Jobby, Sarah and their friend play one of these new fangled ‘Exit’ games…
If You Go Down to the Woods Today
Sarah has a friend staying over, Oli, and she thought it would be fun to get one of these new Exit games to play. I had my reservations: these are supposed to re-create the escape room experience but come in a small box – is that possible? Also, they are one shot games. Not only in the sense that after playing you’ll know how to work out the puzzles but also because the components will get partially destroyed during play. I wasn’t comfortable with that.
Ignoring me, Sarah went out and bought Exit: The Game – The Abandoned Cabin. My reservations didn’t go away.
Pens and pads were gathered, scissors brought out of drawers (the horror!), tea was made and we all sat down. There was much excitement as Sarah and Oli peeled the cellophane off the box. The lid was pulled off and the contents were taken out. There was a rulebook, another book, a sealed pack of cards, a bit of card with coloured bits and one of those things with three cardboard discs connected at the middle.
Sarah picked up the rulebook and began reading. This game is actually designed so that the (very small) rulebook is read aloud to all the players before the cards are unwrapped. It explains the setting which in this case was a typical horror film trope: your car broke down and you stayed in a cabin in the woods overnight, when you awaken the door has been locked! It seems the owner of the cabin has left you a little booklet (nicely produced, full colour) with a message from him (how nice) and some riddles that need solving. Solve the riddles to unlock the locks and go free!
So Far, So Escape Room
Yep, this feels like my experience with escape rooms so far. Except no-one has locked me into a room full of props. Well, we’ll see if that matters.
Continuing to read the rules explains the tricky bit of how are the players going to work out if they have got an answer right or not? This is clever: each answer is either three colours or three digits – and the thing made of discs (let’s call it the answer wheel) with the colours and numbers on. Around the edge are symbols that identify the riddle. When you think you’ve got the answer, set the wheels to the right alignment and find the answer card that it shows you. The answer card will let you know if the answer is right or not.
Like an escape room, solving a riddle will lead to more riddles and clues being revealed. Sometimes the players will get something that they won’t have a chance to use for a while as they gather more things that all go together into one big puzzle. I enjoy it when that happens.
How Did it Go?
I was surprised at how enjoyable this game was. It really did feel like doing an escape room and I got thoroughly caught up in it. The lack of props that I mentioned earlier weren’t a problem. In fact, with all of the man-handling the components get, it still felt like a very tactile experience. Things being cut out, things being laid over other things, things get folded, more things being arranged on the table – it certainly wasn’t just a Choose Your Own Adventure!
The variety of puzzles was great. There’s is a buzz I enjoy in escape rooms that comes from each person in the group spotting different things. As much fun as it is to work out the answer, I love it when someone else says “Hey, what about this?” and I get that “Wow! Why didn’t I think of that?” moment. That’s what I love in escape rooms and this really came through in Exit: The Game.
The game comes with a set of clue cards for each puzzle. The first points you in the right direction, the second walks you through how to work out the answer and the third actually gives you the answer. The more you use, the lower your score at the end. This means that players will never get frustratingly stuck so they can’t move on. We only used one clue and we could have avoided that if we’d been a bit less blinkered.
The riddles are all very logical; they ‘make sense’. They don’t require any external knowledge and the game provides the players any special knowledge they might need. Once again, this prevents the game from grinding to a halt if players aren’t general knowledge quiz gurus. This is a good thing.
This game certainly left us buzzing. Despite my reservations about scissors, I was having a whale of a time cutting things up! There were some brilliant “Wow!” moments where the game surprised us with something completely unexpected. There were bits that made us laugh and bits that made us frustrated. Solving each riddle gave a great sense of accomplishment and the game gives a really good sense of progression, just like an escape room should. I felt the difficulty of the puzzles was just right.
The after game discussion involved a lot of “I couldn’t believe you worked that out!” “Yeah, but I couldn’t believe you worked that out!” and everyone was excited by what happened in the last hour. And that’s how long it took us, 62 minutes with only one clue used (which could have been avoided). I think that indicates it was perfectly pitched.
And does it feel like an escape room? Yes, yes it does. Definitely recommend giving one of these a go if you haven’t already.