Five adults in a dark escape room with neon paint, smiling and holding up finger guns.
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We did 12 escape rooms in 2 days: Here’s what we learned

Cryptology Sheffield and Cryptology Nottingham joined forces to go on a trip down south to tackle 12 escape rooms in 2 days. Here’s what we took away from it…

Five adults in a dark escape room with neon paint, smiling and holding up finger guns.
We completed Raver Quest at Pier Pressure, Brighton, in just under 35 minutes, and had so much fun doing it

It’s not every day your boss organises a trip away – let alone a fun one. In November, Cryptology Sheffield and Nottingham endured several multi-hour car journeys to do some of the country’s top escape rooms.

Here’s what we learnt:

1. Characters are key

One of our biggest take-aways from the trip was how fun a game can be when introduced by a games master in character. First, we met a raving DJ at Pier Pressure (Brighton) who gave us the exact energy you’d expect from a raver. At Hounds (Crawley), we met a variety of characters, from government agents to moonshine-making hillbillies. At Escapement (Broadstairs and Margate), we met a pirate, an army officer, a miner… and more! Some characters had accents which really made a difference when it was the same Games Master running multiple games. Putting on a costume and striking up banter before a game made even the grumpiest of us (i.e. those who got up at 4am for the train) smile.

My favourite character was Svetlana, a government agent in Questionable Ethics (Hounds) who enlisted us to help her quit her job. We met her adventurous grandmother (who looked strikingly similar) later in the night for Explorer’s Diary. If you love a fully immersive experience, the Games Masters at Hounds are second to none.

2. Set design makes all the difference

Five adults standing in an escape room built like a pirates ship

Over the two days, we got to see some incredibly well designed, well-built rooms. At Escapement Broadstairs and Margate, it was clear that a lot of effort went into the design.

Each room was exceptionally well built and beautifully decorated. In Atlantis and Pirates of Polaris, it was easy to imagine you really were on a submarine or the deck of a ship.

However, it wasn’t just the major elements of the room that added to the atmosphere. Simple additions like fairy lights to look like stars, sand on beaches, water features and smoke from smoke machines were beautiful final touches.

Each escape room we did was extraordinary in both its build and the little details. Southern Discomfort, at Hounds, had some really funny little details added into both the decorations and the room’s build.

So, if you’re building an escape room – don’t forget the little things!

3. Over clueing is worse than under clueing

We’ve always been wary of over-clueing our customers and ruining their experiences – but I’d never realised just how much it can impact a game until this year. In one room in particular, we’d be getting a clue every few minutes with no time to ruminate. It’s an easy trap to fall into – especially for new Games Masters, who want people to get out ASAP, – but players need time to struggle. It can be such a thrill when you ponder something for a few minutes and get that eureka moment – and there’s nothing worse than that eureka moment being ruined by an overly eager Games Master outright giving the answers away.

There’s absolutely no need to clue a team unless they ask, or are going in the complete wrong direction. New Games Masters take note!

4. Don’t be afraid to get tech-y!

Some people, when booking an escape room, get quite frightened by the idea of anything but padlocks. But many of the rooms we did had some element of tech (except the pirate rooms) and it was a really nice touch!

An unexpected lesson from the trip was how cool it is to be the one in charge of the switchboard. Multiple rooms had some sort of control panel or switchboard style puzzle. This handy feature fits into just about any theme of room – from raves to laboratories! There’s just something really satisfying about turning dials, flicking switches and pressing buttons.

If you’re in an escape room with a control panel or switchboard puzzle, make sure you get there before anyone else – it makes you feel very important.

A board with dials, switches and buttons, dimly lit by orange light with a hand turning a dial.

5. Don’t take yourselves too seriously

This applies to both escape room designers and players – don’t take it too seriously! Have fun! While you can tackle serious missions like disarming Nazi weapons or fighting worldwide pandemics (too soon?), it’s never a bad thing to add a splash of humour. Rooms which get you laughing are often the most memorable – Southern Discomfort being particularly notable. From start to finish we were laughing at and with the Games Master, and luckily the hilarity didn’t distract from the fantastic puzzles. Similarly, Raverquest at Pier Pressure was full of little 90’s references and funny videos.

If you’re bringing a team to an escape room anytime soon, make sure you bring people you can laugh with!

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