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Solving a tricky puzzle in Rebel Revolt

The Secret Key to Solving Escape Room Puzzles

Do you keep getting stuck on escape room puzzles? Then grab a handful of these secret tips to level up your escape room skills!
Show me the secret
Shirley watson puzzle master
The secret key is 'practice'.
Trust me, familiarise yourself with these puzzles - it'll be like unlocking the Matrix!

Take a seat, let's begin your training

Beating an escape room requires seriously mad puzzle-solving skills. Lacking those skills wouldn't be so bad... if it didn't mean that you'd often end up as a zombie's dinner, or stuck in the room forever! Fortunately, for you and your brain, I'm here to give you the secret key to unlocking escape room puzzles (by reading further, you agree to keep these secrets secret. The penalty for violations is a week as a Chuck E. Cheese ball pit attendant).

The secret? Practice. I know, disappointing, but true. To really get good at solving escape room games, you need to familiarise yourself with the types of puzzles that most games use. That way, you always know what to do, even if you don't quite know the answer to the puzzle yet.

Once you're done here, take a flick through this list of escape room puzzle ideas to get a handle on how these puzzles might look in an escape room.

Let's jump in!
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Logic Puzzles — The Game Designer's Evil Delight

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Logic puzzles are the MOST COMMON escape room puzzle you'll come across. Most puzzles in the room will be a variation of the logic puzzle, requiring you to logically link multiple elements, and come to a conclusion.

You make connections between different room elements, then determine where those connections lead. Solving a logic puzzle usually leads to another puzzle, clues to another puzzle, or necessary information, like the combination to a lock or the secret Google search algorithm.

Game designers employ two types of logic, real-world logic, and 'game logic'. For example, if there is a hammer on a coffee table in your escape room, real-world logic may dictate that you need to use it to drive in a nail, open a door, or remove the lock from the box without a combination (not advisable). Most likely, you'll believe that it's a prop with no significance.

'Game logic' would tell you to place the hammer in the empty toolbox (your neat-freak mother would tell you the same thing, repeatedly). Once you do this, a secret panel in the back wall will pop open, revealing a safe that holds the puzzle to open the door leading to the next room. 

In a well-designed game, the internal logic it uses should present itself pretty quickly, and remain consistent. So make sure to pay attention to the level of 'game logic' employed.

Here are some excellent tips for solving escape room logic puzzles:

Tip No. 1 - Look For Patterns

Look for patterns in the room. Do you see repeating objects, images, or sounds? Do you see other patterns, such as sequences on the wall or floor? (This is a great example). Try to determine if the pattern you see has a meaning or if the room was simply decorated by someone with poor fashion sense.

Tip No. 2 - Look For the Obvious Clues

Pay attention to things that stand out. Look for the huge symbol painted on the wall or the clearly out of place picture. You might see three history books in the science professor's office. Most likely, one or all of these books holds the solution to a puzzle. You should catalog these in the first few minutes in the room. You may not need them until later, but you will have them ready.

Tip No. 3 - The Room's Story Isn't Random

Escape rooms start before the clock starts counting down. The introductory video setting out the room's story contains hidden gems you may need to solve puzzles or make sense of clues. Pay close attention. The video may claim that Sally disappeared on January 10, 1997, while hiking Machu Picchu. When you see a letter from Sally dated August 19, 2007, you immediately know it contains important information.
Laughing while playing Lost Mummy
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Tip No. 4 - Look for Common Connections

Try to fit elements with common connections together.
  • Group similar and matching items, like a deck of cards spread out around the room or pictures of a Hawaiian beach.
  • Some escape room puzzles require grouping similarly colored objects together. You may have 5 red balls, 6 green balls, and 8 yellow balls. Grouping them together could give you the combination to a lock or a tough juggling challenge.
  • Pay attention to the order in which the elements were found. It may be a clue to solving the puzzle. If you found a sequence of 5 pictures, placing them in order may allow you to solve the riddle.
  • Do you have information that seems to fit a clue? For example, if you have a lock with 5 letters, do you have any clues that could result in the combination? You may need to alter the order of the items to find the combination, but you can narrow down your search if you have 5 common items.
  • Keep track of what the team has used successfully. Most clues are only used once a game.
  • Talk about the solution. An answer may not make sense to you, but it may make immediate sense to someone else. The sequence of the blinking lights may have you confused, but it may be the solution to your friend's puzzle.
Most importantly, don't overthink. Among the dozens of escape rooms I have played, only once has the game designer admitted that the game could not be completed in one hour. They offered to allow us to come back the next day to finish it. We made the reservation, ran to the car, and wrote down the solution to all the puzzles we solved. We finished the next day and felt more accomplished than ever!

