If you haven’t read our first installment of tips, go back and read Six Room Escape Tips for Beginners. The tips and tricks you’ll read here expand on those ideas and add a few more advanced tips to make you and your team unstoppable. These tips are coming from an escape room designer and someone who has played over 100 escape rooms.
Target a group size 4-6 players
Advanced players may prefer a group size of 2-4, but unless the room escape restricts the number of players, a maximum size of players is usually ideal. Too many players and you may have a hard time communicating effectively with everyone. Plus, players will likely miss out on some puzzles because there are simply too many people for the number of puzzles. Too few players and you may not have enough hands and brains to get everything done in time. Our room, The Timekeeper’s Trapped!, is a great room for larger groups because it has a lot of puzzles that can be done simultaneously.
Search first, then solve puzzles
It is usually a good idea to completely search the room first to gather any items and clues that seem important, then dive in and start solving the puzzles. This may not always be possible, but sometimes you’ll get a clue or puzzle that requires something you haven’t found or seen yet. Focusing on solving a puzzle without all the necessary pieces will be a waste of time. Making sure you have found, or have seen, all the necessary items will make solving the puzzles much easier on your first attempt.
Be observant and remember things. It’s okay to move slow.
The tendency when you first enter a room is to move quickly while initially searching the room. Moving fast leads to a higher chance that you missing subtle things, sometimes even obvious things. Move slowly with your initial search (and when inspecting items you open later) and make sure you look at everything. Be observant of other items in the room and make mental notes of things you see and where they are. Later on you may need to refer back to something you saw earlier, so do your best to remember (take notes if you can). Also, make sure you don’t forget about (or ignore) a clue you found or items you got from a locked box. If you don’t immediately know the purpose of an item, spend some time thinking about the possibilities. Sometimes you simply need to let other parts of your brain kick in before the solution comes to you (see tip #7).
Let the room guide you
This is sometimes hard for beginners to understand. There should be a logical progression of clues and puzzles that guide you from one discovery to the next. They may not always be obvious, but in more cases, the clues and items that are needed by players will be provided intentionally. Don’t get distracted by pencil writing in an old book or the serial number on the bottom of a prop; it’s likely don’t mean anything. Instead, focus on the items that are clearly a clue or puzzle waiting to be solved. Anything that was locked up is going to be important, so don’t ignore those things. When you open a box or lock, focus on what you find inside because it’s most likely the next thing the room designer wants you to work on. Another way to let the room guide you is to ask yourself “Why?” If you find an object or a puzzle that doesn’t make sense right away, take a minute to ask yourself, “Why did we get this right now?” It’s very possible you don’t need the item at that moment but will need later, in which case you can set it aside. But asking “Why?” may trigger the thought that connects you to the solution.
Always keep a “done” pile and a “working” pile
This may not be an advanced tip, but we don’t see many groups doing this. If you find a clue and don’t solve it right away, put it in a spot designated for things you’ve found and have yet to solve. If you solve a puzzle or open a box, move those items to a corner of the room so everyone knows they are not needed anymore. This allows you to focus on what is important and not get distracted by old puzzles.
You shouldn’t need to write down codes
Most escape rooms will provide you something to write on. This is good if you need to do math or a word puzzle, but you should never need to write down codes to remember them. As soon as you solve a puzzle that seems to provide you a number or word code, tell everyone in the room. At that point, anyone who is not working on another puzzle should try that code on every lock where that code might work. Waiting to use a code will only cause confusion later on. Immediately trying codes will either open the next lock quickly, or let you know that the code is incorrect so you can work on the puzzle again.
Think fast, and slow
Although you’re up against the clock in an escape room, sometimes you need to think slow. This idea comes from a very good book on psychology and how our brains operate called “Thinking Fast and Slow.” When we are under pressure, our brains jump to conclusions based on past experiences and assumptions that are usually wrong…riddles are a good example of this. If you don’t get the correct answer to a puzzle on your first attempt, slow down, stop for a minute and let your secondary thinking skills kick in…things like logic and critical thinking. Contemplate the puzzle and work it out with ideas from your team. It may seem like you’re wasting time, but taking a few minutes to think is much better than continually arriving at the wrong answer. Plus, that’s what escape rooms are all about – using your brain!