It’s cold. Very cold. The avalanche rushed you unexpectantly and now you are trapped within an icy cave. A cave that will inevitably become your wintery tomb if you cannot find a way out. You are alone and it will be days before anybody can find you, and of course, your phone can’t grab a signal down here. Ahead of you lays 24 riddles and puzzles to overcome before the chilling grasp of death embodies you. Will you overcome this challenge and find your way out? or succumb to your fate? Come and find out. A new challenge awaits you every morning on the run up to Christmas with Exit The Game: Advent Calendar.
Straight off the bat I will say that I absolutely adored the concept behind this product. Getting a tiny little chocolate each morning leading up to Christmas is all good with standard advent calendars if you are a kid (or big kid). But when you get older the chocolate just doesn’t give you the same buzz of excitement that it once did. Exit's Advent Calendar is an incredibly interesting activity for yourself, or to do with the family.
As the very nature of this game is that of solving puzzles, I will be trying hard to not give any spoilers or solutions. Any pictures I include for this review will be general pics and pics from the first few puzzles only.
How Does it Work?
You will likely notice that unlike general advent calendars, there is no number sequence to tell you what order to open the doors. Only the very first door is numbered. As you read through the story, you will be informed when to open the first door. In order to discover what door comes next, you will need to solve the current puzzle correctly. There is no cheating allowed here. When you think you have solved the puzzle (always a 3 number code), you slide the bars of the decoder to match and flip it over. On the reverse, you will find an arrow and a shape on the back of each number.
From the door you just completed, you follow the arrows indicated as a path towards the next door, and (brilliantly!) the shapes then act as a sort of ‘key’. If you have solved the puzzle correctly, then the door the path leads you to, will correspond with the shape sequence on your decoder. If they do not match, then you have either not completed the puzzle correctly, or you have done something wrong. Then, if they do match, then well done! You have smashed the puzzle or riddle, and you can now write the next number on the snowball on the front of the door. This shows you what one you will be opening next. You will have to wait until the next day though! Only I am allowed to jump straight from door to door. I had to! Or there would be no review for you to read. I did it for you, my dear reader.
So, I am sure this is the real reason you are here. You need to know what the puzzles are like correct? You need to know how difficult they are, if they are suitable for children, and whether or not you need to eat your Weetabix first. Well, let us explore this in a little depth.
I am a massive puzzle lover. Always have been. I have an app on my phone called Puzzle Page (highly recommended) which gives me a fresh couple of puzzles daily. These are anything from crosswords, sudoku, killer sudoku, picture blocks, kakuro, futoshiki etc and I have been doing this religiously for about 5 years now. I love buying puzzle books and backing puzzle related content on Kickstarter. I have also done many escape rooms, managing to escape them all. This is also where my love for games like Kingdomino, Queendomino, Carcassonne etc come from as they are like little puzzles with optimal outcomes to find. It is also why I was interested in the Mensa challenges. The only thing that I have ever given up on are Rubik’s cubes. They can burn in hell.
So how did a puzzle enthusiast such as myself find the ones in Exit the Game: Advent Calendar? Honestly, very interesting. There was a nice mix of logic puzzles, tactile puzzles, abstract thinking puzzles etc with little riddles that give you hints as to what you need to do in each room. Sometimes the room itself is part of the puzzle and you need to interact with it in certain ways, sometimes I was stuck for quite some time thinking ‘this game is broken’ before realising I was thinking about the puzzle wrong, sometimes they clicked pretty quickly for me and I progressed smoothly. This was great as it gave me a fantastic mix of feeling like a total smart-ass at times whilst also at other times needing to do some heavy thinking to progress.
The only issue I had with the puzzles were that at one point, one puzzle got a little ‘meta’. And the solution was in relation to the shapes depicted on the doors and the decoder. I needed to look at the solution for this one, as up until that point, the solutions were in relation to the story and to the rooms themselves. It was a little frustrating that this one puzzle was actually referencing something outside of the game itself.
