An Introduction to Escape Room Games

You’re locked inside a room and have an hour to escape from it. What’s an escape room game and how do you play it?

Source: pixabay.com

Game Mechanics

Here’s what to expect in an escape room game.

Every escape room game has an exciting story that creates a theme and scenario for the room. For example, you’re on a spaceship, and a meteor just hit your ship. The room automatically locked because it’s leaking oxygen, but you can override the lock by finding a code. You have an hour to figure out the code and escape before the oxygen runs out. The story has no bearing on your ability to escape the game. It’s more of a theme for the room which could have easily been some other story. All the escape room games have the one hour to escape and puzzles to solve.

Don’t always assume that the game takes place in one room. It’s a bit uncommon, but some games have multiple rooms. Once you solved enough puzzles, it may lead you into a hidden room behind a bookcase or large mirror. Other games may tell you right away that there are other rooms you’ll need to access.

All escape rooms games will have gamemasters that will be either be in the room or reachable via radio. The gamemasters will remind you about things such as not climbing on top of furniture. They may even give you free hints throughout the game if you go off the intended path. In some games, they will offer three clues to help players when they’re stuck on a puzzle.

Some escape room games will have roles assigned to each person on the team. A specific person needs to do a particular action to progress in the game further.

Let’s build upon the previous spaceship scenario with multi-room and player roles. Each person on the team can be a pilot, mechanic, doctor, or courier. The spaceship has a common mess hall, a med bay, engineering room, supply room, and an escape pod room. Only a specific role can unlock a particular room such as the doctor can unlock the med bay with a passcode. The escape pod is damaged, but you can repair it if you find the parts needed. The game may lead you to the engineering room for a screwdriver to open a hatch on the escape pod. There are complex escape games with higher difficulty, but they still can be played within an hour.

Common Puzzle Types

The puzzles are simple enough for anyone. No specialty knowledge is needed to solve these puzzles. The main issue is they’re scattered around and time management is crucial.

These puzzles are common. The numbers found from mathematic questions usually are used to unlock some a padlock or lockbox.
Puzzle
1+ A x 6 = 9 x B — 5
3 x 4 — C = D x 2 + 4

Solution
A = 5, B = 4, C = 2, D = 4

A bunch of paper and news articles found in the room with information to answer the puzzle question. ‘What is the name of the flower that Miss Smith loves?’ The room could have paintings of roses, or a letter could say that Miss Smith loves roses.

Logical base questions such as:
INJD — Move 1 forward
Solution
Move each of the letters to the next letter in the alphabet to form the word ‘JOKE.’

Simple puzzles that require identifying a pattern.

Triangle + Square = Circle
Diamond — Triangle = Square
Diamond = ?

Common Props

These are familiar props found in escape room games:

Locks types such as combination padlocks, key-based padlocks, and five dial combination word locks. There are also digital safes or lockboxes.

Some games will give you an answer key where you’ll fill in various puzzle answers you have found to form an overall solution.

Various tools found such as screwdrivers and scissors. Depending on the game, sometimes these tools aren’t used, and you would tell the gamemaster what you would do with it for them to give you the next puzzle. Other times, you would unscrew a fake hatch, unscrew a box, and more.

There’s usually a countdown timer that shows how much time you have left. If there’s a gamemaster in the room, they will probably yell out reminders of the time remaining at specific intervals. If there aren’t gamemasters in the room, sometimes a reminder is mentioned over the speakers.

It’s very common for games to have information on paper mediums such as photos, letters, journals, news articles, etc. The information is used for trivia style puzzles to solve.

Depending on the theme of the game, there will be types of furniture such as chairs, drawers, or coat racks. Clues and puzzles are hidden the furniture.

Common Game Flow

The game master will go over some rules and the story of the game. They will give some basic instructions to players who haven’t played these games before. Also, it’s a good time for people to introduce themselves and to decide upon a leader.

The first five to ten minutes of the game is exploring the room to familiarize yourself and to find the clues/props within the room. Depending on the room: Check under the chairs, inside drawers, inside closets, and even inside pockets of any jackets found.

In the beginning, there’s usually enough puzzles around the room for everyone to work on their puzzle.

Later in the game, the number of unsolved puzzles start to run out, and people begin to converge on the remaining puzzles left.

The game ends when you escape or if time runs out. Regardless, the gamemaster will go over the puzzles and how to figure out their answers. It’s a good time to ask questions such as how did your team do compared to other groups. These will give you valuable insight into how you (and your team) could improve.

Tips

That’s pretty much it to an escape room game. Here are some tips to help you be more successful in escaping.

Use the bathroom before the game and hydrate yourself with water beforehand. It’s also a good idea not to be hungry during the game.

The most important tip is: Remember that it’s just a game. Winning or losing doesn’t matter if you’re having fun. People on the team have different levels of experience and come from different walks of life. Treat people with respect because there are people who are easily offended and will blow up. An argument can profoundly affect teamwork and decrease morale.

Working with people you already know and trust is a lot easier than working with strangers. The more experience your team is with these games, the higher the success rate will be. However, joining a team with random people is great if you’re looking for a challenge or meeting other people who enjoy escape room games.

Don’t be a completionist! Sometimes you’ll solve enough of the puzzles to get the answer.

Split up. During the first half of the game, it’s best to split up to find the props/clues and solve puzzles individually.

Work on puzzle types you’re good at solving. Work on the mathematical problems if you’re good with math. Work on pattern recognization puzzles if you’re good at spotting patterns.

The most important thing is communication between people.

Yell out all props/clues found. ‘Hey! I found this key’ may get a reply with ‘I found a lock over here. Let’s see if the key works.’

Yell out what you need. ‘Does anyone know what flowers Miss Smith likes?’ may get a reply with ‘I read in a letter that she loves roses.’

Throughout the game, you’ll encounter a lot of puzzles and clues such as lockboxes and keys. Many of these will be used only once, which makes it extremely useful to form a ‘discard’ pile and an ‘in progress’ pile. There are always exceptions, but if a key has been used, it’s unlikely it will be used again.

Try not to use any clues during the first half of the game but do use one if the entire team gets completely stuck. The last half of the game when everyone is together is the best time to use clues if you get stuck.

A team leader isn’t necessary but can be quite useful depending on the team. This person can keep the group organized by tracking the progress of the puzzles while assigning the puzzles remaining. It would save people time from having to wander around for unsolved puzzles.

It’s important to remember where you found things or where you have seen something. In some games, there are puzzles written on the wall or on objects that are stationary.

Engineering leader. Software Developer. Problem solver. Failing forward.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store