7 of the Most Common Types of Puzzles in Escape Rooms

September 22, 2022 by Nate Martin

With many physical locations, and even more virtual escape room team building options popping up every day, it’s no wonder that people are looking for ways to step up their game. 

Understanding what you’re in for can help you be better prepared to work together as a team and solve the challenges ahead.

Even if you’ve never had the chance to visit one of the 2,000+ locations in the U.S. to experience the team-building event that more and more companies are using as a way to promote employee bonding and creative thinking, you’ve may have seen one in a movie or on TV.

If not, you’re in luck! Below, we’ll break down:

  • What is an escape room (including virtual options)
  • How escape rooms engage and challenge your brain
  • The seven most common escape room puzzles
  • The importance of teamwork
  • How to get started

Ready? Let’s start cracking the code!

What are escape rooms?

It’s dark. You’re trapped in a room. There is a book sitting on a pedestal under a single window, with moonlight illuminating words written in a language you don’t understand. Good thing you have a few trusted companions to help you try to escape!

If this scenario sounds intense, that’s kind of the point. But don’t worry – you’re not actually in danger. You’re just taking part in an escape room, which has become a popular activity for groups of friends, family members, and coworkers looking to test their problem-solving skills under pressure.

Escape rooms are physical games in which players are locked in a space and have to use elements of the room to solve puzzles and find clues that will help them unlock the door and escape the room within a set time limit.

While most escape rooms are designed for groups of four to eight people, some locations offer private rooms for smaller groups or even individual players. And if you’re looking for a socially-distant option, many companies are now offering virtual escape rooms that can be played online with friends or family members who live in different areas.

In fact, Puzzle Break is now offering hybrid solutions that bring a virtual adventure directly to your event. These are perfect for team-building work parties, birthdays, and other special occasions!

A Neuron with Lit Up Neural Pathways Surrounding It

Use your brain to its full extent

The key here is that these aren’t just tasks that can be completed with brute force. The types of puzzles in an escape room will require you to use your brainpower to figure out clues, solve riddles, and work together as a team.

You’ll need to engage in higher-order thinking skills like:

  • Analysis
  • Synthesis
  • Evaluation

And you’ll be using these skills to:

  • Understand the problem at hand
  • Generate possible solutions
  • Determine which solution is the best option given the constraints of time and resources

For example, you might be given a clue like “What has a head but no body, a bed but doesn’t sleep, a mouth but no voice?” and you’ll need to think about the different meanings of words to figure out the answer (in this case, it’s “a river”) and progress to the next task.

In her 2018 column recommending escape rooms to the masses, New York Times columnist Molly Young described them as “scandalously dull to summarize” but goes on to explain that “everything else will suddenly pale in comparison” after you’ve done it just once. 

Her raving letter of recommendation eventually even suggested that a well-crafted experience could be a stand-in for therapy, and compares it to “starring in your own dumb biopic.” 

Sure, she might have been being a tad hyperbolic with her praise – but that doesn’t take away from the fact that there’s something special about being challenged in a way that makes you feel both mentally and emotionally engaged.

Escape room puzzles your team can expect

Perhaps you’re a spy-in-training that needs to track down your professor before time runs out, or trapped in an enchanted forest trying desperately to break a curse. 

School for Spies and The Grimm Escape are just two of our most popular virtual team building escape rooms that can be played from the safety of your home.

But what kind of puzzles can you expect when playing in an escape room? We’ve compiled a list of the seven most common types that you’re likely to encounter.


1. Pattern Recognition

One of the most common puzzle types is pattern recognition, which can take many forms. You may need to find a specific sequence in a jumble of numbers or symbols, spot the odd item out in a series of objects, or identify a hidden image.

This type of puzzle is often used as an introductory challenge because it can be solved relatively quickly and helps players get acclimated to the escape room environment.

For example, there could be a wall of numbers with a few symbols mixed in. Your job would be to find the pattern in the symbols and use that to crack a code.

2. Word Games

Word games are popular in escape rooms because they can be used to create cryptic clues. They often take the form of anagrams, word scrambles, or crosswords.

An example of a word game you might encounter is a clue that reads, “When jumbled, these five letters will spell out the name of an object you’ll need to find in the room.”

3. Riddles

“What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?” The classic riddle of the Sphinx (which is correctly answered “man” in Oedipus Rex) is a great example of how riddles can be used in an escape room.

Riddles can take many different forms, but they all require you to think outside the box to find the answer. You may need to do some research or use lateral thinking to solve them.

4. Logic Puzzles

Logic puzzles are similar to riddles, but often require more critical thinking and problem-solving skills. You may need to use deduction and reasoning to solve these puzzles.

These can often have multiple steps, so it’s important to pay attention to detail and not get ahead of yourself. For example, you may need to figure out how to open a locked box. Once you’ve done that, you may find a series of numbers on the inside. Those numbers may correspond to a code that will unlock another part of the room.

Chalkboard with Writing on It

5. Math Puzzles

Another popular puzzle is the mathematical type. You may need to solve a simple math problem or use more complex algebraic equations. 

Don’t worry! They aren’t so complex as to require a degree in mathematics or anything. These are meant to be solved as a team so that everyone can use their strengths.

6. Sequencing Puzzles

Sequencing puzzles are a type of puzzle where you need to put a series of objects in the correct order. This can be done by arranging items in a specific pattern, or by finding the missing piece in a jumble of objects.

These puzzles often require good observational skills and attention to detail.

7. Physical Puzzles

Physical puzzles are a type that requires you to manipulate objects in some way to unlock the next step. This can be done by moving them around, connecting pieces, or using mechanical skills.

Quite often, this will require several team members to act simultaneously in different parts of the room to make progress.

These puzzles can often be the most frustrating because if you’re not coordinated they can waste a lot of time. But they can also be the most satisfying when you finally figure them out!

Above are just a few of the most common types of puzzles you’ll encounter in an escape room. Of course, every escape room is different, so you may come across some unique challenges as well. The important thing is to work together as a team and use your collective brainpower to solve the puzzles and escape the room!

Hidden objects and teamwork

One of the best ways that escape rooms can slow down a team’s progress is through hidden or difficult-to-find objects. This can be done in several ways, but usually takes the form of requiring a certain item to progress, or having an object that opens up a new area of the room.

This is where teamwork comes into play – by communicating and dividing up the search, you can often speed things up and avoid getting frustrated. Trust us, there’s nothing worse than being stuck in an escape room and not being able to find that one last item!

It might even be something that one team member has already passed over, not believing it relevant. 

Several People Sitting and Looking at Computers Smiling

Building constant lines of communication is the foundation of any successful team, and escape rooms give you a chance to build that skill subconsciously. When you’re focused on winning a game, it doesn’t exactly feel like corporate development.

Sometimes, the lack of communication can also point to an issue that may be present in your workplace – do you have team members who tend to withhold information, or are hesitant to share their ideas? 

These types of problems can be difficult to identify and solve in a traditional work setting, but by playing an escape room together it may become more apparent.

Have fun and come together as a team

Maybe some of the most common types of puzzles in escape rooms interest you, or maybe some of them aren’t your cup of tea. The best part is that you can choose the right room for your group.

Not everyone is looking for the same thing out of an escape room. Maybe you want to be challenged mentally, or maybe you’re just looking for a fun and unique way to spend an evening with friends.

But one thing that all successful escape rooms have in common is that they challenge you to work together as a team. So when you’re trying to think of what to do at your next work event, or don’t have a plan for your next group activity, consider heading over to Puzzle Break and checking out the variety of different options. 

Join us at a physical location, take part in an online experience from home, or even request a hybrid experience to be brought right to your event location!

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