Padlock 101

By Nicole Drucker

One of the most popular puzzles you’ll find in escape rooms is one that requires you to figure out the combination to open a lock. Many different types of locks exist, and due to their popularity within escape rooms, don’t be surprised if you come across a type of lock you’ve never seen before! However, being faced with an unfamiliar type of lock can become a major setback. Even if you have the correct solution, the lock itself can inhibit you from progressing further throughout your room. In order to ensure this doesn’t happen for you, we’ve compiled a list below of the most common types of locks you may encounter, and how they work.

Vertical Lock

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iGotTech Heavy Duty Gym Lock: 4 Digit Combination Padlock


This lock is likely what you’re most familiar with. You may find this lock with either numbers or letters. The standard solution is 4 numbers or letters, but they may also come with 3. The tricky part is knowing which side of the lock to line up the solution. As you can see with the lock above to the left, there is a white line that shows us that the combination is to be entered on the front of the padlock. However, in the lock to the right there are colored windows that means the combination is to be entered to the side. There is almost always a line, arrow, or other distinguisher to help you know where your answer should go. When in doubt, try it both ways, better safe than sorry! 

Once you’re correct, gently pull down and you’re all ready for your next challenge!

Horizontal Lock

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Yet another common lock found in escape rooms. This type of lock is most commonly found with 5 numbers or letters, but may come in 6 as well. There are no lines or arrows with this lock, instead your combination should line up in the middle as precisely as possible, in the lock above the center indentation can be used as a guide.

As with most locks, once you’ve got your answer in, gently pull down and you’re good to go!

Keyed Lock

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You would think that a lock and key would be simple enough, but surprisingly they can sometimes be tricky! As you can see in the lock to the left, there is a post in the center of the keyhole that needs to go into the key correctly. If a lock is exceptionally “airy”, meaning there is a lot of space to wiggle the key around, this can make it quite tricky to open and may even break the lock! This is especially true with antique locks, so depending on your room’s theme keep an eye out for the two most common types of keyed locks above. 

Once you’ve successfully got your key inside, just a quick turn and the lock should pop right open.

Dial Combination Lock

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If you were as bad at opening your middle school locker as I was, then don’t worry, we’re here to help! The combination lock has a three digit solution, with each number ranging from 0-39, or potentially even higher depending on the size. These aren’t very common simply due to the margin of user error, but if you do encounter this type of lock this is how you can handle it: Most commonly you spin the dial 3 times or so to the right to clear it, then land on the first number. Then, turn to the left passing the first number once, and land on the second number. Then, go to the right directly to the third number. 

Gently pull down, and you’re golden! If you weren’t successful, then spinning the dial 3 times to the right will clear you to try again. There are also variations where the directions to spin are reversed, so it can’t hurt to try both if you’re certain your combination is correct. 

Directional Lock

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While we don’t use this lock anymore since our original game The Pirate’s Booty, the infamous directional lock is known by many as the trickiest lock you’ll encounter in your escape room. Here’s everything you need to know to become a master! The combination for this lock will be a series of either ups, downs, lefts, and rights, or maybe even cardinal directions such as North, South, East, and West. The length of the combination is seemingly endless, and could even end up into the 10’s and 20’s! Don’t worry too much, most solutions are less than 10. The circle in the middle acts like a joystick and you need to push it towards your desired direction to enter it successfully. 

Once the last correct direction in your sequence is entered, gently tug down like normal and you’re ready to go! However, if you’ve made a wrong entry then you simply need to push the shackle (that’s the silver loop) down into the lock a few times to clear, then you’re good to start over.

Everything Else!

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There are all kinds of unique locks out there, and each one has a unique purpose in making your room fun and challenging. Now that you understand the basics of some of the most common types, those locks don’t stand a chance against you and your team!

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and the Art of Room Escaping

By Philip Lyons

Most every semi-serious historian has likely heard of the book The Art of War by Sun Tzu, a Chinese military strategist. The book was put to paper sometime around 500 BCE, and is often cited as a way to succeed not just in warfare but also politics, business, and even personal improvement. Now, this book’s wisdom can be used to help you escape!

Yes, Sun Tzu has been dead for well over two millennia. Yes, escape rooms are a relatively new phenomenon. But even so, the ideas he wrote about overcoming the enemy are just as applicable to overcoming the puzzles and obstacles of an escape room as they are to succeeding in a battle, a campaign, or even an entire war.

