The degree of difficulty is a very common question we get about escape rooms. Perhaps on the surface, this seems like a seemingly innocuous question, but really there are a lot of factors that come into play.
Puzzles come in many forms. Think about puzzles you enjoy compared to the people you know. There is a good chance that all of these puzzles are different from one another. Your parents might like jigsaw puzzles. Your friends may prefer logic problems over sudoku or may even crosswords. In the same vein, just because you may be good at picross doesn’t mean you’ll be very good at figgerits. It’s also likely that some of these puzzles are enjoyed over others because of how naturally difficult you may find one in comparison to the other. We all think in different ways, right?
The same is true for escape rooms. Every company will offer different themes and designs which makes every experience unique. It’s also important to keep in mind that these differences (and similarities) can be seen as you do locked rooms in different cities and parts of the world. This philosophy can be seen at Escape Ops where we want to make sure our games are very different from one another in the way they play. Hyperspace, for example, has lots of operational tactile puzzles that require reading instructions and manipulating buttons, levers, switches and valves. We also designed it specifically to accommodate large groups both in size and gameplay. Meanwhile, Shrine features no traditional letter, number, or directional locks and as a result, requires players to think more outside the box to complete their objective. Shrine is our latest game which utilizes our experience in the previous 3 games to design something that reflects the evolution of escape games.
Now, back to the question of difficulty. All this post has told you thus far is that there are different kinds of difficulty and people, unsurprisingly, may find some puzzles more difficult than others simply based on the nature of the puzzle. But where does the escape room rating come from? Sudoku puzzles came with rankings of beginner, intermediate, hard, and expert – why not escape rooms?
Well, much like sudoku puzzles they do. Some may classify the difficulty by how long to do a puzzle, but a puzzle that yields a 30-digit sequence can have the same difficulty level as one that yields a 50-digit sequence, the 50-digit sequence one just might take longer. Rather, the difficulty comes from how many clues are present within the room itself. A number of little nudges may have been integrated into the games to make them easier and are there to set you on the right path. Sometimes there’s a built-in tutorial to the puzzle to allow players to see how it works before attempting a more challenging version or completing it on their own. To make the room harder, these clues are just taken away. Think of an easy sudoku puzzle compared to a hard one. The rules haven’t changed, and neither have the numbers. The only thing that has is the amount of numbers within the grid. Therefore, it makes it more difficult to figure out where certain numbers may go or one may need to utilize advanced tactics they’ve developed through previous sudoku puzzles to help them figure it out. The same is true of escape rooms.
Of course, like any puzzle, escape room puzzles may just be more intuitive to some than others which is why the difficulty level should be taken with a grain of salt. Just because the difficulty is ranked as intermediate doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will rank it as intermediate themselves. Instead, we recommend that you focus on your own experience and not compare yourself to others because there are lots of factors as to why a different team would rank it differently. Perhaps they had a larger team size, or perhaps they had greater communication skills, or they had more experience, or the puzzles just simply made sense to them immediately. It has nothing to do with intelligence level or how smart one might be, just how good their problem-solving may be in a particular area. With that, I’ll leave you with this: my hardest puzzle may not be your hardest puzzle and that’s perfectly okay.