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Designing The Room

Escape The Chop is the newest Reading escape room, but how did all the puzzles get designed and built? This blog may help anyone trying to design a new room yourselves.

See our previous blog for the inception of the room, but here I will go through some more of the details of the designing process. So WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD!

Inspiration

After quickly deciding on a Sweeney Todd theme room as it was going to be in a real barber shop, I started thinking about puzzles.

I wanted the puzzles to be unique where possible and I didn’t have the biggest budget for decoration so wanted the puzzles to be the thing people remember (as well as being in a real barber shop!).

Firstly I took inspiration from the film itself by watching Sweeney Todd on TV. I thought about the story line and the character names.

I decided it needed to have a puzzle involving putting people in pies and decided the would be the ultimate goal of the room would be to solve who had been cooked into which pies.

I then thought about all the things that are in a normal barber shop and how they could be turned into puzzles.

Haircut Photos

I came up with photos of haircuts as the first fully formed puzzle. I thought I could put lots of photos of haircuts which customers normally use to choose a haircut and hide some numbers cut into their hair which could be used to open a padlock. I then searched on google for these and they seemed to all be footballers – not a problem! First puzzles done!

Haircut price lists are another thing you see in barber shops, so again I thought nice way to include a cryptic code, so quickly had another puzzle done.

I then thought about how the puzzles I had come up with would link into the story, and decided that I would have a final puzzle in the first room which would trigger the opening of a secret door.

Secret Door

Here I already had come up with an idea that I wanted some barber mirrors lined up and one of them would be a secret door. But I didn’t know how to go about creating this. I had heard about the generosity of the other owners of escape rooms, so I reached out to one of the owners of another of the escape rooms Reading has to offer, James from Deadlocked! Thanks to his very kind help I managed to work out what I need to buy to get the door working and he even offered to come help put it together!

After getting the door working I was on my way to feeling like I had some shape of a story together.

Linking the rooms

I decided that throughout the first room when opening cupboards and chests as well as finding items to help you doing the next puzzle I would include things which would help with the final pie puzzle.

This took the form of newspaper articles, items the victims had on them when they were killed, and pies which the victims have been cooked into.

Linear / Non Linear

It was at this point I quickly decided that I didn’t want each puzzle to flow directly into the next puzzle, so instead I wanted multiple puzzles to be done at once. However the exception to this would be at the point where you enter the second room.

So I designed the first 4 puzzles in the first room to be able to be completed without any other information.

Room 2

In the second room I only had one real puzzle, the pie puzzle. It was a big one and would take time, but I needed more. I knew this room would be dark so immediately thought of something to do with UV as a classic escape room puzzle. So quickly came up with freaky code on the wall to decipher.

Then I thought about how my villain would create his pies. So I thought of ingredients and a recipe book, and I quickly had another puzzle sorted.

I felt like I was nearly ready, so I bought everything I needed and set it all up and got ready for testing.

Testing

I invited some friends and got very good feedback, but wanted some constructive criticism so I invited the other owners of the Reading escape rooms to come test it too.

They all took up my offer which was great (thanks Reading escape room owners!). And they gave some great feedback!

Some of the feedback was to include more searching, so I decided to introduce a custom jigsaw puzzle which would involve finding pieces throughout and not be solved until the end.

Other feedback was to include something with some of the other barber shop props already in the room. So I included another visual puzzle involving a hair blow dryer.

Opening

After incorporating the feedback form the Reading escape room owners I was ready to open. So I opened my website to bookings and waited for the floodgates to open!