Not every room and game has to have a strong narrative component. A story helps sell the immersion, but there’s always suspension of disbelief as to why certain things are locked up, or why clues are littered across the room in such a perfect manner. One room I enjoyed (and have on my recommendations list) is the Black room at Escape Zone. Superficially, the story is that your group has been kidnapped (presumably by a serial killer who will finish you off at the end of your time limit). This never really comes into play, and that’s fine. You can still have a fun room without a story.
I got to thinking – Without the constraints of a story, what would be a fun novel aspect to focus on? I came up with the Quiet room. The idea behind the Quiet room is that you have to communicate without speaking (or making noise in general!). In the same way that escape rooms with laser mazes give you time penalties, making too much noise in the Quiet room will also incur you a time penalty.
Players will know the premise of the theme going in. The first room they encounter will be padded to make the room sound proof. This soundproof room is more or less a planning room where players can return to if they find themselves desperate to talk to one another without being penalized.
The second room is where the actual game would be. On each of the four walls will be a screen that displays an equalizer graph. Whichever direction a player looks, they should be able to casually see the monitors. Whenever a player makes any noise, it will be real-time reflected on the monitors via speakers placed throughout the second room.
Some fun things to put in the second room:
1) Rather than a laser maze, I want taut string and bells!
This is Catherine Zeta Jones in the movie Entrapment, for readers not old enough to recognize the scene. The idea is if they touch a string or bell, it’ll ring, making enough sound to penalize the players. I imagine this would be logistically easier to setup than lasers as well. The laser setup requires lasers and one sensor for each laser to receive them. Whereas with the hypothetical Quiet room, you only need a certain amount of microphones throughout the whole room. Damaged lasers would be harder to repair than just having a ball of yarnon hand too. Players can also work together to neutralize the bells (just by holding the clappers) while another player is bypassing that string.
2) You definitely gotta have immovable puzzles that result in funny miming. For example, your standard ‘translation’ puzzle becomes more fun if symbols were instead replaced with pictures that would need to be charaded. One player might be inputting the code to a lockbox that’s immovable. He has a small sheet of paper showing symbols representing numbers (eg. a Bird might represent the number 3). Across the room, his team mate finds the code, and starts to give the first number (3) by flapping his arms like a bird.
3) As the game progresses, players will unlock items that might help with non-verbal communication. It might be a marker with a piece of paper (that only has enough space to be used a certain number of times). It might be flashlights (just so you can wave it over other players when you want their attention). I’m also fond of the idea of having a tin-can telephone. It would definitely make parts of the game easier, but you can still only communicate between two people/locations at one time.
4) Because of 2), taking some pictures/video might be a fun gift for players. Since you control the design of the game, you could easily have a camera facing the spot people would have to mime from.
There’s my story-less Quiet room! I’d want to keep the game light-hearted, and the puzzles wouldn’t be very difficult.
What kind of room would you want to see out there? Email me at EscapistTO@gmail.com and let me know