An Escape room (AKA Escape Game, Puzzle room, exit room, panic room) is fun for everyone. It involves solving a series of clever puzzles in a limited amount of time within a space that has been designed to look like a movie set. Suppose you’ve never played an escape room before. In that case, I highly suggest reading my 10 tips to beat any escape room before arriving at the facility:
1. Think Out Loud
An escape room requires teamwork. A team can only function well with proper communication. Your ability to think out loud and let everyone know what’s going on in your mind is key to your success. When I am game mastering a room, I like to listen to what’s going on, and if I hear silence, I know the team won’t do well. Simply put, you and your team should NEVER shut up. Saying things like, “We have a 4 digit lock over here” or “There are some photos over here with x” goes a long way in beating an escape room.
2. Designate A Spot In The Room For Items Of Interest
A good tactic used by winning teams is to find a place in the room to put things. When you play an escape game, you’re going to find objects in drawers, clothing, suitcases, cabinets, and just about anywhere you could think of. When you find something interesting, let your group know what you’ve discovered and set it in the designated area. This keeps things organized and minimizes the time it takes to let everyone know what’s important. The fastest teams are the most organized.
3. Separate Groups Into Seekers And Solvers
I am very good at finding things, whereas my girlfriend is good at solving things. For these reasons, we will play into each other’s strengths. I will seek, and she will solve. I will place items I find in our designated spot, and she will sift through them and put the pieces together. Larger groups can benefit from everyone having a role. Sometimes the leaders will naturally come out, or you may need to designate that person(s) before entering the room. The leader’s responsibility is to keep tabs on what’s going on around them and help direct the other team members on what to do. This makes managing large groups a lot easier.
4. Listen To The Game Master
Your game master knows the game you are about to play. They’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands of guests go through that room. They understand how people think about the puzzles and where they’re likely to get stuck. For these reasons, what they tell you before entering a room is FOR YOUR BENEFIT. Every good game master wants to see your team succeed, so they will inform you of things before and during your game that will help you do that. Simply put, IF YOUR GAME MASTER SPEAKS, LISTEN.
I am a big fan of foreshadowing and often place clever wording in my briefing with guests. Sometimes the intro video will have foreshadowing as well, so listen!
5. Do Not Arrive Intoxicated
Prototype Escape Games has a policy for guests who arrive intoxicated. Many escape rooms have similar policies. Not only will you not be allowed inside the game, but even if you were, you wouldn’t have a great time. Getting drunk in an escape room is kind of like getting drunk at work… It’s fun in theory, but in practice, you’ll spend the entire 60-minutes wishing you were literally anywhere else. Alcohol may be an excellent social lubricant, but being crammed inside a strange room with other people and being asked to solve problems isn’t fun.
6. Curb Your Ego, Ask For Help
It should be no surprise that the groups who fail escape rooms often don’t utilize their allowed hints. Everyone wants to make it through without help, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The issue arises when you begin to take 5 minutes or longer on any given puzzle. Let me explain…
If I want to build a room beatable by the general public, I want to make it with 12 puzzles. The idea behind this is that it should take you about 5-minutes to solve each puzzle; 5×12=60-minutes. At Prototype Escape Games, Blackout has 12 puzzles, Dog Days has 13 puzzles, and Locker Room has 14 puzzles. This means that if you’re playing Locker Room, you are already playing at a 10-minute disadvantage from the second you step foot in the room. If you get stuck on one puzzle, you’re eating away precious time. Always remember that you don’t know how much you have left to do, so if it’s taking you longer than 5 minutes to make progress, consider asking for a nudge in the right direction. The game masters at Prototype Escape Games have all been trained to give broad/vague nudges so that we don’t spoil your A-ha moment.
7. Don’t Argue
It’s nice to know how you react under pressure, isn’t it? This problem is common in an escape room. The stress of an escape room can often bring out the worst in us. Don’t let the pressure be your downfall, and work together. Not to mention, the room is equipped with audio and video, don’t forget that you’re essentially arguing in front of strangers that can hear your every word. Embarassing……
8. Occam’s Razor
Occam’s razor is the basic principle that the most obvious answer usually is the correct answer. In other words, the solution with the least amount of assumptions is usually the correct one in the absence of evidence. Watching people play escape rooms has led me to believe that people will make a red herring out of anything. Some simple steganography can quickly turn into an algebra equation if you’re reading too much into it. Ask yourself: What is the most obvious answer here? If you see 4 photos and have a 4-digit lock, odds are they go together. So start from the most obvious solution and work your way forward.
9. Understand The Room You’re Playing
A good game master is a thorough game master that knows the game he/she is about to manage for you. At a certain point during the briefing, he/she will open up the floor for questions. This is when you should ask anything you want about the room. Good questions to ask are:
Is the room linear or non-linear?
Do you have a one-key, one-lock policy?
Do you have red herrings?
How do we ask for clues?
What is the time limit in the room?
10. Choose The Right Team
Prototype Escape Games are 100% non-linear rooms. Non-linear games are more challenging than linear games, but they’re also the most fun, in my opinion. We don’t want to exclude anyone from playing our games, so we allow small groups to play whenever possible. You should know that groups of 2 and 3 will struggle in our games. Non-linear rooms are challenging for small groups to complete. Why not turn that date into a double date? Why not invite a family member or a good friend? The more minds you have working on things, the better your experience. If you are reading this blog after you’ve already purchased your tickets, don’t worry! You can always add more people once you arrive.
If you’ve got 11-minutes, I highly suggest watching Mark Rober’s video on Youtube. This video has been watched 24 million times for the simple reason that Mark lays everything out beautifully. If you want to gain an extra edge inside your escape room, spend the time to watch it here:
This concludes my tips to beat any escape room. This list has been custom-tailored to our games, but it will work for any escape room out there. Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you at Prototype Escape Games in Jacksonville, Florida!
Joseph W. Brazfield, Owner Prototype Escape Games Jacksonville, FL