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Arts and Entertainment

Guide to Escape Rooms

By Staff Writers Ashley Pang & Amelie Wu

In the eyes of puzzle-lovers, what could be more exciting than being locked in a room where the only way out is by thinking outside the box? Players can now experience just that through escape rooms. With fun and interesting themes to truly immerse players in the experience, escape rooms offer an assortment of puzzles that need to be completed before a time limit in order for players to escape. The Smoke Signal has researched local escape rooms with intriguing themes for readers to enjoy.

Local Escape Rooms

EscapeSF  – Address: 602 Kearny St

Located in the heart of San Francisco, EscapeSF offers a unique 75-minute fully automated and transportable escape game. In their new play at home option priced at $178, 2-5 players work together to unlock a multi-layered spy-briefcase with the help of a secret agent at the EscapeSF headquarters. 



OMESCAPE – Sunnyvale – Address: 1135 E Arques Ave

Omescape (New York City) - 2021 All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos) - Tripadvisor

Voted the best escape room in the Bay Area by USA Today and boasting a lifetime total of more than 50,000 players, OMESCAPE is a truly immersive experience for individuals seeking a challenge. Unlike conventional escape rooms, theme The Apartment Nextdoor operates in complete darkness, setting up a mysterious atmosphere for a light horror experience. In their newly released online game, Undercooked, players collaborate to serve as many dishes within a 75-minute time limit. The wide range of themes offered are priced at $50 per person.


EDscapade Games – Address: 1150 Murphy Ave Suite 200

From loud noises to tight spaces to live interactions with actors, EDscapade Games, situated in San Jose,  balances an immersive live action paranormal-themed escape experience with a compelling storyline — mystical lands with bountiful riches, falling victims to a serial killer, and a young girl stuck in a haunted nursery.  In total, EDscapade Games offers three themes: B.o.X, a 65-minute experience at $50 per player for 2-6 participants, Hostage, a 60-minute experience at the same rate as B.o.X, and Nursery, a 72-minute experience at $75 per player for 2-5 participants. 


Palace Games – Address: 3362 Palace Dr

For three years in a row, San Francisco premier escape room Palace Games has been voted best escape room in the world after experienced escape room enthusiasts ranked rooms across the world in the Top Escape Rooms Project. Palace Games boasts four historical themed escape rooms priced at $425 for 4-8 players. The Attraction, lasting for around two hours, explores a fictitious mystery attraction premiered at the 1915 San Francisco World Fair and requires prolonged standing and masterful navigation through the darkness.


Off The Couch Games – Address: 555 Mowry Ave

With a new location in Fremont, Off The Couch Games uses multiple chapters to engage players in a complicated murder mystery. In Chapter 1: Occam’s Apartment, players investigate the death of a detective friend, priced at $70 per person for a 105 minute experience. As a continuation, Chapter 2 points players to the Norcross Art Gallery, where the murderer likely operates from. 



Diablo Escapes – Address: 1948 Mt Diablo Blvd

Diablo Escapes Opens in Walnut Creek – Beyond the Creek

Diablo Escapes, located in Walnut Creek, is one of the top virtual reality escape room experiences in the Bay Area. Despite the concept being relatively new, they offer seven themes — Depths of Osiris, Dragon Tower, Laserbots, Manor of Escape, Pirate’s Plague, Space Station Tiberia, and Time Travel Paradox — which allow players to solve puzzles and crimes completely virtually. Each experience is priced at $37.99-42.99 per player.



Escape Room Items


One of the most standard items found in escape rooms are locks. Locks can vary in their solution, ranging from keys to number codes to letter combinations. Oftentimes, escape rooms will enforce additional rules regarding padlocks. A common rule is to leave Master Lock locks alone, as they may be used for other reasons. The widely recognizable brand allows players to identify whether or not the lock is a puzzle.


Bookshelves and books oftentimes provide good hiding spots for clues. Whether it’s a secret room, false bookshelf, or a carved out wooden book, these areas are prone to hidden clues or objects. It is vital to take note of any object that is movable, as they may be needed in other locations. A book could also be used to fill in a bookshelf in a specific order, or have writing that could answer another puzzle.

Picture Frames 

Pictures on the wall or in frames are often used to hide clues. A picture may be lifted or turned to the side to reveal writing on the wall, or a picture frame might hide writing on the back of photos. Another way pictures could be used is to display certain objects that need to be placed on pedestals, or used to show locations seen in maps. Additionally, a set of pictures or paintings can be used to represent a sequence of numbers based on objects seen in the picture.

Windows into Other Rooms 

A less common occurrence, windows can be used to look into other rooms to provide clues. By looking through a window, a player may be able to count objects or find a word or number code on a wall to finish a puzzle in the current room. More advanced rooms may incorporate windows to separate  clues and puzzles. For instance, a key or code found in one room might not be used until much later down the line. Windows can also give way to pulleys and other systems that require players to pull on a string or use poles to collect clues.

Glow-in-the-dark Writing 

Aside from further immersing players in the experience, turning off the lights can reveal clues hidden in plain sight. Writing done in “invisible ink” prevents players from getting a clue they would not have been able to see with the lights on. This often requires players to complete other puzzles before their hidden clues are revealed. Escape rooms may provide flashlights to players beforehand or hide them throughout the room. 


From riddles to logic puzzles to word games, codes are the bread and butter of puzzle-enjoyers. Players must apply observational and critical thinking skills to piece together a solution from numbers or symbols hidden throughout the room. Symbols may correlate to letters, requiring players to spell out secret messages to unlock other puzzles. From mysterious messages that give hints or random lock combinations, codes are extremely versatile and are guaranteed to be found in any escape room.

Cover image by Web Editor Jennie Wang

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