Crypto Escape Rooms – The Cursed Temple [Review]

Wrath of a God

Location:  Newmarket, Ontario

Date Played: May 26, 2019

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Cursed Temple was a well-executed tomb raid in the vein of Indiana Jones.

At 2 years old, The Cursed Temple was hardly a relic… but it wasn’t on the same level as Crypto Escape Rooms’ more recent creation, Below Zero. It established an interesting story, but didn’t see it through fully. It had strong puzzles that didn’t integrate quite as fully as those in the newer game in Crypto’s stable.

If you only have time for one game at Crypto, make it Below Zero. That said, I’d encourage you to start with The Cursed Temple. It’s well worth playing. I can’t wait to see what this company cooks up next.

In-game: a series of crates with artifacts in them.
Image via Crypto Escape Rooms

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Some really innovative puzzles
  • Strong set design

Story

Many explorers had attempted to attain Amon Kha’s cursed treasure. None had lived to tell the tale.

We had decided to go treasure hunting.

In-game: a shrine with mask carvings.
Image via Crypto Escape Rooms

Setting

Crypto Escape Rooms’ The Cursed Temple sent us on an adventure through an Indiana Jones-esque archeological dig. The environment was designed from floor to ceiling with a wide variety of textures and a lot of details to enjoy.

In-game: A worn wooden door with a bloody handprint beside it.
Image via Crypto Escape Rooms

Gameplay

Crypto Escape Rooms’ The Cursed Temple was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling, observing, and making connections.

Analysis

The Cursed Temple’s set looked great. The inclusion of more archeological dig elements along with the temple ruins added a lot of flavor.

➖ There were some sound issues. The sound was muddy and concentrated in the wrong places. This was unfortunate because it seemed like Crypto Escape Rooms put a lot into the sound design.

➕ The puzzles were strong. One group solve really shined.

➕ Technology was cleverly integrated into the experience. Crypto Escape Room’s statue concept was revolutionary.

➕/➖ Crypto Escape Rooms established the groundwork for an interesting story. There was a beginning and an end… but too much of the story was lost in middle.

➕/➖ The final boss fight was conceptually fantastic. However, it needed a bit more to feel like a true event.

Tips For Visiting

  • Parking: Crypto Escape Rooms has a parking lot.

Book your hour with Crypto Escape Rooms’ The Cursed Temple, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Crypto Escape Rooms provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Escape Room Madness – Nuclear Annihilation [Review]

A critical mass of puzzle material.

Location:  New York, NY

Date Played: June 24, 2019

Team size: up to 12; we recommend 5-7

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $31 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock [A] Push To Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Nuclear Annihilation was a challenging puzzle-centric escape room with some nifty interactions. Escape Room Madness presented a traditional escape game, completely with old-school difficulty and low lighting.

The lighting became annoying, even though we had more than enough flashlights for the team.

In-game: Nuclear reactor control panel covered in buttons, switches, and lights.

While there were some strong narrative mechanics, they were few and far between.

If you struggle to see in low light or want a stronger sense of adventure, I cannot encourage you to play this game. However, if you’re attracted to escape rooms for the puzzles, and want to have a large amount of content to play through, this is a great option.

As far as old-school escape rooms go, this one appealed to me more than most.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Volumes of puzzles
  • Nifty switches as inputs

Story

A terrorist attack on the nuclear power plant where we worked had left us trapped. We had to handle the situation.

In-game: "Biohazard" and an image of a gasmask painted in black on concrete.

Setting

We entered a low-lit room with puzzle stations lined up around the periphery. Many of the stations had some lovely, tangible interactions with buttons, switches, and dials that were pleasantly tactile.

Flashlights in hand, we puzzled through the game.

In-game: A desk in a dimly lit room, a panel with glowing switches in an assortment of colors.

Gameplay

Escape Room Madness’ Nuclear Annihilation was a standard escape room with a higher level of difficulty.

The difficulty came from the volume of puzzles within the space.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, and puzzling.

In-game: A suitcase bomb open, dials, buttons, switches, and a display revealed.

Analysis

➕ Escape Room Madness built fun electronics into Nuclear Annihilation. The control panels with switches and lights looked and felt good. These fun inputs worked well in the gamespace.