Most of the time, the answer will be right in front of you. Apply the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid) and Occam's Razor (the simplest answer is usually the right one) to keep yourself from making the puzzle harder than it really is.

Hidden Object Escape Room Puzzles — X Does Mark The Spot

You solve hidden object puzzles by finding the item. It might be a key under a rug, a black light in a drawer, or two round trip tickets to Barcelona. Once you have the item, you've solved the puzzle. Here are a few tips for solving hidden object escape room puzzles.

Search over and underneath things. In one escape room, the object was under the side of the bar in a hollowed out space. It took us a while to find what was hidden in it because we did not look under the bar. If it's not marked off-limits (and it's not illegal in your town), look under it.

Pick everything up
, turn it over, and open it. Flip through books to ensure that clues are not tucked in the pages (was a page bookmarked or dog-eared?). If there's a conch shell on the side table, put it to your ear to see if you can hear a clue, or maybe the ocean.

Assign each member of your team a part of the room. By dividing the room up, you ensure that nothing is missed.

Search from right to left instead of left to right. By changing your brain's normal method of processing information, you may notice clues that you would have missed otherwise.
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Math Puzzles — Now You Know Why Algebra Was Important

Fortunately, you won't be asked to perform algebra. And forget calculus (I did). Escape rooms are designed for players of all ages. Therefore, the problems will be simple.

To make things interesting, designers sometimes make you find the puzzle before you can solve it. For example, can you find the number in this picture? (This puzzle was taken from our list of puzzle ideas. These could be useful to scroll through, and get a sense of how puzzles can look 'in the wild'.)

Some math puzzles are combined with word games. Instead of writing "one," a designer may spell it "won." Can you find the numbers in this sentence? 

"I won the race, and then I ate too many pickles, so I threw up.

If you found 1, 2, and 8, give yourself a pat on the back and advance to the next section. If you failed to find those numbers, reread the sentence.

Ciphers — The Tough Guys In The Room

The most challenging escape room puzzle a game designer can throw at you is a cipher. For this reason, you rarely see more than one cipher in a game.

Ciphers require you to crack a code to reveal a message. Sometimes you must use morse code or a substitution cipher, like A=1, B=2, etc. A clue will give you the right substitution, showing you that A=10. From there, you can decode the message to learn that the Big Mac’s special sauce is Thousand Island dressing.

Every cipher is nothing more than a set of rules. The challenge is determining the set of rules. Once you know the rules, the rest falls into place rather quickly. It's like figuring out that all of your teacher's tests come from the review at the end of each chapter. Once you learn that, the class is a breeze.

You don't need to be a CIA code breaker to crack these ciphers. Just pay attention to the clues leading you to the rules. It may help to have someone work on the cipher with you to confirm that your solution works. If it does not work, you have to start over. It's better to resolve any issues with the solution as you work.

Be warned, ciphers can take a while to crack! Remember — start with the simple solution!

Ciphers can be so tricky that we've written up a whole guide to help you out. Check out the ciphers guide to learn more.
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Physical Tasks — The Fun Escape Room Puzzles

Rebel Revolt players navigating a dangerous minefield
No, you won't have to do 50 push-ups. Escape rooms are small, so there is no running inside. The physical activity is more Seinfeld than Superman.

Many escape rooms will ask you to perform some sort of physical task in order to progress. These can be team-based, or can be performed by just a single person. Either way, the goal of these tasks is just to mix things up and make it fun!

For example - to find a key, you may have to stick your hand in guts (usually spaghetti). You may have to shoot six zombies with a nerf gun. In one escape room, two of us were handcuffed together through a hole in the wall. We had to use a magnet to bring the key out of a maze to unlock ourselves before moving to the next part of the room. That was one of the most fun puzzles we have tackled!

There are no tips for these puzzles. Just have fun. It's what the escape room is all about!

You Are Now A Puzzle Master. Congrats!

We will forward your diploma upon payment of all fees and repair of our printer. That's a puzzle we haven't been able to solve!

Use the secret tips I gave you to attack your next escape room puzzles. You'll breeze through the room and be done in 30 minutes. Even if that doesn't happen, and it won't, you'll have a blast working your way through the room!
Winning at Escape Room Z

Ready to put your skills to the test? 
Grab a game and play tonight.

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