Last week I reviewed Exit the Game: The Pharaoh’s Tomb here on Start Your Meeples. After falling in love with the real-life “Escape The Room” experience, we decided to try our hands at a few of the card game (or decksporation game) versions as a group. In particular we played the Unlock series on International Tabletop Day, a series of three games you can play buy that are three separate gaming experiences. Through playing the Unlock series, and pottering around the UK Games Expo back in June, we gained exposure to this new and emerging world of experiential games that are sweeping the market.
The Exit the Game series is one such franchise who seems to be cashing in on the trend, having released a series of games in the UK thus far. There are three available on Amazon at the moment – Exit the Pharaoh’s Tomb (which I reviewed last week), Exit the Secret Laboratory (which I don’t yet own), and Exit the Abandoned Cabin. Guess which one we’ll be talking about today?
THE PREMISE OF EXIT THE GAME: THE ABANDONED CABIN
Unlike its predecessor, Exit the Game: The Pharaoh’s Tomb (which had a historical theme), Exit the Game: The Abandoned Cabin is an exit game based around the classic horror cliche of finding yourself trapped in a haunted cabin. Think Cabin in the Woods, but without Chris Hemsworth or Sigourney Weaver.
The plot is very simple. Shut your eyes and picture the scene…
Ah…this is a blog. You need to keep your eyes open.
Keep your eyes open and picture the scene…
You and your friends have been driving along a dark and rainy road. It is shrouded by trees, with forest on either side, when your car breaks down. Alone and afraid, you seek refuge in a cabin you find in the woods. You all manage to bed down for the night. Upon waking up, you realise the windows are barred, and the cabin is locked. You and your friends (or just you if you’re working solo) must work as a team to survive.
Exit the Game: The Abandoned Cabin is a horror-themed decksploration game seemingly inspired by such movies as The Evil Dead and (wait for it) The Evil Dead 2. In the game, you have to use a deck of cards, a “mysterious disc”, a detailed booklet, and a few “strange objects” to solve clues throughout the game.
The game played identically to Exit the Game: The Pharaoh’s Tomb, only with a different setting, for those who are familiar with the series. For those who aren’t familiar, the game plays fairly simply. You, as players, are given a deck of cards. This is instantly split into three sections – the Riddles, the Answers, and the Help decks. By solving clues in the booklet you get directed to Answers. These lead you to more Riddles, with the Mysterious Disc and Strange Objects acting as further tools for the players to use.
The Help deck consists of three cards per Riddle, with two clues for each one and one solution. This is to help the players out, just in case you need it or want to get past a particularly unenjoyable puzzle.
The game is meant to take an hour to two hours and involves racking everyone’s brains to solve puzzles. We did it relatively quickly, with two players, in 1 hr 9 mins.
QUALITY AND COMPONENTS OF EXIT THE GAME: THE ABANDONED CABIN
Usually, quality of components means a lot with games. Games like Lords of Waterdeep, Catan, or Splendor are games that get pulled out again and again – so the parts need to be high quality. Exit the Game games, as a franchise, are one hit wonders. You are only ever going to play them once, and so they should be considered experience as much as they are considered games. As such, it doesn’t need to have parts that are hugely high in quality. It would be nice, seeing as it is an experience, but it’s not necessarily needed.
The booklet and cards have some amazing artwork in them. It is immersive, way more so than the Exit the Game: The Pharaoh’s Tomb, with all of the puzzles feeling thematic, but not forced. The cards themselves are a fairly low gsm, but that’s fine. I can personally forgive that for a “throw away game”, since a nice deck of cards can cost more than this entire game.
What I struggle to forgive though is when the plastic centre to the “Mysterious Disc” kept popping out midway through play. The disc is made of thin cardboard (along with the “strange objects”) which is not built to last. Unfortunately, the disc is used a lot throughout the game. Being four concentric circles clipped together that slide around, the popper in the middle of them is not built to withstand the usage the disc gets.
Generally speaking though, the game passes the “good enough” test. It has a cheap build quality, but it is good enough to get you through a session. The artwork, however, is brilliant and should not be ignored. It deserves credit.
WHAT IS IT LIKE PLAYING EXIT THE GAME: THE ABANDONED CABIN?
For those of you who read my review of The Pharaoh’s Tomb, you may recall that I struggled to recommend it at the end. It felt like it cheated at certain points, deliberately leading you astray to stretch the game out. It left half of the group I played with swearing they would never play an Exit game again, which was a real shame.
The good news is that I can recommend Exit the Game: The Abandoned Cabin fairly solidly. It was a fun game, made more fun by having a high-quality theme that really came through on the majority of the puzzles. There were no moments where we had no idea what to do, and that was really nice. We always had something to try, something we hadn’t thought of. It is, at heart, a really well thought through game which highlights the potential for the series.
What was especially appreciated, this time around, is that the clues were complete. In The Pharaoh’s Tomb we had to take a couple of complete punts in the dark, jumping between puzzles which often felt tedious due to a lack of direction. This was less of a problem for The Abandoned Cabin as all of the puzzles were concise. They showed you what you needed to know, in their own ways, and this made it a more wholesome experience.
All in all, Exit the Game: The Abandoned Cabin is almost a perfect experience; however, there was one point that let it down. Some of the puzzles, and I am thinking about one in particular here, were very similar in style to one of the puzzles in Exit the Game: The Pharaoh’s Tomb. It is very hard to describe this without giving away spoilers, but the particular puzzle was one of the weaker parts to both games. If this is the first time you’ve played an Exit The Game then you’ll think it adds variety, but the second time, in a different game, it became an exercise in just getting through it.
What this does is highlight a wider problem with Escape games, both in board game form and as a real-life experience. Sometimes the puzzle does not match the theme (or is just a generic puzzle dressed up to seem different) but it was included because it can be a good puzzle. Where this was a more prominent problem with The Pharaoh’s Tomb, there were a few occasions throughout The Abandoned Cabin which also had us wondering how that specific puzzle had made its way to that specific place.
VERDICT FOR EXIT THE GAME: THE ABANDONED CABIN
There is one point that does need to be addressed, and that is the following question: “Did we enjoy this more because it was our second Exit the Game so we knew what to expect?”
And as much as I don’t want it to be the case, I think we did. Now we have got our heads around how the designers think, this made the game more enjoyable; however, I don’t think it is a problem. Exit the Game: The Abandoned Cabin works well as a standalone game – it could even be a great introduction to the series, and I believe it stands up well against some of the competitors in the industry.
I was dubious about whether to buy another Exit the Game after The Pharaoh’s Tomb; however, I am glad that I did. Exit the Game: The Abandoned Cabin is a very good game, and I would even recommend it as a starting point to get into the concept of Escape games. It was thoroughly enjoyable.
So there we go. A good game. I would heartily recommend it, especially if you have experienced the live experience. This game is the closest I have felt playing the board game equivalent to actually being locked in a room – but the quest for the next great escape game continues…
If there are any escape or exit games you would recommend, let me know in the comments below.