Exceptionally rare (and possibly reviled), Yellow rooms leave players feeling bright in multiple senses of the word. Often filled with extremely academic challenges, such as algebraic formulas, decoding messages written with letter-replacing ciphers, and navigating coordinates such as on a map or graph, Yellow rooms tend to rely on the player’s use of outside knowledge and methodology. Knowing exactly what one should be doing in a given situation can make those in-the-know feel incredibly smart and logical (or at the very least, well-educated.)
Everyone has that one friend who could watch a magic show, knowing all the secrets to pulling off each illusion, and is pleased when the magician’s performance exactly matches the viewer’s prediction; “of course the assistant slipped out the back of the cabinet,” they say afterward, “that’s just how this trick works!” This is the kind of person who would be a fan of Yellow rooms; I like to think of them as my ‘Smarty-pants Friend’. While that might sound comfortable for Yellow fans, it does pose a problem for the rest of us; if you don’t know the trick to finding the solution you’ll often be stopped cold in your tracks. A perfect example of Yellow at work in a specific challenge is the Order of Operations in mathematics. As soon as you spot it, you either remember what to do first from your seventh-grade algebra class, or you don’t and (apart from the sudden recollection of your Dear Aunt Sally) no amount of wracking your brain is going to help.
Yellow rooms are jarringly straightforward, but that’s the heart of their charm. For players who would rather not get mired down in elaborate set decorations or who get distracted by unnecessary narrative elements, the directness of these rooms is as welcome and refreshing as a crisp, sunny day. And this is the second reason why ‘bright’ is a perfect way to describe this type of experience because there’s nothing standing between the player and the challenge of the task at hand.
PROS: Focuses on the game and puzzle aspects of the escape room experience.
CONS: Often frustrating for those reluctant to use hints when needed.
APPEALS TO: Logical, analytical players who won’t rely on trial & error.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR DESIGNERS OF YELLOW ROOMS: Walking a fine line between avoiding unnecessary excess and over-simplification that leaves players feeling like you cheaped out.