People always ask us, “What is your escape rate?” It’s usually around 30%, but varies a bit month to month. The reality, though, is that while our rooms are challenging, we want you to win and strive toward having a 100% escape rate. There’s a big misconception that an escape room is trying to trick you into failing in the hopes that you’ll come back and try again, but statistics show that less than 1% of people ever re-play the same room. I know other escape rooms enjoy being unnecessarily difficult, boasting about 1% escape rates, but we know that you want to win and we want to help as much as we can. Unfortunately, there are some things outside of our control that may prevent your escape. Let’s talk about those things.
Here are 10 tips for winning the escape rooms at Pandora’s Locks:
1. Go with people you know and whom you are comfortable with. Corporate groups and birthday parties almost never do as well as groups of families or friends. If you are in a group of people you don’t know very well or you were dragged there by your boss and aren’t really “into it”, relax and enjoy the ride. Our puzzles aren’t meant to make you feel stupid, and if you aren’t confident enough to solve things with the team, help in other ways by searching the room or keeping track of items. Keep a positive attitude, find a way to be useful, and definitely chime in if the team is stuck and you have an idea that no one has mentioned. You may very well be the hero of the moment.
2. Communication is key. You and your teammates absolutely need to talk to each other. Call out the things you find, and listen to everything and everyone. Usually one or two “alphas” will take lead on the room, and while they may be the most experienced, or smartest, or best organized, that doesn’t always make them right. If you have kids with you, listen to them, as they often see things from a different perspective. Puzzle solving is about gathering information and deducing how to use it, and if one player has some information and another player has the rest, nothing will be solved unless they share with each other.
3. Don’t rush, and pay attention. Too often people follow a typical escape room pattern where they search for everything, pile it together, get overwhelmed, then get distracted from the most obvious things. The faster people try to beat a room the less they think about what they’re doing. Stop looking at the clock – you have lots of time. Pay attention to everything. If you don’t listen to the Game Master or any recorded audio or video because you’re frantically hurrying, you will have no idea what’s going on. Take a step back, look around, and actually think about what’s going on in the world you inhabit. Escape rooms are meant to be immersive, not just a series of puzzles – often the answer isn’t written anywhere but in your mind, so give yourself time to stop and think about it.
4. Try everything twice, especially if all signs point to something being the right answer. It doesn’t hurt to get someone else to try something a teammate said didn’t work. People occasionally figure out the right answer but may make a mistake typing in a code, spell something wrong, not plug something in all the way, or miss something small. This can lead them to think their guess is incorrect. Don’t hesitate to try something yourself, just in case.
5. Use your hints. We have automated hint systems incorporated directly into our room themes, and if you need help outside of that don’t hesitate to flip “the switch”. Additionally, we will push a hint on you if you get stuck for too long early in the game, as you may not know that you’re stuck. We want you to play the whole room, not just the beginning. If you’re stuck for too long, or you’re getting frustrated, use a hint. There is no penalty, everyone uses them, and it doesn’t make your win any less rewarding. Plus, you may find something humourous hidden within them.
6. Believe in magic. You won’t find many locks here in spite of our name. Instead you’ll find some cool tech hidden in plain sight that operates like magic, but you need to believe. Experienced players are likely familiar with RFIDs, reed switches, and a limited selection of cool sensors they’ve experienced at other places, but be prepared for things you may have never seen before. Technology is changing and things that you expect would have to be manually triggered by a staff member can now be controlled by tech. Most of the tech used in a room isn’t mind-blowing by any means, but it may be new to you and it will only get more interesting with our future room redesign plans. Never think that something won’t work just because you’ve never seen it and don’t know how it could.
7. Think outside the box, but don’t over-think everything. Often the solution is in plain sight, or is something you need to think up on your own. Enthusiasts used to matching symbols to letters, using complicated math, or converting random things into 4-digit combinations need to put those things behind them. If something doesn’t make sense, it probably isn’t right. Look around, listen, and read everything carefully, the answers are right there, right in front of you, and are usually considerably less complicated than you’d expect.
8. Don’t drink or use drugs. I shouldn’t really have to include this as a tip, but there are always people who think a room will be more fun if they have a few drinks, smoke a few joints, or use some form of psychedelic before their game. We’re not here to judge your choices in life, but we are here to tell you that if you drink or use drugs before your game, you’re gonna have a bad time. You need your brain at peak efficiency, and if it isn’t you will end up feeling stupid, breaking things, staring at simple tasks that you can’t comprehend, distracting your team, and generally ruining everyone’s good time. We reserve the right to not allow you to play in those conditions, so save that stuff for after the game.
9. Search everywhere, but don’t break things to do it. Sometimes things are hidden in plain sight, sometimes they are slightly hidden just outside of plain sight, but nothing is intentionally placed in or behind something that would require you to move furniture, force something open, or take anything off the wall. If you see wires, don’t pull on them. If there’s stuff on the wall, don’t remove it. If you happen to see something that you can’t get to, you aren’t meant to have it yet and forcing yourself to get it will just end up distracting you from the task at hand. Whatever items you find, be sure to keep them organized so everyone knows which items are available and which have been used.
10. Have fun. Don’t consider your room a challenge, consider it an experience. Instead of forcing yourself to struggle against the room, allow yourself to enjoy the ride and become one with the situation at hand. Branch out from your group to explore, look at puzzles the others aren’t, and try not to clump around one person doing a task if they’ve “got it” when there are other things going on in the room. Just remember that you are not being judged on your ability, you are playing a game with your friends.
Hopefully these tips will assist you and your team with your next game. They may or may not apply to other escape rooms in Vancouver, but they definitely apply to Pandora’s Locks. The destination is always the same (the lobby), so enjoy the journey along the way.
Brian Hughes - January 2018