Escape Game – Puzzle Guidance

(sorry that example puzzle section was getting far too long!)

Here’s some general puzzle tips that I think you should adhere to:

  • Don’t create any puzzles that need outside knowledge.  Players should be able to solve every puzzle using the information presented to them
  • Don’t include any red-herrings.  Generally this is a good idea (every game piece should have a purpose in a traditional Escape Room) – however in a museum setting it’s going to be confusing enough with the vast numbers of museum objects in the venue.
  • Make puzzles simpler than you anticipate (playtesting helps).
  • Give extra hints as to where players should go next.  You have a much larger space than an Escape Room and players with need some signposting.  One idea might be to colour code / or add a symbol to anything associated with the Escape Game.
  • Don’t create puzzles that require the items to start in a particular state (layout).  When players arrive at a new puzzle they will immediately start picking up pieces and then forget where they have been taken from.  They will not remember where their original locations were.
  • Keep Maths puzzles simple or avoid entirely.  In larger teams you’re more likely to have someone who enjoys spending some time on a detailed maths challenge – but the majority of people are going to be frustrated by them.
  • Players like souvenirs – don’t have anything so small that it can be slipped into a pocket.  Tie everything down if you can.
  • Create spares!  As well as people taking pieces accidentally or deliberately – objects get damaged.  Plan for this and create spares of everything.
  • Consider how you explain the ‘game bounds’ to your player.  When players begin a game they don’t know what the limits of the world are.  Typically they will start by pushing these boundaries.  As soon as part of the game is accessed by a particular operation you are extending the limits of the world and what you are saying is okay for players to do.  If you hide a clue poking out from behind a picture frame – you’re saying to the player that things are hidden behind objects and now it is reasonable to take every object off the wall to hunt for more clues.
  • Also a reminder that you will probably want to use puzzles that have minimal reset or entirely self-resetting.  I suspect there might be a variation where you fill your locked container with identical items and instruct players to only remove one item.  While it does slightly break the immersion it might be a nice compromise between real physical objects and the ability to reset the game cheaply (i.e. in batches).

And remember: You are not completing with the Escape Room industry – they will have bigger budgets and more time than you do.  They can craft highly memorable experiences involving incredible immersive rooms.  Your advantage is that you already have a fantastic existing space to work with filled with amazing objects that you will guide your players around.

What Next?

Let’s go back and look at some example puzzles we can use in our games.