A while back I came across breakout EDU, which describes itself as a platform for immersive games. They’d put together some escape style games alongside a custom box, targeted at the educational market. Being nice people, they’d also put together a kit list you could source from Amazon that was broadly the same as their custom kit, with the exceptions that you didn’t have to wait a very long time for them to deliver it, it was available outside North America and it came with a generic toolbox rather than a custom wooden box. I couldn’t resist, so I made my order (from Amazon.com because it turned out to be cheaper than the UK version) and waited for the door bell…
The kit arrived a few weeks later and I immediately set to work to create an escape style game for my children. The plan was very simple – outer box with two locks/puzzles and then an inner box with a single lock/puzzle that contained their pocket money (aka allowance if you’re from the wrong side of the pond).
I went for a fairy theme, because both my children are big fans of the Rainbow Magic Fairies. The story was as follows:
The naughty fairies have been visiting and they’ve hidden your pocket money. Fortunately they’ve left behind some clues that will help you find it.
I locked the outer box with a five letter word combination lock and gave them the clue:
There are good fairies that visit your house at night. They leave money, but what do they take in return?
This immediately posed two problems. First they didn’t really know what to do and I had to explain to them it was a riddle for them to solve. Second they didn’t know how a combination padlock worked. A few hints, and the older one took the lead, quickly removing the first lock by dialing up TEETH.
The second lock on the outer box was a simple padlock with a key, so I was pretty confident that they’d be able to work out the mechanics, but they’d need to search the room to find the key. In a normal escape room you might not bother with any clue, but our living room resembles an explosion in a toy factory, so hints were definitely required!
The living room is looking very tidy. Perhaps the good fairies were visiting? The bad fairies left a key in the middle of the room, but it’s gone! It must have been sucked up during the cleaning. Where could it be?
In the corner of the room sat their toy vaccuum cleaner, which has a convenient compartment (where the bag would go in a real hoover). It was fun watching them look round the room, much as I do when I’m trying to escape. Eventually the younger one found the hiding place (after suggesting it to her elder sister several times and being ignored… sound familiar?). The second lock fell to the floor.
The inner puzzle
They were super excited by this point, having unlocked the outer box and found the mini box inside, along with the following clue:
Well done! Almost there! Saffron, Amber and Fern were visiting and did the final hiding. They each chose their favourite colour, but how did they make it into a number? Perhaps TinkerBELL can help you?
I was a little worried this might be too complex for them. It required a few leaps which a four and six year old might not be able to follow. First off, those names are the names of three of the first seven Rainbow Fairies. The younger one immediately spotted that, which helped. Second stage was to realise that Saffron is called “Saffron the Yellow fairy” and, in case it’s not obvious, the other two are the Orange and Green fairies. Again, the younger one proved key, remembering the colours without having to go and find the books.
Next up they had to spot that BELL was in capitals. I was surprised this didn’t jump out at them, but I guess kids don’t see it as anything other than just being a bit wrong, whereas for an adult it stands out as a clue. One of the many things in our living room is a set of bells which you can play a scale with. To help with ordering the scale, each bell has a number on it, so they had to find the yellow, green and orange bells and use their numbers to unlock the final box. After I’d hinted that they needed to look at the sentence, the younger one spotted the word BELL and the older one immediately realised the connection and found the numbers.
It took a few seconds for them to work out how to use the briefcase style lock, but the box soon came undone and voila, their pocket money was revealed.
And that was the first escape game I designed. It won’t be the last though – their comment after unlocking the box was “can we do this every week for our pocket money?”. I guess it runs in the family…