The “unclued number” is a subtle game-damaging puzzle that’s still a bit too common in escape rooms.
Unclued Number Puzzle
Players are supposed to find a number lying around somewhere in an escape room. It is the solution to a puzzle.
Unclued number puzzles have little or no clue structure and the players don’t have to do anything to earn the number other than realize that they need it. It’s assumed that the players will try the number simply because it’s there.
What’s The Problem?
A new player’s instinct is to haphazardly try any and every random collection of numbers in the locks because “you never know what will work.” This includes solutions that have no clue structure like unclued number puzzles.
There are a few problems with puzzles like this:
New players will see unclued numbers working, which reinforces the belief that guessing random, thoughtless solutions in escape games is a viable tactic and a good use of time.
Experienced players will see unclued numbers working and stop trusting that the puzzles will have reasoned solutions, concluding instead that the designer is unskilled, thoughtless, or cruel.
Regardless of who’s playing, this is mediocre escape room design. It’s not game breaking, but it certainly damages the experience.