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Escape Room: Top Tips

Escape rooms have become a hugely popular way for friends, families, and co-workers to spend time together. For the uninitiated, these games typically involve groups of players being locked in a space that’s filled with a variety of puzzles, then working together to find clues and overcome challenges in order to escape within an allotted time. Escaping isn’t easy – it usually requires a combination of lateral thinking, great teamwork, and sometimes a bit of luck. In this article, we’ll outline some key tips that will help you become a better escape room player, and be part of a more successful escape room team - whether you’re experienced escapees or total novices.


If you’re looking to become an escape room master: read on!


Communicate Effectively & Work Together


We spoke to our Games Masters at the Department of Magic, two magical escape rooms in Edinburgh City Centre, and all of them agreed: the key to succeeding at any escape room is collaboration. No matter how brilliant your individual players are, you’ll struggle to escape on time if you don’t share ideas, agree on priorities, and delegate responsibilities. In other words: it’s all about teamwork. Here are some specific pointers to tighten up your collaboration:


1 - Stay clear and concise


Shakespeare wrote “brevity is the soul of wit” and, when it comes to escape rooms, the Bard of Avon wasn’t far wrong. There’ll be plenty of time to chat through your thoughts in detail after the experience is over (if you’re visiting the Department of Magic, you can do it over a cocktail in our Magical Potions Tavern) but, when the clock’s ticking, it’s best to keep your sentences brief and clear.


2 - Assign roles and responsibilities


Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. If you can identify what these are, and make the most of them, your team has a much better chance of succeeding in an escape room. You might know your team really well – maybe you’re close friends or family – and that will makes things easier. If you’re still getting to know each other – you might be on a work away day, or a date – then we recommend having a quick chat before the escape room begins to share your strong points. For example, you might say “I’m great with verbal puzzles, put me on the riddles” or “I’m rubbish at maths, somebody else try this one”. Whatever you excel at, there’s bound to be opportunities to step up. Top tip: we strongly recommend that you nominate somebody to keep a close eye on the clock. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re immersed in the fun of an escape room, so having a dedicated ‘timekeeper’ can really help. 


3 - Active listening


Escape rooms are exciting. It’s easy to get caught-up in the experience, or totally enthralled by whatever puzzle you’re working on, but your team will really benefit if everybody makes an effort to actively listen. New developments are happening all the time – whether it’s a new clue being uncovered or somebody asking for help with a tricky puzzle – so it’s critical you’re listening out for your teammates at all times and doing your best to understand their requests.


4 - Use verbal and non-verbal cues


We’ve established that communication is key in escape rooms, and it’s important to remember that includes non-verbal communication too. Verbal cues, such as calling out discoveries or sharing ideas, are essential to keep all your teammates in the loop. However, non-verbal cues can be every bit as important. Pointing, gesturing, or even using eye contact can help direct attention to important details without disrupting the flow of the game, or cutting off teammates who are already speaking. By using both verbal and non-verbal communication, teams can express much more, and break into effective sub-teams, leading to smoother progress and a better chance of escaping within the time limit.


5 - Offer Encouragement & Support


In the high-pressure environment of an escape room, it's easy for tension to run high. That's why offering encouragement and support to your team members is crucial. A simple word of encouragement can boost morale and keep everyone motivated, even when they’re facing difficult puzzles or setbacks. Additionally, supporting each other fosters a positive team dynamic, where players feel comfortable sharing ideas and working together towards a common goal. By creating a supportive atmosphere, teams can overcome challenges more effectively and increase their chances of escaping successfully.


Managing Time Wisely


Outside of teamwork, the single most important consideration in an escape room is time management. As we’ve mentioned above, it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the fun, or lose track of time when you’re engrossed in a specific puzzle, but if you don’t keep an eye on the clock, you can easily run out of time.

We’ve pulled together some specific tips to help you beat the clock:


1 - Prioritise Tasks


All escape room tasks are important, but some are more important than others. By taking a strategic approach, you can identify the challenges that are likely to take the longest time to solve, and prioritise those at the beginning of the experience. When you first enter the escape room, spend a few minutes getting to know the room: explore the space, find as many puzzles as you can, and talk to your team about what you find. Does anything look particularly complex or laborious? Do any of the puzzles align with your team’s strengths? Once you’ve made these initial observations, you can decide what your priorities are.


2 - Set Time Limits


It’s easy to get fixated on a specific puzzle in an escape room. You get locked-in on solving something and, before you know it, ten minutes have passed. When you’re running against the clock, you can’t always afford to commit that kind of time to a single problem. Instead, we recommend that you set puzzle-specific time limits for yourself and, if you’ve failed to figure it out in that time, try moving onto something different. You could even swap puzzles with a teammate who’s also been stuck for a while. Certain challenges just won’t ‘click’ for specific players, so it’s always worth letting someone else have a go. That way, you won’t risk committing valuable time to a problem you just can’t crack.

 

 

Some Bonus Tips


We’ve already covered a variety of tips for upping your escape room game. If you improve your communication, teamwork, and timekeeping, you’ve already gone a long way toward smashing your next escape room experience. If that’s not enough to fill you with confidence, we’ve pulled together a few more bonus tips to take your team’s escape room prowess to the next level.


1 - Think Outside the Box


The people who engineer escape rooms are a devious bunch. They’re always looking for ways to bemuse, confuse, and mystify players, so you need to be prepared to think laterally to solve their cunning conundrums. When you’re in the heat of the moment, it can be tricky to decode abstract puzzles, so we recommend taking a moment to stop and think outside the box. Are you looking at a riddle in a purely literal way? Could it have a more cryptic meaning? Think about dual-meanings, hidden messages, and subtle hints that might not immediately occur to you. The simplest item could have more meaning than initially meets the eye. 


2 - Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help


Lots of players intuitively hesitate to ask for help. However, if you’re struggling to get past a specific clue or section, it’s always worth asking the escape room staff for a nudge in the right direction. At the Department of Magic, our friendly Games Masters are always prepared to offer a helpful hint, without breaking your immersion in the experience, and even a small clue can make all the difference. It’s much better to get a helping hand, and ultimately unlock later parts of the game, than struggle in silence because you’re worried asking for a bit of guidance.


Conclusion


In summary, the keys to more effective escape game playing are: teamwork, communication, and timekeeping. If you start with these key strategies, you can feel much more confident about escaping on your next trip to an escape game. It’s also worth bearing in mind that, while escaping in time feels rewarding, you can have a fantastic time in an escape room regardless of the outcome. The most important thing is having an engaging, fun experience that you share with your teammates.


If you're looking for an activity in Edinburgh, and want to try putting these tips into practice, take a visit to The Department of Magic, where you'll find two magically-themed escape rooms with 2,000+ 5-star reviews on TripAdvisor. To learn more about visiting our escape games: click here.

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