Welcome to the virtual escape room of the World Wide Web, where endorphin-causing clicks, likes and swipes are almost impossible to resist. You’ll never leave…

Wait. Don’t click that red-crossed close button just yet! We were only messing with you. But should you have a genuine escape room experience in the diary, perhaps for a stag or hen party, or a birthday celebration or office teambuilding outing, then a little research in advance may be the difference between a pleasurable exit and an eternity trapped within.

Let’s face it; escape rooms are not easy. Where’s the fun in simply slipping out the fire exit and claiming victory? Indeed, the reality is that it’s quite common for groups not to solve escape rooms. It has nothing to do with how smart your team is, or how willing you are to cheat, but everything to do with your strategic approach. Many people have no idea what to expect when they first walk in and spend 20 minutes just trying to figure out what’s going on. But it’s in those first few minutes where escapes are made and lost. To help you know what to expect, read on; here are 7 strategies for beating any escape room.

CHOOSE YOUR TEAM WISELY

It’s not all about winning, it’s about having fun, and you should never exclude people from your group just because they aren’t competitive or sharp enough. 

But enough of that kumbayah stuff; you came here to win, right? And if you really want to emerge from the room victorious, it doesn’t hurt to be strategic with how you set up your team. Balance is the key to a successful team in an escape room. Epic escapes only occur when every player brings their own unique strengths to a team.

If everyone in the group is patient and laidback, then you could end up running out of time, since no one is there to hustle and hassle the group. Patience is an excellent trait to have in an escape room, though since you need to stay calm under pressure, it’s essential to balance your group with some livelier, more go-getting customers.

You need a mix of people, from those with a keen eye to locate clues to those who have good problem-solving skills to solve them. You also need someone who’s organised and can delegate tasks to others so that you can work more effectively. You don’t want two people trying to assume the leadership role, or they could end up butting heads, so allocate one voice to avoid conflicts or misunderstandings. 

That, or you could simply try enjoying yourself…

DON’T TAKE IT TOO SERIOUSLY

The more pressure you put on yourself and your team, the more likely you are to end up stuck in the escape room for an eternity. And no one wants that, right? It’s supposed to be a useful team-building or bonding exercise, not an event which ends in tears or arguments. While healthy competitiveness is an asset in the escape room, taking it too seriously could tarnish the experience. Be confident in your abilities, but not so much that you end up upset when you’re struggling with a clue.

Escape rooms are tricky, and some clues can seem impossible. Instead of getting frustrated when you reach a roadblock, laugh it off and work together as a team to try to find a solution; an asset of compromise and resolution you can apply to everyday situations, we think.

WATCH THE TIME

Time flies when you’re having fun, and it will go by in a flash when you’re trying to solve the challenges of an escape room. But as a rule, each escape room will have a time limit. 

The majority of escape rooms and at-home escape games will give you an hour to find the code to break out, although some might give you slightly more or less time. Keep an eye on the time while you try to solve the puzzles as it can easily run away from you. Dexterous time management is so crucial here.

It’s a wise strategic play to appoint a timekeeper who regularly informs the team of the remaining minutes, and can adjudicate if more haste is required. Knowing implicitly how much time you have left will allow you to strategically decide when to ask the gamemaster for a clue since you don’t want to ask too early on.

Closeup of a smartwatch on a woman’s wrist mockup

LISTEN TO THE RULES CAREFULLY

Is everyone paying attention? You, YOU at the back! Listen up. 

Make sure everyone listens thoroughly and carefully to the escape room rules before entering the room. The gamemaster, both in a venue and when using a home escape room pack, will tell you everything you need to know, from tips and hints to things NOT to do, and this is both for your own safety and to enhance the smooth running of the game. 

Be aware that everything in the room is there for a reason, and if you touch or mess with something you’re not supposed to, you could throw the entire game off. Or worse, earn yourself immediate eviction from the room (yep, we get that’s also the purpose of the game). 

COMMUNICATION IS KING

With team members digging around the room in darkness, adrenaline and commotion dictating the pace, it can be easy to lose a sense of purpose.

Communication is vital here when trying to retain focus and keep your eyes on the prize; the unlocking of that door. It’s especially important when you have a bigger group that everyone communicates effectively. Whenever you discover something, whether it’s a clue or just something you think could be connected, make sure you let your teammates know, so no one is missing essential information as they move forward. 

Make sure that everyone maintains an open dialogue from the minute you walk into the room and start searching. It’s quite common that one team member will still be trying to solve a clue that someone else has already solved due to a lack of communication, and this is a total waste of time, which is of the absolute essence. For those who are ultra-competitive, consider banning any chit-chat or small talk from the room.

STAY ORGANISED

There is no use finding clues if you can’t use them effectively. It’s best practice, then, to encourage all your teammates to keep all clues in one spot, preferably under the control of an allocated member of the group. 

Lay out everything found and accumulated throughout your journey so that each team member can easily see all the clues you’ve found so far, allowing people to begin connecting the dots. Not everything that you find will be useful right away, but don’t tuck things in pockets discard them somewhere; sometimes the tiniest details add up to a bigger whole. Keep things organised, and clarity of thought will follow.

ASK FOR CLUES

Many people will try to get through the whole game without asking for any hints or clues. While that is admirable, there is no shame in using your clue requests if it helps you move through a puzzle that you’re stuck on. Teammates might be stubborn and determined to complete the game with no clues or not at all. That said, it’s no fun being stuck on one clue for the entire duration of the game because of the pride of your group. 

If you’re allowed to ask for clues, be strategic about when you use them. The gamemaster will let you know how many clues you get before you enter the room. So, how do you know when to ask for hints? If your entire group is standing there doing nothing, then it’s probably a good time to bite the bullet. As a general rule, you don’t want to waste more than 5 minutes on a single clue, since every second counts when you only have 60 minutes.