Escape rooms are an interesting beast, especially during the current times. While escape rooms became the living embodiment of old “escape the room” flash games, many escape room companies have created virtual escape rooms to provide the physical embodiment of a digital game back in a digital form.
Watching someone else go through an escape room doesn’t hold much interest for me. Half the fun of escape rooms is that adrenaline rush when you solve a riddle and discover the next one. Fortunately, Kosmos prepared a series of escape room games that capture that feeling of discovery and investigation.
The EXIT games are a series of escape room board games where solving riddles allows you to open chests, investigate rooms, and eventually escape. There are a few awesome design choices in the EXIT series that make these games a wonderful way to wile away an afternoon.
My favorite design choice is likely the most controversial. These games can never be replayed – not by you and not by anyone else. Half of the puzzles involve bending, cutting, or otherwise destroying game pieces or the game board. While this means every game you purchase is a one-time use, it is also freeing in the best of ways. You can try anything to solve these riddles without worrying that you’re ruining your game.
Another awesome design choice is the way the riddles are solved. The EXIT games use a solution wheel where you input a number combination under a symbol to open that door. The resulting number guides you to an answer card with images of the different puzzles and a guide to their answer card. While this sounds confusing, it is actually really easy to use in the moment and it provides enough distance between the combination and the solution that you can’t accidentally input a correct solution to a different riddle (as the final correct answer cards will not appear in the number wheel).
The help system is also pretty well designed. Each riddle corresponds to a stack of three help cards with two clues and a solution card. Whenever you are stumped on a riddle, the first clue will often ensure you’re looking in the right place while the second gives you a much stronger hint. During our games, we had some riddles we solved after the first, some we solved with the help of the second, and one where we would never have solved it without the solution card.
Overall, the games were fun and expressive. There was a clear story told through your progression and the riddles were challenging without feeling impossible, with one notable exception. I would highly recommend these games to my friends as they can be played solo, with a single friend/partner, or a whole family.
The first game we played was The Haunted Roller Coaster. The Haunted Roller Coaster had a cartoonishly dark theme, like an Goosebumps book cover or a Saturday morning cartoon. You are trapped on a haunted roller coaster track and must progress through a series of spooky rooms to escape. I really enjoyed the visuals of this one, though I found some of the cardboard cutting to be tedious. If you pick this one up, make sure you have a pair of scissors for everyone who is playing. It will make things go a lot faster.
With the EXIT games, you are not on a 60-minute timer, but instead have a continuous stopwatch timer. Your score at the end is defined by how long you take and how many help cards you used. This helps create a rushed atmosphere without making you feel like you failed if you moved to slow. Even with the 2-star difficulty (out of 5), we only scored a 7/10 as we took longer than 60 minutes and used 4 help cards.
The Catacombs of Horror is a bit darker, a bit longer, and a lot harder. Clocking in at a difficulty of 3.5 stars with an estimated two hour run-time, this is the game you pick up if you want a but more of a challenge. Out of the thirteen or so puzzles of this game, we only failed to solve one of them (though I’m sure there are some people who would have no problem with it). We also ended with a score of 6/10, even with our previous experience.
My only complaint with these games is the requirement of cutting card stock for a few of these riddles. Otherwise, the riddles often had interesting solutions requiring some out of the box thinking and solving them felt fun and rewarding. If you like escape rooms and miss being able to go to them, I highly recommend picking up one of these.