Bates Motel Escape Rooms – Bates Manor [Review]

Haunted mansion.

Location: West Chester, Pennsylvania

Date played: June 24, 2017

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 4-6

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29.95 per ticket

Story & setting

Our team of accomplished thieves was executing a heist of the wealthy Mr. Bates’ estate. Our goal was to make our way to his office and liberate his cash and gold.

Bates Manor was a staggeringly compelling Victorian home set overflowing with detailed set design. It was dimly lit and highly believable.

In-game: The entry gate, and front of Bates Manor.
I have to admit, this photo doesn’t really do the set justice.

Puzzles

The puzzling in Bates Manor was inconsistent. It had a strong start and a brilliant run of puzzle interactions in the middle of the game, but far too many puzzles required trial and error or significant logic leaps.

Standouts

The detailed set design was exquisite. Bates Motel Escape Rooms constructed interesting and surprising spaces into this heist. They minded so many little details that we actually stopped playing for a moment to admire and discuss how nuanced the set was.

We loved the puzzles that made Bates Manor feel like a heist. These puzzles were issues we’d have to solve if we’d been breaking in. They were born of the environment.

Bates Motel Escape Rooms built one particularly impressive tech-driven piece of set decor. It stole the show and I wish they’d used it a little more.

Shortcomings

Bates Manor was a dark set and Bates Motel Escape Rooms did not include enough light sources for each individual to carry one, nor were we allowed to use our own phones/ flashlights. That meant that at any given moment, a couple of people were unable to fully participate. This was compounded by one of the flashlights that we had being weak and underpowered.

Despite a beautiful set, Bates Manor suffered from poor upkeep. One lock was so worn that we could not see all the letters on it, not even with all the lights in the room pointed in that direction. We solved the puzzle, but David had to use a lock picking technique to input 2 of the digits.

Two late-game input mechanisms were a frustrating struggle: one because it required precision interpretation of the instructions and execution, the other because it was so unclear that we could think of a half dozen ways to interpret it.

A few puzzles relied only on trial and error or reading an enormous amount of written material, in low light, much of which was irrelevant… or maybe it was the narrative, if there was any, beyond a heist mission. We never invested the time to know.

This was all made more frustrating by Bates Motel Escape Rooms’ use of the Escape Room Boss automated hint system, which felt like it was engineered in a lab specifically to instill shame and despair.

Should I play Bates Motel Escape Rooms’ Bates Manor?

While The Tomb is Bates Motel Escape Rooms’ more visually impressive escape room, Bates Manor had stronger gameplay.

Bates Manor had a more down-to-earth set, but it was just as exquisitely detailed and really instilled the adventurous feel of a heist.

There was a fun escape game here for players of all experience levels. It will likely be challenging, but puzzle through it as if it were a heist, not necessarily a beautifully structured escape room, and the solves will likely be invigorating.

Many of the issues that made it most frustrating could be fixed. We hope that Bates Motel Escape Rooms will invest in the iteration and upkeep needed to make this escape room play as impressively as it looks.

While we had to contend with lack of upkeep, some obtuse puzzle designs, and clueing structures, overall, there was a solid heist adventure in Bates Manor.

Book your hour with Bates Motel Escape Rooms’s Bates Manor, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Bates Motel Escape Rooms provided media discounted tickets for this game.

Bates Motel Escape Rooms – The Tomb [Review]

Beauty and the beast.

Location: West Chester, Pennsylvania

Date played: June 24, 2017

Team size: 2-10; we recommend 3-5

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $29.95 per ticket

Story & setting

Having just found the belongings of the long missing archeologist, E.A. Budge, we sought to use his research and our wits to uncover the hidden tomb of Ani, high scribe of Ramses II.

Bates Motel Escape Rooms’ The Tomb presented a sandy and beautiful glimpse of Egyptian antiquity. The set was a work of art.

In-game: An Egyptian sarcophagus in the middle of a sandstone tomb.

Puzzles

The Tomb felt like a set-driven room escape. By that, I mean it seemed like Bates Motel Escape Rooms designed the set and large interactions, and then backfilled puzzles into it. This meant that there were some beautiful interactions, but it wasn’t always smooth to achieve them.

Standouts

This was by far the most beautiful Egyptian Tomb set that I’ve seen. I imagine that I will one day see other sets on its level, but I cannot imagine finding anything that looks substantially better.

The hidden and triggered interactions looked fantastic.

Shortcomings

One of those triggered interactions would cycle every few minutes, triggering a closure and then an opening all on its own. This was confusing because we kept thinking we’d triggered something else. It was also distracting.

While one interaction was constantly and loudly triggering itself, other triggered events did so with little indication. This meant that we sometimes missed having completed things or didn’t realize that we had gained access to something new.

The puzzle design relied heavily on written materials that served as a bottleneck and were, at times, incredibly confusing.

Sporadically throughout the set, pieces had fallen off. Aesthetics aside, these particular missing pieces related to an earlier puzzle, which left us wondering if the missing pieces were relevant; they weren’t.

The tomb was too dimly lit for some of our teammates to see and phones/ flashlights were not permitted. (This was made aggressively clear prior to the escape room beginning.) When we asked our gamemaster to clarify something during a post-game walkthrough… he pulled out his phone and turned on his flashlight to show us, because he seemingly couldn’t see it either. Empathy, people!

All of these complications were exacerbated by Bates Motel Escape Rooms’ use of the Escape Room Boss automated hint system, which felt like it was the unholy offspring produced by a threesome between a business efficiency consultant, the findings of the Milgram Experiment, and an app developer. In order to “automate” the hinting, we had to lug around an iPad and scan QR codes to get canned hints. This was crazy for a few reasons:

  • We weren’t allowed to have our phones, but we were carrying around a tablet.
  • Bates Motel Escape Rooms elected to ugly up their beautiful creation with hideous QR codes.
  • The hints were canned and taking one docked 2 minutes off of our time. This was particularly painful when it gave us a hint that told us something we already knew. Our only recourse at that point was to use the app to take an additional 5 minute penalty to receive the puzzle’s answer.

Should I play Bates Motel Escape Rooms’s The Tomb?

The Tomb desperately needs a puzzle designer. Bates Motel Escape Rooms produced a phenomenal environment, but the gameplay, rules, and hint system were all deeply flawed.

I truly hope that the folks from Bates commit to improving their player experience because their set is simply too good for the escape room that they have within it.

If you want to explore one of the finest Egyptian tomb escape room sets out there, then you should check out The Tomb. Otherwise, there are better escape rooms to play.

Book your hour with Bates Motel Escape Rooms’s The Tomb, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

Full disclosure: Bates Motel Escape Rooms provided media discounted tickets for this game.