Let’s examine his ideas and how they can help you and your friends and allies who like to pit yourselves against the cunning of an escape room.

First, you should assemble a team to play with. Sun Tzu had an important idea on what sort of folks should be on your team: “He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks…”. Bring people who want to play. Don’t drag along a reluctant friend; they will probably end up bored and that hurts everyone’s fun. When everyone is engaged and enjoying themselves, your chances of winning actually increase; and even if you don’t make it, you will still win via the fun factor. 

So let us say you and this group of enthusiastic friends have found yourself in a fresh escape room. The first issue you’ll find yourself facing is the time limit, so you’ll need to proceed strategically and prioritize. Sun Tzu points out that: “All warfare is based on deception,”. A room may be set up to obscure the solution to the puzzles within. To find the answers, you will have to pull away this veil of deception, first by finding what answers you need (code words, keys, or other solutions), and then seeking out clues that will help you deduce these. Look around and tell your comrades about what odd things you are finding, and look for patterns of how those objects could interact.

Once you have determined what puzzle elements are in the room, another of Sun Tzu’s principles comes to mind: “By discovering the enemy’s dispositions and remaining invisible ourselves, we can keep our forces concentrated, while the enemy’s must be divided,”. The escape room puzzles are naturally spread across the whole room, so you must learn what is there so you can assemble all the elements together to be able to solve them. This is most easily done if the group doing the room separates into sub-teams of two or three players each. Ultimately, once you have found all the elements, the team as a whole can focus on solving them. If you missed any puzzles, don’t hesitate to ask your Gamemaster for a walk-through at the end!

    You should make sure everyone in your team is engaged and focused on the goal. “In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns,”. This seems really obvious, but folks sometimes get sidetracked by events from outside the escape room. Yes, it’s nice Sally is going to have a baby and that Jake is marrying his sweetheart Helena, but if you want to win the game, I suggest you talk about that in the pub post-match while also toasting your victory… or the odds are good all you’ll have to talk about in the pub is is how you *just missed* winning the game. 

The greatest victory is one that requires no battle. “Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” Tough puzzles can be frustrating. Sometimes forcing them – and breaking them – seems the only solution. But that’s not the best way. Not only are you cheating yourself of the satisfaction of a true victory, but you may miss fun or exciting elements of game play.

I hope you find these ideas useful the next time you approach a new escape room. Until then, though, I bid you good luck!

Top Ten Tips For Escape Room Games!

This list of tips has been compiled by our wonderful gamemasters! They have learned a lot in the countless hours helping patrons escape the room and have some valuable knowledge to share! Book Here for any of our escape room games in downtown Boston!

Pay attention to the time!

Each room has a different completion time, with many being around one hour. Make sure you know exactly how much time you have and keep an eye on the clock or timer (if the room you are doing has one). That being said, don’t feel hopeless if time is low; you never know just how close you could be to winning! 

Don’t give up on a puzzle too quickly!

It’s easy to get frustrated if you are struggling with where to even begin. If you think you are solving something correctly and it’s not reacting as you expect, don’t walk away! You might be on the verge of a breakthrough and with the help of your fellow room escapers you will figure it out in no time.

Be gentle!

Everything has an elegant solution. If you are using more than a gentle tug to open something, there is probably more to it. You are testing your brains and not your brawn. If it is meant to come open, it will once you find the correct solution.

Don’t be afraid to ask your friends for help!

Escape room enthusiasts tend to be competitive, but you don’t need to compete with the people in the room with you. If you are struggling with a puzzle, there is no shame in asking for help! A fresh set of eyes may help you see something you’ve missed or help you look at the problem in a new way.

Listen to each other’s ideas!

Often times someone will throw out an idea and be dismissed, and the group will later discover that the person was correct or on the right track. Even if an idea does not seem right to you immediately, there is no harm in seeing where it goes!

Try different perspectives!

If you are looking at a puzzle and it’s just not making sense, try looking at it in a new way. Stand back to see if there is a larger pattern, look closely to see if there’s something hidden, upside down, or sideways. The answer may be right in front of you, but not in the way you expect!

Explore the room(s) thoroughly!

Don’t be afraid to move stuff around, open things up, etc. Most rooms will make it clear if you aren’t supposed to move or touch something. First time players are especially timid when getting started. Don’t be aggressive and yank things open/off the wall, but also don’t worry you will get in trouble if you open a drawer, pick something up, flip a light switch, etc,.

Keep track of everything you find!

