Friday, July 28, 2017

Game Review - Exit: The Pharaoh's Tomb

My family and I had a lot of fun in a mini "brick and mortar" escape room at a recent convention but the price to take 5 of us into an escape room is pricey so it's not something we're going to do much. Even as a date night for just my wife and I, the cost is up there. So this new trend of escape room games at home has me excited. Having the "Exit" series also win the German Spiel des Jahres award this year also means that the trend will likely continue to give us fun new offerings.

I ordered a copy of the Egypt themed "Exit" escape room game "The Pharaoh's Tomb". My daughter wasn't super excited for it so it was just my two boys, my wife and I. We sat down, not knowing exactly what to expect, and opened the box. I'll work to avoid spoilers while also letting you know what's in there and what we experienced.

The contents of the box are simple...basically you get a bunch of cards, a decoder disk, two "strange items" (paper strips with hieroglyphs), an instruction book and a diary/notebook from a previous explorer. (It's not a spoiler but I enjoyed the nods to pop culture in that the notebook was from "Dr. Ford" and there are some hidden images that remind you of a certain whip toting, snake hating adventurer)

The instructions outline how to play the game and then give an introductory story to get you started. You are part of a tour group touring the Egyptian Pyramids. You've been separated from your group and find your way into an impressive burial chamber. Through some accident you triggered a trap of some kind that rolled a massive stone door closed. You spy the notebook of Dr. Ford, an explorer who was searching the pyramid earlier and has discovered some clues that he hopes may lead to escape and/or greater treasure. Using his clues (and your imagination that the images from his notebook and the deck of cards represent an ancient pyramid in which you are now trapped) you must try to escape or be entombed wth the ancient pharaohs. You start a timer (not included) and work your way to escape, hoping not only to escape but to achieve a good score to brag about your exploits.

Even though we obviously weren't trapped in a pyramid (which is good since my wife is a bit claustrophobic which can cause anxiety in small escape rooms) the art, storytelling and puzzles helped draw us in and feel like we were part of an actual adventure.

The first couple of puzzles were tricky but were good to help us get a feel for the way the game was meant to be played and what we were expected to do. Or so we we continued working through the puzzles and opening up new passageways we found ourselves stumped. Fortunately this game system includes a series of "help" cards that can be used to nudge you in the right direction (for a score penalty of course). We used one hint early on to just help keep the group from getting frustrated too early. Then we used additional hints later on when we felt like there was nothing else to do...and boy were we surprised at the results. I won't spoil anything but I will applaud the creativity and the way this game really makes you try to think differently. Thematically it required a little imagination but once applied it really worked and I really enjoyed the tricky bits.

It took us 88 minutes to escape and we used 6 help cards which scored us 4 stars (out of 10). Probably not a great score but definitely a great experience and I look forward to trying out the other Exit games (as well as other escape room home games).

The one problem I have with the game is that it really is a "play once" game. I know that I personally probably couldn't/shouldn't play it again (because I now know all the puzzles) but I would have loved to have an Escape Room game day and let family and friends try this one out while perhaps I played a different one. Due to some of the things you have to do to the game pieces it really can't be replayed (unless you plan ahead of time to not cut up pieces but instead make photocopies/ would be tricky even then for some of the puzzles). Really I can't fault the company too much. Making it repayable means people would play once and then pass it to a friend rather than having to buy a new copy for the friend. And really the price of the game is reasonable when you consider it is the same (or less) than the price for one person to attend a "brick and mortar" escape room.

5 out of 5 stars

To see the rest of my board game collection, click here.

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