Exit: The Game – The Abandoned Cabin, The Secret Lab, & The Pharaoh’s Tomb [Review]

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Inexpensive & satisfying.

Location: at home

Date played: May / June, 2017

Team size: 2-6; we recommend 2-3

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $13 to 20 per game

Exit: The Game is series of tabletop escape games originally published in Germany by Thames & Kosmos. The Abandoned CabinThe Secret Lab, & The Pharaoh’s Tomb have all been adapted for an English-speaking audience.

Structure

All three Exit: The Game scenarios were destructible standalone games that operated with the same core mechanics.

In-game: A mess of cards, the decoder wheel, images of the cabin's rooms, and a book that reads, "Welcome Guests..."

We opened the box and found:

  • Journal – The 10-page color booklet had illustrations of the game’s “room” and other close-ups of things found about the space. It was essentially a hybrid map and puzzle book.
  • Decoder Wheel – The first round of answer verification, this worked exactly like the answer wheel from the ThinkFun tabletop escape games. Answer verification then had a second step involving the deck of Answer Cards.
  • “Strange Items” – These were little cardboard bits specific to each scenario.
  • Three Decks of Cards:
    • Riddle Cards – Labeled with letters on the backside and puzzles or puzzle components on the front, they became in-play after we “found” them in the room or earned access through others puzzles.
    • Answer Cards – Labeled with numbers on the backside and answer verification methodology on the front, these existed to make sure that we could not accidentally brute-force the Decoder Wheel.
    • Help Cards – Labeled with shapes on the backside and systematic hints on the front, these cards were predictable. Each puzzle had 3 hints. The first hint card explained which riddle cards, game components, and journal page(s) were necessary to complete the puzzle, along with a soft hint. The second hint card provided a heavy hint. The third hint card was a solution card.

In-game: An assortment of hint cards organized by shape, riddle cards, and answer cards.

All three games were:

  • puzzle-driven
  • light on the (ignorable) prose narrative
  • approximately the same level of difficulty
  • about an hour
  • of similar quality
  • partially destroyed during the playthrough

Story & setting

Each of the three Exit: The Game scenarios was set against an incredibly common escape room theme:

The Pharaoh’s Tomb: Egypt. Pyramid. Curse. Puzzle to safety.

The Abandoned Cabin: Car breakdown. Old cabin. Haunted. Puzzle to safety.

The Secret Lab: Experiment. Passed out. Woke up trapped. Puzzle to safety.

Each game had a range in artwork detail on the cards and in the journals. Some portions were surprisingly intricate and elegant, while others were clearly simplified to reduce red herrings. A few of the puzzle illustrations in each game were a little goofy.

Puzzles

The Abandoned CabinThe Secret Lab, & The Pharaoh’s Tomb were purely puzzle games. Most of the puzzles were visual and solvable with minimal manipulation of the bits and pieces in the box.

That being said, there were plenty of satisfying solves in each box. Each of the three games had 2 truly standout puzzles.

Standouts

The Abandoned CabinThe Secret Lab, & The Pharaoh’s Tomb were all:

  • strong puzzle games
  • sometimes surprisingly creative
  • affordable
  • easy to set up & start playing

Having played a lot of tabletop escape games, my favorite part of the Exit: The Game series was the hint system. It was useful, easy, and predictable. This straightforward system empowered us to use it as we saw fit, which has not always been the case with at-home escape games.

The story was done with a light, unobtrusive touch.

I was particularly fond of a few of the more creative puzzles in The Secret Lab & The Pharaoh’s Tomb.

Shortcomings

It occasionally seemed like we had enough components to solve a puzzle and we ended up taking a hint just to learn that we didn’t have everything we needed. [Pro tip: If you find yourself using a hint to confirm that you have all of the components, cover the bottom half of the first hint card, so that you don’t see the additional hint].

Some of the printed materials could only be used by one person at a time, which created a massive bottleneck. In each game, this was especially true of the journal booklet.

All three Exit: The Game titles were marketed as a game for up to 6 players and that’s a joke.

All three games had a broad range of print design quality. Some hokey design elements seemed out of place. Rummaging back through the boxes, I’m still a little surprised at the inconsistency.

The Abandoned Cabin’s “strange items” were hyped up throughout the game… and oh my were they anticlimactic.

The Pharaoh’s Tomb had a specific puzzle that suffered from poor print quality.

Should I play Thames & Kosmos’ The Abandoned Cabin, The Secret Lab, & The Pharaoh’s Tomb?

The Abandoned Cabin, The Secret Lab, & The Pharaoh’s Tomb were satisfying puzzle games. At roughly $15 each for an hour of gameplay, they were competitive with other professionally produced at-home escape games.

These would be great games for 2 or 3 people to share, but more than that and you will end up watching your friends solve puzzles. We played each of the games with another couple and it worked because everyone went out of their way to share. However, if Thames & Kosmos were to release another episode of Exit: The Game, I would probably just play it with Lisa.

There weren’t a lot of the puzzles in The Abandoned CabinThe Secret Lab, & The Pharaoh’s Tomb that require us to destroy components. There was, however, just enough destruction to make it very hard to reassemble the games. If you want to go miles out of your way to preserve these games for your friends, you can do it. That said, at this price point we didn’t mind wrecking these games.

If you’re curious… Lisa and I agreed that we liked The Pharaoh’s Tomb best. Our opinions were split over the other episodes, but we liked them both.

As with all of the at-home escape games that we’ve played, the Exit: The Game series did not replace the exhilaration of a great real life escape room. At a fraction of the cost of admission to an escape room, however, these boxes are a fun way to get your puzzle fix.

Crack open a bottle of wine and lock yourself into The Abandoned CabinThe Secret Lab, & The Pharaoh’s Tomb.

Full disclosure: Thames & Kosmos sent us a free reviewer’s copy of each game.

(If you purchase via our Amazon links, you will help support Room Escape Artist as we will receive a very small percentage of the sale.)

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