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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Immersive
  • Had the essence of an IRL escape room
  • Hints that actually felt useful
  • Affordable
  • Puzzles were incredibly fun and creative

Might Not Like

  • Components a little flimsy
  • Counter-intuitive at times for people new to the style
  • Hard to split tasks evenly with a full group
Find out more about our blog & how to become a member of the blogging team by clicking here

The Return to the Abandoned Cabin Review

EXIT RETURN TO THE ABANDONED CABIN

The first EXIT game, The Abandoned Cabin, landed onto the scene in 2017 and was crowned the winner of the Kennerspiel der Jahres that year (one of the most sought after awards in board gaming). After a jam-packed five years for the EXIT series, Inka and Markus Brand hit us with a sequel - The Return to the Abandoned Cabin. Do you need to play the original to play this one? Can you play this as your first EXIT game? Is it any good? OKAY OKAY! Now before I start, this review is spoiler free, but I will be discussing components (without detailed descriptions) that are part of the setup of the game, and mentioned from the moment you open the booklet. Without further ado, here’s my review…

THE TEAM

I think it’s only fair for you, the reader, to understand the experience level of this rag-tag group. We had 4 people attempting to “uncover the secrets of the cabin”, all of which had never played an EXIT game before. We had played UNLOCK, which I’ll talk about later on, but otherwise we had no idea what to expect from this game. However, we all have our own unique ways of attacking puzzles, and we all love board games, so we had a lot of hope heading in…

THE SETUP

Out of the box, the game was fairly easy to set up. There are a stack of hint cards that needed separating by symbol, Riddle Cards, Answer Cards, a decoder (akin to ones in other EXIT games), “strange items'', “folded sheets” and, the coolest of all, a cabin wall and floor that you slot into the box. To avoid spoilers, I will explain no further than this, but it’s super cool and immerses you deeper into the scenario.

There were some confusions in this step that I will highlight here to hopefully make your setup at home smoother. When the book mentions “folded sheets”, it’s referencing a newspaper and 2 envelopes. The images do not say folded sheets on them, but this is what it is referring to. There is also an area of the “Course of play” section where it tells you to look at a certain answer card. We weren’t sure whether this meant it was starting already, or if this was the correct answer. I can assure you that it is just an example, and the game starts after you’ve read the “The Game Begins” section.

Listen, I know some of you “EXIT Pros” are reading this and thinking, “Are they really that daft?”...yes…yes we are.

My biggest issue with this phase was the pop-outs. The game isn’t super expensive, and considering the complex workings behind putting a game like this together, I understand that costs need to be saved somewhere. The paper-thin card, however, did lead to one of the tools getting ripped and broken as it was being removed. Luckily, the specific tool and how we broke it didn’t impact the experience… but if it happened to any of the other tools, it could have seriously jammed up our game.

THE GAME

In all honesty, the game was incredibly fun. We didn’t notice until after our run that there was a helper app with immersive music and a timer built in, so I can’t speak on that.

The hints were easy to use and actually helpful. They’ve done a really good job of letting you know if you’re ready to solve that puzzle yet, and keeping you on track. We used 4 hints altogether, and didn’t feel like one was wasted at any point. I think there was confusion around the symbols and worry that hints would help us with the wrong component. There’s nothing more frustrating in the UNLOCK games than when you try and find a hint but it’s one you’ve already had, or one you don’t understand yet. The hint system in this EXIT game is more efficient than that seen in UNLOCK. Trust the symbols, and trust that your hints won’t be wasted if you need them.

I like that the timer counts up, and not down, and the scoring system scales brilliantly. You can spend more time enjoying the puzzles and boggling your brain instead of feeling rushed. You can absolutely put a countdown timer on yourself and your team, but you aren’t forced into that. If you take more time, but use less hints, you’re bound to get a similar score than a team who finished quicker but used tons of hints. The quicker you solve and the less hints you use, the better the score.

As a newbie team tackling an intermediate puzzle, it was bang-on with difficulty. A middle of the range game got a middle of the range score from my team - 5 stars out of 10 at 108 mins and 4 hints. I can’t be mad about that. Now we have a better understanding of the “out of box” thinking required, we can try to improve that score in a different game. If you’re more experienced with these games, you will likely understand more of what you’re allowed to do. Physically damaging components was not something that came naturally to us and was definitely a fear in the back of our minds, but something we’ll have a better grasp of when we do more (and we will).

Four players may be one too many in this game. As a group of hands-on puzzle lovers, trying to share tasks proved to be really difficult at times, and would often (not always) end with one person taking a deep look at something whilst everyone eagerly waited their chance to get a look. Patience is a useful tool that doesn’t come with the box.

CONGRATS, YOU’VE ESCAPED

EXIT The Game: Return to the Abandoned Cabin was an incredibly fun experience. As always, we have to talk about value. Most of these games, including this one, retail at around £15-£17, though as of writing this it’s £7.99 on Zatu. As a £16 RRP game, we NEED to compare it to UNLOCK and conventional escape rooms.

Conventional escape rooms are far more expensive, but they’re a different experience. You’re getting a fully immersive event with a greater variation in puzzle types. This isn’t that, but it’s capturing the essence of that and putting it all in a small affordable box.

UNLOCK is a bit cheaper in comparison. A box of 3 games that you grab from £20-£30. UNLOCK doesn’t give you the option to rip and cut and bend components, but that’s almost an added benefit - UNLOCK games can be shared amongst different friend groups, which adds value, and eventually replayed if you have a memory like mine. The experience between EXIT and UNLOCK feels different though, and it’s up to you to decide which you prefer, or if there’s a preference at all. If you like having fun with your friends, play these when you get the chance to. They’re worth it.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Immersive
  • Had the essence of an IRL escape room
  • Hints that actually felt useful
  • Affordable
  • Puzzles were incredibly fun and creative

Might not like

  • Components a little flimsy
  • Counter-intuitive at times for people new to the style
  • Hard to split tasks evenly with a full group

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