➕ / ➖ The gameplay was gated with locks. The volume of locks gave everyone the opportunity to participate in opening up new game elements. While some of the puzzles and locks were correlated by clues, on other occasions, we’d derive a 4-digit combination and have to try it all over the room. There was almost no variation in digit structure among the locks, which was unfortunate.

➕ Time notifications came to us as news reports. These were well produced and worked well within the theme.

➖ The puzzling felt largely disconnected from the rest of the experience. While many of the puzzles were thematic, they didn’t convey narrative. Escape Room Madness relied on laminated pieces of paper as clues rather than building clue structure into the environment.

➕ Our favorite puzzles made use of clues and inputs other than laminated paper. Newer players were especially excited by one layered decode that relied on unfamiliar props.

➖ The gamespace was dark. While Escape Room Madness provided enough flashlights for each player to have their own, we were continually hampered by the flashlight-between-head-and-shoulder lighting technique, in order to use two hands on a lock. With all the locks we needed to see and manipulate, we would have been much more comfortable with a bit more light.

➖ We wasted a bit of time on puzzles we couldn’t solve yet. On multiple occasions, it seemed as if a puzzle was accessible, but we didn’t yet have all the necessary components. Additional gating would be helpful so that players don’t feel like they’ve wasted large amounts of time.

❓ We accidentally created a red herring in this room… and honestly, our imagined puzzle was pretty amazing. We needed a hint to move on past our concept because we were so sure of it. We were then dumbfounded when we learned that it wasn’t the intended puzzle because it worked so perfectly.

Nuclear Annihilation was an old-school puzzle-driven escape room. There were a lot of puzzles to solve. For players who play escape rooms for the puzzles, there were a ton of puzzles that solved cleanly and moved the team forward.

Tips For Visiting

  • Nuclear Annihilation is located on the 5th floor. Note that Escape Room Madness has other games on the 6th floor.
  • Escape Room Madness is located in Koreatown. On this block, we recommend Mandoo Bar for dumplings and Spot Dessert Bar for crazy and incredible desserts.
  • Take public transit; Escape Room Madness is half a block from many subway lines.
  • As with all Midtown Manhattan escape rooms, if you’re driving a car, prepare to pay dearly for parking.

Book your hour with Escape Room Madness’ Nuclear Annihilation, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Room Madness comped our tickets for this game.

The Puzzle Parlour – Vampire [Review]

Bram Stoker’s Puzzle Parlour

Location:  White Plains, NY

Date Played: June 22, 2019

Team size: up to 8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: from $44.99 per player for teams of 2 to $24.99 per player for teams of 8 with higher pricing at peak hours

Ticketing:  Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

The Puzzle Parlour has established itself as a strong escape room presence outside of New York City. Their elegant games balance set design and puzzle play without over-the-top effects or spectacle.

Vampire was one of their more beginner friendly games. It was, however, completely satisfying as an experienced escape room player.

In-game: a human skull with emeralds in its eye sockets resting on a doily.

There was an opportunity to further refine elements of the set and props, but those quibbles aside, this was a strong showing and probably our favorite game of their initial four.

Regardless of your experience level, if you find yourself near White Plains, NY, you should check out Vampire.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Any experience level
  • Players who don’t need to be a part of every puzzle

Why play?

  • Really nifty, tangible puzzles
  • A cool hint mechanism
  • A great vibe

Story

Our friend had been bitten by a vampire and we had until midnight to figure out a cure!

In-game: A pair of old, worn coffins leaning against the wall.

Setting

The Puzzle Parlour’s Vampire had a grim, Gothic look with large chandeliers, coffins, and stone.

The set was well themed within a sane budget. It pulled us into the fiction and kept us there.

While the light was a bit low, we always had enough spotlight to accomplish whatever task was at hand.

In-game: a spooky mirror flanked candles above a dresser.

Gameplay

The Puzzle Parlour’s Vampire was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, and puzzling.

In-game: Closeup of a broken piece of wood in an old coffin.

Analysis

Vampire was well themed. We appreciated the choice of flooring and the cobweb detailing.

➕ The theme extended to the game clock and the hint system. Both were a part of the experience. There was no TV monitor in this ancient castle; it made a huge difference. The Puzzle Parlour justified the existence of a time-keeping mechanism and hint system.

In-game: a dimly lit room lit by over a dozen candles.

