We’ve all been there: staring at the countdown clock, walking in circles, pulling on unopened locks, and desperately (or sadly) looking at your teammates as you try to guess what to do next.
Escape rooms can be thrilling when you’re on a roll and solving puzzles, but when you find yourself unable to solve any more clues, it’s easy to get discouraged and forget you’re there to have fun.
Whether you’re new to escape rooms or a regular player, at some point you’re bound to get stuck, and that can be frustrating. But don’t worry — there are some simple things you and your team can do to get the wheels turning and put yourselves back on track.
#1. Work as a team.
This may seem like a no-brainer since you (hopefully) know that teamwork is a big factor in beating an escape room. Much like a team sport, each player has to rely on everyone else to win.
One of the most important parts of working with your team is communication. When you find a clue or a puzzle, call it out so the rest of the team knows what’s in the room. It’s easy to talk over each other, so be sure that you listen and that you’ve been heard. If you find yourselves stuck, take a couple of minutes to regroup and remind each other of things you’ve found and puzzles you still need to solve.
Your teammates can also provide a fresh pair of eyes on a puzzle or clue that you’ve been working on. Switch problems with someone, or ask a teammate to help you out. A lot of puzzles in escape rooms can’t be solved by one person alone.
Maybe the clue you’re trying to use actually opens a lock five feet away. Or sometimes all you need is someone else’s hands to enter a code you’ve been trying by yourself. Remember, when you work as a team, you win as a team! And that win is going to be a little faster and easier than working by yourself.
#2. Search the room again.
While good escape room practices include searching every corner, shelf, lock, door, book, and everything in between, it’s easy to miss a spot. The first time you search a room, there are so many new things to find and examine that you might not catch them all. Retrace your steps and look back at solved puzzles in case there could be a connection with a new one.
Maybe there’s an open drawer that you didn’t see, a section of the wall that swings open, or a piece of decor that tells you how to decipher a code. Are there colors, shapes, numbers, or words that you thought were unimportant but now can connect with another part of the game? Look around at the walls, under the furniture, and pay attention to the smallest details. Sometimes those are the ones that open the biggest locks.
#3. Take a break from a difficult puzzle.
The puzzles in escape rooms will test your memory, make you think, and sometimes stress you out. We know that there’s no bliss like finally breaking an intricate code or solving a hard problem. But, if you’re working on the same one for several minutes with no progress, it’s okay to take a breather. It’s not a sign that you’re giving up, but it will prevent you from getting frustrated. Chances are, that puzzle was designed to give you a hard time, but that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless.
You can go back to our first tip and help a teammate with a puzzle they’re working on. Then return to your unsolved puzzle with a win under your belt. Or maybe you just need to take a couple of steps around the room and come back from a different angle. At some point, you’re going to have to figure it out, but there might be other problems you can tackle that can provide clues or solutions to the one that’s got you stuck.
#4. Review your unused clues.
Are you sitting on unused or incomplete clues? Take a minute to organize them, think through how they fit together, where you found the clues, or what locks they may open. Throughout the game, you and your teammates can keep all the clues in one place for easy access. You can lay them out somewhere or recite them to a teammate to help keep them in your memory.
If you’re struggling with a tricky combination lock, try reordering the code. You can also consider that the set of clues you’re using to solve a puzzle might not be the right tools for the job. That’s where staying organized can come in handy — look over the unused clues and try something new!
#5. Revisit the storyline.
Think back to how you ended up in this escape room. Obviously not the route you took to get to the building, but what’s the story behind the setting in the room? Think about the characters you met when you first entered or the era and location you may be in. Is there a specific occasion or historical event that relates to the story?
You may find that the overarching narrative gives you clues to certain puzzles or codes. These are key details that not only fill you in on why you need to escape but can also provide a way to escape. Hopefully, you remember this tip at the beginning of your game so you can take note of the storyline and its key pieces.
#6. Ask for a clue.
There’s no shame in needing a little help from your Game Guide! Although there’s no feeling like beating an escape room without needing a hint, your Game Guide is there to make sure you have the best experience possible. Feeling helpless as you watch the countdown clock is not what you want to remember.
A clue is simply a light nudge in the right direction to keep the game going and keep a smile on your face. So if your team is having trouble solving all current puzzles (especially after trying the tips above), decide together that you want a clue and get your Guide’s attention for that freebie.
#7. Stay positive.
Don’t forget — you’re at the Escape Game to have fun! When cynicism starts popping its ugly head in, remember the challenges that you have already overcome. If you can solve the first few problems in a game, you’re on your way to escaping. Remember our first tip, to work as a team? Well, it’s also worth it to encourage each other as a team too! A little positivity can re-energize the team and keep your heads in the right space to have fun.