If you’ve ever worked in any kind of service position, say, in a hotel, you’ve more than likely fantasized about offing wretchedly selfish, rude, demanding customers more than once. The delightfully grim Rusty Lake Hotel lets you live out those daydreams, albeit in an exceptionally twisted way. Five guests are invited to the hotel so that they might experience a series of unforgettable dinners. They greedily accept the offer unaware that they are what’s on the menu.
Ok, yes, that sounds really bad until you realize that the guests are animals - a boar, a deer, a pigeon, and suchlike - and are also complete jerks. Each is more obnoxious than the last, so any pangs of guilt you might have at helping them shuffle off this mortal coil will have an even shorter lifespan than they do.
Rusty Lake Hotel is, essentially, a series of escape room puzzles; you’ll visit a soon-to-be-delicious guest and figure out how to use the items in their hotel room to kill them. (The rabbit is a particular favorite of mine, though one must appreciate the nastiness of the pigeon.) What’s nice about this arrangement is that it avoids the kind of inventory bog-down that typically plagues adventure games. Everything you need is right in front of you, assuming you can deduce what you’re meant to do with what. All you need to do to progress is procure the main ingredient for each night’s meal, but if you want to truly ace each level, you’ll need to track down two supplemental ingredients as well. These require extra diligence and experimentation - and no, I have no idea what the tomatoes were doing there. Best not to question.
The puzzles are clever, but not overly taxing; the real appeal here comes not from being stymied but from the marvelously macabre atmosphere. Rusty Lake is positively gleeful about its creepiness; it’s not trying to terrify you so much as make you squirm in a pleasant way, which it achieves with ease. The Edward Gorey-esque art, the liquid tones of your employer’s voice, the actual methods of murder - they’re all joyously dark. Oh, and speaking of dark... make sure you linger in the lobby one evening. Trust me.
Rusty Lake will only take you an hour or two to finish - more, perhaps, if you’re intent on getting three stars for every meal. Do book yourself a room… just make sure you keep your door locked at night. Bon appetit.