only is this a waste of time, but you run the risk of unknowingly accessing a location that was not meant for you until further into the game. The same goes for bypassing locks and puzzles with force. It will only disrupt the flow of your game and create confusion. Escape rooms will rarely require physical strength of any kind. Be respectful of your surroundings and don’t ruin the experience for your team or for those that will play next.
Keep used keys in their locks, and opened locks on their latches. This prevents confusion over what keys have and haven’t been used, and what words/codes were the correct solution. Especially in a bigger room, it helps for there to be something of a trail that your fellow team mates can reference if they were busy elsewhere.
‘Do Not Touch’ does not always mean ‘Do Not Look’! Whilst some room elements like plug sockets are not part of the game and should be ignored, props and other locations may be marked ‘Do Not Touch’ yet still contain important visible information.
If your Game Master says stop, then stop! They are there to help you and preserve your experience. If you feel like something permanent is necessary but you’re not too sure (e.g cutting a wire) then state aloud what you are about to do. Give a Game Master a few seconds to interject if you are about to cause some damage! Better to be safe than sorry, and they will thank you for it! If a Game Master suggests it’s time for a hint, then it probably means you are not on the right track and you are losing time, so take their advice and request one.
The competitive side of us may wish to take no hints and attempt to beat the fastest time, but really the point of an escape room is to have fun and enjoy yourself.
Keep an eye on the clock so that you remember to ask for hints if you stall; games are rarely won by kicking it into overdrive just for the last 5 minutes. Don’t worry about getting the fastest time, unless you are competing in the Escape Room World Finals, of course!
After the Game
When the game is over your host will congratulate/commiserate and should be able to answer any questions about the puzzles and any steps that may remain. A good Game Master will try to ensure you see the majority of the room during your experience. Generally, escape rooms are not ordinarily worth replaying to complete, and your money is better spent on a new room the next time. Ordinarily a team photo opportunity follows, and then depending on the facilities you may get a chance to take a seat and have a coffee. Your team will likely be excited to talk about the experience, but always be careful not to spoil the rooms and puzzles when around other customers, it’s not the polite thing to do!
Debriefing together after your escape room is recommended as you can catch up on some of the puzzles and solutions you may have missed whilst working on different parts of the room. Discuss your failures and successes, and maybe even which room to play next!
Finally, if you have a positive experience, then consider leaving an online review for other people to know just how much fun you had. This will help the escape room industry grow, allowing for a steady stream of new rooms to arrive in your area, and potentially improving the scale and production of the experiences available to you.
Fox in a Box