Tip: Finding a Good Room Is Difficult
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Finding a good escape room can be hard. When you started playing escape rooms, you were hooked and played all the rooms close to where you live, but there weren't enough nearby to feed your addiction. So you branched out. You drove farther and visited rooms on vacations. Eventually it got harder and harder to keep track of the rooms that you had played and find rooms that are worth playing.
You probably played a few bad rooms (yes there are many bad rooms) and realized you were going to need to find a reliable way of avoiding bad rooms in the future. You googled rooms and asked friends. You may have used Groupon but quickly realized that's often just a way for bad rooms to stay open.
In my experience, even Google reviews are very unreliable. Some rooms give their players incentives to leave a 5-star review. That makes the rooms look better than they are. Some good rooms don't have very many reviews because they are relatively new or because they haven't done a good job of encouraging their customers to leave a review, and when you look at the comments of people who have left reviews, it quickly becomes obvious that the people who are leaving the reviews really don't know very much about escape rooms. When I first started playing escape rooms, I fell in love and gave every room a 5-star review. When I look back, some of those rooms were actually really bad compared to the good rooms I play now.
To make matters worse, most escape rooms have terrible websites. The language that one room uses to describe its rooms isn't consistent with the terms that other rooms use, and often they use the same terms to mean different things. Their websites don't tell you if their rooms are linear or nonlinear, if they have live actors or not, if their rooms are puzzle heavy, or if they are primarily immersive experiences. There also isn't a universal method of ranking the difficulty or rooms. In fact, I don't really trust any difficulty rating unless the actual success rate is listed, and most rooms don't do that.
Because it's hard to find reliable room reviews, when you book a room, you'll either have to play it safe, book only one room, and risk wishing you had booked more. Or you can book multiple rooms and after playing one wish you had booked less. When I find a good room, I usually play all of the rooms at that location rather than branching out and playing rooms at other locations. If a designer designed a good room, his/her other rooms are probably also good.
Another problem is that escape rooms are often named so similarly that it's difficult to remember which rooms you've already played and which rooms were recommended to you. Escape rooms really need to get better at naming their businesses. The Escape Game, The Escape Room, Escape the Game, Escape the Room, Room Escape, The Room, The Room Escape, Hour Escape, Escape Hour, Zero Hour Escape, 11th Hour Escape, etc. Those are all names of real escape rooms. They all seem to have the same name so it's hard to keep track of which rooms you've played, and it makes it difficult to recommend rooms to other people.
To address these issues, I keep track of rooms I've played, rooms that have been recommended to me, and my bucket list rooms on a Google Sheet. That's not a convenient option, but until the escape room industry grows, that's what I have.
Alex Sima recently surveyed 100 escape room enthusiasts to ask them how they find good rooms. Here are the results of that survey.
Word of Mouth: 29%
Those who rely mostly on reviews usually rely on Google or Yelp for those reviews. There are some apps in production (one is called Morty) that will help players write reviews of rooms, find rooms nearby, find rooms with good reviews, track rooms they've played, create a room wishlist, etc.
Those who rely on word of mouth obviously rely on the feedback of friends to find good rooms, but most of them also rely heavily (or even primarily) on Facebook groups such as Escape Room Enthusiasts and other regional groups. Those who look for a specific theme use Google or Yelp to find rooms then search websites for appealing themes. Those who focus on price often use Groupon. That can work if you find a good room then look to see if that room has a Groupon, but you'd have to get pretty lucky to find a good room solely using Groupon.
Until a good escape room app/website that allows escape room enthusiasts to leave reviews of rooms is developed and widely used, I will continue to ask for suggestion on the Escape Room Enthusiasts Facebook group. It is by far the largest community of escape room enthusiasts, and the active members of that group are fun, insightful, and engaging. You will have to request to join the group, but they are gracious in their acceptance.
There are a few bloggers who post about the rooms they've played, but even though some of those bloggers have played many rooms and leave great reviews, they don't have enough rooms on their lists to reliably use to find the best rooms in every city. Roomescapeartist.com, escroomaddict.com, and escapeauthority.com have great lists of some of the best games in the world, but although they do a great job of updating their lists, rooms are constantly being added. Any list developed by a small group will soon be outdated.