Oh No, Not Again! The Top 5 Escape Room Pet Peeves
Written by: The Bat
As I am sure you have noticed, my Readers, I don’t go into an escape room looking for things to criticize. I prefer to expect a good time. I pick a room with a theme that either myself or my partner, The Dragon, has an affinity for and then go in with an open mind. But sometimes there are things that happen that make me instantly annoyed. I refuse to name anyone directly, as I prefer you see both the good and bad of each room in its own review. But don’t worry my Readers, there will be stories…. Here are the top five!
1. Badly Made Intro Videos
The intro video is part of the first impression, and it is part of the first impression that you can control. The video should enthrall me, start the story and draw me in. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
Imagine this, if you will. You walk into a generic-looking lobby. Not horrible, but not exciting in any way. The game has a Grecian God type of theme, which sounds fun, right? They sit you in the lobby to play the intro video. The voice-over starts and the images start to play. As you watch, you realize that the images are random clip art stock images, brought together with what looks like PowerPoint transitions. And the voice-over is in a voice so soporific that you want to fall asleep before you even start playing! Not a great start.
Now I am not saying that the intro video has to be made by Peter Jackson or Steven Spielberg. But it should at least be relevant, and interesting. I should want to start the game because I’m excited, not because I want the video to end! If you can’t make a decent video, it’s better to rely on the game masters and skip the video.
2. Bad Hints
If you can solve an escape room with no hints, then I applaud you, but that has never been my goal. I believe that hints are an integral part of being able to solve a room. After all, no two minds are exactly alike, and I definitely do not have an inner portal to the puzzle maker’s mind. Hints are sometimes necessary to keep you on track.
Bad hints can ruin an otherwise good game.
While I don’t have a story to go with this one, I have several pet peeves when it comes to hints. The first one is when it takes forever for the hint to get there. We are on the clock, people!
The second one is when the game master refuses to stray from the pre-written hints. I am aware that the prewrites are there for a reason. There are several hints that will be used over and over again, and it makes it much easier to have them on hand. But you can’t use them for every situation; they just won’t always fit. A game master should be trained well enough to see where you need help and to give a hint that actually helps! It doesn’t need to be super creative. I would rather have an accurate and applicable hint any day!
I also do not want to have to solve the hint! It is cute sometimes to put a hint in rhyme or put a thematic twist to it. But I don’t want the hint to be a puzzle all on its own! If we are asking for a hint, it is because we are stuck and don’t want to get behind. Solving a new puzzle to solve the existing one sounds fun, but not when we are in a time-sensitive situation! In that case, it is only frustrating.
3. Bad Puzzle Location
I see the puzzle! It’s in that corner….all the way up there. If you just squint you can see it! I can almost reach the last piece…if only I were a bit smaller/taller/longer armed….You get the idea.
Now creative placement in an escape room is fun. So are interesting ways to get through doors, like tunnels or slides to the next room. But everything has a limit.
Here is an example of a badly placed puzzle. An escape room we played recently had a black light puzzle. This puzzle was placed right next to an area that required a flashlight to see. However, if we shined the regular light on the blacklight puzzle, the ink was no longer visible. The puzzle was challenging, involving tracing a pattern in symbols to spell out numbers. But we spent more effort trying to make sure the flashlight didn’t shine in the wrong spot. It was made unnecessarily challenging, just because of that placement.
This is why it should be essential for a good amount of groups to play test a room before it is released. Just because the creator doesn’t have a problem with the placement, doesn’t mean someone else won’t. You need guests of all shapes and sizes or even with different eyesight will be able to play easily.
4. Broken Puzzles- and no solutions!
I’m sure that every escape room fan has gone into a room with a broken puzzle. And I’m sure that a few of you have even accidentally broken a piece of a fragile puzzle by touching it. Sometimes broken things can’t be repaired between groups. Sometimes the props have been used so much that you will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It is annoying enough to have to play past a broken bit, but all the same, it is understandable enough to not be a pet peeve.
But what annoys me is when the Game Master (and sometimes the manager too) will not admit that there is a problem.
One game we played required a black light for most of its puzzles. Of course, right when we enter that part of the room, I managed to drop the light. It won’t turn on after that. What do they do? They stop time and bring us a new light! Thumbs up to them!
Different day, different room. There is a cord that we need to plug in that is missing an end. Somewhat annoying, but we use deductive reasoning to move past it. The next area has a safe; this safe is perfectly ordinary-looking, should be usable. Of course, we try to open it. After a while, we give up, figuring that the code must be in another part of the game. In the end, we are informed that the safe has been out of order for weeks. There was no indication, intentional or not, that it was broken. The game master had to have been aware of both issues on the reset; there is no way anyone could have missed them. However, the cord was not replaced; the safe was not marked out of order. In fact, they let us put numerous codes into that safe without informing us that we were wasting our time! Definitely thumbs down!
5. Charging for Invisible People
This practice is highly debated in the escape room community. The room will require that you book for a certain number of participants, and will charge for that number, even if a lesser number comes to play. And I can somewhat feel for the companies that charge this way. They have created a room that, in order to cover their overhead, must make a minimum amount per game. That amount will require a minimum number of people to play.
While I have paid for the invisible extra person a couple of times, I don’t appreciate being charged like this. If the room can be played by two people, and most rooms that I have played in can, then I should only have to pay for two people. If a room says it requires a minimum number of people, it should not be playable with less. Playability and customer satisfaction should be the deciding factor, not cost.
I know that you will encounter these faux paux, or others, in your own escape room encounters. While we would like every escape room to be top notch….it just isn’t going to happen.
While it may seem convenient to blame the staff you can see, these problems are often not their fault. On one hand, sometimes you will have a game master who doesn’t want to do their job or a manager who doesn’t want to deal with customer requests. But on the other hand, more often the one that is dealt, the power to fix these issues lies with the owners. They design the games, make or choose the intro videos, set the rules for giving hints, buy the props, and set the pricing requirements. While they may not be setting out maliciously to ruin your experience, they don’t always seem to have the customers’ needs or wants in mind.