It’s Friday night, and you’re looking for something different to do in Victoria, so you and some friends decide to play an escape room. If you’ve never played an escape room before, the element of the unknown and the uncertainty of what happens once you’re locked in that room can be a bit unnerving. Or maybe you’ve played escape rooms before to varying degrees of success. Whether this is your first experience, or you’ve been around the escape room ‘block’ before, here are some tips for success—and to ensure your experience is a positive and fun one.
1.) PICK YOUR TEAM WISELY
As the saying goes, you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your escape room teammates! (That’s how the saying goes, isn’t it??) If you’re going to be locked in a room for an hour, to ensure your experience is an enjoyable one, you’ll want to make sure you build a good team. Escape rooms, while designed for fun, can also become stressful when you’re down to the last ten minutes and still have a few puzzles to go. Make sure that your team is comprised of people with whom you know you work well, and with whom you can have a laugh—regardless of the outcome of the game.
2.) DRESS COMFORTABLY
Thinking of playing an escape room as something to do after work? You might want to consider bringing a change of clothes with you to the office and ditching the necktie before your gameplay, so you can enjoy the full benefit of 100% blood-flow to your thinker! Dressing comfortably makes it easier for you to solve puzzles. You might not need to be climbing around the room, but wearing something that you’re comfortable in, it helps you to better enjoy your experience. It will allow you to focus more on the puzzle than trying to pull your long dress away from the floors, or navigating your way through the Secrets of the Great Pyramid in a pair of 3” heels!
3.) PLAY SOBER
Escape games are designed to test all your mental faculties, and are intended to be played sober. Although it may seem like a great idea to down a few drinks before your game, who wants to be stuck in a room with no bathroom and a full bladder (or worse!) for an hour?! Escape rooms are way more enjoyable when you’re not intoxicated. Save the drinks for celebrating after you escape the room.
4.) SPLIT UP
Walking into an escape room can be overwhelming—there’s no ‘Start Here’ sign. There is a lot to look at and do before getting to your first puzzle. In order to get a ‘lay of the land’ and assess the clues and puzzles that your team must tackle as efficiently as possible, divide and conquer is a great strategy.
5.) MOVE QUICKLY AND KEEP CALM
You have a lot to accomplish in just 60 minutes, and not a minute to lose. Manage your time wisely and don’t delay! While you need to be aware of time, don’t forget to keep calm! You’re no help to your teammates if you’re wigging out running around the room, bouncing off the walls like a Roomba that’s short-circuited!
6.) VERBALIZE EVERYTHING YOU FIND
This tends to be fairly chaotic, but all Escape room games are won and lost based on how quickly team members who find related items can match them together. This includes things like a code and a key, a key and a lock, or a pattern that appears the same way in two different places. It can help to appoint a leader who will be responsible for keeping track of the information coming from all players and relaying it to others.
7.) ORGANIZE PROPS NEATLY
This helps keep the room tidy, so you can find what you need. It also helps you keep related objects together, so you can find them all right when you need them rather than wasting time hunting around for something you know you just saw! Some examples:
- Stack related books together
- Spread apart an important piece of cloth
- Place loose objects on the table on the room
- Put all unused keys together in a central location
If you see a bunch of books on a shelf, first check to see if any of them is actually a book safe. You might get a clue later to refer to a specific book (especially if you need a book cipher or you have a dictionary). As a low priority task, flip through some of the books (but please don’t waste too much time looking at random marks in them).
8.) TRY NOT TO OVERTHINK
Don’t overthink any of the puzzles. Escape rooms are designed for all ages and abilities, which means they don’t require any specialized or outside knowledge. Many times, the simplest solution is the best you can find! That series of seemingly random numbers you found scribbled on a piece of paper are less likely to require complex calculus and more likely to be a code to something. So, rather than busting out your calculator, keep your eyes pealed for somewhere you can input the code. Keep that in mind when you enter a room. Don’t over-complicate things – sometimes the solution is simple. Focus on one task and don’t over-think it. Go for the simpler solution. Usually escape room puzzles have a clear “aha!” when you discover the right approach.
9.) FOLLOW THE RULES
Listen to the intro and rules provided by your Game Master. He or she might slip some helpful hints in at the beginning that will save you a lot of time. This applies to the hints that they give in-game too, especially if they are live action actors. All of the staff in-game will try to nudge you in the right direction. They will also let you know any rules that are specific to their establishment, or the unique game you’re playing, which leads us to our next tip…
10.) BE GENTLE WITH THE PROPS
Breaking things is bad for everyone. If you trash the room searching for clues, and man-handle the puzzles trying to brute-force them at best you’re going to do damage that will prevent you from successfully completing the game. That’s if your Game Masters don’t turn you out for getting out-of-hand—or charge you a fee for repairs. For everyone’s sake—including your enjoyment and safety, the safety of others, game functionality, and those who are excited to play the game next after you and will have their experience negatively impacted by your careless actions, take it easy. The Game Masters will usually brief you beforehand on what things you shouldn’t do, such as forcing open any doors, detaching anything from the walls that don’t easily come off, or climbing on furniture. Cabinets, drawers, and doors that are hard to open are likely supposed to stay that way. Please don’t try to force it open. Remember, it’s just game!
11.) PASS THE BATON
If you find yourself getting frustrated working on a puzzle it’s time to pass it off to one of your teammates. It’s easy to stare at something for too long and begin missing key parts of it. A fresh pair of eyes will help you relieve your frustration and may help you get through that tricky puzzle much quicker.
12.) ASK FOR HINTS
It’s not giving up asking for a hint. Most well-planned escape rooms will have at least one puzzle that is tricky enough to leave you stumped. Your time in an escape room is limited. Don’t be afraid to ask your Game Master for a hint once you’re stuck. Game Masters have in-depth knowledge of each puzzle and will be able to point you in the right direction, so you can get past that hurdle and start solving puzzles again!
13.) LOOK AGAIN
Coming down to the wire? This is the perfect moment to take another look everywhere again when you’re stuck and running out of time! Just pretend that you are beginning the game again, try to think from a different angle, take a deeper look at everything, and you should be able to find something new!
14.) TAKE TIME TO ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE
It’s not all about the escape. Most escape rooms have pretty low success rates—and for good reason, because it wouldn’t be nearly as rewarding if everyone got out! So, don’t worry about whether your team was one of the few who escaped; it’s not a reflection of your intelligence or abilities. Rather, keep in mind your bigger picture objective, which is to have a good time with the friends, family, or colleagues that you’re playing with. After all, isn’t that why you signed up for this crazy experience in the first place?? The game is a lot more fun when you solve puzzles genuinely and don’t rush chaotically to finish. These games can be hard, but they are also fun and immensely satisfying if approached with the right mindset. Enjoy yourselves, and embrace the game and your friends, not the outcome, and you will have lots of fun!