Published June 13th, 2017 @ 11:27 pm EDT by Paul

REVIEW: Witchcraft by Escape Hotel Hollywood (Los Angeles, CA)

3/5 Claws

Challenge: 7.5
Awe: 5.5
Care: 6
Theme: 6.5
Team: 6.5
Signature Color: Green


“We haven’t had a disagreement like this around here in a while, but I really just didn’t care for this room at all.  It was too dark to see anything and even when I grouped enough of the electric tea-lights together enough to be able to read various documents, they didn’t make very much sense.  It’s funny to me that the Signature Color here is Green (as in enjoying the room’s environment) because other than being lost in the dark, there wasn’t too much for me to enjoy.”

That said, this is one of the more difficult rooms we’ve experienced at this particular venue, but I wouldn’t recommend it on that basis; a lot of the puzzles at Escape Hotell Hollywood appear in just about all of their rooms in about the same place.  For example, you’ll know you’re about half done when you’re putting together some kind of jigsaw puzzle.

I also took issue with some of the technological elements of the room not really working correctly.  We’ve seen technology used in other rooms so well that the effect appears to be almost magical and it’s clear that Witchcraft is striving for the same effect.  But here the execution is sadly clumsy leaving players to wonder if their answer is wrong or if something is accidently unplugged.”


“This is my favorite room at Escape Hotel LA. I’m not sure what I think of the venue–obsessed with spectacle, but ultimately, quite conventional and stolid in terms of what it does with the typical escape room types and genres. But it’s really, really dark in the Witchcraft room. The dark–very dark (I like it very dark)–green and black ambiance creates a rare type of fear.  It’s too low and slow to be panic, and it’s not exactly dread either, as it doesn’t creep up on you. It’s more like a overhearing a hymn they’re singing down in hell: it’s telling you you’re doomed. A sense of “doom” is a little more antique than anything we’d normally get in a horror-themed room. Dread is often just a few of death, but Doom involves the possibility that life is about to end horribly, and that the torments coming in the afterlife are going to be even worse.  The word literally means “judgement” and the trick to Witchcraft is, I think, in the sudden alliance between the witch, who is about to be tortured to death by inquisitors, and the victims of the witch.  Everyone, witch and puritan, was in over their heads. Players have only dim candles, and must dodge gruesome witchcraft and a puritan inquisition, which means we’ve got two enemies: the devil, and Christ.

Can you get all that into an escape room though? The room does give it a shot–these aren’t silly Halloween witches, it’s closer to the show Salem, in those scenes that take place at night. And again, the pace is slow and steady, like an incantation, and keeping players in this pace is where the joy of this room was for me. An early puzzle involves a Ouija board, which is an inspired choice: you can’t rush a Ouija board.  You have to breathe and let yourself tune in.  Tarot cards also support the effective paradox, that practicing witchcraft can get us burned at the stake, and that the only way to escape is to practice witchcraft.  The later parts of the game are a bit weaker–certain illusions seem half-hearted.  In the room’s first act, darkness worked to intensify the wonderful detail by making us discover things up close and by candle light. In the latter phases, darkness is used to disguise the fact that the set isn’t detailed at all.

Happily, puzzles branch out a bit and it’s possible for the larger team to faction off into smaller groups.  They become less, and not more, interesting as the game progresses.  The rhyme between the magical objects and the kind of logic required to solve them becomes very forced, and the constant discovery of digits for a padlock starts to get really tired. Research yields abundant possibilities, since witches and alchemists have always relied upon encryption and riddles to keep their knowledge a) communicable and b) secret, but the real problem with this room is the same problem Escape Hotel has in general: they lose their passion for game design long before they lose their passion for crumbly interiors in low-light. Witchcraft is just the room where that fits the best, and where that aesthetic serves the story in a less-than-totally-cliched way. It’s the kind of thing they should be striving for all the time.

6633 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 848-4954

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