Horror Hotel Online is a real-life escape room livestreamed and played through an avatar, created by Exit Now in Athens, Greece.
Style of Play: real-life escape room livestreamed and played through an avatar
Required Equipment: computer with internet connection
Recommended Team Size: 2-5
Play Time: 90 minutes
Price: €90 for a team of up to 12 players
Booking: book online for a specific time slot
Horror Hotel Online is a standard avatar-led adaptation of a real-life escape room. The website suggests you connect your computer to a TV screen, turn off your lights, and turn your volume up to max. This is not to say it is a passive experience; you will be interacting throughout the game by guiding your avatar player and solving puzzles verbally.
Hivemind Review Scale
Richard Burns’ Reaction
This is tough. The game space is truly impressive. The foreshadowing and details of the game’s characters build anticipation and drama. This is a game I would play in person, even after seeing it online. Its maximum potential just wasn’t delivered in our remote playthrough.
The enormous space loses its impact via video. There is way too much searching for small items and the puzzles felt simple and tedious. Interactions with the monsters are the strength of the experience and I wish that had been emphasized more.
Interactions with our avatar were clunky and disjointed. We just didn’t click as a team. The single-use rule for our inventory items caused hesitation and slow downs as we talked through what to use and what to save for later.
With most remote play rooms, I’ve felt like I played the game enough to be satisfied, but this experience felt more like watching someone else play a cool room that I really wanted to be in.
Cara Mandel’s Reaction
This was hands down the best live remote immersive escape experience I’ve done yet! (As of writing this review I have done 53 online experiences since March.) It is definitely not for the faint of heart (or the kiddos), but if you love horror and theatricality, I highly recommend the Horror Hotel Online. The sheer expanse of this multi-story, fully designed and produced set had my teammates and me in awe. It certainly did not hurt that I played this room with a group of fellow horror enthusiasts. We were laughing out loud and screaming at our computer screens the whole game. As we watched our agile gamemaster/ avatar navigate throughout this hellscape of monsters and obstacles, I found myself wishing that I were able to travel to Athens, Greece and play this room in person. However, the way this room was adapted for online play and the thrilling use of practical effects made it come to life over this medium in a way that felt almost like being there. My teammates and I loved it so much!
Matthew Stein’s Reaction
Through an unfortunate series of technical failures and poor decisions Horror Hotel Online managed to completely shatter our team’s trust and respect for the avatar and game design within the first 15 minutes. When we correctly used a prop for the first puzzle, but it did nothing, the avatar responded “that must not have been it, but good try” instead of coming clean that there was a technical issue with the prop, leading us to not trust the avatar’s “advice” throughout much of the rest of the game. Additionally, the game’s file-sharing website was down during our game, so the avatar verbally read the files and had us take notes. It is inexcusable not to have direct links to PDFs of such documents as a backup in this sort of situation.
I passively enjoy mild to moderate horror themes, but my real joy in escape rooms comes from compelling narrative and mind-bending puzzles, so in retrospect I really was not the target audience for this experience. Too much of the game consisted of poorly implemented searching for small objects in messy rooms, viewed through a shaky portrait-orientation feed. The set was rad, but its expansiveness – a major positive in person – made the remote game disorienting at times, and watching the avatar traverse certain cool physical obstacles led to major FOMO. Interactions with live actor “monsters” were genuinely innovative and exciting, but over-narration from our avatar ruined much of the suspense, and the preparation for facing these monsters felt disproportionately short.
Based solely on my team’s abysmal experience with this game, I cannot recommend it to other escape room players, though it likely would appeal more to horror fans and seems like a pretty epic game to play in person.
Peih Gee Law’s Reaction
One thing I’ve learned through playing so many remote escape rooms is that a good avatar will make or break the experience. Unfortunately for our group, the avatar broke our trust, and as a result, none of us felt excited to play or inclined to “help” him.
Our group was kept in a Zoom lobby right up until the start time. Once the Zoom meeting started, I began making introductions as a few of us playing had not met in person before. The avatar rudely interrupted me in mid-sentence with a very dismissive statement and it set a horrible tone for our group. One of our members was so offended that she basically left after 10 minutes. This, followed by the aforementioned poor handling of the prop malfunction, resulted in our group feeling we couldn’t trust him anymore. We became very hesitant to use our items because they were one time usage.
I think the basic premise is very fun: you are in a hotel with various monsters that you need to eliminate based on a dossier given to you early on with their identifying characteristics and weaknesses. Unfortunately, the dossier system didn’t work either and we ended up having to just take notes.
I’ve heard very positive things about this experience, so it might just be that our group got unlucky. At the end of the day, we play escape rooms because we enjoy the social interaction. Otherwise, I’d just as soon play a video game for much less money. When playing a remote game, our social interactions are limited to Zoom calls and interacting with the avatar. When the avatar does a poor job of facilitating, remote experiences lose all their charm and become very frustrating.