Friday, 10 November 2017

Exit: The Game

Plays: 4Px2.

The Game

Escape room games are a new trend. So far I have tried two games from the series Exit: The Game, and one game from the series Unlock!. The basic premise of these games is you find yourself locked up in a room, and in the limited time given to you, you need to find a way to escape. These are cooperative games with many puzzles to solve.

The games in the Exit series which I have played are The Abandoned Cabin and The Secret Lab. A game is essentially a set of 10 riddles. You start off with some information and one riddle. Each time you solve a riddle, you get more information and more riddles. Sometimes you have a few riddles on the table at the same time. You may not have enough information to solve all of them, but you will have enough information to solve at least one of them. As you uncover more information and more riddles, you will eventually work your way to the final riddle which lets you escape the room. When there are multiple pieces of information on the table, you won't know which riddle or riddles they are for. You need to work it out yourself.

This is how a game is set up. The red cards are the riddle cards. You reveal them only when explicitly instructed to do so. The blue cards are the answer cards. They don't actually tell you the answer. They are just part of a system to help you check whether your answer is correct. The green cards are help cards. The icons on them represent specific riddles in the game. If you get stuck with a particular riddle, you may use these help cards. Most riddles have 3 help cards. The first one gives you a little help, the second one gives more, and the third one tells you the solution.

At the start of the game you get this disc with three rotatable inner layers, and a booklet. Along the edge of the disc you can see the icons representing the riddles. The solution to a riddle is a combination of three chemicals. To test whether your answer to a riddle is correct, you rotate the inner layers of the disc so that the three desired chemicals are aligned below the riddle icon. A number will appear in the small window, and that's the answer card you need to check to see whether your answer is correct. The booklet contains a lot of information, but in the beginning most of it will not be meaningful. There is no explanation on how to use the information. You need to work it out yourself. Most information will only be useful when you reveal the relevant riddle card.

The Exit games are once-only affairs. This is true on two levels. It is once-only because if you already know the solutions to the riddles, you can't unknow them. It is also once-only because during play you will damage, alter or destroy components irreversibly. You will write on them, or draw on them, or fold them, or tear them, or cut them. I shall not be specific. Once you are done with your copy of the game, you won't be able to lend it to a friend to play.

The Play

It's a challenge trying to describe Exit. I can't be telling you too many details. It would spoil the game for you. I can't share too many photos either. Both my plays were with my wife and children (10 & 12). The riddles are mostly logic puzzles. There is sound reasoning behind the solution of every riddle. Technically you can try all combinations for a riddle until you eventually get the right one, but that is against the spirit of the game. It defeats the purpose.

Many of the riddles require piecing together a few clues. Some feel like mathematical questions. Some require you to associate separate elements. Some of them are quite creative. They surprised me.

The first time we played, we managed to beat the game comfortably within the hour. We only used one help card. I thought the game was easy. Not challenging enough. Our second game took 1 hour 18 minutes, and we had to use three help cards. They were all for the same riddle which we got stuck at. We eventually gave up and had to look at the solution. It was a good one. I was impressed.

The game is easier with more people. More people means more ideas. When facing a difficult challenge, there is a better chance that one of the players can think of something to try which will work. It is possible to play solo, but I think it will be less fun. Even with just two players, at least you can discuss and brainstorm. That's part of the fun - working together to achieve something.

The back of the rulebook is for recording your play - who you played with, how long you took, which riddle was most interesting etc.

The Thoughts

Exit does not feel like a boardgame to me. It is an experience. An event. It is a process of solving a series of clever riddles. If you like solving puzzles and riddles, you will probably like it. You certainly have to put on your thinking hat. The riddles are mostly logical in nature. Few have cultural elements, or are language specific, or need specific knowledge or familiarity with current events. You just need logical thinking, mostly. So the game translates well from the original German version to other languages. Logic is language independent. One thing that I find lacking is I don't really feel I'm locked inside a room trying to escape. Many of the riddles feel like they are independent. I can't imagine myself in a room searching for equipment to help me break out. The riddles themselves are clever and interesting. There is some background story you need to read aloud to get you into the mood. Just enjoy the puzzles and don't worry too much about the story. The story is not the selling point.

As a shared experience, this is a good family activity. I imagine it will work equally well with a group of friends. It's something you do together to enjoy the companionship and comradeship. You face a challenge together and achieve something together. I don't have a problem spending money to buy a game which can be used exactly once. I'm buying the journey, not the components. I have already ordered Exit: The Pharoah's Curse, which I hear is the toughest among the first three games released. I'm very much looking forward to the challenge.


Lord of Midnight said...

If we didn't hear from you in the next 2 weeks, can we then assumed you are stuck with the Pharaoh in his tomb? :P

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

please... send... help.... :-D