5 tips to beating a Live Escape Room

Having had the benefit of watching many groups go through live escape rooms it’s been interesting to see the difference between the teams that are successful and the teams that aren’t.   Here are 5 tips to keep in mind when you’re going into an escape room that will help you be successful.

  1. Obvious clues are there for a reason.  It may seem like it need not even be said, but a lot of groups will see a clue, know that it must be there for a purpose, but then ignore it if they can’t figure it out right away.   Generally speaking, a clue that is immediately visible in the room is probably part of the early game and there’s a good chance you’ll need to solve the puzzle before you get too far along with the game.  If you’re not getting the puzzle, enlist the help of your teammates on it and see what you can come up with.  It’s ok to set aside a clue for a bit if you’re not getting anywhere with it, but know that you can’t ignore it for long or you’ll likely find yourself stuck.
  2. Don’t travel as a pack too much. It helps to break up into pairs and have different people working different parts of the room or different puzzles.  It also helps to switch it up a bit and let other teammates work on puzzles you’re not getting.  But when groups stay together as a large pack for much of the game, they often find themselves running out of time, or have several members of their group just standing around observing.
  3. Communicate well and often with your teammates.  If you’re following the previous advice and breaking into smaller groups of two, it’s important to be communicating with the rest of your team, filling them in on the items and puzzles you find.  It’s common for one clue to relate to another.  Saying things like “I found a black light over here” or “I’ve got some playing cards and a handkerchief in a box here” loud enough for your teammates to hear could help them with something they’re working on.
  4. Beware the big personality and let your teammates have a voice.  Some people are simply larger personalities than others – more outspoken, more direct, or simply louder.  Sometimes this can be characteristic of the born leader, and leaders can be vital in a live escape room for rallying the team, getting people on track, and coordinating efforts.  However, sometimes a big personality can work against the team without even realizing it.  On occasion, the born leader will be working on a puzzle and have an idea how to solve it that is incorrect.  So convinced are they that they’re on the right track, even after testing their theory and finding it unsuccessful, they can bowl over anyone else who tries to chime in with their own thoughts.  You never know who the stroke of genius will come from.
  5. Manage your time clock and your hints well.  Depending on the game, your team’s objectives, and the house rules, you may have a limited number of hints you can call for. One of the mistakes many teams make is knowing when to call for a hint.  Most commonly, teams wait too long not wanting to use up a hint too soon in the game. Although there’s merit to trying to conserve hints, that’s true only if you’re not burning too much time stumped on a puzzle and not getting anywhere.  Though it will vary from game to game, perhaps a good rule of thumb is to not go more than 7 minutes without solving a puzzle.  If you do that too many times, you likely won’t have enough time to solve all the remaining puzzles even if you find yourself on a roll.

Using these tips can make a big difference in the success or failure of your team.  Remember, live escape rooms are meant to be fun, not overly frustrating.  It’s hopefully about the experience, and not the win, for you and your team.  But that’s no reason not to try and play a better, smarter game.