Soloing is tackling an escape room all by your lonesome.
While escape rooms are normally a team event, there are opportunities to play alone:
- single-player escape rooms
- escape rooms with solo components, where one or more players are isolated from the team and accomplish a portion of the game without any support
- bold players electing to take on a team game all by themselves, either for the challenge, because they are traveling alone, or because they play at a frequency that their friends and family won’t abide.
It’s this last group that we’re focusing on. In speaking with some of these bold escape room enthusiasts who choose to take on entire team games by themselves, we pulled together the following tips.
1: Speak your thought process
It’s tempting to work through the game silently because when you’re soloing there aren’t any teammates to speak to.
However, there is someone to speak to: your gamemaster.
Soloing a game isn’t just tough on players, it’s tough on the person moderating the game. When a single player is silently puzzling, the gamemaster isn’t getting the feedback they normally receive from chatty teams.
Speaking your thought process will give your gamemaster an understanding of what and how you’re doing. This provides the context that they need to deliver quick and accurate hints.
2: Be experienced
Soloing an escape room is not for newbies. The more knowledge and skill you have going in, the more likely you will be to succeed and have fun.
If you’re struggling to determine how locks, sensors, and standard puzzles work, you’re screwed.
3: Know your strengths & weaknesses, but be prepared to do it all
I have yet to meet the room escaper who loves to handle each and every type of puzzle and task necessary to complete most escape rooms.
Keep your weaknesses in mind throughout the game; you may need to burn a hint to get through those sections.
4: Use your hints
Check your ego at the door and be open to direction from your gamemaster.
Sometimes simply asking the gamemaster to point out what to begin with can save a ton of time. Don’t be coy about asking for assistance, especially when tasks require a lot of eyeballs. You’ll likely derive more satisfaction from solving the puzzles than searching the room, so don’t feel silly asking for help with the menial tasks.
5: You won’t lose due to communication failures
Solo players are operating with a lot of disadvantages, but the potential for communication failures isn’t one of them.
Congratulations, this is literally your only edge as a soloist.
6: Ask if it’s linear or non-linear
While I wouldn’t necessarily ask this going into a game with a team, this knowledge can help the solo player.
In a linear game, you can confidently tackle puzzles as they become solvable. Non-linear games are muddier. Knowing the difference can save you a ton of time.
7: Choose your battles
A strong player can solo their way out of a game made for 2-4 players or even 2-6.
Once you get into the 7-12 player range, the experiences are brutally challenging for a single player. This is amplified in search-heavy games, as one set of eyeballs simply won’t be enough to find everything and puzzle.
If you’re planning to solo, reach out to the company (or your friendly neighborhood reviewer) and ask which games are best suited for individual play.
8: Not every game can be soloed, but sometimes you can puppet
There are games that are impossible to solo; they simply require multiple bodies to take action simultaneously.
You might be able to circumvent this problem by requesting a puppet.
9: Choose your venue carefully
Pick a customer service-focused company that’s willing to work with you.
If a company doesn’t answer their phone or emails, they aren’t customer service-focused.
If a company treats you poorly, don’t bother trying to solo with them.
It’s better if a company outright tells you that they aren’t set up to accommodate your solo game request than if they are dismissive or mean.
10: Ask for an in-game gamemaster
While not every game can accommodate an in-room gamemaster, nor will every company allow for one, having your gamemaster in the room can help a lot.
Without any obstructions to their hearing or vision, they’ll be able to provide hints quickly and accurately.
11: Bond with your gamemaster
While all players should treat their gamemaster well, solo players should strive to bond with them.
Your gamemaster is the only other individual on your team and you’ll likely be relying on them quite a bit.
Be the kind of player that they want to help.
12: Play with people
There’s a time and place for soloing, usually while traveling alone or when games have a solo component built in. However, escape rooms are an inherently social experience.
If you’re a badass puzzler who wants to push their own boundaries, there are far more challenging puzzle books and tangible puzzles that provide many more hours of entertainment for a fraction of the price. (And we’re going to be reviewing more of those soon).
I encourage you to bring along friends and family and share your love of puzzling with them… or reach out through the escape room communities (Facebook & Slack) to meet up with fellow puzzle lovers.
A communal experience is at the heart of escape rooms. I deeply believe that they are best shared with others.
Bring newbies into the hobby, both for the new players and to grow the escape room industry. If you love these things enough to solo them, you probably care deeply about the health and future of the companies that produce these games.
Solo when the escape room demands it. Solo when you literally have no one to join you. Whenever you can, seek out the social experience.