Add this to the list of things I never thought I’d enjoy but seriously do: escape rooms. Escape rooms, sometimes called clue rooms, are essentially an elaborate series of puzzles, typically requiring sequential completion, which need to be solved to, well, escape.
Naturally, if you’re a fan of puzzles or board games, this is an activity to which you’d take. I like them as a way to feel a bit of a rush without having to do something extreme like bungee jumping or skydiving. It can be extremely exhilarating completing convoluted puzzles and racing against the clock. Most rooms require participants to solve all puzzles within an hour, so it’s not a major time commitment and easy to fit in between plans.
It quickly became a habit of the Fanwife and me to seek out new rooms as we travel. Some locations feature astonishingly impressive spaces, with immersive environments and themed puzzles. I’ve been stranded on a Mars in a rocket and have searched an archaeological dig site. In the latter, we found ourselves in a room which lit up with symbols and roared as we placed an idol on a center pedestal. Because of their complexity, it can take a while to turn over new rooms, which is why we are always on the hunt when we head to a new city.
Not all are as immersive as the rooms I described, so it’s best to do some research beforehand if that is what you are looking for. Clue rooms tend to be tamer in design, but equally, if not more, challenging. Room designers take pride in their puzzle construction and some sequences can be quite confounding. If you’re concerned about finishing, especially if you’re a first timer, feel free to call the company and ask about completion rates. I’d suggest newbies try to find something over 20%.
If you are thinking about trying out your first escape room, here are a few tips:
Be mindful of particular room rules
There may be some idiosyncratic variances based on the room you’re experiencing. Your room guide will tell you what should and should not be considered a legitimate solution, the tensile strength required to open things, and how to request a clue. Some rooms require very little kinesthetic interaction, while others involve lots of moving of furniture and the like.
Look for associations and patterns
We train our brains to look for patterns, sometimes to our detriment. I’m looking at you roulette “system” havers. In escape rooms, it can serve you really well. Any association you can make is potentially valuable. See a lock with a three number combination? Find things around the room that present themselves in threes. See colors clearly represented somewhere? See if those colors correspond to something else. We once solved a directional lock by finding that flowers in the room matched the colors on the lock. Using the number of flowers represented by each color we were able to discern the order of the lock. It’s frowned upon to reveal room puzzle solutions after the fact, but the likelihood you’ll find yourself in this particular room is pretty slim, so I figure it was safe to give the real example.
Communication is key
This is the most important tip I can give you. It’s crucial to always be aware of what people are working on or towards. In most rooms, once you’ve used an object to solve a puzzle, you don’t need that object anymore. This isn’t always the case, but a good rule of thumb. I’ve been in rooms in which several members were trying to solve a puzzle or fiddle with an object that had already been solved. In one instance, those members, who we were paired with randomly, were actually fairly stubborn and slowed us down dramatically, so we actually didn’t tell them to stop because it was better they were out of our way. But, if you have valuable members of your party, it’s best to keep everyone updated if something has been solved and with what tools. I should be clear, it is useful for people to be working on different things in the room, but everyone should be aware of what is and is not relevant at the time.
Depending on the number in your party and the room requirements, you may be grouped with randoms. We’ve always found people are simply looking to have a good time and are never rude or combative. The group I referred to above were simply advanced in age and quite stubborn. Multiple times, one of them rearranged something I was working on right before I solved it because he “wanted to give it a try”. Despite their foolhardiness, they were nice and simply lacked some escape room protocol.
I normally find prices to be between $25 – $35 per person. This, of course, depends on the market and room size but is totally worth the price. It’s fun to give a room a try, then grab dinner or drinks right after, discussing your triumphant escape or the perplexing puzzles. If you see that I’m coming to your town and need an escape room partner, just let me know. I’m always up for a new adventure!
Have you tried an escape room before? What are some of your favorite locations?
Also, I have to apologize for the lack of pictures. Escape rooms have a strict “no pictures” policy, so it’s hard to get relevant images.