St. Louis Escape – Haunted Hotel [Review]

Animatronic Hotel

Location:  St. Louis, MO

Date Played: March 21, 2019

Team size: up to 10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $25 per player

Ticketing: Public

Emergency Exit Rating: [A+] No Lock

Physical Restraints: [A+] No Physical Restraints

REA Reaction

St. Louis Escape’s Haunted Hotel felt like an ode to Disney. Some of it was overt; some of it was in the subtle choices of props and effects.

This felt much more like Disney’s Haunted Mansion than what you’d expect from a game named Haunted Hotel built by a haunted house company. That is to say, it wasn’t scary.

In-game: a suit of armor in front of worn plaster walls, the insignia for Disney's "Haunted Mansion" hands proudly.

In St. Louis Escape’s collection of strong sets, this was my favorite, partially because it had some unusual elements… and because I’ve seen plenty of Egyptian tombs, pirate ships, and murder basements. A haunted hotel was a welcome change.

There was a ton to look at in this game… and looking at all of the stuff was usually more entertaining than solving the puzzles.

The puzzle and game design fell short with weak cluing, some damaged components, and a puzzle that was remarkably out of place… not just in this particular game, but in the St. Louis Escape facility.

If you’re going to play one game at St. Louis Escape, it should either be Haunted Hotel or Cellar Escape. For my money, Cellar Escape offered considerably better gameplay… but Haunted Hotel was a lot less scary and had much more charm and novelty.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Scenery snobs
  • Best for players with at least some experience

Why play?

  • Beautiful and unusual set design

Story

Checking into this ghoulish hotel was easy. The question was, could we check out?

In-game: The hotel's decrepit front desk.

Setting

Haunted Hotel had a busy, heavily detailed set filled with quirky animatronics. It was pretty clear that the creators of this game were Disney fans.

St Louis Escape had deliberately designed everything in the space from the floor to the ceiling. Everything was beautifully weathered. There was so much to look at.

In-game: The ornate yet dusty tile floor.

Gameplay

St. Louis Escape’s Haunted Hotel was a standard escape room with a moderate level of difficulty.

Core gameplay revolved around searching, observing, making connections, and puzzling.

In-game: a creepy portrait with its eyes cut out.

Analysis

➕ The detailed set of Haunted Hotel was a joy to explore. It was busy, but not distracting. We enjoyed the aesthetic.

➖ Intentional weathering aside, the set was heavily worn. One key prop was almost impossible to find due to wear.

➕ Our favorite puzzles resolved to tangible interactions with the set. These were the best parts of the playthrough.

➖After the opening scene, Haunted Hotel was almost entirely linear. We spent a lot of time waiting idly because we had too many teammates and too few open puzzles.

➖ Haunted Hotel included a laminated runbook. While it didn’t rely on this as heavily as in some of St. Louis Escape’s other games, it was frustrating to be concentrating on paper cluing instead of immersing ourselves in the set.

➕/➖ Haunted Hotel included a few strong layered puzzles. Unfortunately, each one had its own ambiguity issue. The clue structure wasn’t quite all in place.

➕ We enjoyed the presence of ghostly characters.

In-game: The ceiling adorned with art.

➖The audio was a persistent problem. The intro video lacked audio. We couldn’t hear the ghostly characters very well. At points we were confused whether audio was part of a puzzle, an indication of puzzle progress, background ambiance, or the screams of players in other games.

➖It was easy to accidentally re-trigger the animatronics. This proved confusing.

➕/➖ Bits of story were scattered about Haunted Hotel. The ghosts contributed to our understanding of the story. Ultimately, however, the experience fell short of succeeding as a story-driven adventure.

➖ As we played Haunted Hotel we continually felt that St. Louis Escape took shortcuts in design and maintenance. We encountered one entirely broken puzzle; we didn’t have to solve it to achieve the goal. We could shortcut another puzzle by finding one key piece. Additionally, one puzzle felt completely out of place – aesthetically and thematically – in the experience. We were baffled by its presence.

Tips For Visiting

  • You can park for free on the street directly in front of the building or on the side of the building.
  • There are stairs up to the escape room lobby and the escape rooms.
  • Beware that St. Louis Escape has a habit of putting 4-digit solutions into 5-digit locks.
  • This escape room was haunted, but not scary.

Book your hour with St. Louis Escape’s Haunted Hotel, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Disclosure: St. Louis Escape provided media discounted tickets for this game.

2 thoughts on “St. Louis Escape – Haunted Hotel [Review]

  1. I have played this room twice (a year between, last played in 2018). For me, the room was awesome and disappointing at the same time. It’s a showpiece on one hand and a clunky exercise on the other. I love the facility and they have tech people who know what they are doing so I am surprised that functionality was less than optimal. The gameplay seemed like it was force-designed to make use of the various props/tech.

    Lots of good ingredients but the total was less than the sum of the parts. Nevertheless, for me it was an escape room that was better than average.

  2. It had some impressive elements. I think it could have been a lot more than it was, unfortunately. The team behind this one would definitely capable of it.

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