Personally, I went into this game with a bit of an ignorant expectation. I have not played any Exit games prior to this, (although this will now be changing very soon) and was expecting the effort to have only been placed on the puzzles and gameplay aspects. I was very pleasantly wrong.
As is evident, I love writing, and inherently with that, I love reading. This Exit Calendar had plenty of story for me to sink my teeth into. It is clear that a lot of effort was placed on this side of the game, as the story goes hand in hand with gameplay incredibly well. The writing also has the perfect tone that will allow younger players to understand what is happening, whilst also providing an interesting story for older readers to get into. The intro chapter is a little long compared to all the others for obvious reasons. The main chapters are all the perfect length to provide you with a setting and scenario for the puzzle to follow and is wrote in a way that would be easy to read out for the family if they are also involved.
Along with the story book, there is also a book of hints. I loved this. Each puzzle has 3 clues and hints that are revealed by folding the corresponding page at certain points. For example, you can fold the page at the indicated level for the first hint, which tends to give you a little direction. Then there is a second indicated level to fold up for a more detailed clue that helps you a lot more. And then finally the third indicated fold mark will reveal the solution, along with a detailed tutorial on how to achieve it. They are all very well written. I love that there are three levels to the hint system. If you just simply do not understand what you are doing, then revealing the first hint will allow you to save a little more pride than subsequent hints. The hint system of course makes the whole product much more accessible for younger players.
My only issue with the writing, along with my issue with the puzzles, is that at one point it got a little ‘meta’. At one point in the story, other Exit games are mentioned. This took me out of the story a little as I saw it as a plug for other products. This of course would not phase younger players though.
Exit the Game: Advent Calendar is a component all into itself. This is incredible. At times you will be interacting with the box itself which is such a little fun concept. Telling you how would reveal little spoilers though! In each door you will find a little riddle card that hints as to what you are actually doing, and usually something to make, look at, interact with, rip, cut up, fold etc and of course, every single room is completely different in both puzzle structure and artwork. At first, I seen this as a fun little concept, but after I had opened and completed a couple of doors, my excitement grew and grew. I found myself eager to see what other strange thing I would have to do to complete the next puzzle. I genuinely felt like a kid again with a chocolate advent calendar, only with the lack of self-control freedom of being an adult and able to open as many doors as I wanted.
All the individual components in the doors are fine. They only serve (mostly) as a onetime use, and sometimes this includes cutting and folding so the quality is really irrelevant.
In the intro to the game, we are told that the game needs to be assembled by hand due to the way in which it is created. This needs to be highlighted as I imagine this means the chance for missing pieces could be a little higher than in other games. I myself had no missing pieces though and had absolutely no issues. Other than the occasional lack of brain power!
My issue with the components is with the decoder. I loved the idea whilst I was cutting the parts out of the book and assembling it. But it is so fiddly and moves with the slightest of touches. Coupling that with the fact that after you arrange the numbers how you want them, you need to flip the decoder upside down and back to front. You do this to see what pattern on the reverse side you have created. The chances are, they have slid to different positions by the time you look at it, causing you to believe you have solved the puzzle incorrectly.
Exit the Game: Advent Calendar is a brilliantly constructed project. It is fun to play through and provides you with varying types of puzzles that can be done as a family. This provided me with many smiles, many head scratching moments, and only one or two gripes. It is much bigger than I expected it to be!
I was impressed by the variety of puzzle types and the fact that they managed to make the rooms, and even the box itself part of some of the puzzles. The fact that there is so much diversity of puzzles means that no matter your skill level, there will be some that you can do in a breeze, and some that will take some brain juice. This will make the experience different for most people and make it a great talking piece between people.
If you are looking for a fun and interesting little project for the run up to Christmas, then you cannot go wrong with Exit the Game: Advent Calendar. Also, I got a little kick out of the “play time” of 24 days. I do not think any other game can make such a ridiculous claim, and it be correct! I really hope that Kosmos continues this line of products, as it could so easily set a new annual trend in the game industry as a whole, and I for one, cannot wait to see what that leads to!