How To Escape The Room - The Crack Team Behind Chase The Escape in Wolverhampton Tells All!
Are you one of the millions who still haven’t tried an escape room? Are you curious as to what the rage is about, but don’t want to put yourself in a situation you don’t fully understand? Allow us to help you.
Firstly, let us tell you what an escape room is. An escape room is a room, or series of rooms, within one theme. This theme could be a museum. The story of why you’re in the museum is the reason you’re there. This could be that you must steal a diamond on display in the museum. You will have a time-limit – generally an hour – and that could be because the security will be back on in an hour and you have until then to get in, get the diamond, and get out. So now you’ve got the idea of what you should be doing, what will it be like?
Well, décor will vary from company to company. You could go into a full replica where you swear you’re in a museum, complete with display cabinets and hanging tapestries. Another company may look like someone’s study in a mansion where a few items are displayed, but mainly it’s full of desks and books. This will partly depend on the actual story elements, the money and care the owner’s have put into décor, and the level of immersion they want you to have.
Now you have to solve clues, or something?
That’s right! There will be items around the room that enable you to open other things, which will help progress you through the room. For example, there may be a chalice in a display cabinet with the date 1283 on its info card. This could be a code to a combination lock – so go find one! That lock may be attached to a desk drawer. Once you’ve unlocked it, open the drawer where you find a magnet. You see a maze on the other side of the room and try to move the metal ball with your magnet. You manage to navigate the maze and the ball comes out. It has a code in it, which enables you to open another lock and so on. Some puzzles will have other means to open items instead of locks. If we run with the same example above, instead of the ball having a code on, it may be used to push a button by putting it through a tube on another display. You put the ball in the tube, it rolls down to the bottom, pushing a button, which opens something elsewhere electronically.
Some rooms are linear – meaning one puzzle leads to the next and so on. Some take this theme and have several starting points around the room, so they are linear, but a bunch of these ‘legs’ come together in the end. This is good for larger groups, so there aren’t 6 people gathered around one puzzle, but they are still counted as liner.
You also have non-linear rooms – meaning one puzzle can lead to one or two different puzzles and they don’t necessarily have to connect. Meaning there are several routes to the same outcome with little direction as to what puzzles you do and don’t need to complete.
Most escape rooms are linear – some with two legs per room. It is completely personal choice as to whether you like non-linear rooms or not. If you haven’t done an escape room, I would definitely recommend doing a linear room to help you through the room. It is very easy to see how far you’ve gotten in a linear room because you’ve opened things and completed puzzles. In a non-linear room, it can be difficult to tell how far along you are, which adds stress thinking you may not finish in time.
With this in mind, let’s have a look at other things to expect. There will be some way to communicate with your host – this could be walkie-talkies, shouting a code word they hear and talk back to you via tv monitor, scanning a code to receive a hint or other methods. This means they can give a hint if needed, but mainly it is there for you to ask for help! Hosts want you to do the best you can and if you ask for help, they don’t think you are stupid or weak – we are just waiting for it! Saying that, we don’t want to walk you through the room, so if you find a code, don’t ask us where it goes without checking locks around the room first. If you try to solve something and can’t, please ask us right away rather than thinking you shouldn’t. Don’t be proud! Would you rather ask for help and potentially get out, or waste half your time refusing to ask for help and barely getting half-way through the room? I will tell you the truth – we see so many people play our rooms that we can tell when you are stuck. We judge you more for being stuck and not asking, than being stuck and asking. Honestly.
Let’s talk about your host. We need to judge you. Are you the type who refuses to ask for help? If you are, we need to realise this and chip in with hints. Are you the type who loves the story and fun experience? If so, we need to ham it up and make our hints and clues as themed as possible. Are you the type who wants to escape with the quickest time? If yes, then we need to help you do that without walking you through the game. Basically, unless you are rude, we won’t treat you any differently. We can gauge your playing style pretty quickly after you’ve started, and will help you have the best game that you want.
