Escaping is tricky - use these strategy tips to beat any escape room!
One of the most thrilling aspects of attending an escape room, is that you never truly know what to expect but you can still do your due diligence to come prepared! Like us you probably love doing escape rooms, or if you don't it's likely due to you never successfully escaping one! Like with anything, the more you participate in escape the room games the better you're going to get. Don't fall into the trap of expecting every room to require the same strategy, different escape rooms present different types of challenges. For instance, Ilocked escape rooms are not your usual "key and lock hunts" but we won't give away any spoilers! With that said, each escape room will require – to some degree - the same foundational skills to be applied no matter the theme or style of the room. After a bit of practice, you'll be able to tackle new escape the room games more efficiently and avoid wasting time where you might've done so in the past. Keep the following suggestions in mind and you'll start tallying up successful escapes in no time!
Tip #1. Choose a group of people that work well together
Really the most important thing is to attend a room with people you enjoy being around, escaping is great but the main thing is that you have a good time with your companions. For the highest chance of success you should at least feel comfortable communicating with all members of your party and like on any team based quiz show, the very best teams are comprised of diverse minds. When everyone thinks the same way, you really narrow your collective hive mind. If you can build a party of people who each have their own specialties from creative to analytical, you are going to be better prepared for a wider array of puzzles. It's also best you leave any “ego” at the door, somebody refusing to accept they're wrong about a puzzle will quickly eat up your time and arguments are the last thing you need in a place like this. We also recommend before attending, having a quick briefing with everyone to establish some ground rules for politeness and communication. You might want to assign vague roles such as “searcher” but the likelihood is that such titles/roles will dissolve upon discovering the nature of a room.
Tip #2. Wear non-restrictive, comfortable clothing
When attending an escape room, you might be tempted to bring your coveted sense of glamour/style with you but we would have to recommend against wearing your favourite £200 pair of jeans. After all, you could end up looking for clues in crawl spaces, climbing ladders and going through secret passageways. Wear loose-fitting clothing, comfortable shoes (trainers) and avoid things that are likely to get caught on objects or rip at the seams as you crouch down! Nothing is going to happen that could be considered athletic but nonetheless you will benefit from feeling more agile.
Tip #3. Eat beforehand and stay hydrated to increase performance
This may come as a surprise but participating in an escape room can actually burn a lot of calories!
It's common knowledge that mental activity requires fuel and you will be doing plenty of thinking in our rooms along with a fair amount of movement. Having a well balanced meal that will sustain you for 60 minutes of activity is a solid plan to make sure you don't risk facing early fatigue. Maybe even bring a long a snack such as a cereal bar if you're afraid you might have an energy crash half way through.
Cognitive performance and problem solving skills can also be impacted if you're dehydrated so make sure to drink lots of water before you come and bring a bottle with you too. Coffee can be a great way to get a mental edge but but keep in mind you don't want to be overly stimulated either so find a balance and whatever you do DON'T PLAY DRUNK.
Tip #4. Begin by thoroughly searching the room
As a general rule of thumb, as soon as the door locks behind you, you should start scanning the room from top to bottom. Look for symbols, objects and patterns on the walls, surfaces, cupboards, shelves, floor and ceiling - basically everywhere! Usually the very first puzzle you solve will be unique, given that it's the only one where you might not have any clues to get started with. For this first part, unless you are given a “hint” or some other direction from your host, your best bet is to search everything. After you start to find clues and solve puzzles, one puzzle usually leads to the next. Find all of the clues that you possibly can and organise them in a convenient place and keep your teammates informed of any points of interest you discover. Make use of the multiple pairs of eyes and hands in your group to spread-out so that you quickly unearth the room's secrets. Your host will let you know before you get started if there are certain places/objects that wont specifically contain clues – this is to prevent you from wasting too much time or accidentally destroying the scenery by pulling apart bits of the ceiling whilst looking in air vents and REMEMBER stay away from power sockets!
Tip #5. Be organised with any clues/items you find
You're going to find a bunch of different objects/items some vitally important, whilst others will be completely useless but the important thing is to keep track and stay organised of everything you find.
Knowing which items have been used and in which order they were discovered is going to save you heaps of valuable time. Keep a different pile for objects such as keys that have already been used and a separate one for items that are yet to be implemented. Often you might discover that one puzzle requires a sequence of similar items to be collected/used and in these cases knowing how many of this particular type remain to be discovered is massively helpful so be organised and group them together in one place. Also it's worth keeping in mind that in some rooms certain keys can be used more than once!
Not all items have a use and we often see people becoming obsessed with proving otherwise – try not to fall into this trap!
Tip #6. Have somebody keep track of the time
Some rooms may prohibit the use of phones except for in case of an emergency, this is to prevent any potential cheating that Google might be compliant in or any footage leaking that might povider spoilers for future adventurers.
However having a watch or another item to help you keep track of how much time remains, will help you stay on task and assess if you're spending too much time on a particular task.
