This review gives my thoughts on this Exit games by Kosmos Games. With the increasing popularity of Escape Rooms but with current lockdown and social distancing, it makes it almost impossible to enjoy this genre in a traditional setting. However, Kosmos have been producing a series of Exit games covering a variety of themes and this one shows you that a day at the beach doesn’t always go to plan.
On reaching for the box there are clear instructions not to rifle through the booklet or cards until you are ready to embark. The challenge of the game is to solve a series of riddles, cracking the codes and aiming to escape from the Forgotten Island. The initial story sets the scene nicely. You are enjoying a leisurely day sailing, are hit by a furious storm and find yourself as castaways on an island. At the start it is imperative that all of the players have a chance to read the narrative, settle down and get their thinking caps on. Kosmos recommends grabbing a pen and paper to make scribbled notes. There is a downloadable app. This provides atmospheric sounds and a timer to chart your progress.
The box states that Exit: The Forgotten Island is for one to four players. It certainly plays well with higher player counts. This will give plenty of opportunity for discussion and in this situation, “two heads are better for one”.
What's In the Box?!
Having read the narrative and got into role you are faced with a scenario and a couple of challenges. These are usually in the form of a puzzle or riddle. The solution to these normally takes the form of a code of three symbols. There is a clever circular code disk made of three concentric circles. This works a little like a combination lock and the correct symbols need to be aligned.
This provides an answer and allows you to select an outcome. From ths a second card will inform you if you are correct (or not). This mechanism is simple, yet effective and ensures that players cannot inadvertently stumble across the solution to a riddle. It also means that most solution cards have a number of uses.
The puzzles and riddles take a number of forms. Some might be observational, others more logical. The game provides a 12 page booklet (the writings of a castaway and their musings on how to escape). The book needs to be used in conjunction with the riddle cards. Sometimes you might be presented with puzzles for which there is no solution at that point in the scenario. Additional information might be required and this may not be forthcoming until other puzzles have been solved. There are no instructions here.
It is up to you to look and the information you have and to try to make sense of it all! At times you will probably draw a complete blank. Every avenue has been explored and the timer is still counting. Kosmos has provided a series of hints and tips for every puzzle. These do not necessarily give the complete solution but are graded. The first hint points you in the right direction, the second walks you along the path to a solution while the third almost gives you the answer on a plate!
Thoughts about Exit: The Forgotten Island
I was quite nervous when I opened the box. I was concerned that I would find the puzzles too hard and that as a family we would need all of the hints for every riddle and that we would take far too long. However, in this game you are playing for personal pride. For us, the achievement of solving the riddles (albeit with some help) and escaping was sufficient for us.
The game is marketed for up to four – it certainly worked well with six around the table. This meant we could split into different groups and tackle different problems. The standard and difficulty of the puzzles means that it is best aimed at secondary school age children, teenagers and adults. Younger children could be involved in solving the clues if they are in charge of the clever solution disk but some of the riddles are quite fiendish. Encyclopaedic knowledge or an Einstein super-brain was not needed. We found that taking a step back and thinking laterally to be helpful.
Spoils of War
In order to solve some of the puzzles we realised that some of the resources needed folding or cutting. [I’ll say no more for the sake of spoilers]. This does make the game a single-use game. That said, once you have solve the problems you will know the solution. It does mean you might be unable to pass the game on to others to enjoy.
The components are relatively space, a few pieces of card, a booklet, a deck of riddle and hint cards with the clever solutions disk. The cards are well written and the iconography is clear and easily distinguished. There was just one riddle that relied on colours alone to be solved.
Some puzzle experts might be able to solve this game in less than an hour.
The Average Family
For us, as an average family, we found that we were stuck on clue 4 (out of 10) as 60 minutes ticked by. The game does not need to be solved and completed in just one sitting. It works very well in playing for a set length of time, solving the riddles that you can and sleeping on the others. This means that the game could easily stretch over a few days. It takes a matter of seconds to set up and record which riddle cards have been used.
The ability to pick up and play is one of this gams strengths. You get real value for money as you mull over a riddles for a few days. Another strength is that this game encourages team communication. As you toss ideas and possible solutions around, so there is a health buzz around the table, followed by a cheer when the next riddle is solved. While you might not be physically dying of thirst or facing the perils of poisonous plants as you are sat at your dining room table, there is a real sense of relief as all of the puzzle pieces fall into place.
I was worried that the game might have a purely linear path. The fact that different information might be needed at different points means that to solve the clues other previous information is essential. However sometimes a lucky guess might advance your cause and one very tricky challenge could be avoided. Some might say that there is very little “game” in the box.
However, you are getting a gaming experience. This is no quick filler game. Of course, it is single play – but so might be a trip to the cinema or an actual escape room. But for value for money in giving the whole family something to sink their teeth into – this is hard to beat. Having just dipped our toes into the Exit series of games, I can safely say our teenagers are thoroughly convinced as to these games. We’ll be certain to tackle other titles in this series.