Escape rooms are becoming more popular every year, and 2018 is shaping up to be no different. Here at Escapeocity, we’ll even be opening a brand new room in February! Whether our new room will be your first escape room ever, or you’re a seasoned veteran, here are 5 tips to help you escape!
1. Look Everywhere
The first thing you should always do when your time starts in a new escape room is to look everywhere. Finding out what you’re working towards and what puzzles you have access to right away is a great way to start. Don’t worry about stopping and solving puzzles for the first few minutes- focus on gathering up everything you can find in the room and putting it all in one place. You could be looking for anything: keys, locked boxes, notes, and tools that will help you later. Remember to be creative in the places you look, within the boundaries of the rules of the room. The easiest places to check are places like shelves and drawers, but don’t forget about more out of the box places like under the rug, in couch cushions, or even on the ceiling in some rooms. If you find something and you’re not sure what it’s for, take it with you anyway! You never know what you might need later. In your search of the room you are also likely to identify your first couple of obstacles- locked boxes or doors are usually good things to start working towards.
2. Stay Organized
The next step after finding everything you can is developing a system to stay organized. Every group will do this a bit differently, but here are some general tips to keep on-task. The first tip is to gather everything you find from your thorough room search and putting everything that still needs to be solved in one place. Most rooms will have a table or desk or something similar that can be a good place to gather movable objects. Once you start solving some puzzles and opening locked boxes, try moving everything you’ve already used to another designated spot. When you have a lot of people all moving around working on separate things, it can be tough to remember what has already been used and what hasn’t. Having a designated area to put things that have already been used or solved can help avoid someone in your group accidentally solving something twice. Going along with that, if you use a key or some other mechanism to open a locked box or drawer, you should leave the box unlocked with the key in it. This is a clear indicator to the rest of your group that the box has already been opened. If you take the key out or even worse relock the box, there’s a good chance that someone in your group will try to key somewhere else or use time unlocking the box again. Finally, in our rooms we provide all players with paper and pencils to take notes with. USE THEM. Take notes about what you find, or use them to write out puzzles that might be difficult in your head.
3. Think Creatively
Once you’ve gathered up all the locked boxes and clues you can find, it’s likely that you have quite a few puzzles ahead of you. The next thing to try is… everything. There are no bad ideas when it comes to looking for solutions in escape rooms. Live escape games are specifically designed to challenge you and to be unique from other room experiences, so thinking creatively for solutions is a must. Not every challenge will be as simple as finding a lock and a key and putting them together. Maybe you’ll have to use the lock itself for something else after detaching it from the box. Maybe you don’t need what’s in the box, but the box itself. Maybe what you thought was a number puzzle is really about letters, or maybe what you thought was a painting has a secret safe behind it. The best escape rooms will make you think that anything is possible and encourage you to play around with things until a solution presents itself. Try looking for patterns between disparate components or symbology that connects different parts of the room. Try moving things around the room and seeing if anything lines up. The worst thing you can do is tell someone on your team “there’s no way that that’s the solution!” I’ve seen countless groups dismiss what turned out to be the correct solution because it seemed too weird or too out of the box. Try everything!
4. Work Together
Another thing that groups that are new to escape rooms will sometimes struggle with is how to use their group’s size to their advantage. Escape rooms will generally have a lot of obstacles put before you, and there’s a good chance that it’s too much for just one person to solve on their own in time. This means it can be greatly beneficial to divide and conquer and work on multiple puzzles in concert to save time. When working on multiple puzzles, it’s important to communicate with your team what you’re working on. This makes sure that you don’t accidentally have multiple small groups or individuals working on the same thing, and also that you aren’t working on something that has already been solved. If you solve something, tell the whole group what you did! This will help them understand what still needs to be solved and what doesn’t, and will probably help them understand what they’re trying to solve better. All of this being said, it can also be beneficial to call more people over to get fresh eyes on a problem. It’s easy to tunnel vision in on one possible solution when working by yourself, and a new perspective can help you think of a new way to approach a problem. I would not recommend having defined teams within your group, and would instead recommend being flexible and working in groups of many sizes and combinations as you move through the room and try to solve puzzles.
5. Work Quickly
The best-laid plans often go awry- especially when you only have an hour to execute them! While the other four tips are great places to start when approaching a room for the first time, with the time limit that escape rooms have (usually only 60 minutes), working meticulously and carefully can eat through your time if you aren’t careful. This is why it’s important to not get caught up on one thing for too long. If you have multiple obstacles before you, which you often will, don’t be afraid to move on to something else or switch places with someone to get fresh eyes on a problem. Similarly, if you’re stuck on a problem for a while and don’t seem to be making any progress, don’t be too proud to take a step back and completely rethink it. You might have been approaching it all wrong to start with! Another thing that will sometimes hurt groups that are trying to escape quickly is not asking for hints. Every escape room I’ve ever been to has some sort of system for hints. These are there for a reason! At our rooms in Palatine you get three hints for free while still being eligible for our Top 10 Leaderboard. If you’re stuck on something, ask for help! At our rooms and most others you can also ask for a certain type of hint or a hint on a specific problem. If you just want a nudge in the right direction instead of being handed the solution, ask for it that way! You can keep the pride of solving a puzzle yourself and also save some precious time.
Not everyone is going to make it out of every escape room they attempt- in fact, with most rooms more people don’t make it out than do. Reading these tips can help improve your chances of escaping but the best way to improve is to practice! Book a room today at www.escapeocity.com!