Note: There are no spoilers in this review, beyond an overview of the components inside the box that you are given at the start of the game, and some vague commentary on the trends found playing through the EXIT: The Game series. That said, if you are looking for a pure, unspoiled experience, you may not want to read this review.
I have played all of the EXIT: The Game titles that have been released in the U.S., from the original set that was nominated for the Kennerspiel des Jahres in 2017, to the double-sized EXIT: The Game – Catacombs of Horror, to the most recent entries — EXIT: The Game – The Enchanted Forest and EXIT: The Game – The Cemetery of the Knight. I’ve reviewed EXIT: The Game – The Abandoned Cabin when escape rooms in a box were a new trend, reviewed EXIT: The Game – The Catacombs of Horror to look at the differences in the larger format, reviewed EXIT: The Game – The Mysterious Museum to look at how the series evolved over so many entries — becoming more streamlined and, in my opinion, a bit easier.
While I found The Enchanted Forest to be similar to The Mysterious Museum in its stream-lined, more linear approach, I see The Cemetery of the Knight as a return to form to the original, non-linear, more demanding entries in the series. I don’t say that as a criticism, but as praise. This is exactly the kind of EXIT: The Game experience I want as someone experienced with the series. I enjoyed the obfuscation of the earlier entries — where you not only had to solve the puzzles with the components, but had to work out via context clues which components were useful to solving which puzzles — to varying degrees, but as an experienced EXIT: The Game player, it’s exactly what I want. While the easier and more linear entries are still rewarding to play, especially to my ego, as I feel quite clever in crushing them, this entry is a very satisfying level of challenge.
For anyone unfamiliar with the series, I don’t recommend you start with this one at all, but I’ll quickly run down how the system works — and suggest better starting points below. Every EXIT game features a disk which is used to help ascertain if you’ve solved the riddles correctly. There are two kinds — ones that use numbers on the disk, and ones that use symbols. The symbols can be more thematic to the scenarios, but I usually do not find it’s worth the tradeoff in extraneous cognitive load to solving the puzzles. The Cemetery of the Knight used numbers on its disk.
Every EXIT game also features a booklet, and like with the disks, there are two distinct styles — ones that let you freely flip through the book from the start, and ones that don’t allow you to progress through to further pages before solving certain puzzles. The Cemetery of the Knight, like the earliest entries in the series, allows you access to all of the information. While I enjoy both styles, and find the linear progression of the book can help to create a more cohesive narrative, having to parse out what information is for which puzzle helps to add to the challenge of the game.
This entry also made very good, and very frequent, use of all of the components in the box. I don’t want to go into much more detail than that, but I’ll say that most entries seem to make unique use of the box and its components in one or two puzzles, but this one went far beyond that, which impressed me. One minor gripe I had was the large warning on the game’s insert — I don’t think it was necessary. While it wasn’t a huge detractor, it did kill my immersion a bit, and make it clear from opening the box that it would be used to solve a puzzle at some point.
The 3/5 difficulty level listed on the box seems about right. I had minor trouble with one puzzle, and after looking at a hint, I realized my confusion was a result of me rushing, and not an obtuse puzzle. Another puzzle, however, I was completely stumped by, even after reading it out loud and looking at the hints, and had to look at the solution. But considering how many puzzles come in a game, and how much I enjoyed the 90 minutes I spent with it, overall, I can’t complain that I was unable to work out one of them.
Pros: The puzzles are challenging but still mostly intuitive — although there is still some hit and miss. This entry felt like a return to the original entries in the series, with more uncertainty in how to use the information you are given, and a less linear path. This entry also made exceptional use of all of the components in, and including, the box. Like all of the games in the series, this one plays very well solo.
Cons: This game, like all of the EXIT series, is destroyed after one use, and hence cannot be replayed or shared, passed along, traded away or sold. As with the other entries, despite the game saying it can be played with up to four players, I wouldn’t play it with more than two, as I don’t think there is enough to do simultaneously to keep more than two people occupied. This game will not be enjoyed by anyone that doesn’t like solving lateral thinking, logic, and deduction puzzles.
Having played many of the different escape room games, EXIT: The Game has cemented its place as one of my favorite experiences. While I would not recommend starting with this entry, I think it is an excellent one for seasoned players of EXIT: The Game. For those that haven’t played any of the EXIT: The Game series yet, I would suggest either EXIT: The Game – The Haunted Roller Coaster or EXIT: The Game – The House of Riddles if a linear path sounds more to your liking for your first EXIT experience, or EXIT: The Game – The Abandoned Cabin, if you want something that is less linear.
Full disclosure: I received a review copy of EXIT: The Game – The Cemetery of the Knight from the publisher.