➖ While most of the decor and props made sense in the space, The Puzzle Parlour overlooked a few details that didn’t quite fit in. Also… why was there a small hole in the floor?

➖ Modern 4-digit locks felt out of place in this scenario. Weathered or old-timey key locks would have blended into the environment better. Magical opens would have also felt justified.

➕ Upon reflection, Vampire had a lot of varied, satisfying puzzle solves. One prop revealed some of our favorite cluing. We also enjoyed our vantage point beneath the night sky. Overall, we enjoyed the puzzle play.

➖ There was a low chandelier in the middle of the set. It looked great, but it hung way too low.

➕ One beautiful prop fit well in the castle set and had an unusual and fun input mechanism.

Tips For Visiting

  • Puzzle Parlour has a lovely lobby.
  • Park in their lot and use the app ParkWhitePlains to refill your meter.
  • There is plenty to eat and do in the area.

Book your hour with The Puzzle Parlour’s Vampire, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: The Puzzle Parlour comped our tickets for this game.

Escape Games Canada – Pathogen [Review]

l33t h4x0r

Location:  North York, Ontario

Date Played: May 26, 2019

Team size: 4-8; we recommend 4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $28.32 CAD per player

Ticketing: Private

Emergency Exit Rating: [A] Push to Exit

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

Pathogen was a technology-forward escape game with a lot of interesting things going on (not all of them visible to the player).

From puzzles, to set, to story, this was an all-around solid escape room where no element truly soared above the others, and they all came together well.

In-game: A futuristic lab with a wall of animal test subjects.
Image via Escape Games Canada

Escape Games Canada creates interesting games. Some we love, some we question… but they’ve always been worth experiencing. Their latest game, Pathogen, was no exception. If you’re near Toronto, I absolutely recommend playing Pathogen.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Sci-fi fans
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Really interesting invisible tech (ask your gamemaster post-game)
  • Solid storytelling
  • Solid puzzles
  • Solid set design

Story

We were hackers and social engineers living in a corporatized cyberpunk dystopia. A shadow organization had hired us to break into a company and steal a weaponized virus.

In-game: A super computer surrounded by lasers.

Setting

We’d gained access to the towering headquarters of a major biotech corporation. Their office and lab setting had a slick, futuristic look with blue glow.

While it was both an office and a lab – two settings that I think are pretty tired – Escape Games Canada merged them with a unique aesthetic that made it feel interesting and worthy.

In-game: A hexagon made from multicolored glowing hexagons surrounded by lasers.
Image via Escape Games Canada

Gameplay

Escape Games Canada’s Pathogen was a standard escape room with a variable level of difficulty.

Pathogen automagically tunes the challenge level based on the team’s performance.

Core gameplay revolved around puzzling, observing, and making connections.

In-game: A futuristic elevator with a doorway labeled "Level 1"
Image via Escape Games Canada

Analysis

➕ The opening sequence established a sense of setting, scale, and stakes. The extra details generally elevated the game.

➕ Automated difficulty tuning was really clever. I like that it adjusted without asking the players to self-evaluate their skill level, a thing that most teams cannot accurately do.

In-game: A computer console.
Image via Escape Games Canada

➕ Most of the puzzles had great onboarding, training us in the concept or interactions before hitting us with the real challenge.

➕ For our team, a communication puzzle stood out at the most enjoyable part of the experience.

➕ The middle of the game included a bit of physicality. It wasn’t particularly strenuous, but it was fun to physically engage with the game.

❓ While there were lots of buttons, switches, and screen interactions, there weren’t many props to pick up and handle. Some of the team felt like there was something missing. It didn’t really irk me, but I think that this is a fair criticism. It comes down to what you’re looking for out of an escape game.

In-game: A touch screen with a molecular input.
Image via Escape Games Canada

➖ While it fit narratively, far too many moments centered on checking a computer screen and navigating its menus. All too often someone in the group felt like they were taking one for the team and going to the computer.

➕/➖ There was an interesting and challenging bonus puzzle in the middle of Pathogen. This was conceptually great. In practice, we were stymied by a lack of note-taking implements… and a blind timer that eventually terminated the puzzle. We still had time left at the end of the game, so I wish that we could have managed our own time a little more on this puzzle.

➕ The game had funny moments.

In-game: A futuristic lab.
Image via Escape Games Canada

➕ The vibe of the space did a lot more with an office and lab than we typically see.

