To successfully conquer the challenges of an escape room, you and your team will need to be prepared to solve a wide variety of codes and locks. While each escape room is unique in design and theme, most of them incorporate several common types of locks and puzzles, and understanding the fundamentals of how they work can save you precious time and effort when the clock is ticking. Here’s what you can expect to encounter in your next escape room encounter in terms of codes and locks.
Key Codes and Locks
Padlocks that open with a key are the simplest and most common type of lock used in an escape room. Keys are frequently hidden inside or underneath other objects; be sure to check under shelves and drawers for a key taped to the underside. Once you’ve used the key to open the lock, either place it in a previously identified location for used clues or leave it in the lock so one of your teammates doesn’t find it later and waste time trying to use it on other locks.
Numerical Codes and Locks
Similar to key locks, locks that open with number codes also frequently appear in escape rooms. They may be a padlock with a series of number dials or switches on them, or they may have a keypad for entering the correct code. To figure out the combination of numbers that cracks the lock, you’ll probably have to collect other clues around the room or use basic math to solve it.
Word locks are virtually identical to number locks, except they use a series of four to six letters instead of numbers to open the lock. To figure out the correct word, you may have so solve a puzzle or find the word hidden elsewhere in the room.
Directional Codes and Locks
You may see a directional lock for the first time when visiting an escape room, since these aren’t commonly used in everyday life. They can also be one of the most challenging locks to open. Directional locks require a code like “up-down-right-left” or “north-west-east-south,” and you’ll have to search the room to find the combination of directional clues that fits. Make sure you clear the lock by pressing on the arch twice before attempting to enter your code, or you may be unsuccessful in getting it open—even if you have the correct directions.
Puzzles that can be solved using basic math skills are common in escape rooms. Don’t worry if you didn’t excel in high school calculus—these challenges are designed so that players of all ages and skill levels can conquer them. At most, you may need to add a few large numbers or break out your multiplication tables, but it’s most likely you’ll have to solve a series of easy problems in a specific order, so leave your graphing calculator at home.
Expect to encounter at least one—but more likely several—logic-based puzzle in your escape room. These puzzles are often used to lead players to clues or codes that open locks or solve larger puzzles. Logic puzzles may require you to group related objects, count identical items or answer riddles or word problems.
Mechanical puzzles work through physical manipulation of objects within the room. These can be tricky to identify, since they don’t always involve an obvious clue like a lock or a code. For example, you may have to reorder books on a shelf, use mirrors in the room to get a different viewpoint or swap the locations of several items. A correct solution may yield a key or code, but it may also result in a secondary action that moves you forward in the game.
Codes and Ciphers
Codes and ciphers in escape rooms are often used to enhance the game’s theme. They may incorporate familiar codes like Morse code or binary code, or they could involve a more complicated custom code developed by the escape room operator. This cheat sheet of commonly-used codes may be helpful as you prepare for your escape room outing, but keep in mind that the game could use an obscure code or a completely new one.
This list of locks and codes can give you some sense of what to expect when you visit an escape room, but keep in mind that it’s in no way comprehensive. The best escape games use a combination of both familiar and novel locks and codes to challenge players without being completely impossible to solve within the given time limit. Use this information to guide your thinking when you approach the game, but stay flexible and don’t be afraid to think outside the box.