There are at least 2,300 escape rooms in the United States alone and counting. At the time of this writing, six of these 2,300 are located in Jacksonville. But even with the steep rise in popularity, most customers who walk through our doors have played between 0-3 games. The majority of the general population have never played an escape room before, and even fewer of them know there’s a difference in gameplay styles. Linear, Non-Linear, Mixed, Scavenger Hunt, and Red Herring are all types you will hear at some point if you ask an enthusiast. Still, in this article, I will focus on the two most prominent ones: Linear Vs. Non-Linear.
Linear Escape Rooms
Most escape rooms you play will be built linearly. This means that you must locate puzzle #1, and once solved, that will give you the tools you need to solve puzzle #2. Once you solve puzzle #2, you will get the tools or information you need to solve puzzle #3, so on and so forth throughout the end of the game. In a linear game, you cannot solve puzzle #3 without solving puzzles #1 and #2.
Easier for smaller groups
Things make more sense
The puzzles have more “flow.”
Isolates players in larger groups
Non-Linear Escape Rooms
A non-linear escape room, by contrast, is non-linear. When you walk into a non-linear escape room, 95% of every puzzle inside that room is solvable from the second you step inside. To use the above example, Puzzle #1, #2, and #3 are all solvable simultaneously. This also means that just because you go into a second room doesn’t mean you’re done with the first room – it is non-linear.
Non-linear escape rooms have “chaos” built into the gameplay. They are also much more difficult than linear escape rooms because it is up to you to figure out what you need, what you don’t need, and when you need it.
Everyone has something to do
Teamwork is more important
Whenever I build a room, I try to make everything as hard as possible for one person to do it. This ensures that everyone has something to do and nobody is standing around being left out of the action. Escape Rooms are more fun in larger groups, so I favor non-linear gameplay. When planning a team-building, corporate, or morale event, you want teamwork to be a significant part of the game. In my opinion, you cannot expect people to work together in a linear room because the biggest egos will dominate, whereas, in a non-linear room, egos will be a hindrance.
Joseph W. Brazfield, Owner Prototype Escape Games Jacksonville, FL