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Rusty Lake Hotel – surreal, entirely unique puzzle-escape

Wonderfully original iOS puzzle-room game

Price: $2/£2
Version: 1.2
Size: 41 MB
iPhone / iPad
Developer: LoyaltyGame B.V.

Rusty Lake Hotel

Update! It’s strange to think this game has been out for almost half a decade because there’s still nothing quite like this uniquely designed, slightly unsettling room escape series, of which Hotel was the first. Well, nothing except the rest of the series, each expanding on the charmingly dark Rusty Lake mythos. There’s now a whole range of anthropomorphic mysteries afoot, but is this original entry worth revisiting?

What’s new? In this entry, very little – but that’s no bad thing. Rusty Lake Hotel is very much a complete game. It’s shorter than its sequels – Rusty Lake Roots, for example, is a sprawling family tree of a puzzle maze which seems to go on forever. It’s a massive game, bigger and better than Hotel. However, if this is your first time visiting the Rusty Lake universe we’d urge you to start at the beginning. Try Hotel first, then move on to Roots followed by the rest of the games in the series. One thing’s for sure, you’ll either love it or hate it – but most will love it.

Revised rating: Holds up amazingly well after five years. Considering how much dirge has hit the App Store since, we’re pushing this up to ★★★★★.


Our original review, written in January 2016, is presented in its entirety below.


It’s time for you to pay the Rusty Lake Hotel a visit. This weird, stylized escape the room style puzzle has a number of twists and turns to keep the player entertained, bemused, but hooked ’til the end. The legend of Rusty Lake has been experimentally explored by the developer over a series of similar puzzlers under the Cube Escape banner, but this is its first time really delving into the story, with a standalone title.

Mr Crow may be the concierge but he doesn't provide much help beyond a high-pitched caw.

Mr Crow may be the concierge but he doesn’t provide much help beyond a high-pitched caw

So, what is the story? Well, that’s never made entirely clear. The player is thrust straight into the hotel, where they’re introduced to Mr Owl, a strange presence at the hotel, inviting the player to stay. From here, the player is introduced to a number of other bipedal animals, such as Mr Crow, the concierge, a bat-like bellhop, and numerous guests, like a rabbit, pigeon, and a boar – all dressed somewhat Dickensianly.

Here's a few of the hotel's guests, just waiting for their murde... meal.

Here’s a few of the hotel’s guests, just waiting for their murde… meal.

The player is given the job of sourcing items for dinner – Mr Toad, the hotel’s chef, gives you a series of recipes, the ingredients of which you have to source – by visiting each guest’s room at night. The meals are made up of a vegetable or something starchy, like tomatoes, or potato, seasoned with herbs, like thyme, or perhaps some red wine, but the main focus of the dish, is the meat. Can you see where this is going?

As soon as the guests retire to their rooms for the evening, you'll have to pay them a visit

As soon as the guests retire to their rooms for the evening, you’ll have to pay them a visit

Essentially, your job is to bump off each guest and then serve them up to the remaining visitors of the hotel – and you can’t leave a guest’s room until you’ve done it. It’s kind of like a reverse escape the room, one which you’ve chosen to enter. To kill each animal, you have to work out a series of puzzles in each room in order to dispatch of them – maybe you’ll be required to electrocute them, or swing an axe from the ceiling – it’s all very nuanced and intricate with keys-aplenty, and a handful of numerical puzzles too. It’s often incredibly hard to figure them all out.

One of the guests tastes a drink concocted by yourself in their room

One of the guests tastes a drink concocted by yourself in their room. Sure there’s nothing wrong with it

We struggled each time to get the full list of ingredients for each meal, in fact, we only managed it a couple of times across the five rooms. While you can technically make the meal with just the meat from each sequential room, the other ingredients are often spread out, non-linearly throughout the game.

In terms of the art-styling, the flat, hand-drawn style makes it difficult to see how the puzzles could be so detailed. It’s no The Room, where you can spin 3D objects round, and slide different movable parts. But Rusty Lake Hotel is just as mind-bending.

Quite the puzzling conundrum

Quite the puzzling conundrum

The whole thing is dissected with deeply dark humor, and the music, the voice of Mr Owl, the animal characters, the hotel and all the mystery it contains is very much like a Wes Anderson film in its inspiration. Interestingly, after playing through to an intense climax, we’re told the Rusty Lake Story is far from done and we’d be hearing more in the future. Quite frankly, we can’t wait.