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Feeling stuck at an escape room

What to do When You're Stuck in a Mystery Escape Room

Don't panic! Ignore the ticking clock for a moment and follow this tried-and-true escape room survival checklist. You'll be out in no time!
Help! Show me the checklist
Shirley watson puzzle master
Chin up old chap. Just follow these easy steps to get unstuck, solve your mystery escape room, and have a jolly good time!

Trust Me, You Will Get Stuck.

I know you started with such good intentions.

You picked the perfect mystery escape room (have you tried this one? You can play it at home). You read the details, and it looked right up your alley. It should be easy enough, right? Like taking candy from a baby? Maybe you?ll finish in 20-30 minutes and put your team name atop the big board....


I won?t be an accessory to your delusion. At some point, you pour hit a wall, that's just how escape rooms work. When they run out of ideas, your crew will turn to you. Do you know what to do?

Don't panic! Just take a breath, and lead your team through this tried-and-tested checklist to break through escape room roadblocks.
Dressing up to play the Envy murder mystery escape room kit

Step #1 - First Thing's First, Chill Out!

I know there's a lot going on right now. The clock?s ticking resonates in your ears. Your team?s running around in circles looking for clues and finding none. Worst-case scenarios start to spiral out of control...

Relax. Calm down. Take a deep breath. Or two. Close your eyes and summon the spirit of Sherlock Holmes to push you through (just don?t wait too long, he may be at afternoon tea).

A quick 20-second reset is all you need to clear your mind and put yourself in the best mentality for solving problems. Panic will just cloud your judgment. If you focus on the ticking clock, you will quickly become the next victim of the murder mystery escape room killer!

Focus on what is right in front of you. Obsessing about the clock and stressing over the extended amount of time needed to solve this seemingly simple puzzle gets you nowhere. You will rush, make more mistakes, and remain stuck. Chilling out and resetting will get you through to the next problem much more quickly.
Get started now with a mystery escape room kit

Step #2 - Rally Your Team and Communicate!

Hitting the wall may cause the entire team to panic. They?ll throw out more solutions than a Wheel of Fortune audience. Use Step #1 and help them relax.

Then, clearly and calmly, discuss the situation. See where people are stuck at, and what's not making sense. The single best way to beat an escape room is to always communicate clearly (for other game-winning tips, check out this article), so re-establishing team communication is essential! If everyone is on the same page, then they can help each other out.

Pull your heads together and reshuffle the clues. Not too long ago, my crew ran into real issues with a mystery escape room. The killer was winning! We searched the room, laid the clues on the table, and beat our heads against the wall. Nothing worked.

We slowed down, took a deep breath, and rearranged the clues to gain a fresh perspective. One of the crew members figured it out in seconds! But if we had not come together, relaxed, and taken a different approach, we would likely have been the next ones laid out on the killer?s table!

If simply stopping and talking doesn't set things in motion, never fear, that's what the rest of this guide is for! Calmly explain that you have a plan, and carry on with the rest of this checklist.

Make sure that you stay positive and calm. After all, the point of playing a mystery escape room is to have fun! If your team is in a disheartened slump, then chances are you'll never escape... and the experience will end up a sour one. Simply keeping an upbeat demeanor can be the difference between a fun experience, and a total party pooper of a game!

(NOTE: Of course, if you're the only one that's stuck, you don't need to pull the whole team together. Let them carry on doing their thing. But it'll help if you can grab just one other person to help you think things through. Maybe they have a detail that you're missing.)
Playing Envy murder mystery at home

Step #3 - Clarify The Objective

Ultimately, you want to escape. Most often, this is not a helpful objective. It is the equivalent of a soccer team stating that their strategy is to score the most goals. Wonderful, but how do you do it?

To find a useful objective, work backward from your main goal. For example, you might need to open a door and escape. So you need a key. There's a locked chest in the middle of the room... maybe it has the key? But it's padlocked with a 5 letter combination lock. So, you know that you're looking for a sequence of 5 letters.

By clearly defining exactly what you're looking for, you make it easier to spot clues you might have missed the first time around.

Now, focus your team on the objective. Assign each of them a definite role to aid in solving the puzzle.

As you do this, review the storyline. Did you pay attention to the introductory video? Or were you daydreaming about the upcoming release of 'Avengers 257: The Fight For More Pudding'? The gamemaster often hides gems in the video that will help you out later. Review your mental notes.

Think about the characters. Was Colonel Mustard really in the Library with the candlestick? Is great-niece Suzy really as innocent as she seems? Who was near the victim just before the murder? For that matter, how much do you really know about this victim?

Answers to these and other questions could help reframe the clues to allow you to solve the puzzle. They could also lead to overlooked clues, such as the picture on the wall with lifelike, moving eyeballs.

