Mechanics Monday – Ubiquitous UV

If it was in plain old marker pen you’d probably think it was a red herring.

I’m not sure this is really an MM, as I’m not really proposing anything new, but thought it was worth commenting on anyway (and it’s definitely Monday).

In some of the recent twitter chat (I’m not going to try and portmanteau that) we’ve been talking about how UV torches seem to be in almost every escape room now. And how the first time you discover one it seems like the coolest toy, but that each subsequent discovery has a significantly diminished return, to the point that it’s about as fun as a padlock. I would broadly go along with that, but also argue that some of that wonder can be recaptured when it’s done right. Here’s three real world examples (with as few details as possible to avoid any spoilers) to highlight the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good

The task was to carefully construct, place and aim a heavy duty laser pointer. Once the beam had bounced off a mirror (a trope in itself whenever lasers are involved) it pointed to a non-descript location on a white wall. But shining the UV torch on the wall discovered further instructions.

The big plus point here was that there was no hunting. The laser task was satisfying in itself, and then the torch was used simply to reveal something that had been in ‘plain sight’ all the time, for a nice ‘aha’.

The bad

A code was written in UV on the bottom of some shoes.

There was nothing in the room to hint at the shoes (or anywhere else for that matter). The expectation was simply to check everything in the room because we’d been given a torch. And on the bottom of shoes there’s no way to catch a glimpse of glow; it requires them to be picked up and inspected. I was only able to pass this with a hint from the gamemaster.

The ugly

First there was a code written on a shelf. Then there were some instructions written on a bottle. Then another code written on the back of a lock-box.

There’s an unwritten rule in escaping that you only use an item once and then put it to one side. None of these locations were clued in anyway, just that we had a UV torch so we knew we’d have to use it at some point. After finding the first code we assumed that was it for the torch. After getting stuck we were then given a hint to try the torch again and found the second. Sure that must be it we gave it no further thought until we were stopped by the final lock of the room. We had some elements of the answer but were missing a final step. Desperation drove us to try the torch again, and there was the answer. Just three random puzzles to solve, with any assumptions working against you. Easy.


In case the message isn’t clear: Random searching with a UV torch is tedious! I’d gladly argue that any random task is boring, but at least normal scavenging can claim to be testing your visual skills. But blacklights shouldn’t be blackballed completely as incorporating a hidden message as part of a puzzle/within a context that makes sense can still be very satisfying. So please use UV responsibly!

One Comment:

  1. agree x 1000. I’m surprised that room designers are making the same annoying choices 5000 km away

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