Inevitable and practically finite, an Escape Room can only hold you “captive” for 60 minutes. In that time you need to collect evidence, solve puzzles, get swept up in the mystery and at the same time, make sense of everything else going on.
Every escape has a story.
So like the true detectives of pop culture and real life, let’s unravel the plot together:
Before establishing anything else, you have to think about the theme of the room. Is the wall littered with WWII paraphernalia? Or have you just stepped into a shiny, high-tech bank vault?
Spies, pirates and even serial killers could all be part of the theme. It’s what connects all the clues together and adds to the adventure!
With that in mind, the theme is as important as the plot. Not only will the puzzles and clues reflect the theme, but it will also help you discover more.
If you’re in the middle of a Victorian police cell, it is unlikely that you are going to need a blacklight to read invisible ink. So, think about the theme and what is more likely to fit the scenario.
Dissecting the plot
Imagination will get you far in an Escape Room. I mean, they are one of the most creative experiences out there after all! To understand the plot, you need to think about the room itself.
Consider why you are locked in the room in the first place. What’s your objective?
Are you part of a heist? Do you need to unlock a vault and carry away the bounty? Or, do you need to uncover a murder plot, and save the target before they too run out of time?
That’s where the theme comes back in. Navigate the game with the knowledge you have been given. It will help you find the clues and puzzles quicker than going in blind.
Now that you’ve started connecting the plot with the theme, what are the consequences if your team fails?
Can’t defuse the detonator? Will a bomb go off? Is the prisoner you are trying to exonerate going to go to the electric chair? Or, do you need to help someone escape that’s on the outside?
Motivation to triumph and beat the room is made all the more critical when you have a time limit. What is the cost if you lose?
Figuring out the unexplainable
A criminal mastermind has locked you and your unsuspecting teammates in a dingy backstreet office. Only you can string together the clues he has left behind unintentionally to make your escape and put him behind bars for good.
Some mastermind he is!
Outwitting your would-be assassin or uncovering a plot to capture a Russian princess is only possible if you can work out what all the clues are for. Explaining the unexplainable is not as difficult as you think.
So, look for the explainable first. Which clues match the story? The padlock on the cabinet clearly has a key. Find it!
Not sure where it is? You’re in a 1940s detectives office. There is an old Grandfather clock along the wall, a jacket on the seat and a briefcase hidden under his desk. Use your imagination and get searching.
Suspend your disbelief
There’s no better way to make sense of an Escape Room’s plot than suspending your disbelief. You’re playing a game! So, play like you mean it!
Evidence is often hidden in plain sight. So, don’t overthink it.
If you are standing in an early 19th Century train carriage and you know that you need to unlock a safe before time runs out, you are clearly not looking for a modern-day lock and key situation.
Found a pile of books? Sift through them! Is there a page that stands out? Or added pen marks on the spine or in the cover?
See the wonky picture frame on the wall? Go look at it. What is it covering up? What does the picture show you? Is it relevant to the plot?
Look for the familiar too. Escape Rooms like to play with what you know—basing a story in something instantly recognisable and yet different from what you have seen before. So, suspend your disbelief and get stuck in!
Lost the plot? Finding meaning and evidence in a story is like watching your favourite crime drama and working alongside the detective. You can do it!