In this review anything that might be considered a spoiler is hidden in a collapsible window with a spoiler alert on it. In all other ways, this review is spoiler-free.
Last year, I wrote a comprehensive “mega” review of all the scenarios in the Exit: The Game series that had been published between 2016 and 2018 — ten games in total. Since then, KOSMOS and Inka and Markus Brand have continued to put out escape room games in the Exit line. In 2019, this included three new scenarios: The Haunted Roller Coaster, The House of Riddles, and the first “big box” Exit game, The Catacombs of Horror.
If you’re unfamiliar with how Exit: The Game is played, check out the mega review to learn what this series is all about and how to play. Otherwise, continue reading to find out how these new titles fare in the series.
Exit: The Game – The Haunted Roller Coaster
Dark passages, bloodcurdling howls, gruesome creatures — lots of fun, right? That, at least, was what you thought when you made a spur-of-the-moment decision to take a ride on the Haunted Roller Coaster at an odd little amusement park.
Exit: The Game – The Haunted Roller Coaster has a difficulty of 2 out of 5 stars and follows its other 2-star predecessors (The Sunken Treasure and The Mysterious Museum) in how it’s played; it is a linear adventure that isn’t terribly challenging, making it a good entry point into the Exit: The Game series. The reason for this is that players are asked to only focus their energy on one puzzle at a time, whereas scenarios with a higher difficulty bombard players with information and task them with discerning what is pertinent (and what’s still missing) to solve a puzzle. However, what keeps The Haunted Roller Coaster from being my go-to suggestion for beginners is the fact that there are many elements of the puzzle solving (like the use of hidden information) which come more naturally only once you’ve played a few escape room games.
The Haunted Roller Coaster isn’t quite as scary as it presents itself to be, which was a relief because I wasn’t mentally prepared for another dark, Escape Tales-like game when I played this scenario. I was also pleased with all the puzzles in The Haunted Roller Coaster; while they were less complex, they were more tactilely pleasing. In addition to the overall pleasant experience my friends (and fellow Meeple Mountaineers) Kurt, Kathleen, and I had, our game of The Haunted Roller Coaster ended with a fun little surprise — Mini-monster war. What is Mini-monster war? I guess you’ll just have to play Exit: The Game – The Haunted Roller Coaster to find out for yourself.
Exit: The Game – The House of Riddles
After a long trip through lonely roads and dark woods, you have finally arrived. With a queasy feeling but full of anticipation, you climb the stairs to the mysterious “House of Riddles.” What on earth awaits?
Just like The Haunted Roller Coaster, Exit: The Game – The House of Riddles also has a 2 out of 5 star difficulty, but unlike its counterpart The House of Riddles is the perfect scenario to get anyone into the Exit games because there isn’t much hidden information players need to search for. The House of Riddles still works linearly — players focus on one puzzle at a time — and the puzzles get increasingly more difficult as you play. I really like this feature in the 2-star (difficulty) scenarios because it helps to naturally build confidence in the players themselves and each other as a team as they piece together the solution to a puzzle.
I chose to play The House of Riddles solo and I felt very satisfied after doing so. One puzzle required me to use my body in physical space (similar to The Mysterious Museum) and it had me howling with laughter as I contorted my body in goofy ways to try to solve it. Another puzzle left me thinking about how much I love Exit: The Game and what clever little buggers designers Inka and Markus Brand are. With The House of Riddles being my twelfth Exit game, it’s wonderful to see that the designers are still able to create puzzles that evoke this feeling in me.
Exit: The Game – The Catacombs of Horror
Completely out of the blue, a letter arrives from Ben, your good friend and renowned archaeologist. He reports on his latest adventure, but fears that it’s starting to get out of hand. If you don’t hear from him in the next few days, he wants you to look for him. The location is not exactly reassuring: the Catacombs of Paris…
Exit: The Game – The Catacombs of Horror is big: the box is more than double the standard Exit size, the game takes twice as long, and the difficulty is the highest yet (4.5 out of 5 stars).
The Catacombs of Horror is divided into two parts; players can decide to stop the game after part one and resume play at another time or go through the whole game in one sitting. My group and I chose the latter and, after a long day at work, I’m not convinced we made the right choice. On the one hand, all the information was fresh in our heads, but on the other we were mentally burnt out by the game’s final puzzle.
The tricky thing here is that every component in The Catacombs of Horror feels like it contains multiple pieces of information for solving some puzzle and just because we used part of an object early in the game didn’t mean it wouldn’t come into play later. As such, we felt like we would be sacrificing a cohesive experience if we stopped partway through. That’s not to say that you can’t stop; when players reach the saving point of the game there is a detailed list of items that will come into play in the second part. Whatever your group chooses, know you’ll probably be sacrificing something (potentially forgetting clues or overworking your brain).
Exit: The Game – The Catacombs of Horror is not for the faint of heart. This is a very challenging escape room experience and certainly the most difficult Exit game you will play to date. In spite of how difficult it was — and how many times I grumbled and groaned — the experience still felt satisfying. Even at the peak of our frustration, we never felt cheated by the game and its puzzles; it didn’t feel like we had to stretch to come up with solutions or that puzzles were just added for the sake of adding a cool element. I will, however, say that the designers took a very bold risk with one of their puzzles. While they just manage to pull it off, I don’t think the game would have been complete without it; its inclusion is what made The Catacombs of Horror one of the most immersive Exit games I have played.
Not a spoiler: I still love Exit: The Game; these three 2019 releases (The Haunted Roller Coaster, The House of Riddles, and The Catacombs of Horror) all have that Exit magic and charm that I’ve grown so fond of.
With the exception of The Catacombs of Horror, it seems the Exit games are heading in a “lighter” direction and focusing on scenarios with a 2-star difficulty — and consequently a linear experience. I can see how this linear structure might turn off some gamers who might see it as “too easy”, but I think these restrictions allow the designers to work a little more creatively with the puzzles they’re developing — it means they don’t have to worry about anyone misconstruing information, possibly negatively affecting the gameplay experience.
It’s nice that Exit: The Game is now offering gamers an array of choice. Sometimes you might not want to have your brain feel like it’s going to explode at the end of a game — much like sometimes you might want to play a big, heavy Euro and other times a lighter card game will do. Thanks to these 2019 releases, whatever your mood, you’ll be sure to find an Exit game that suits your style and difficulty.
Thematic Music for Playing Exit: The Game – The Haunted Roller Coaster, The House of Riddles, and The Catacombs of Horror
The KOSMOS Helper App features downloadable content for each of the Exit games, which includes a tutorial and a timer with a soundtrack. Whenever I play an Exit game, my preference is to use this timer and its soundtrack; I find that it creates a good ambience without being too distracting. The soundtracks for The Haunted Roller Coaster, The House of Riddles, and The Catacombs of Horror are no exception.