Making The Best Puzzles Props and Effects

In another life far far away I graduated Humber college film school in Toronto. I always remember  a teacher saying that you can dress up a movie with the very best special effects and top rated acting all you want but if the script is bad there is nothing that will save it. The same is true of next generation escape rooms. Fancy technology and realistic sets will not hide a stupid puzzle that makes little of no sense or does not fit the theme of the scenario. The puzzles also set the speed and pace of the room. Next generation escape rooms are all about the entertainment, they are not meant to be a high school final exam. A perfect escape room is to have 98% of the guests escape within 4 minutes of a complete hour.  I design the rooms to get more and more exciting at the end so we want everybody to escape. Protocol is a perfect example of this. The Puzzles are paced to be quick at the beginning and a bit slower in the middle than fast at the end so guests are typically a bit out of breath but cheering when they escape the final door.  Add amazing realistic props and mind blowing effects and you have a winning next generation escape.

“Audiences are harder to please if you’re just giving them special effects, but they’re easy to please if it’s a good story.” … S Spielberg

What makes the best escape room puzzles props and effects :

  • They must fit in to the over all theme of the room. The original submarine in Atlantis started as nuclear powered and several puzzles were created with that in mind  but it did not fit the timeline of the story and also steam punk is way more cool so four perfectly good puzzles props and effects were replaced with ones that fit and did not ruin the atmosphere.
  • The puzzles must set the pace for a beginning middle and end of the movie/escape. I designed the first challenges to be very easy to get even the most novice of players doing something fun right off the bat. Then the hardest puzzles are in the middle to give the guests a chance to take a breather and really get into the scenario. And finally at the end get them frantically solving fast paced puzzles while time is running out and they come out cheering just in the last seconds of the hour.
  • Don’t make stupid hard puzzles and brag about the low success rate of the room. That was the old way and too many escape room businesses still embrace that ideology but at Ichabods we want you to have fun not make ourselves feel superior because nobody can get out of our rooms.
  • Use the props and effects to completely immerse the guests in the escape. Not many guests can tell that as they progress through my Pipes and a Princess escape room that the lighting changes and the sounds get more intense. Effects and props add to the overall atmosphere of the room and should be almost subconscious in the way they create the overall next generation experience.
  • Involve as many people as possible in solving the puzzle and make it big enough for everyone to see. That is one of the many problems with bad escape rooms that have padlocks key locks and combination locks. They are tiny and only one person can open them. Almost all of the puzzles in Atlantis will need at least 4 people to solve. And in fact one will require every guest in the game to work together or it won’t solve. As it says in our corporate/birthday room… “Teamwork makes the dream work”.
  • Avoid long boring  explanations of how a puzzle is to be played. I hate laminated plastic paper  and while it is still in some parts of my rooms I try and make it as clear and to the point as possible. The guests do not want the read paragraphs of fruitless words when a well designed puzzle should be intuitive and not need an explanation.
  • Finally a great escape room puzzle prop and effect makes magic happen. It’s not really that fun to open a padlock and find another paper clue but if you and your friends change the order of rocks in a cave and a secret passage opens and the walls change colour and the music plays a rock anthem , that’s funtastic (my word).

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