Riddle Room: The Hotel [Review]

Location: Riddle Room, Mitchell (North side Canberra), ACT, Australiariddleroomlogo

Date completed: April 2018 (4 players). Succeeded escaping!

Creativity: 8.5; Difficulty: 6.5; Atmosphere: 9.5; Fun: 8.5.

Requirements:

  • Fluent English
  • 4-8 players (we recommend 4-5)

Riddle Room opened their much anticipated new room recently, and we were invited to join another couple of escape room enthusiasts to try the adventure. An archaeologist specialized in ancient civilizations, known as Dr. Desmond, chose us to help him explore a site where he believed a valuable artifact was hidden. Of all places, the object would appear to be located in a most unexpected locale: an abandoned hotel in Canberra. Dr. Desmond gave us the directions and some time to explore The Hotel. What he didn’t say is why he did not want to explore the premise himself…

The Hotel is the most immersive game at Riddle Room and is very narrative-driven. More than an escape room, you feel like you are part of a movie or a live role-playing game on steroids. There were puzzles, of course – but the story and how you interact with the setting around you are the best part of this multi-ending adventure.

Riddle Room spent a lot of time building the set for The Hotel, and the result is amazing. The place surely resembled the reception of an old hotel, probably closed decades ago. We started our search in the reception area, but no one was there. Or could we be wrong about that?

riddlehotel2To keep the flow of the story, the creators of Riddle Room used a narrative device that is usually related to theatre: focusing the action within the illuminated parts of the stage. So, every time players see a stronger light in the room (a lamp, a sign, something blinking), their attention should be focused at that spot. We were a bit skeptical about how this would work at first, but it matched the setting very well and helped the flow of the game immensely. And because changing lights can also create very mysterious effects, the levels of eeriness would rise when the darkness and light alternated.

That said, there were (mild) scary moments in The Hotel, but the room was not a gore fest horror relying on jump scares. Rather, the game creates the sense of something odd and amiss about this place, and when the supernatural did manifest itself, Riddle Room utilised some clever cinematic techniques to ratchet up the scare factor. There were moments that our group of players was really hesitant in dealing with some items but Dr. Desmond, remaining in contact with our team, seemed to be the only one enthusiastic about the strange occurrences.

The puzzles in The Hotel were deeply intertwined with the setting and the narrative, so very few props stood out as part of a puzzle until the story led us to interact with them. Also, the requirement for a minimum of four people was essential to complete the game – some puzzles and tasks were physically impossible with less players.  They still fit the theme and made all sense with the narrative, even when they required group effort.

The game was very linear and most puzzles could be solved by observation, association, logic with some mechanical aptitude thrown in. As a challenge, it was far easier than Riddle Room’s other games, The Nightmare and The Dungeon. However, the chief goal of this room did not seem to be posing difficulties for the players. It was more a series of actions that required quick thinking and decision-making. Compared with Riddle Room’s other games, The Hotel was a more exciting and fast paced experience that demanded the team to constantly tackle the puzzles available.

riddlehotelThe Hotel , as mentioned before, has more than one ending. Towards the end of the game, when you approach the ancient artifact you are looking for and find out more about the old hotel, some tasks allow you more than one choice of action. Depending on what you do, the game may reach a different conclusion.

According to the designers, there are three possible final paths to the adventure – none of them right or wrong, depending on what you consider to be the best thing to do. But some apparently are “more satisfying”  than others. From what we experienced, two of the endings seem much more probable than the third one, and we were quite glad with our course of actions. They are not massively different and won’t alter the game for most part, so it might not be enough to compel most players to try the room again – but we highly recommend people to try this room at least once, as the flow of the game is extremely smooth and fun!

We got out of the hotel after a bit more than 45 minutes, very glad with the experience. Attention to detail is a strong point of Riddle Room and it was evident that the owners Jesse and Chris worked really hard to build The Hotel. Technology is well employed and very well hidden, giving a mysterious atmosphere to the whole adventure.

A few days before launching The Hotel, Riddle Room organized a treasure hunt around Canberra’s CBD to promote the new game. The hunt had approximately 100 participants (yes, we were there!) and the first ones to finish won the pre-launch game session at midnight. It wasn’t us- the winners actually solved the hunt in less than one hour. But it was very interesting to see groups of friends and families walking around, clearly following the clues in well known spots around the city centre. The treasure hunt was not compulsory to be able to play the room, but it gave some background story about the types of artifacts that Dr Desmond was researching. Another creative project by Riddle Room, that keeps the quality bar high for Canberra rooms.

We’ve previously also played Riddle Room’s The Nightmare, The Dungeon and retired game The Bomb Defusal.

hotel

Out of the room

Service: Chris and Jesse were extremely friendly, professional, and provided a concise briefing and detailed debrief for us after we finished. Riddle Room has a system which measures the time taken by players to break through each puzzle. They were able to provide a very clinical explanation of where we got stuck and where we did well. Interestingly, this system also allows them to conduct a systematic assessment of how their puzzles affect the game and they’ve been using this information to help improve their rooms.

The venue has a simple briefing room which can cater for larger groups and there are lockers for personal belongings.

Communication: We were monitored at all times throughout the game and Riddle Room provided hints through a screen which also has the countdown timer. The clues were  well timed and direct to the point without revealing the solution. You may ask for unlimited clues, and to do so, just talk to the walls. In The Hotel, talking to the walls may be creepy, but they surely will hear you.

Surroundings: There is a cafe right beside Riddle Room and a board games shop across the street. Paring spaces are available along the street. Although driving is probably the easiest way to reach the venue, there is a bus stop (Hoskins St before Dacre St) right in front of the escape room.

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