Escape Rooms have quickly become a popular activity that lets family, friends, and even colleagues complete time-sensitive missions in forgotten lands or cybernetic futures by working together and solving puzzles. By this point most people have played a game or at least heard of the concept, but stepping inside an escape room can often be overwhelming, even for the most experienced.
That’s why, at TimeTrap, we’ve decided to compile ten of our favourite tips and tricks, learnt, not just through being part of the industry – making and running our own escape rooms, but by being enthusiasts who play them too (between the team we’ve played over 500 rooms!)
So, if you’re planning on booking your next escape, take a look at our advice and make the most of an incredibly unique experience!
Suspend your disbelief
Escape Rooms are a unique concept and their themes even more so. You may feel silly at first, especially if you have someone in a lab coat telling you they work in the time travel industry and need your help in order to set history straight… But that’s the magic of it! You get to forget reality, even if it’s only for an hour, and throw yourself into a make believe world where solving puzzles is the only demand. Of course it’s far-fetched but that’s what makes it special, so get into character and join in on the fictional fun.
Get into the spirit of Escape Rooms
Escape rooms are all about jumping into the world presented to you and accepting the story provided. If you’re ‘too cool’ to play along, then you won’t have as good an experience, and you might ruin it for others in your team!
There is also often a temptation to ‘cheat’ your way through the set process of the game by guessing codes or trying to use brute force or, in some cases, actual force. This is another example of something that defeats the point of the experience – it’s not fun to skip a load of puzzles, miss some of the story, and get out in 30 minutes! You’ve paid to play the whole game, haven’t you?! Participate with the best of intentions, if not for yourself then for the sake of the rest of your team and the morale of your game host.
The moment you enter an escape room it’s important to take a second to look around the whole space. Taking note of everything present will help you later on – even if you can’t use it straight away, you’ll be better informed when solving later puzzles in terms of which items connect. Jumping straight into the first thing you see can give you tunnel vision. Surveying the room will also give you idea of what needs to be opened and unlocked and what the barriers are to this, such as padlock code types, keys and other mechanics.
The best way to approach the room is to act like a nosy guest – try every drawer, door, and box (gently!) to confirm what is open and available to you at the start. Also take a good look around – searching is often part of escape rooms and important items could be well hidden in the set. There may also be puzzle solutions that are hidden in plain sight and require a few moments of scanning to reveal themselves.
Following the theme of looking everywhere, make sure you read everything too. We’ve lost count of the number of times teams trip up on a puzzle because they don’t take a few extra seconds to read a short piece of writing properly. In all good escape rooms there will be a crucial part of a puzzle hidden within the words – they’re not just there for padding! They may help you now or they may help you later, but they will help you.
If you’re in a bigger group sometimes it can feel like a whirlwind with team members all working on different puzzles, but communication is key – remember, escaping is a team sport! When you’ve completed something, keep your team members up-to-date so they don’t try to solve an already-solved puzzle. If you come across parts of a puzzle that have clearly been moved, ask if someone has already solved it. This will save a lot of time being wasted!
Shouting out things you find is also a great idea. Someone else may be looking at the exact thing you need and good communication will bring you together quickly to solve the puzzle. Talking is also crucial for discussing options and getting to the right solutions.
There’s no such thing as a stupid question or answer
Never be afraid of sounding silly in an escape room. Your idea may not be the right one, but it may prompt someone else in your team to get there. Even if you are wrong, at least you’ve eliminated an option and can focus down onto the most probable solutions. And if nothing else, you can have a good laugh about it and add to the enjoyment for your team!
Sharing is caring
Like we’ve mentioned, escape rooms are a team sport. That means not only utilising everyone but including everyone. There is an impulse for some people to solve every puzzle they find, and to offer as much help as possible to others solving puzzles. But, as good as your intentions may be, make sure that quieter members of the team can get involved too. As we keep banging on about, the enjoyment of the whole team really is the most important thing.
Don’t overthink it
Overthinking can be the downfall of a lot of groups as it can waste time and overcomplicate the puzzle you’re focussing on. If your solution seems to have a lot of steps that go over the same elements, take a second to break it down to see if you’re on the right lines but turning things over too many times. Start with the most straight-forward, one-step version of your solution – often that’s the right answer. If not, add just one step back at a time and you’ll get there. Whilst puzzles are there to test your logic and problem-solving, in a good escape room they should not become circular and over-confuscated.
Don’t focus on time
It is ironic that, as an escape room company called TimeTrap, we would advise you to ignore the time, but sometimes it can do more harm than good. It’s very easy to be discouraged by how much time you have left or panic about it. A little excited pressure is good but overwhelming feelings can negatively affect your enjoyment. Often you might not be that far away from the finish line and the distraction of time causes an un-focusing, without which you would have been able to complete the game.
On the flip side, going into an escape room with a quick end time as your main focus is damaging in a different way. We are huge proponents of playing to enjoy. We’ve spent a lot of time creating the environment and content of our games for people to enjoy appreciating every part of. Taking steps like actively trying to skip puzzles to get a faster time is completely disregarding the point. A certain time score means nothing in the long run – enjoying time with friends or family means everything.
Listen to your games master
Games Masters (or as we at TimeTrap like to call them, Experience Makers) are your new best friend when it comes to escape rooms. These are the people who know the rooms inside out and can see and hear everything that you’re doing. So if you get a clue or a nudge from them, make sure to pay attention. As hard as it can be to change paths from the one you are sure is right, the Games Master has watched the game hundreds of times, and trust us, they know what you need to do.
And going back to the reading thing, if you’re receiving written clues, make sure to read them properly! There is a big difference between ‘do’ and ‘don’t’!
Hopefully our words of wisdom will help in your escaping endeavours, and just remember that, first and foremost, an escape room is a place for you to have fun. As long as you succeed in that, you’re the true winners.