13 Tips to Win any Escape Room
Written by: The Dragon
1. Pick Your Teammates Wisely
Not all people work well in a team. You know how you have some friends who just have to be the diva of the group? Well that can get in the way of a team-based activity like an escape room. As a result of COVID-19, games have shifted to being private games which hopefully is there to stick around. That means you won’t get random people thrown together. So make sure the people you bring together to make your team can work together or at least none of them have to be always right.
2. Delegate Tasks
While hopefully escape rooms remain private if they don’t this is even more important. Rooms are designed to be played by multiple people and generally multiple different backgrounds so delegating tasks is important even amongst friends. Here are a few possible roles people can take:
The Secretary – No not the movie… If that’s your jam, save it for after the escape room. Usually there’s something for your group to take notes on and since not everyone has the memory of an elephant, make sure someone takes notes as you solve clues and puzzles.
The Runner – Sometimes there’s also a lot of running around which can be hard for some so a delegated runner is another important role.
The Mathematician – One of the most common puzzles in an escape room is math based ones because generally it’s a universal language which means anyone, local or tourist can figure these out. Someone out of your group is probably going to be better at math than others that said they should have someone else to double check their work because mistakes can be costly.
The Wordsmith – Another common type of puzzle is one that involves rearranging letters or words to form a code or discover one. Someone who is a quick reader, a good speller or just good with writing in general can be a huge help here.
The Jack of All Trades – This is most people, generally we don’t master one thing in life so thankfully if your group is filled with this type of member then you’ll be able to fill the common roles.
Pay attention to your game host, listen to what they’re telling you about the room as often there’s hints in what they’re saying. Pay attention to the intro video which sometimes you can even watch a few times before going to the escape room as it’s often the teaser video for a given room. There’s potential for free hints or clues.
A practical example from a room the Bat and I did, she was so excited to be part of the room that she didn’t pay attention to what the host was saying and there was important info that we had to get through a hint after wasting a few minutes trying to figure out a puzzle with only half of the information.
Yup just like in any good relationship communication is key! Whether you know everyone in your group or you’re strangers, the chances of any of you being mind readers is incredibly small and even smaller for all of you to be mind readers so speak up! Also make sure to give each other time to speak and take turns so then you aren’t all trying to talk over each other.
Almost every puzzle has been designed to use multiple parts as they’re designed for group play. When you see something, say something about it. When you begin to work on a puzzle, say something. Unless you’ve done the room before or maybe you recognize a puzzle element you won’t know what information needs to be shared amongst the players.
5. Look Around
Up, Down, Left, Right… no no, not B A B A, look all around. Looking all around does indeed mean looking up, down, left, and right. As an example, while most escape rooms are designed so that you don’t have to touch or grab anything above 6~ feet or 183~ centimeters, that doesn’t mean clues won’t be above that height. So yes look up!
Pay attention to what you see when you are looking around and reiterating on the communication tip call things out that look suspicious or out of place. Sometimes there will be things that look similar but the differences may very well be a clue or part of a puzzle. If you don’t look around and spot the differences you might lose valuable time attempting to figure out the clue or puzzle later on during your progression.
6. Know Common Lock Types
There’s locked and unlocked ones… okay there shouldn’t be unlocked ones but hey maybe someone uses that as a legitimate red herring and we haven’t seen that yet. Now while you can brute force locks I don’t think you’re quick enough to save time so let’s go over them. These are some of the most common locks we’ve come across:
Numeric Lock – Simple enough; you must find a set of numbers and spin to/dial in each number to unlock the lock.
Alphabet Lock – Just like the numeric lock, except now you use letters.
Combination Lock – While similar to the numeric lock in that numbers are used, this is typically 3-4 numbers entered on a spin dial and generally spun to the left or right on the dial.
Directional Lock – Now this is where the Konami code comes in! Okay not really… This is a lock that’s similar to the combination lock except instead of numbers and spinning to the left or right you move a knob up, down, left, or right.
Key Lock – Super complicated, you get the key, stick it in the hole, turn gently, and voila. Now sometimes you’ll have multiple of these which means multiple keys so they might not even line up to go in. If the key fits and it doesn’t turn then the teeth of the key didn’t push the pins into place and you should hold onto that key for later. If the pins are all lined up then it should turn and unlock the lock without issue.
One last thing on locks, sometimes you’ll have to push in and then pull out to get the lock to come free. This happens for various reasons but generally is a result of repeated use.
7. One and Done
Typically puzzle elements are designed to be single use. Once you’ve used a key, lock, or other elements, set them aside so you don’t get confused as you progress through the room.
Now there are exceptions to this but typically if you follow our tip of “Listen!” then you’ll have been told one way or another by the game host and be set.
8. Don’t Make Assumptions
You’re wrong! Yup we’re starting there. Sometimes you’re thinking about a prop the wrong way and someone else might figure it out because they aren’t in your head. Just because you think something works a certain way doesn’t mean that’s how it works in a given escape room. Remember you aren’t the one to build the escape room so assumptions may very well cost you time and make an ass out of you.
9. Switching Things Up
Don’t be afraid to trade places with someone if you’re finding yourself taking too much time on a given puzzle or element. In line with “Don’t Make Assumptions” sometimes we can get caught up with a puzzle and how we think it should work to see the forest behind the trees. So if it takes you more than a minute or two to make progress then don’t be afraid to switch up with another player. Also make sure to let them know what you have tried because it can be a clue to them on what the trick might be to solving the puzzle.
10. Keep Track of Time
It sounds archaic but a simple digital or analog watch, not a smart watch can be an important tool that is often allowed. Some rooms have a timer you can watch throughout the experience but don’t bank on that. Most escape rooms are designed to be an hour long and usually have 10 to 15 puzzles, so you can figure most puzzles will be designed to be completed in 4 to 6 minutes.
11. Don’t Break Things
Hulks need not apply when playing escape rooms. As far as I know no room has been designed to require physically breaking things. If something doesn’t move with a light touch/pull then it is either not meant to be moved or hasn’t been unlocked yet.
This is also helpful because feeling and looking around for elements that aren’t designed to be moved can tell you which things to ignore or in some cases point to relevant parts of a puzzle. Say a light has to shine a certain way then the pedestal the light goes on can give the position away saving some time in figuring out the puzzle.
12. Don’t Be Afraid, Ask for Hints
If you lose, will you go back for round 2? If you’re doing an escape room that isn’t local to you then chances are slim for that 2nd chance. You might not be back before the room gets replaced.
Now I know sometimes your pride is on the line but can you say that about the rest of the group? You’re all there to have fun and at least from those I’ve asked thus far winning is more fun than losing. So don’t be afraid to ask for hints, I doubt your friends will see your victory as lessor because you asked for hints, heck if they do then for what it’s worth The Bat and The Dragon won’t see your victory as any lessor.
This relates back to keeping track of time, but if you haven’t begun to solve your first puzzle by 10 min in, definitely ask for a hint. Possibly even 5 minutes if you can’t even tell where the first puzzle is. Sometimes you just need a push to get you started!
Lastly, Keep It Simple Stupid is a great mantra to approach any room. Don’t over complicate things. Yes there will be a lot of creativity when it comes to the themes of any given room and how that is incorporated into the puzzles. You might even be an expert in the theme or information used for the puzzle, but did you build the puzzle? Did you build the room? Chances are you answered “No.” to both of those questions so don’t assume you know how something works in the escape room. Save your gushing over knowing about various elements in an escape room for after you’ve escaped! You’ll keep the group from potentially wasting time and you get to add to the bragging rights as you celebrate your group’s victory.