Ok so I could have written this in a vey industry friendly, positive and constructive way but instead I chose to follow in the footsteps ( do they even have feet?) of my two favourite muppets. Yes, sorry, I chose Statler and Waldorf. In the words of Peter Griffin I wanted to tell you what really grinds my gears when it comes to escape rooms. Now since I really love escape rooms, good ones that is, I found it difficult to come up with 10 so I enlisted the help of the antipodean Puzzle Queen, Nicole. Nicole is the one on the left by the way.
Number 1 – Brick Wall Paper. Ok so in the grand scheme of things maybe this doesn’t deserve top spot but I just hate it. If you want a wall, build one (Yes I am doing that in the style of Donald Trump). But seriously this speaks to the heart of what immersion is. (Me)
Number 2 – Clues given by people entering the room. Ok yes, this is a non existent problem in the west but quite common in Asia. A handful of games are changing this odd practice but not enough. I suppose I would add to this clues being given at the beginning of a game because no one can work it out without help. The is by very definition a bad puzzle. (Nicole)
Number 3 – Book wall paper. Let me ask you this, have you ever seen an ordinary room with wall to wall coverage of books. Even in a library you don’t find this. It really doesn’t take much to think of a creative way of dressing a room without resorting to a picture of what you want to display on wall paper. It’s lazy (Me)
Number 4 – Clunky puzzles. These are puzzles that don’t quite line up, they are puzzles that require matching something that doesn’t actually match but is considered right. A clock puzzles where the hands fall half way between numbers… is it 5 or 6? I can’t tell you how many times I have played a game, worked out the puzzle first time and then spent 10 minutes trying other permutations because the correct answer is temperamental. Sometimes this is wear and tear but more often than not it is just bad room design. (Nicole)
Number 5 – Rooms set outside. Before you think all I care about is aesthetics let me explain. In an escape room you want people to fell like they are actually in the place the room is set. Why set things outside making things harder for yourself. To create the illusion of being outside you need money and skill. I have rarely found this combination. A couple of pot plants and vine leaves up the wall don’t distract from the recycled dropped ceiling tiles. Use your environment to is advantage. (Me)
Number 6 – Games that overly rely on memory rather than logic. Probably a controversial one this. If you won’t give out a pen or paper don’t be surprised if people use their phones. You have to respect the room sure and yes you have to respect the rules but being able to retain 10 numbers in your head at once’s isn’t fun and I don’t want to play. (Nicole)
Number 7 – Laminated clues. Picture it, you walk into a perfectly fashioned Victorian living room, you open the mahogany desk and find a laser printed map that has been laminated within an inch of its life. I get that laminating preserves the life of a prop but seriously once a month printing 12 maps, staining them with tea and then crumpling them up goes a long way to help suspend disbelief. Laminating is lazy. (Me)
Number 8 – Overly complicated story lines. I suppose it depends on your definition of complicated but I really like a story line that permeates the Puzzle world. Sometimes I think Nicole would be happy with just one big puzzle room like the white room. We can just lock her away happily working through one unrelated puzzle after another.
Number 9 – Death by padlocks. Pretty obvious really but I have to say I am started to feel death by electromagnetic mechanisms too. Let’s have balance and variety.
Finally 10 – Rooms that feel like they have been put up in haste because the owner has read an article about how lucrative escape rooms can be and, since they have played one once they think it will be a quick way to earn a few quid. To those people I say this… Walk a mile in the shoes of those owners who have poured out their very souls into a room to ensure customers have the best game play possible. Bad rooms hurt everyone. It’s not like a restaurant, a bad experience means you never go back but you don’t stop eating out. Bad rooms can put new people off for life.
Nicole is the one on the right