What to Do When You Get Stuck in an Escape Room

2022.02.25.

The Game Masters at ExitTheRoom have seen every type of team and every type of player. We love to hear the excited buzz coming from a team who are on a roll and doing well, solving all the puzzles, and finding all the clues as they come across them. On the other hand, there will be many times when a player or team is stumped by either a single clue or puzzle, or a series of them. If this happens with a few different puzzles consecutively, then we can see the individual members of the team start to become frustrated. This can infect the whole team and lead to them all becoming discouraged. In some cases they appear to forget that it's just a game and they are playing to have fun. 

Whether you are new to escape room games or a veteran player, they will always come to a point when you are going to get stuck. We understand that for some players this can be supremely frustrating. But as with all games, there are techniques that will allow you to continue your journey forwards. Some of these are simple things that both the player, as an individual or as part of the team, can turn to in order to get themselves back on track

Work Together As A Team

This might seem totally Captain Obvious but you might be surprised how many individual players become so immersed with the problem in front of them that they fail to communicate that problem with the rest of the team. In the same way that a team sport means that each individual player relies on the next player at his side, it's the same with an escape room game.

Without clear and concise communication the whole team can be going in the wrong direction. It's super important that when one individual both finds a puzzle or becomes stuck on one, that they call it out to the rest of the room. By discussing the problem together, then the answers will come more quickly. We suggest that if an individual player becomes stuck on a puzzle, then they should get the team to regroup. By doing so, each member can discuss what they have already found. You may well be surprised how this will help solve the next puzzle.

Many of us have our own individual way of looking at the world. So when we become stuck for a clue, it helps considerably to have another set of eyes. A great idea is if two players are stuck on their own individual problems, then they should simply swap, as this will give those puzzles a new point of view. It's also true that in many escape room games a single puzzle cannot be solved by one individual working alone. For example, it's quite possible that the clue an individual is working on will open a lock that is 3m away. In many cases, someone else's hands can be useful to enter the code that is just out of reach. Keep in mind that when you work as a team, then you will win as a team. This means that you'll be able to proceed through the game together with speed and ease.

Search The Room Properly

You might be surprised how many players and teams failed to search the room properly.  Maybe because they are lazy or are used to looking in certain places, they forget that in the escape room game scenario, clues and puzzles can be hidden in some very bizarre places.  Likewise, it's quite possible to have them hidden in plain sight. Because we are not trained to see them clearly, sometimes a clue that is right in front of our noses remains unseen to us.  The first time you search a room there are many new things you need to examine. So it's quite possible you will fail to catch all of the needed clues. We suggest that once the major items have been found, the team retraces its steps and uses the puzzles that have been solved to try and discover those which might be missing.

It's quite possible that there is an open drawer that was missing, a section of the wall with a secret compartment or a piece of decor that shows a decipherable code. You will want to look at things from a different viewpoint. Also, you might be surprised how colours, numbers, shapes and words, which may seem initially irrelevant and unimportant, are actually essential elements to solving the room. That's why it's super important that you pay attention, not just to large items, but to the smallest detail. 

Take A Breather From A Difficult Puzzle

All the puzzles in the escape room are designed to test your ability to think logically. They will also encourage you to use your memory to make you think, and of course, to stress you out. In fact, it's this initial difficulty that will lead you to the wonderful feeling you finally get when that Eureka moment jolts you awake. Nevertheless, if you find yourself working for over 5 minutes on one puzzle, but without progress, then we suggest you move away from it and take a breather. This doesn't mean that you failed. It’s a break to allow you to readjust your way of seeing. Also, by taking a break you will prevent yourself from becoming frustrated. It goes without saying that if the red mist of anger and frustration falls before your eyes, then you will have serious problems moving forward to solve any of the puzzles. Please remember that the escape room game is not designed to be simple. All the puzzles are there to give you a hard time. But don't believe that the situation is hopeless.

Another good idea whilst you're taking a break it's to go and help someone else who might be stuck or just working on a puzzle. When you return to your own problem puzzle or clue, you may have the satisfaction of having solved something beforehand. This will bump up your confidence and maybe the key to finding a solution. Many puzzles can be solved by simply taking a different approach. At the end of the day, you have no option but to figure it out. 

Review Your Used And Unused Clues

With ExitTheRoom we see many players sitting on used or incomplete puzzles or clues. It's important to make time and space to organise those that have been completed and see how they fit together. Remember that there will be many smaller clues that may all add up to help solve a larger one. We suggest that all the clues and puzzles that have been sold are kept in one location. This will allow all team members easy access to them and will discourage the time-wasting practice of seeing another team member trying to solve a puzzle that's already been solved.

If you find yourself flummoxed at a tricky combination lock, then a good idea is to simply reorder the code. At the same time, always have consideration as to whether the set of clues in front of you are actually relevant to the puzzle you hope to solve. In other words, it's important to have the right tools for the job. And this is where being organised can be helpful. By looking over both solved and unsolved clues, you may be encouraged to try something completely new.

Remember The Story Line

It's often the case that the members of a team are so immersed in finding solutions that they completely forget the narrative that was told to them by the Games Master before the game actually began. Every escape room game will come with a story that is used to flesh out the room and give the players a sense of purpose. It's important to keep this in mind when you first enter the escape room and as you're playing. You might be surprised how a significant occasion that was spoken about in the initial narrative may relate to some of the puzzles and clues within the room itself. 

Also the narrative may give you some clues to specific codes. These details may not just be  curious in themselves, but also may help you find the correct path to escape. That's why it's incredibly important to pay attention to what the Games Master is telling you before the game commences. There's a reason for this story telling. So it's essential that the team remembers the important events and key elements to the narrative.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For A Clue

Sometimes our Game Masters have watched players become super frustrated with the game. We're guessing this is mostly down to ego. But the truth of the matter is that playing an escape room game is not an easy walk in the park. Everyone is bound to get stuck at some point. As the main objective is to escape within a certain time limit, then it's foolish to waste time on things you cannot possibly solve.There's absolutely no shame in asking the Game Master for a hint. He will not tell you the actual answer as that would steal the wind from your sails and leave you disappointed at the end of the game.In such a case you may well feel that the Game Master solved the room for you. Keep in mind that the Game Master is there to ensure that you have the best possible experience, along with a huge amount of fun. Watching players lose their mojo is not something that's good for the team or for the business.

The hints given will not be so specific. They will act as a nudge in the right direction in order to keep the game going and stop players becoming frustrated. We suggest that any decision to ask the Game Master for help should be taken at a team level. If everyone decides that a puzzle in front of them is unanswerable, then they should quickly summon the Game Master for a hint.

Remain Positive

It's true that if you are a first time escape room game player then a lot of the puzzles may seem almost impossible. At first nothing will make sense to you. Sometimes it's difficult to even know where to start. Everything in the room appears to be so random that it's difficult to work out how things are connected. This can lead some individuals to throw up their hands in frustration and decide that escape room games and not for them. But as we previously mentioned, it's important to function as a team. Each individual player needs to find their purpose in the room. It doesn't matter where you start just as long as you begin. Remember you have a team behind you and you're working together towards a common goal. It's important to try and maintain a positive mindset. We’re not saying that by being cocky you will get a head and a faster. The main point here is that many puzzles you will be faced with may very well lead you down the road of  feeling dejected. But with a positive attitude you will be able to attack each puzzle and clue from many different directions, until the answer is found. But most of all, please try to remember that you're all playing a game, so enjoy yourself as take part in a new exciting and immersive experience

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