Happy Tuesday! Last week, I wrote about Crrrrrrazy Taxi!

Today, we slow things down a bit with a more cerebral puzzler. One with a fantastic art style and some fiendishly clever-but never too complex-puzzles.

Exit first hit the PSP in 2006 (that’s the only version I own, so everything here is based on the PSP version). It was developed by Taito (of Bubble Bobble fame) and published by UbiSoft.

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As professional escapologist Mr. ESC, you’re tasked with getting people out of various buildings that have been besieged by disaster. One chapter may focus on fires, another on earthquakes, there’s a thing with asteroids (!) and so on. Mr. ESC has a basic set of abilities; he can run, jump, and climb. He can also communicate with survivors, and this is pretty important.

See, the entire goal of the game is to guide survivors to the Exit (ah-ha, see what I did there?). It’s not as easy as it sounds, as these survivors come in all shapes and sizes-and more importantly, abilities.

Children can only climb over small objects on their own, for example, but can access small spaces Mr. ESC cannot. Whereas young adults are more or less comparable to Mr. ESC, and can assist you in pushing objects, smashing obstacles, etc. Large adults can push heavier objects, but can’t climb over things without assistance from at least two adults. Lastly, there’s injured people, who can’t do anything. They need to be carried or placed on a stretcher.

The game oozes with style.

So every room is set up with survivors (with various abilities/drawbacks) and obstacles (of varying complexity) and it’s up to you to figure out how to get everyone out of the level. Simple.

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Of course, this being a puzzle game, the solutions are always obscure at first. Right here is one of the reasons I like Exit, and puzzle games in general: You load up a level in Exit, and immediately it seems hopeless. You go through the level, and yeah, still hopeless. “This puzzle is impossible!”, you shout before attempting a new distance-throwing record with your PSP.

But then. Then. It happens. Like all great puzzle games, suddenly that “ah-ha!” moment happens. That moment when you’ve figured it out, and a confident smirk plays across your face as you reach the exit with every survivor. It’s a cool moment to feel. It encapsulates perfectly the difference between challenge and frustration: frustration being you groaning “ugh, finally,” when you complete a level, and challenge being when you jump off your couch in triumph, fist in the air like you just captured a legendary Pokemon. In real life.

Yikes.

Exit understands this idea. It’s challenging, but not ridiculous. It’s fair. You have to use your brain, you gotta think, sure, but you’ll never really be so angered you’ll quit. It really hits a sweet spot in terms of difficulty. Stay calm, think for a moment, and you’ll figure it out.

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I’ve gotta mention the art style here, too, because it’s lovely. Exit features a heavily stylized look, which you can see in the screenshots. It’s perfect for the game; the cartoon look makes everything clearer, enabling you to instantly idnetify hazards, people, and obstacles. This was really important on the PSP’s relatively small screen; the game has quite a bit of information to convey to you, and the stylized look makes this easy. Also, it’s just plain cool. As far as music, it’s serviceable, it has a bit of a”caper” theme. Not bad, but it doesn’t really stick out.

Exit’s definitely worth a look, or a replay. There are some minor issues, like Mr. ESC’s controls. Specifically, he moves in predetermined “blocks” sort of like the original Prince of Persia; though nowhere near as infuriating as that game, it does make it a bit tricky to time running jumps. Further, the distance you can fall without taking damage is deceptively short. But that’s really nitpicking, and once you get used to the game’s quirks, it ends up being a blast.

I mean, it’s fun to play a game where you have to think.

Thanks for reading my stuff! As always, leave comments, suggest future games to be featured as Game of the Week, and find me on Twitter! Also, read more of my stuff at Current Digital, and catch up with my (currently on hiatus) other article series here!

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Next week’s article falls on my birthday! I will be writing an article as always. About what? Hmm. Let’s go with one of the best JRPG’s ever made. No, not Final Fantasy VII. Someday, but not next week :)