You want to stay as organized as possible. Try not to pocket any keys or locks, and make sure you are aware of what you have and have not used. You don’t want to end up wasting time trying a code or key when you’ve already used it to open something else.

Divide and conquer!

Your group may move as a pack, but separating into smaller groups can help save time. This is especially true for larger groups as our games are designed to have multiple parallel puzzle streams. Spread out your resources, but make sure to collaborate on your findings. Don’t forget to ask your gamemaster for a walkthrough at the end in case you missed any puzzles or have any unanswered questions!


Whether your group consists of two people or twelve, you will work best when you communicate effectively. Let your group members know when you’ve found something or when you have an idea. Let them know when you’ve solved or used something. If you receive a hint from a gamemaster, make sure it’s heard/read by everyone in the group! Effective communication can save time and eliminate frustration, confusion, and misunderstandings.

*Bonus Tip* HAVE FUN!

This is what it’s all about! Having a good time and connecting with your friends, family, and fellow humans! Smile and solve those puzzles! Book Here for an experience you won’t soon forget!


While we don’t believe there is such thing as a “best escape room in Boston,” we are honored by some of the reviews our lovely customers and escape room bloggers have written about us!

We have almost all 5-star reviews on TripAdivsor. Here are a few recent ones!  

SPower12 said:I’ve done many escape rooms in Boston and this one was by far my favorite. The backstory is good, the room really makes you feel like you’re inside the story and the puzzles are challenging but doable. It was only 3 of us (we’ve done these type of games before, but if you haven’t you may want to go with a bigger group) and we were able to complete it right under 60 minutes. Had a fantastic time and look forward to other rooms from this group.”

Mike T said: “Been to rooms in NYC, DC, and others in Boston. This was easily the best one to date! The owner was fantastic, and really made sure everyone was comfortable with the rules and story before we started. Great time. Well run!”

Cveazie63 said: “I did this Escape Room with 3 other friends for a girlfriends bday party. This was my 3rd Escape Room ever and it was by far the best one I’ve ever done! Super professional, very difficult, but we made it out! I recommend this room to anyone who is a fan of Escape Rooms.”

Our Yelp critics seem to agree with our tripadvisor reviewers with almost all the reviews landing at 5-Stars! 

Natalie A said: “I have been to a few escape rooms before and this one is AMAZING. Not only were the puzzles difficult (but solvable), but the theme was fun and the rooms were all well put together and decorated.  My favorite part is the beginning (no spoilers, but it was a unique twist to the escape room genre). Jeff was fantastic! It was my birthday and we were a little all over the place but he was very good at keeping us all on track!”

Dan K said: “Really solid escape room! Fun theme, a creative story, and a lot of satisfying puzzles (some of which involved technical gizmos that worked exactly as intended, at least one of which was a cool effect I’d never seen before).”

Michelle S said: “I could not say enough good things about this escape room and Jeff! I have done most of the escape rooms in the area, and this one is incredible. The attention to detail, overall decor and puzzles are amazing and we got very into the pirate theme. Jeff actually worked with my now fiance to hide an engagement ring at the end! He was easy to work with and really made the whole experience perfect. My fiance had been in contact with him for months to plan the big day, and he was always friendly and accommodating.  We are definitely recommending this escape room to all of our friends, as it is the best one we have been to!!!”


Enthusiast Appreciation Day

Come for free swag, giveaways and connect with local escape room owners on a more personal level!

When: January 29 • 6-9pm

Where: The Point • 147 Hanover Street, Boston, MA

Join the Discussion:

Validated Parking across the street at the Parcel 7 Garage • 136 Blackstone Street (Enter on New Sudbury Street)

Escape Room Enthusiast Appreciation Day

Meet the owners from these local escape rooms and more:

AmazeEscape • Arlington, MA

Boxaroo • Boston, MA

Curious Escape Rooms • Fitchburg, MA

Escape Games Worcester • Worcester, MA

Escape New Haven • New Haven, CT

Escape Rhode Island • Providence, RI

Escape This Live • Beverly, MA

Hourglass Adventures • Mobile – Mount Washington Valley, NH and beyond

GTFO Escape Room • South Portland, ME

Live Action Escapes • Worcester, MA

North Shore Escape • Woburn, MA

Outside the Box • Webster, MA

Portsmouth Escape Room • Portsmouth, NH

PuzzleScape •  Hudson, MA

Room Escapers • Boston, MA

The Escape Capsule • Mobile

The Gate Escape • Leominster, MA

Timewarp • Peabody, MA