RATING: 5 Keys RESULT: Win REMAINING: 10:00
A once grand hotel in the heart of the world’s most beautiful theme park hides secrets and surprises behind every single locked door.
Many weary travelers have sought refuge in this once-grand lodging; few have ever been seen again. Dark secrets lurk behind every door and a feeling of malevolence permeates the very air. Right this way to your room – don’t worry, we’ll take care of the luggage.
The Haunted Hotel was once an upscale world of luxury, but it’s clearly fallen well past its hay day. Perhaps naming an opulent establishment “Haunted Hotel” wasn’t the best strategy for long term success in the high-brow lodging world, but I digress.
Once within its doors, you’re immediately immersed into the storyworld in a very real way. There’s no doubt this old hotel had many a secret to hide from us- and if we aren’t careful – and quick – we might just become one ourselves.
Our investigation of the Haunted Hotel began in its guest elevator, and appropriately, it was “malfunctioning” (to be clear, this was by design.)
From there we found ourselves in the Hotel’s lobby, and ultimately several of its, ahem, “more budget guest rooms” as defined by our personal bellhop.
No Escape utilizes a fully in character, costumed actor as the room’s game master- and honestly they do so to great success. The actor keeps to himself unless called upon, but remains active in the background as an added ambience. While I searched the room, the bellhop was dusting, checking the mail and doing any number of things one would naturally expect to see inside a real hotel. At one point, he even asked me to sign the guest book!
For a temporary attraction (No Escape is only offered during the run of the park’s Howl-O-Scream Halloween event) the attention to detail is stunning. Fully fleshed out rooms, wonderfully decorated, with every shelf full of props, and even cobwebs. Many permanent venues could only wish to produce this scenic quality.
No Escape’s Case of the Haunted Hotel has a truly solid blend of puzzles- from discovery, locks and keys, some physical steps and a whole lot of tech. Our first stop in the Hotel’s elevator was a bit bumpy to start- both literally and from a flow perspective, but once I got it “working” this game had a strong, intuitive flow for every second moving forward.
“Ah ha!” moments and hidden reveals made this adventure an exciting one. The actor was a successful complement to the game play- at one point even having a bit of surprise involvement in a puzzle’s payoff.
No Escape crafts a product that was a satisfying challenge for a player as experienced as myself, but still provides a welcome platform for Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s park guests, many of whom may have never played – or even heard of – an escape game before.
No Escape marks the first full scale installation of an escape game within the gates of a major theme park in the United States, and as such, I just wasn’t sure what to expect prior to visiting. I’m very happy to report that the quality of this experience (at least with regard to Case of the Haunted Hotel) exceeded my expectations.
This is a total package attraction that makes for a fitting compliment to the Howl-O-Scream event, while standing on its own as a clearly premium, boutique experience. And while I do believe Case of the Haunted Hotel deserves a separate ticket cost, it’s important to consider just how quickly costs can add up. In order to play this game, one needs to pay park ($15), pay for admission into Busch Gardens Williamsburg ($60) AND THEN pay for No Escape ($30-50 depending on the day of the week and time of the day that you select.) On the highest end, you could be looking at $125 if your goal is solely to play an escape game (though with so much to do, you definitely should visit with the intention of spending a full day to enjoy the park.) It’s also worth noting that while speaking strictly of the game cost itself, it may at first glance seem within the window (albeit the heigh end) of industry standard – BUT – these are 30 minute experiences, essentially making them cost double what a game elsewhere might run you.
I greatly enjoyed my time within Case of the Haunted Hotel, and I feel as though personally, I got my money’s worth. I also happen to own a platinum annual pass, meaning the parking and admission portions of this game were essentially waived, and I got a (very small) discount on my reservations. No Escape is an ambitious move, and proof that the Escape Game world *can* collide with the theme park world to a successful means. With some tweaking and further evolution of the concept, perhaps there is a future that Escape Games can become more common fixtures inside our favorite theme parks.
Venue: Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Location: Williamsburg, Virginia
Number of Games: 2
GAME SPECIFIC INFORMATION:
Duration: 30 minutes
Capacity: 6 people
Group Type: Public / You may be paired with strangers.