Let’s talk about group size. Most escape rooms will allow 2-6 players in their room at one time. There are benefits for any size of group, but these are the common pros and cons we see:
2-Players – Pros - Easier to have a hands-on feel for every puzzle. You can clearly hear one another when talking and can move around the room easily. It is a more intimate experience as it feels like it is the two of you working together. Cons – There’s more work for 2 players – only 2 pairs of eyes and minds to work on a problem. If you don’t communicate well, it can end in arguments and strains the relationship. You can feel like you don’t want to split up so if there are two or more legs in a room, instead of you doing a puzzle each and moving on your own leg, you each have to do both legs and this can be time consuming.
3-Payers – Pros – Easier than 2 players as there are more minds for the problem. Can still communicate easily and are more likely to split up to do different legs. Cons – If communication doesn’t work, the group can fall apart easier. If confidence isn’t high, you feel more supported holding back.
4-Players – Pros – Effectively 2 pairs, means all the pros of 2-player groups without the cons. If there are two or more legs, a pair can do a leg each and be fine. Cons – If all 4 stay together, it can become loud and some members may feel they don’t get a chance to solve puzzles if they are outvoiced. If there is only one way through the room, then numbers are bottlenecked.
5-Players – Pros – Lots of minds to work on problems. Cons – Louder and more disorganised. If split up, others may come across puzzles already solved and not realise, then waste time solving something that has already been solved.
6-Players – Pros – So much brain power! Cons – So much noise!
So we have covered a few topics and hopefully you’re feeling a bit better about giving it a go. As a Games Master, my job is to help you get the best experience, so here are my top tips to help you escape the room.
1) Communicate – whether you’re in a group of 2 or 6, or more, you must talk to each other. Tell each other things you’ve found, or what you’re thinking when looking at a puzzle. Sometimes you have the right idea, but you can’t figure it completely out. If you tell your group what you think, it could spur their imagination and they can make it work. This isn’t a competition to see who’s the smartest, it’s a team effort – so talk to your team!
2) Write things down – most escape rooms will give you some ability to write things down. It could be a whiteboard, blackboard, tablet or pen and paper. Use these tools! When you find something you think could be a code, write it down! Once you’ve used it, cross or wipe it off. It helps keep you organised, but also stops you wasting time trying to remember a hundred codes.
3) Ask for help – this was covered above, but is truly a key part. The world record holders ask for help all the time when they’ve played our games. If THEY do it, then why can’t you?
4) Search – a lot of new groups don’t know what to expect and tend to stay quite motionless. Have a good look around. Don’t even think about solving any puzzles until you’ve had a good look around. Touch things, try to move and open them. If it doesn’t move or open easily, then it means it shouldn’t be moved or opened – either at all, or until you have the right tool – don’t try to break things open. Look behind and underneath everything. Escape rooms like to hide pieces of a puzzle around and you need to find all the pieces before you can solve it. So go searching!
5) Don’t get down on yourself – if you struggle to solve something, or if you don’t escape in the hour, don’t beat yourself up. You’re not the first to fail, and you won’t be the last. As long as you have had fun then you’re a winner. It really is the point of going to an escape room – even WE have gone to rooms we haven’t escaped.
6) Don’t get hung up on one puzzle – we see it all the time where one person in the group will become obsessed over a puzzle and not let anyone move on until it is solved. Sometimes you don’t have all the tools you need to solve the puzzle, sometimes they’ll have the wrong end of the stick, but stop others from trying other things. If this is you, or you have someone like this in the group – try to move them on. Remember – you may not have all you need and until you do, you’re wasting time and mental strain. If you can’t solve a puzzle, move on. If you think you have all the parts and still can’t solve it, ask for help. Don’t become obsessed.
7) Have fun – whatever your version of fun is! If you like time constraints and aim to be the fastest escapers for that room, then go for it! If you like to immerse yourself in the theme, then go for it! Whatever you go to an escape room for, enjoy it. You can only do an escape room once (unless you don’t get very far) because once you know how to solve it, you can’t solve it again. So enjoy it. It’s going to be the only time you play that room, so give yourself to it for that hour.
I hope this has helped first timers feel like they have a bit more understanding of what to expect and to bite the bullet. I also hope that people who have already played a room or two have learned a few skills to increase their likelihood of escaping the room. Don’t forget, if you haven’t played our escape room in Wolverhampton already, then book your escape now and we can help you take that first step to getting the escape room bug. We look forward to starting you on this adventure!