We’ll stick to hotels
You’ve come backpacking in Europe and decided to stay in this Hostel – but not all is as it seems. The hostel is run by a businessman who takes payments from the super-rich to hunt and murder tourists, and you are about to become his latest victims. Can you escape before he returns in an hour?
Our third game of the day at Escape Game Swansea, having just played Prison Van and Alcatraz was to be their hardest game (with an apparent escape rate of only 15%), Hostel. I must admit, I don’t like it when an escape room claims to have such a low escape rate, as it generally means something isn’t quite right.
Having already watched the health and safety briefing video before we played Prison Van, we were saved from having to watch it again. This meant we could be taken straight to the room to begin our mission. Our GM, Georgia, escorted us down the corridor and then proceeded to give us the mission briefing.
Mission understood, Georgia gave us a useful item and then closed the door. It was time to see why this room has such a low escape rate.
It quickly became apparent to us why this room has such a low escape rate – darkness. Despite the useful item that Georgia gave us, we still found the room to be far too dark, especially as the game progressed. What didn’t help is that we did eventually find a torch, the batteries were flat. Despite trying to explain this out loud to our GM, something got lost and she didn’t realise we had no torch. This meant we had to struggle through the game, barely being able to make out padlocks.
Other than the darkness, this was obviously a horror themed room so the decor was suitably gruesome and macabre. There were no live actors present, but there were a number of jump scares. The usual screams and general horror noise soundtrack was also being played for most of our time in this game.
The space itself was on the smaller size to start with but then does open up into a decent sized space, so if you’re playing as a larger team you should still fit with not too many problems.
The darkness was not our only bugbear with this game. There were what appeared to be ‘dead puzzles’. Puzzles that used to be in play but now are just covered up with a piece of paper saying something like ‘Puzzle not in use’ – great, goodbye immersion! There was also one item in the room that we thought was going to come into play, and spent a good amount of time looking at it, only to finish the game and be none-the-wiser, so we’ve still no idea why it was in the game at all.
Any puzzle can be made infinitely harder by adding the good old ‘difficulty by darkness’ into the equation – and that is very much what we found in Hostel. The puzzles generally fitted into: searching, observation, audio, physical, maths, and following instructions. Nothing was particularly hard but we found ourselves getting hung up on something that didn’t come into play properly until later on, and another puzzle that we thought we had solved but actually didn’t.
I will caveat this review with the fact that we were extremely frustrated as we couldn’t see anything so I think that took away a lot of enjoyment from the game for us. Signposting felt limited to us, and we found ourselves taking guesses at what to do next. The audio puzzle stumped us for a while and the fact that there was a lot of ambient noise being played at the same time made it even harder to understand.
Escape Game Swansea operate on a ‘three free clues’ basis, and any more than that and it will come out of your final time. If the GM gives hints that weren’t asked for, then these aren’t counted as clues. I don’t recall how much help we had but we certainly asked for it a lot, and that was our first problem.
This venue heavily relies on WiFi to connect to the screens in the rooms and send clues, and of course, the WiFi had gone down by the time we played this game. So when we requested help, we had to wait for quite a long time while our GM wrote down the clue on a piece of paper and then put it under the door – which was a fine workaround, but slowed things down immensely.
If we needed a clue, we simply had to request one by pressing a doorbell in the room, which isn’t the most immersive solution but I guess it worked (when WiFi works anyway). As I mentioned earlier, our biggest issue was the torch with no power and despite shouting it many many times towards the microphone and cameras, we were still left in the dark.
I can see why this game has such a low escape rate. Darkness, lack of signposting, and puzzles that just didn’t seem to make sense or always fit the narrative. We left this hostel feeling frustrated and wondering if we should have just quit to became the latest victims.
Team: 2 players – escaped in 53 minutes
Address: Unit 2B, Samlet shopping centre, Samlet Rd, Llansamlet, Swansea SA7 9AG