by Wren Dalton

            When Dr. Watson’s reactor explodes, or the McSnooty’s security team arrives, groups sometimes ask this question: “What could we have done better?”. There’s no skeleton key for solving escape rooms, of course. Each escape is different and requires a slightly different approach. Still, there are certain techniques that you can keep in mind to improve your chance of success in any challenge you might face! Here’s a quick list of tips and tricks for your next group-outing!

1 – Listen & Read!

            As you journey into the unknown, you might encounter some familiar sights and sounds. Letters, radio broadcasts, and informational plaques are common in even the most high-tech escape rooms. Generally speaking, even the most basic exposition is placed by the designers to situate you in the room. Often it even includes direct hints for those who listen closely. Don’t ever overlook the simple things – like the name of a piece of art in a gallery!

2 – First thing’s first, look around!

            Nine out of ten escape room parties don’t look around the room before starting the nearest puzzle. That’s not a real statistic, but it’s probably true! Most people don’t take full inventory of what’s in a room before they begin solving the room. Usually this means they skip over obvious information or don’t realize that key game pieces are right in front of them.

3 – Think like you’re a Game Designer

            Every game tries to guide the player towards the win condition. Sometimes this is done with color, sometimes it’s a matter of how a room is laid out, sometimes It’s a big sign that says, “go here”. When you play an escape room, the room will teach you how to solve it. You’ve just got to ask yourself “why would the person who made this, put this here?”

4 – Don’t Sweat the Clock

            Stress is a big motivator, but it’s also a big distraction. The clock puts a bit of urgency into the room and sets up a clear failure condition but getting too concerned about that ticking number can panic you and make it hard to collaborate with your friends, family, or business associates. Best to just let it tick down and focus on the problem you’re solving.

5 – Play as a Team, Win as a Team

            Escape rooms aren’t designed to be solved by one dogged investigator – even if a lone wolf can technically win. Instead, it’s best to relay your findings to each other, be aware of who’s working on what, and most importantly help each other test out ideas! The team that coordinates is often way more successful than even the largest group of individual players.

6 – Always Look Twice

            Things are often not what they seem when it comes to our rooms. Sometimes a prop’s intended use will tell you nothing about how to use it in the game. To that end, if you find you’re hung up on a drawer that won’t open, or a useless key; go back to where you found it and look again. Retrace your steps and imagine where else the trail you’re following could be leading you.

7 – Always, Always, Always Have Fun

            In the end, no matter what the stakes of your escape room experience – it’s still a game, so let loose! Have fun! Mess with objects that you find interesting, get into character and carry around the props, or just make some jokes while disarming, escaping, or otherwise playing whatever game you’re involved in. Escape rooms are experiences more than anything, so allow yourself to get swept up in the moment and you’ll have a fantastic time.

We sincerely hope that these tips help you navigate your next escape room experience, or at least have a little more fun in the process. If you want, you can comment your own tips for other beginners below or maybe tell stories about what happened on your last escape. From everyone here at Save Milwaukee, good luck on your next mission.