How to Beat Escape Rooms
The room is dark, so pitch black you can scarcely see the shadows moving out of the corner of your eye. Smoothing your hand across the wall, you search for any kind of purchase, any change in the cold, damp slate. There. A metal door handle. Frantically you pull at it, shaking it desperately, begging it to turn. If only you knew the secrets of this place, if only you could flee these endless rooms. A note slips itself under the door, crunching against your shoe. You pick it up and squint into the unending darkness. You can barely make out the scrawled words:
“Should have read those blog posts, huh?”
So this is the one everybody’s been waiting for, the be-all-end-all blog post from The Basement: A Live Escape Room Experience. You’ve been scouring the internet for clues and answers to the biggest question of them all: How to Beat Escape Rooms. If you think you’ve got me cornered, that I’m going to spill my guts and share all my secrets, forget it. I have an iron will and a sharp pen. Today we’re going over general tips and tricks to help you along your escape room journey. It’ll take a lot more torturing to get any codes or solutions out of me!
If you take one thing away from this post, please let it be this. Open communication with your team is INCREDIBLY important. This is often the difference between a winning team and a team that needs to be scrapped off the walls. Especially for larger groups, the whole team needs to be on the same page. It’s important that every player has all the information available to them. Hiding stuff and keeping secrets is our job. When you find a clue, or something that seems relevant to the task at hand, alert your other teammates.
Divide the Workload
Listen to your teammates! If someone is struggling with a solve, it’s possible they need a fresh pair of eyes on it. Sometimes it can be helpful to have a different team member try a key in a lock, or having a different person enter a safe combination. It never hurts to double check logistical things like that! Similarly, if you’re stuck on a puzzle, bring in another group member to work on it with you. And hey, try not to get frustrated with your team. Remember, we’re here to have fun and play a game. It’s not actually life or death, even if we hype it up to be.
Keep Things Organized
There’s nothing worse than searching for 40 minutes for a key, only for your friend to say, “Oh I found that in like, the first five minutes. It’s been in my pocket the whole time.” Establish a table or area of the room to collect your clues, puzzle pieces, or related objects. If you’ve used a key on a lock, leave the key in said lock. Leaving the lock on the thing you’ve just opened is a great way for you to keep track of what puzzle unlocked which thing. This can be super helpful in saving precious time and moving your team forward.
Some escape room enthusiasts will tell you to create a discard pile on the floor, someplace that you can stash items you have already used. I would like to put a little spin on this idea. Irrelevant things can be set aside this way, but anything that could be connected to a puzzle, I would advise bringing to your solving table. If there’s a prop inside the room, one of many loose objects to provide theming, sure, you can go ahead and set that aside. Don’t waste time thinking about it.
It’s Not a Red Herring, It’s just a Prop
At The Basement, we will never present you with Red Herrings – things that will take you down a rabbit hole, a puzzle path to nothing. We do however, populate the rooms with items to give character and realism to the spaces we create. Additionally, our keys are single use. This means that one key will go to one lock and will not open any other locks inside the room. There might be useful objects that have multiple uses, but not keys.
Stay Sharp – Pay Attention
Listen carefully to the clues provided for you, they might not always be the most obvious. You couldn’t ask, “Hey Mister Serial Killer, how do we get out of your house?” So you can’t ask for help at our location. You may receive help, however, but it will come at the will of the cannibalistic killer who captured you. We’ll just see if he wants to play with his food. When playing an escape room at The Basement, we carefully and artfully fold our clues into the storytelling of the room.
You might learn some important information in the intro video you watch before your game. Or perhaps the actor inside the room is walking back and forth past the same object. Maybe they have all their focus on an specific area of the room. It’s all about striking a balance between paying attention to things that could be a potential clue, and becoming paranoid about the number of times your actor has blinked in the last minute. I promise it’s never going to be that deep. We want you to achieve your final objective. The staff isn’t there to get in your way!
You’ve found yourself in a strange environment, one where you need to meticulously manage your time and hone your strategy in order to escape within the hour. (Or 45 minutes at The Basement!) Sometimes the greatest challenge comes with the search. Finding clues is just the beginning, but is often the first step in the right direction.
Open everything, turn things over, look under and over the whole room: you don’t want to miss anything! Don’t be afraid to go in the dark, it might just be the way forward. Don’t forget to share with your team the things you find during your exploration! It’s a collaborative effort from the moment your timer starts; success comes from combining all these tips together!
Don’t Push It
Inside an escape game, there will almost never be a reason to use physical force. If there is, your game masters will more than likely tell you before you begin. Keep your focus and don’t get too sidetracked with deeply complex possible solves. We’re never going to make you decode Morse Code from memory, or translate A=1 style codes. Anytime I hear a guest say, A=1, B=2, I know they’re wildly overthinking the challenge presented to them.
There is a concept in the world of escape rooms called, “Outside Knowledge.” In game design, this is necessary knowledge needed to solve a puzzle, that is assumed a guest would have going into the game. This is to be used incredibly sparingly, and very generally. The game designers operate under the impression that most guests know the months of the year, but not how to read binary code. If something seems weird or confusing, you probably just haven’t found all the pieces or tools that you need yet!
So, How do I Beat an Escape Room Game?
Not all escape rooms are created equal. That’s the fun of trying out a ton of different rooms, you can experience a wide variety of games and solve your way through a plethora of stories. These tips and little hints will hopefully help bulk up your escape room strategy, but it’s not a guaranteed guide to “beat any escape room.”
Take what you’ve learned here and apply these ideas to the games you play, listen to your game master, and stare that time limit dead in the face! You’re not afraid of a clock, that would be crazy!
Escape games are a fabulous way to test your fortitude and the dynamic of any group. We provide a fun way for you to escape your everyday life and slither down into something a little murkier. If you and your team are searching for a way to get un-stuck from routine, escape rooms are a great place to start. So chart your course, plan your game, and don’t stress too hard about winning.
From Your Game Masters With Love
Divorce of everything else, our best advice for playing most escape rooms, is to focus on the fun. Don’t get too caught up with the pressure of winning and the stress of puzzle solving, and enjoy the ride! I get it, people play to win, but if you want to beat the clock, getting frustrated with your team won’t help you. We’re here to have a good time; it is a game after all.
The most important thing is to lose yourself in the narrative. Give yourself up to the story and the theme.
All the escape room information and wisdom passed along by Kayden Ressel, the creator of The Basement, was shared in his blog post, “How to Beat an Escape Room” Definitely check that out if you haven’t already. He has some fantastic insights and might just help you become a better puzzle-solver, and maybe even a better person.
Thanks, as always, for reading. I hope you’ve learned something important today. Be sure to search through your escape room carefully, you might just find yourself in there!