Step #4 - Review Your Clues

Sometimes, you already have the answer. So double-check!

Bring all the clues to a central place, like a table or even the floor. Make sure no one forgot that they slipped a key into their pocket or left a piece of paper on the chair in the corner. Make sure that you have everything in front of your team. Make a list and check it twice.

Often, escaping a murder mystery room turns on a recognition that a clue actually does belong to a particular puzzle. Sometimes X really does mark the spot, and the key actually does fit the lock. Look at the clues in a different light to help find things you may have missed.

On the other hand, you might have gotten it right the first time (shocking, I know). You?ll realize that you don?t have what you need in front of you to solve the puzzle. This brings us to Step #5.


Step #5 - Scour the Mystery Escape Room Again

Scour the room again, this time with attention to whatever will solve the puzzle. Do you need four numbers? 5 letters? This week?s winning Powerball numbers? Get to work searching the room!

Remember, searching does not mean glancing or skimming. Unless clearly marked as not a part of the game, pick it up, turn it over, and look at it upside down. Looking at it from a different perspective may reveal a clue you missed! Be thorough, or you may remain stuck in this murder escape room.

Most of us scan the room from left to right the same way we read. Reverse this and scan the room from right to left! This may help you find that missing clue.

Have team members scour parts of the room that they did not look through earlier. This may result in finding the key you need to move on to the next puzzle.
Play at home with this printable kit

Step #6 - Try To See Things From A Different Point Of View

Take Obi-Wan?s advice - many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view. And sometimes you just need to kickstart your brain with a fresh perspective. Your belief that a scrap of paper with six numbers, four letters, two elephants, and a monkey is not a legitimate clue depends on whether you are looking at it from the right angle. Turn the paper 90 degrees.

Reposition your other clues as well. Are you sure that you matched the different parts of the map properly? Did you spell everything correctly?

Look for other clues that may help. Sometimes solving a puzzle has layers. You may not have to face three challenges of lethal cunning (if you do, find Indiana Jones), but you may have to work through several clues to solve one puzzle.

Or maybe you're just not approaching the puzzle the right way. Sometime's you literally need to stand up/sit down and look at the puzzle and clues from a different angle.

If that fails, ask for a team member's opinion. Maybe they can see something that you can't.

Step #7 - Give Up!

No, don?t give up on the whole game. Never walk out of the exit door without winning! However, when it comes to the current puzzle, you?re obviously spinning your wheels.

Admit defeat and ask someone for help. You only have an hour in this mystery escape room, so check your ego at the door. Someone may see a solution you missed, moving you that much closer to escaping.

If the murder mystery escape room has puzzles that you solve in parallel, move on to one of those. Solve as many as you can until you have to confront your nemesis. By then, other clues may have sparked a different perspective, allowing you to solve the puzzle!

If you have to solve the difficult puzzle before moving on, reassign the team members to different tasks. You may not have them working on clues that fit their strengths. Reconsider your assignments, reshuffle the deck, and see if you can find a better plan of attack.

Step #8 - Ask For A Clue

There?s no shame in asking for a clue. The gamemaster is there for a reason other than making sure you don?t pull the art off the walls.

I know, you don?t want to be penalized for a hint. Some mystery escape rooms add three minutes to your time for each hint. Some give you three hints before assessing time penalties. Know what the rules are before you start.

Remember, not asking for a hint could cost far more than three minutes if you remain unable to solve the puzzle. If the hint moves you along, it's time well spent. Most likely, you won?t break the room record anyway, so make sure you escape!

If two or three team members have worked the puzzle with you, and you still remain stuck, take the hint - you need a hint! Call out to the gamemaster, grab your hint, and move on to the next puzzle.

If the hint does'nt help, ask the gamemaster for the solution. Once the solution is revealed, you may realize that you would never have gotten it on your own. You will enjoy moving on to other challenges rather than remaining stuck on one puzzle for 30 minutes.

Step #9 - Win!

Hopefully, you won?t need Steps 1-8 for every puzzle, but rinse and repeat as often as you need to finally escape the room! 

You now possess all of the knowledge you need to unstick yourself from any stubborn puzzle!

Looking for a little more? Then check out our complete guide to beat any escape room.

You Escaped!

You escaped. You took the cool picture in the lobby of the escape room. Now you move on to the celebratory dinner, where you will rehash your victory, your team?s legend growing larger with each recounting of a puzzle solved.

You will smile, knowing that you alone possessed the step by step instructions to overcome the most challenging puzzles in any murder mystery escape room. Whether you want to tell your friends is up to you, but we highly recommend that you let them in on the secret!

(Remember, we've got even more escape room secrets for you ici).
Winning Envy murder mystery at home
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