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How to Escape an Escape Room

So, you’ve booked your first escape room, and you’re committed to making it out. Maybe you’ve got a bet on it, or you’re racing your coworkers who are playing the same game right before you. Maybe your little brother keeps raving about how he escaped with 10 extra minutes, and you’ll never live it down if you don’t even make it out. Or maybe you don’t need a crazy reason to be competitive—I mean, who doesn’t want to escape?

Well, easier said than done. Escape rooms put you in an unfamiliar situation where you’ve got to solve a series of puzzles—and there’s often no way of telling exactly how many there are—in unfamiliar ways. Each year, rooms are getting harder and harder, and escape rates are often under 50%. And if maybe one of your teammates (and maybe you, too) is still not exactly sure what an escape room is, how are you even going to make it out?

Have no fear, Escape Long Beach Staff is here! Before each game, we give our players some helpful techniques we’ve found that the most successful teams always employ. So without further to do, here are some of Escape Long Beach’s tips and tricks to follow for your best chance of escaping alive (and who knows, maybe even in record time!):

  • Explore thoroughly

When you first get inside the room, don’t be shy about looking through absolutely everything. Open every drawer and leave no stone unturned. When you first enter a new room, the first thing you should do is try to gather all the hidden clues you can. There’s a lot to discover, and you don’t want to start solving something you don’t have all the clues for yet.

Our rooms, like most escape rooms, won’t require you to use more than a few fingers worth of force to push, pull, or break anything. If something is supposed to move, there is usually a gentle, more logical way to get it to do so. There shouldn’t be any reason to guess in a good game. Remember, in an escape room, all the heavy lifting you’ll need to do is in your mind.

  • Divide and conquer

Split up! Don’t all move as a pack from one corner of the room to another, or one puzzle to another. Sure, you may eventually get through everything, but there’s a ticking clock, and you only have so much time. Take advantage of your group’s size and you’ll cover more ground faster, giving you a better chance of making it out in time.

Even if you’re just a team of two people, split up when you can. Look around in different parts of the room, and avoid putting your hands on the same objects at the same time (unless, of course, that’s required for solving the puzzle). Don’t worry, you can’t get very far from each other if you tried in most escape rooms—nor do you want to! Which leads us to tip three…

  • Communicate 

This is the single, most important, make-or-break factor in any escape room.

Think outloud. Describe your logic to your teammates as you’re solving something, and as you’re finding things, simply say what you’re looking at so people know: “I’ve got a lock that needs 4 digits…there’s some weird goo-like decoration, but underneath that is a blue map in a drawer…” If you’re all doing this, chances are at some point you’ll hear a response of someone looking at something eerily similar (and those things probably are clues for the same puzzle), or someone calling out a set of 4 numbers that they don’t know what to do with.

Announcing what you’re looking for to get something to unlock—numbers, letters, symbols, and how many—tells other players what they should be looking for, too.

In our introduction for The Queen, there’s a moment where we use walkie talkies. If you’ve ever used one before, you’ll know that you have to press a talk button for others to hear you. While you’re pushing to talk, you can’t hear anyone else who is talking through the walkie talkie. So while you’ve got the talk button pushed, you can only do that: talk.

You can’t listen while you talk, and can’t talk while you listen. A walkie talkie is a magical metaphor. Be an effective walkie-talkie in an escape room, and make sure to listen and talk—but not at the same time.

  • Trade puzzles when you’re stumped

If you’re getting frustrated on a puzzle, try switching with someone else. Often a new set of eyes can bring new insights. Different people think differently—some puzzles you’ll have a harder time solving than your friend’s might, just as you’ll have an easier time with some of the puzzles they find difficult. Passing off a puzzle you know will be tough for you is a sign of good teamwork.

If you’ve been stuck on something for a few minutes, pass it off to a teammate and work on something else, or come back to it later. Maybe you’ll find more clues that will help.

  • Move with a sense of urgency right from the beginning

Time flies when you’re having fun or when your life is in danger. And with both of those things going on simultaneously, time really soars! Move quickly right from the beginning, and don’t waste your first few minutes gossiping or taking photos—do that after when you have a few minutes to spare, else you may find you were just a few minutes short.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for hints

Most escape rooms have some kind of hint system where you can get help if you’re stuck. Take advantage of it. Even players who have done hundreds of rooms still know when it’s time to ask for an extra clue. If nobody has unlocked or found anything in 8 minutes, or if your whole team has been frustrated with the same puzzle for awhile, it’s definitely time to ask for a hint. A good Game Master (the person running your game) won’t just give you the answer—they’ll help you figure it out so they don’t take the fun away. Hints shouldn’t be used to spoil your fun—don’t let not asking for one spoil it either, though.

At Escape Long Beach, we don’t limit you on the number of hints you can ask for, so if you’re not making progress as quickly as you’d like, feel free to get some help. Other rooms may limit the number of hints you get, so you’ll need to use them more sparingly. Yet there’s never a bonus prize for not asking for help, so be smart and use all the resources available to you.

Share these tips with your teammates before you go or in the car on the way there, and you’ll have a great shot at even the toughest rooms. And like anything else, the more escape rooms you do, the better and faster you’ll get at breaking out of them. Remember: an escape room isn’t about intelligence so much as it is about mental dexterity. Be flexible and be willing to do (or let your teammates do) some out-of-the-ordinary things, and have fun sharing the experience with them.

Good luck diffusing that bomb or banishing that evil spirit. We hope you make it out alive!
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