Are you on you a date and want to impress with knowledge and skills of escaping? Are you one of those competitive types that showed up to the office team building party at an escape room and just have to show everyone that you are obviously in need of a promotion because of your escape room skills? Whoever you are, I am going to walk you through 10 easy tips and tricks to help you escape your first or any escape room!
The art of Escaping…
1. Get To Know Your Team Fast!
Unless you have just booked an entire room to yourself, and your friends, you are most likely going to be doing puzzles with some random people. At first, you may feel kind of awkward, being quite or only talking to the people who you came with. This will only hurt your team and spoil a good time.
Make sure to engage the “Randos” in the lobby. Introduce yourself and your friends. Talk to them as if you knew them for 10 years! Ask them about the room or if they have ever done a room. You will all become very close in the next hour and will need to use each other's strengths.
2. Search and Tell
This one can really have you shoving your hand in your face and saying “I can’t believe I missed that!”
When the game starts, START LOOKING! One of the best ways is to, declare a section of the room you are going to investigate and look at it inch by inch.
If you volunteer or if you were “Voleuntold” to look at a bookshelf, for example, make sure you look through all of the books methodically. Behind each of the books sleeves there may be a hidden code, or maybe the books themselves are not really books, yet little safes!! The entire bookshelf may, in fact, be a doorway to another room!
Now that you found your clues, even if it may seem subtle, make sure you announce/yell it to the entire team! There may be something that someone else is working on that relates to your puzzle! There have been countless times when I’ve been in a room when someone says “oh man…I can't believe that thing goes with this…” only to realize that they were standing silently in front of the key the entire time.
3. Get Momentum Fast!
If you find that you have not figured out anything and it is now 15 minutes into your game take these steps IMMEDIATELY!!
1. Let it be known that it’s a quarter of the game in. Ask/Find out what everyone has found or what they think, be it a puzzle piece they have found or what direction they think the team should be going in.
2. If no one on your team has that “Ah HA, the light bulb is on!” moment from the previous step, ASK FOR A CLUE!!! Most escape rooms will have a 3 clue give away type system.
Believe me, people love wins, no-one wants to stay a room looking at each other getting frustrated. Sometimes you will find yourself in a room with a stubborn mule who absolutely will not want to take a clue. Usually, if you make it clear that no-one knows what to do or what direction the team is going, they will feel a little bit better at taking a clue. Besides, you will have PLENTY to do throughout the entire room.
Some rooms will have 20-30 puzzles to figure out in an hour. Getting that first puzzle done will typically start the snowball effect and get your team on the right track quick!!
4. Use Your Team's Strengths
Just because you can’t figure out the puzzle, does not mean someone on your team can’t!! Sometimes you really need to give yourself a gut check and let someone else take over that puzzle. If you do this make sure you:
1. Bring your other teammate up to speed on what you know about the puzzle so far and that they understand your point of view on the concept.
2. If they have a different opinion of the puzzle, let them have a go with it and take a step back to watch. Sometimes, they won’t figure it out, but watching them will jar something in your brain to see the solution to the puzzle!
3. If you are super frustrated and beating yourself up, no worries man, there is more stuff to do! Check out the room, help another teammate who just as frustrated as you are. Who knows, you both might enjoy and find it funny talking about how little you know about what’s going in that moment. Remember it’s just a game, laugh a little:D
5. Correlation is Key!!
One of the biggest tips of escaping is picking up on subtle hints of correlation. For example, if there is a painting on a wall with 3 red roses, 2 bluebirds and 5 yellow fish and you see a number lock below it that have same colors red, blue and yellow in that same color sequence. The code may be 325. Correlating different items in the room to one another or to puzzles can make you look like a savant with your brilliant observation skills, so just do it! (Even if you sound like a crazy person...) “There are 2 chairs 1 painting and I ate 5 slices of pizza today…..”
6. Recheck Your MATH!!
2 + 2 x 2 is not 8. We all get super excited in every room and some rooms have some form of math. During these intense scenarios, we tend to be, not so “Bueno” at math. Unless you are an Emergency Room Nurse used to doing calculations under high-stress environments, you may be doing your math correctly. For those of you who still are thinking I was wrong and did not use PEMDAS please recheck your math and stop putting the same numbers into the answer of your puzzle.
7. Think Of Different Ways To Use Information
When I say “Watch your 6.” I don’t mean to look at your watch, I want you to look behind you. So if you are given information that could be used in a different way, use it. For example, if you are reading a story about someone having an appointment at 12 o’clock, then an appointment at 3 o’clock, then another appointment at 9 o’clock, that may pertain to a direction lock.
The direction up would be 12, like pointing to 12 from the center of a clock and so on and so forth for 3 o’clock and 9.
It’s not always about directions but thinking outside the box on the information you are given. Every puzzle you have in front of you can be solved with the information provided.
8. Watch the Time
Starting your journey of going into multiple rooms within your escape room, yes I mean multiple rooms. (You may find yourself starting in one room then going through a hidden tunnel to a new room, then go through the hidden mirror to another room and so on.) You may be engulfed with so much excitement that you've forgotten to check the time.
Most of the rooms are typically 60 minutes long. Now a lot of places are coming up with other types of rooms that consists of 90 minutes or shorter rooms 30 to 45 minutes. Watch your time! If you find the team focused on one particular puzzle, lost momentum and spent 10 minutes on this puzzle seriously consider taking a clue. At the 15 minute marker if you do not know how to solve the puzzle take a clue! This is now a quarter of your time.
9. Red Hearings (The Path That Goes NOWHERE!!)
Some rooms can take you down a wild goose chase chasing a mirage. Picking up on this fast will save you some time, stress, and sanity. I have seen all kinds of different red hearings.
Once,I was looking at lampshades and trying to correlate them (Each lamp was a bright vibrant solid color, with multiple lamps, with the same style of shades.) but did not know where or how to interpret the information.
If you feel like this, use this trick:
1.If you have things in the room that seems like they could be part of a plausible answer to a puzzle, announce it to the other players.
2. If you can not make anything of it in that moment, put it on the back burner and MOVE ON! - It will either turn into a puzzle you will have to answer naturally further along in the story or it will keep you trapped.
10. Keep The Energy HIGH And ENCOURAGING!!!
High Fives lead to WINS!! Psychology professor Dacher Keltner at UC Berkley did a study on the correlation of wins / how good the players will be in an NBA season based on how much human to human contact they have in a given game. In a given game there is typically 48 minutes of play time, of which, 1 1/2 minutes comprised of players embrace each other from High Fives, Arms around each other or fist bumping.
The players that have the most human to human contact win more games! I am not saying go up to the random people in your room and give them a long awkward breathy hug after they solved the first puzzle. This might make your hour in the room feel like an eternity. A high five, or an “ALRIGHT!!” Might just do the trick!
Bonus / Pro Tip - Enjoy the room!
It’s pretty simple, you may escape or you may not escape but you still can have a great time!! Some of the best things can be overlooked because you are just rushing through the game. So relax, it's just a game! If you follow these easy tips and tricks to escape an escape room, I’m sure you will escape!