Tip #7. Communicate effectively
Escape rooms aren't about who is the bossiest or who can shout the loudest, you need to work as a highly functional team of puzzle solvers. If you find something or have an idea, let your team mates know and vice versa make sure you listen. Allow each other to fill in the gaps your own powers of deduction might have missed. By communicating constantly about your position and what you can see and hear, increases the group's overall knowledge and increases your chance of escaping. It's tempting to just go it intellectually alone, fearing others input might slow down your progress but this will only cause more confusion and problems.
Tip #8. It might be staring you right in the face!
At the beginning of most games there is a lot of excitement and even some adrenaline as you anticipate what the room has in store for you. This combination of emotions can lend to you missing out on some pretty obvious features of a room. Don't assume something is too obvious or too easy for it to be the correct solution. Escape rooms are built for everyone and there is always going to be a variation of difficulty and complexity of puzzles even within the same room. Try the obvious solution first and don't dismiss anything as being a stupid idea, don't overcomplicate things. Not all puzzles are going to require excessive critical reasoning - you only have 60 minutes after all!
Tip #9. Don't burn all your time on one puzzle
It's common to hit a roadblock. Your whole group is at a loss for what to do next or the puzzle appears to be broken. First of all, if a puzzle is broken or not working as intended you can be sure the host would have been aware of this and either fixed it or informed you of the issue, do not stand around hopelessly because you are convinced the room isn't working. It may be that you are working on multiple puzzles at once and it's necessary to progress on one to be able to do so on another, so be prepared to pivot if that appears to be the case. One thing that is good about escape rooms is you will have lots to do - you will frequently have multiple puzzles going on that require solving. Switch puzzles, change who is doing what, the chances are that the answer will reveal itself as you try to progress in another direction. If you really are stuck the host will usually provide some clues to help get you back on track and you can discuss how forthcoming you would like them to be with help before you begin.
Tip #10. Take a step back and shift your perspective
Each room is designed by somebody after all so if you can try and put yourself in their mindset, the flow of the room might become more evident to you. A person designed each aspect of the room with a solution that should be at least a little intuitive. Don't get too distracted by decorations but do consider why would that be there, could that be a subtle clue? Why was it placed in that exact location? Try to approach each room with an open mind instead of trying to make things fit your narrative of what a puzzle room should be.
Tip #11. Don't Hesitate To Ask For Hints
There might be some hardcore escape room enthusiasts who think that asking for a hint or help is admitting defeat. However, the only time defeat comes is when the clock finally hits zero and you haven't had a chance to experience the full depth of a room. Don't be too proud to ask for help or a hint, we use walkie talkies here at Ilocked to make sure you never feel too helpless.
If you have spent more than 10/15 minutes on a particular clue/puzzle, that might be a good time to ask for help or a hint. You might feel like it's an obvious solution and something you should have held off on, however, a hint can provide you with the necessary momentum to have enough time to find the solution for the final puzzle.
Tip #12. Remember to relax and enjoy the experience
Did you know that stress/cortisol inhibits cognitive function? Stressing and panicking is a common occurrence and couldn't be more counter productive to completing a room. Yes, you are racing against the clock but the purpose of the game is for you to have fun. After all, if you escape each game without any failure - but in the process end up arguing with and hating all of your friends, then you aren't doing it right. Have fun and allow the experience to take you wherever it is going to go, no need to throw your toys out of the pram or start bringing up the argument you had with your partner the week before about their listening skills.
Enthusiasm goes much further compared to sheer brain power. A majority of games are built without there being any necessary prior knowledge. Therefore your PhD in quantum physics might not come in as handy as you had hoped. Stay positive and focused and you will tap into problem solving skills you never knew you had.
Just enjoy yourself and be encouraging of your team mates efforts, moral is actually an important component of the game and definitely correlates with the most successful teams we have in here.
Tip #13. Practice, practice and more practice
We understand that escape rooms aren't something that most people can afford to do a couple of times a week, but what originally inspired Escape Rooms were point-and-click online puzzle games. So if you're looking to sharpen your skills they can be a cost effective way to get better at escape games.
Tip #14. Plan a place to unwind after the experience
It's ideal to have plans for somewhere to go afterwards to discuss how the game went and to revel in the post-adrenaline endorphins of the experience. Win or lose, you're going to have a great time and most likely have lots of hilarious moments to poke fun at each other for. If you're just visiting the area for the day then we can recommend some perfect spots nearby or some additional things to do in Nottingham.
Now get out there and give it a try!
After processing this list of escape room tips, you should be able to increase your success in escape rooms with every attempt. No single escape room strategy is going to be a match for every company you try, you'll find we all theme and build our escape rooms differently. If you look on a website like Reddit you will find lots of different accounts of experiences that might provide you with some insights and puzzle examples. As we keep saying though, there is no need to take things too seriously, the most important thing is just to enjoy the experience whether you make it out in time or not, there are plenty of different rooms out there for you to try if you fail the first few times! Good luck and happy escaping!