➖/➕ Pathogen presented a mostly blind choice and it was frustrating having to choose with little context. That said, Escape Games Canada recovered well in their handling of the story’s conclusion.

Tips For Visiting

  • Parking: Escape Games Canada has a parking lot.
  • Food: There are plenty of food options nearby.
  • Accessibility: There are segments that require at least 2 or 3 players to crawl or exhibit agility.

Book your hour with Escape Games Canada’s Pathogen, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Escape Games Canada comped our tickets for this game.

Doctor Esker’s Notebook [Review]

Surprising Results

Location:  at home

Date Played: June 11, 2019

Team size: 1-6; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: about $15

REA Reaction

Doctor Esker’s Notebook was a low-price, high-quality tabletop puzzle game.

Structured as a deck of cards, it was not overtly fancy or inherently impressive at first glance (and the photos below will prove that.) However, Doctor Esker’s Notebook had it where it counted: it was a brilliant puzzle game with a clever answer mechanism.

The most glaring issues with Doctor Esker’s Notebook was in the onboarding. Given how unusual the solution system was, it needed a better on-ramp to teach us how to play. Once we pushed past the initial confusion, however, we truly enjoyed this game.

If you’re the kind of person who’s on the lookout for smart, well-designed, innovative puzzle games, do yourself a favor and pick up Doctor Esker’s Notebook.

The small card deck sized box for Doctor Esker's Notebook.
The entire game was the size of a deck of playing cards.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Strong puzzle game
  • Inventive mechanics, solutions, and answer verification

Story

Doctor Esker had vanished, leaving behind only his lab notes. We had to piece his work back together and determine his fate.

10 stacks of cards each with different art.

Setup

Doctor Esker’s Notebook had a strange structure. The card backs allowed us to sort the game into 10 piles:

  • 9 stacks of puzzle cards
  • 1 stack of solution cards

We began with the “Start” stack of puzzle cards. Once we had the correct answer, we needed to assemble the solution cards. The assembly of the solution would key us into the next puzzle stack. Repeat until finished.

A QR code labeled "Hints."

It all culminated in a phenomenal final puzzle.

Gameplay

Doctor Esker’s Notebook was a puzzle-focused play-at-home escape game contained within a deck of cards.

It had a higher level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, and puzzling.

Analysis

➕ The no frills aesthetic of Doctor Esker’s Notebook was functional. It wasn’t fancy at all and it felt like a scrapbook. It was hand drawn. It felt like we were puzzling through someone’s mind… in a good way.

➕ Although the puzzles were drawn in the same style, they were enormously varied.

➕ The puzzles were playful and clever. They had funny aha moments. We laughed aloud.

➖ We love wordplay, but we found some of the wordplay in Doctor Esker’s Notebook to be a stretch.

➕ The answer verification system worked really well.

➕ / ➖ If we needed assistance, there was a hint website available. It got the job done. It wasn’t exceptional, but it wasn’t really lacking either.

➖ When we first opened the deck of cards, it was hard to get moving. The instructions weren’t clear enough. We were pretty confused on how the answer verification system was meant to work. Doctor Esker’s Notebook needed refinement in the onboarding process.

➖ We played more than half the game wondering about extraneous information. We eventually realized that we were solving for additional information about assembling a puzzle’s solution. We’d been assembling solutions the hard way. More clear instructions would have eliminated this confusion.

➕ There was no ambiguity as to what to solve when. We always knew we had all the components for the next puzzle. It was always clear when we’d finished a puzzle and how to move on to the next one.

➕ There was no internet connection or app integration needed for this pocket-sized game. We found that freeing.

Tips For Player

  • Space Requirements: a small table or the floor
  • Required Gear: pen and paper

Buy your copy of Doctor Esker’s Notebook, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: Doctor Esker’s Notebook provided a sample for review. 

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale. We appreciate the support.)

AllPlay – Aliens are Attacking [Review]

Welcome to Earth

Location:  at your own venue

Date Played: June 14, 2019

Team size: 1-8; we recommend 3-4

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $1,950 for a company to purchase this for unlimited use

Publisher: Immersive Tech

REA Reaction

AllPlay’s Aliens are Attacking was designed for corporate teams to play in a conference room (either their own, or an escape room company’s). Aliens are Attacking was a good escape game, not just “good for a corporate group.”

