Lock a group of people in a room filled with mysterious devices and the police will have more than a number of questions for you. Make them pay money for the experience, however, and you get one of the newest trends sweeping the world – escape rooms.
Each room comes with a story and a series of puzzles you need to solve before time runs out. It’s like being in a videogame without being able to hit reset or look online for a handy walk-through. If you are still scratching your head over the whole idea, check out Felecia and a couple of her friends take on an escape room in The Flog.
Juliana Patel and Ariel Rubin, two Escape Room experts, loved the games but hated the effort of making it happen. So they made their own. The Escape Room in a Box combines everything that the two love about working through puzzles and following stories, but just so happens to leave out the hassle of having to find a good location. For their first game, The Werewolf Experiment, players will have only an hour to discover a cure to their budding lycanthropy before leash laws kick in.
The box of mysteries will remain just that until you pry open the lid in hopes to be cured of your new found full body fur coat. We did, however, dive deep into the minds of the creators to find out what it takes to make the perfect Escape the Room game. The creators put together five things every game needs for everyone to have a fun time, even if you don’t make it out alive.
1. Everyone should able to play the whole time.
Everyone has that friend who will tell them what to do and how to work through all the puzzles their way. In board games, we refer to that as “quarterbacking,” where someone is yelling out moves. In the realm of Escape Rooms, it’s called “just plain rude.” Keep everyone busy working on multiple puzzles is our designers’ answer to the problem. Give the group a chance to break up and work on different problems so no one person can try to run the whole game.
2. Everything has a purpose.
Sometimes, you can stare at a picture for hours or keep twenty different items in your pocket, only to find out at the end that you didn’t need to waste time or have to carry around that ticket stub for the entire game. (I swear, those numbers were going to mean something later on!) Our escape room team points out that the best experiences come from puzzles leading from one to the next in a natural flow. There are no extra pieces or dead ends to worry about when you know exactly where you need to go or do next.
3. Innovative use of elements.
Keys go into locks. Books go into alphabetical order. We all get it. The best puzzles are clever, imaginative, and do something a little unexpected while still being solvable. The best puzzles are ones that are not only fun to solve, but also give you a little bit of the story along the way.
4. Good level of difficulty.
Too hard and you’ll quit the middle of it. Too easy and you don’t feel like it’s worth your time. A good puzzle rides the edge of being tough but solvable. The developers of Escape Room in a Box kept the win rate to about 50% within the first hour. While this might make it a little easy for some, it’s still proving hard for those who don’t regularly go to escape rooms. You need to find that right balance or give people the option for tougher rooms if they happen to be escape room masters.
5. Striking that balance different types of puzzles.
Maybe word puzzles are not for you. Perhaps you and the order of operations aren’t friends. It’s quite possible that you just can’t remember the location of all the European countries on a map. Chances are that you are good at something. A good escape room allows everyone a chance to shine or add something to the team. Even if all you can do is find a key or point out a clue, you at least feel like you are adding your two cents to the team effort. And really, where would they be if you didn’t happen to open that envelope and read out those clues?
This might not get you any closer to getting that cure, but you get a taste of what’s in store for you for when you pull back the lid to that box. If you are curious about Escape Room in a Box, you can head on over to their Kickstarter right now to find out more information. Maybe this will be the year that you make it out an escape room before the buzzer sounds.
Feature Image Credit: Escape Room in a Box