What Makes An Escape Room Challenging? (Pt.2)


February 2022

Last week, we talked about how there are a couple of different things that can make an escape room challenging – specifically how design contributes to the difficulty of a room. Today, we’ll go over a different side of what can make an escape room difficult: game formats. In other words, the way that an escape episode is setup. 

Before we get into it, if you haven’t checked out part 1, you can do that here → PART I: Challenging Escape Rooms. You can also find a couple of hints on certain episodes in that post.

Out of the 30 escape rooms I’ve done, there are two major game formats that I have observed that increase the difficulty of escape rooms – non-linear and communication-based escape rooms. What do those even mean? Let’s see!

Non-linear vs. Linear
Linear and non-linear are terms commonly used to describe the order in which puzzles come in an escape room. A linear room has puzzles that must be solved in a specific order to continue moving forward and eventually escaping. Non-linear escape rooms are usually more difficult because the puzzles can require more than one clue that will reveal a puzzle piece that opens a lock. It sounds a little complicated, but it really isn’t. 

Communication-based formats
Well, this is confusing. Aren’t all escape rooms communication-based? Yes, absolutely. So how does an escape room fall under the communicated-based format? Well, let me tell ya. 

Imagine your group of 6-8 people is split into two smaller groups playing the same escape room but entering a completely separate room from each other. Yeah, and you thought communicating in the same room was difficult. In these types of escape rooms, groups are given a means of communicating with each other (ex: walkie talkies, phone, etc.), or the room is designed to do so (ex: through slats in the wall or unlocking cutouts on the door). Usually, these rooms are set up where clues that are in one room, unlock the puzzles/locks in the other room, and vice versa. 

This type of format requires groups to communicate effectively and precisely, even more so than another escape room, because you can’t progress in the room unless you are communicated the right clues! Even when the puzzles themselves are not necessarily difficult, people have a hard time accurately describing clues to each other to solve them. 

We have a couple of episodes formatted in this way: Taken (available at our Sacramento and Southlake locations), Warriors Way (available at our PlanoConcord, and OKC Chisholm Creek locations), and Time Machine (available at Fort Worth and OKC Chisholm Creek).  

So if you are ready to take on the challenge, try calling ahead to the escape room you’re interested in visiting or come by and see us!

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