Exit PSP Review

I want to make one thing clear before we get into the meat of this review- I love Exit. The game is spawned from a world of game design that is all but extinct, and it's the type of thing I love to see cross my desk for review. With that out of the way, I feel like I need to warn potential Exit owners. Don't be fooled by the game's stylish look or its concept (escaping from burning buildings, flooded subways, etc). This is an oldschool puzzle game through and through. This is 100 levels of Lost Vikings-esque puzzle solving.

Gamers play the role of featureless (in a cool way) hero Mr. ESC (Escape). As his name implies, he's a master of, well, escaping. Over the course of the game he'll get himself caught up in 10 different scenarios (spanning 100 levels) that require him to either reach the exit, or more often than not reach the exit with all the level's helpless inhabitants in tow.

There are four different "types" of people out there to rescue- kids, young people, adults, and patients. Although each one doesn't have a bevy of special abilities to keep track of, they do all have a unique attribute or two.

Puzzles start off easy enough. You rescue a kid, but you can't reach the exit because it's blocked by flames, perhaps. So you send him through a small tunnel to hit a switch Mr. ESC can't reach on his own. These one-step puzzles very quickly (but subtly) evolve in their complexity, to the point that it would take the rest of this review to explain some of the later ones from start to finish. By the end you'll be faced with elevators, weighted pulleys, switches, movable blocks, place-able ladders and more all in a single level.

I find these brain benders a joy to work through. Certain scenarios have made me feel like a genius when (through multiple restarts) I progressed piece by piece until I found a way to allow everyone to escape safely. Although challenging, all the puzzles adhere to logic, so you can slowly piece together that you need to place the bridge, bring the adult across it to push the big block, then go hit the switch to get the kid... and on and on it goes. If you ever do get thoroughly stuck on a level, it isn't too disheartening because quite early on the first 70 levels are opened up.

Levels are timed, but most levels allot the player 5-10 minutes, which is usually more than enough, once the solution has been worked through. On the later puzzles 30 minutes of restarting to work through and reach a solution that takes four minutes to execute is not uncommon. This lends the game a very strong "just one more floor" feeling.

Each set of ten levels focuses loosely on a different mechanic, keeping things fresh, or at least as fresh as a puzzler like this can be. One set focuses on escaping from (and putting out) fire and smoke obstacles. Another set features electrified floor panels that either have to be avoided, or walked over with perfect timing. It works well; once I found myself tiring of elevator-related puzzles or whatever else, I could just switch to a different type. Its worth noting that their all fundamentally the same, though. There's no major differences between the sets.

In addition to the 100 levels that come on the UMD, Ubisoft is promising 100 additional "challenging" bonus levels. Only the first 10 are currently available, and despite being labeled as "training" I found them to be hard as hell. Great news for the hardcore Exit fan, but no frustration for the more casual fan.

My two big Exit gripes (and what's keeping this from being a 5-star review) are the clunky controls, and the almost clunkier AI. I know that Exit is not an action game so I'm willing to forgive some of the clunkiness... but not all of it. Going up and down ladders is SLOOOOW, with no way to change your mind halfway if you changed your mind. Ditto for climbing up and down ledges.

The AI issue is less severe, but still impacts the fun-factor. You tell your three fellow evacutees to follow you, but if you climb a staircase more than a few paces in front of them, they get lost. Ditto for ladders, ropes, ledges, and pretty much anything else. Since Exit is 2D it's not a pathfinding problem... its simply a problem there is no excuse for.

Neither issue is even close to being a dealbreaker for puzzle gaming fans, however. They mere turn what would have been a must-own puzzle game into a very fun one. I would venture to say that Exit is not for most PSP owners. That being said, if you like the genre the game is a no-brainer. If you're merely puzzle-curious, Exit would be an excellent game to test out your taste for it.

4

What's Hot: 200 levels!

What's Not: Clunky controls & AI