The core mechanics of the game work well. The puzzles were interesting, varied, and fun. It engaged multiple people on a small team. The greatest opportunities for improvement revolved around on-boarding and use of character roles.

Various items laid out and our team puzzling.

The success of this game will depend heavily on the set up and presentation of the experience. It’s for that reason that I think it would be best delivered in the conference room of an escape room company, with some theming added to the conference room, and a professional in-character gamemaster at the helm.

The pricing of the game is fair. The content is strong.

  • If you’re an escape room company looking for a way to make some money with your conference room space, this is a strong option.
  • If you’re a corporate group looking for an escape room team building game, this is a great choice that doesn’t require physical mobility or exertion.
  • If you’re an escape room player and this is available to play near you, don’t be scared off by the corporate team building concept. This was a strong escape game that played a little differently.

Who is this for?

  • Puzzle lovers
  • Corporate groups

Why play?

  • Fun puzzles
  • Nifty computer interface

Story

Humanity had called out to other worlds and one of them had answered “surrender.”

With an alien armada approaching we had to analyze and decipher the available information and determine a way to fight back.

The Security Specialist's Documents printed in orange.

Setup

AllPlay’s Aliens are Attacking is not available direct to consumer. This is sold to escape room businesses as a game specifically for play in a conference room-like environment. It required a computer to run the game and a table to spread out the printed materials.

AllPlay does not charge a monthly fee nor have any restrictions in terms of usage. You are truly buying Aliens are Attacking to own it. There is no DRM either.

The software guided the progression of the game and handled all solution verification and hinting. For any truly stuck team, there was a mechanism for bypassing puzzles.

A coordinate entry screen.

Gameplay

AllPlay’s Aliens are Attacking was a location-independent escape game designed for corporate groups to play at their own locations. It would be best played in a conference-room environment. (It would be even better if that setting were appropriately themed.)

It had a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, making connections, puzzling, and figuring out how to interact with the computer interface.

All 3 role documents.

Analysis

➕ As far as corporate team building games go, we think this one has legs. We brought together a group of players who work in corporations of different sizes that bring in different sorts of team building experiences. Everyone agreed that Aliens are Attacking was engaging and would likely play well at their respective companies.

➕ The print design looked good. There were a lot of printed materials and the design was high quality.

➖ It was a lot of work to set this up. Lindsay, one of our regular teammates, took on the role of gamemaster. She played through the game on her own ahead of the group, following the materials. She then printed all the materials at Staples and organized them into labeled folders.

Without a person organizing this on behalf of the group, Aliens are Attacking wouldn’t have run smoothly. We imagine that if this were just handed to some administrator at a large organization, it wouldn’t go well. We strongly urge companies providing this game to send a gamemaster along with the materials.

➖ Aliens are Attacking lacked onboarding. It look us a while to understand how the computer program and the printed materials interacted. We spent a good deal of time at the beginning floundering because we didn’t understand how the game worked. (Our “gamemaster” hinted a bit once she’d laid out the game for us.) Professional gamemastering would mitigate this problem.

➕ Once we understood how this game wanted to be played, the gameplay flowed smoothly. The structure worked well.

➕ The puzzles were interesting and varied. They were satisfying solves.

➕/➖ The computer interface was fun to use. We took turns poking at it. It also took some getting used to. We kept wanting there to be a mouse.

➖ At the beginning of the game, we were assigned “character” roles. These were underused and didn’t add anything to the experience.

➕ The team could skip a puzzle if it proved to be too difficult. After we’d reached a certain amount of time, that option became available. We appreciated how this would give teams of non-puzzlers the opportunity to see the game through to end without building frustration beyond reasonable levels. This factored into a score at the conclusion of the experience.

➕ There were different levels of winning which we think would work well for corporate team building.

Aliens are Attacking was an executable to download and install. No IT person worth their admin credentials would allow a foreign executable onto a company computer. If the game is being played on-site at a company, it should be brought over on a computer with a professional gamemaster.

➕ If this game were hosted in an escape room’s conference room, the setting could be themed to add to the experience.

