The last few years have shown a rise in escape rooms and since moving to California last year I’ve had the pleasure of attending some of the best that the West Coast has to offer.  A few months back I had heard of a new escape room opening that was fashioned after a hotel and immediately my interest perked up. ESCAPE HOTEL, as it’s aptly called, is located in the heart of Los Angeles on Hollywood Blvd.  My first thoughts were that this was going to be a tourist trap but ESCAPE HOTEL is anything but that.  When my group and I arrived at our designated time of 7pm we were ushered into the lobby by a ghostly man and told to help ourselves to refreshments.  As he wandered off, we were informed that our escape would begin now, within the lobby.  From that point forward I knew I was going to be hooked.

As my group of three (my boyfriend and a close friend of mine) started searching for clues I became aware of the design around me.  As an interior designer I’m always curious about set designs in movies and television as well as haunts and horror events and I can easily say with 100% certainty that ESCAPE HOTEL is one of the best escape room designs I’ve ever seen and this was just from the lobby!  It really felt like you were transplanted into a mesh of modern design with a 40’s vibe to it.  There were lush brown couches, rustic but streamlined coffee tables, old fashion home decor and sunlight perfectly peeking in from the covered windows.  If the lobby itself could blow me away, I could barely contain my excitement for the design of the room.  Once we found our clues and unlocked the secrets of the lobby we were then greeted by three ghastly figures who instructed us about the rules of the room and what we were to expect.  As like most escape rooms, we were told that we would have an hour to escape and if we weren’t able to then the hotel would keep our souls forever.  Once we all got situated – putting our bags, cell phones, and other items at the check out counter, we were led down the hallway to our designated door.  The usher turned to us, wished us luck, and led us into the room.

ESCAPE HOTEL, when it’s up and running at full capacity, will have 12 rooms to choose from with levels of difficulty ranging from 1 to 5.  The room that was chosen for us was the DAYCARE and we were told that the difficulty level was at a rating of 1.  Now, I’ll be honest, the three of us aren’t the smartest when it comes to escaping these themed rooms but we decided we would give it our all and hope for the best.  As with the lobby, the DAYCARE room is designed exquisitely and I was blown away by the amount of detail that they put into the creation of this one room.  However, I did have some concerns, most of which stemmed from the delicacies of some of the props.  As much as I loved the design, I was concerned with how easily things could be broken.  We were in a room marked DAYCARE that had porcelain dolls throughout and though it gave this room added brownie points for creep factor I could also see how easily they could be destroyed.  Another aspect that I could see being a hindrance is lighting.  Again, A+ for setting the mood to paranoia level by the lack of lighting and only the use of battery operated candles but even with these candles all throughout it didn’t give us much light to investigate everything properly and actually deterred us from being able to see things clearly so as to decipher the clues.  I’m all for mood lighting and a scary ambiance but we need to also be able to see what we are doing.  Lastly, I don’t think DAYCARE is a great room for first time players.  It was incredibly difficult and though I could easily attribute that to our small number I think it’s because some of the clues didn’t make sense.  Also, for the owners, always make sure that your clues are 150% where they need to be.  We ran into an issue where an employee forgot to put a key that was a valuable asset to us in the undisclosed location and we ended up losing 5-10 minutes searching for something that wasn’t there to begin with.  This really put a damper on our experience and I hope in future games this doesn’t become a problem.

What I did like about DAYCARE was everything else.  The design was top notch and looked as though we walked onto a movie set, the ambiance was terrifying and you never knew if maybe there was someone or something in the room with you and the music added to the sensation that not all was right in this haunted and horrifying hotel.  The only other thing I would change is the noise control.  At time it was really hard to hear when were were given clues over the speaker system and when we first entered the room we could barely hear the television that was informing us on the backstory of DAYCARE.  Just because ESCAPE HOTEL had some bumps along the way doesn’t mean I don’t think it was an incredible experience.  With some tightening up and ironing out some of the wrinkles I think this escape room will give any surrounding ones a run for it’s money.  It’s unique with a design that’s impeccable along with options for newcomers and those looking for a more challenging experience.  I can’t wait to check out the other 11 rooms and I hope the next I go I get to experience ESCAPE HOTEL without any of the growing pains.

Shannon M.

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