Escape rooms are mushrooming everywhere. Some of these are great while others are a miss. What separates the good ones from the bad ones?
In 2007, Yakshi Shikamo created the first escape room inspired by a video game he saw a friend playing. From that time, escape games have sprung up in Singapore, the US, Europe and other parts of the world. They all try to offer the same things: exciting challenge, mystery, and a sense of adventure. But not all games can successfully meet these goals. The not-so-good ones leave players unsatisfied, hanging. So what are the elements that make an escape room a great experience for you?
A good theme
The very first thing you should see in a good escape game is a theme. This will give you a picture of what to expect once you get to try it. There are many themes: medieval themes, apocalypse themes, World War II, etc. You can be in Singapore and still play a Texas cowboy-themed game.
Every puzzle should somehow conform to the theme and this makes it easier for you to get drawn into the experience. If a game can have a good narrative weaved into it, that makes it all the more fun. It is not engaging to have random clues that seem unrelated. Each challenge should be a part of a larger story.
Humans love the feeling of figuring things out. Your brain gets a dopamine rush whenever you solve a problem and this is why escape rooms and video games can be addictive. But the key is to find a perfect balance. If the challenges are a simple walk in the park, the lack of struggle will make the game boring and unsatisfying. If on the other hand, the room is impossible to escape, you will only be left frustrated instead of being entertained. Of course, not every team should be able to crack all the puzzles but at least 7 out of 10 teams should be successful.
Too much of anything becomes boring. This is a game that has to be fun every step of the way. One caveat is that everything should happen within a well-measured period of time. If the puzzles take you too long to solve, the whole game becomes a bore. It has to be long enough to satisfy your challenge-seeking self but short enough to keep the experience fresh and novel. Once the novelty fades, it becomes a chore.
A sense of teamwork
One of the best parts of escape games is the teamwork involved and the collective sense of achievement that follows a successful escape. If this element is missing, you would not have a really satisfying experience. How does a game designer give you the full teamwork experience? By making sure the puzzles are enough for everyone to work on. The whole game should be designed in such a way that 2 or more people will have something to do every time. But it’s not just the number and size of puzzles you have to consider. The best escape room will have well-rounded challenges that will appeal to a wide spectrum of players. If some people on your team just sit and watch, that’s not team work, is it?