Tips For Player

  • Space Requirements: a small table
  • Required Gear: color printer for paper documents and one laptop or computer with the following:
    • OS: Windows 10
    • Processor: Core i3 2GHz+
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Intel HD3000 or above
    • DirectX: Version 9.0
    • Network: Broadband Internet connection
    • Storage: 300 MB available space
    • keyboard
    • speakers

Buy your copy of AllPlay’s Aliens are Attacking, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you using the coupon code REA15 to receive 15% off.

Disclosure: AllPlay provided a sample for review and we receive a small commission on any games purchased using the REA15 discount code.

On “Spinning The Last Disk” in an Escape Room [Player Tip]

Rex, one of our top Patreon supporters, asks:

“What do you guys think about opening locks when you have all but one digit discovered (which is easy to do and helps with time) – does it matter? Is it a bit of a party foul? It’s a question that comes up in a lot of rooms.”

This is a recurring question. Our opinions on the subject have evolved quite a bit over our escape room careers.

This is a simple question, but the answer is nuanced.

The Simple Answer

Guessing the last digit (or spinning the last disk) when you think that you’ve solved the rest of a combination is fair play. 

At that point you’re down to a 1 in 10 chance of having the right solution. It’s really more like a 1 in 9 shot because whether you want to or not, you have one digit inputted. Hell… there’s a 10% chance that the lock just falls open because you’re accidentally on the right solution.

Cool. We can call it a post and go home?

Nah… there’s more to this.

Closeup of a stylized combination lock.

The Complex Answer

I’m going to stand by, “spinning the last disk” is generally fine, but I’ll explain why it’s fine.

Then I’ll explore the finer points of how to handle “spinning the last disk.”

Brute Force

Brute force, or the act of guessing solutions until one works, is a tried and true cryptographic technique. Blindly guessing works. It’s just a function of time and probability.

To be clear, brute force is a concept far older than escape rooms. It should not be confused with breaking things.

Probability

On a typical lock, which will have 10 possible digits on each individual disk, the probability of blindly guessing the right solution looks like this:

2 digit lock = 100 number sets

3 digit lock = 1,000 number sets

4 digit lock = 10,000 number sets

5 digits = 100,000 number sets

6 digits = 1,000,000 number sets

Sensibility

In an escape room, you’ve paid for the game. You can choose what to do with your time in the game, within reason.

If you think that spinning the disks on a $10 lock to randomly guess the 1 in 1,000 solution is a smart way to spend $30 for an hour in an escape room, then can I take a moment to rock your world with this 4 pack of combination locks?

I don’t think this makes any sense at all. Guessing against even moderately bad odds is a waste of time.

Spinning a 1 in 10 disk after you’ve already solved the overwhelming majority of the puzzles, therefore having played that aspect of the game… that feels better than fine. That feels logical.

Human existence is complicated, however, so there’s also etiquette to keep in mind.

Etiquette

If I’m inputting the solution into a lock for my team while the solution is being derived, I’m absolutely going to spin the last disk. 100% guaranteed.

How I handle it might vary based on the puzzle, the team, and the circumstances.

Just Open It

If time is running low, or the puzzle is taking too long and I can tell that no one is having fun with it, I’ll just open the thing, announce the last digit to the room, and distribute the new clues.

The same goes for counting/ search puzzles. If we’ve found most of the items and know that the code is close, I’ll fiddle with the disks, adding a number or two on each wheel until the thing opens.

No one I know will be upset about missing out on the opportunity to do a little more searching.

Let The Team Earn Their Solve

If my teammates are working hard on the puzzle and seem to be enjoying themselves, I’ll spin the last disk, quietly open the lock, and then wait until they shout out the right answer before saying, “Great! It’s open,” and distributing the clues to the team.

It’s better to lose a few seconds over a puzzle that you know will be solved than to damage team morale over something unnecessary.

The Finer Points

The bottom line here is that there is a balance between gamesmanship and etiquette.

You should:

  • feel free to spin the last disk.
  • read the room and hold back on announcing the solve if the team is enjoying the puzzle, especially if you’re not feeling time pressure
  • announce the solve to your team and distribute the puzzle pieces among the players

You should not:

  • spend your time randomly guessing blindly on locks that you have no clues to, not because it’s bad form but because it’s silly
  • silently spin the last disk and then quietly leave your team behind

For more on this subject

This is an updated thought process on one of our earliest player/ design tips. I still think that a lot of that post holds up. Feel free to give it a read if this is a subject that you enjoy.

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