Review: Exit (Nintendo DS)

Exit
Developer: TAITO
Publisher: Square Enix, Inc.
Genre: Action Puzzle
Release Date: 11/05/2008

Previously released on the PSP and the XBOX Live Arcade, Exit has found its way to the DS. In the game you play as “professional escape artist” Mr. Esc. It’s Mr. Esc’s job to help people escape from sinking ships, frozen malls, and various collapsing edifices. As we all know, when you’re trapped in a burning building. . . it is time to call Mr. David Blaine.

How will the touch screen alter a game that is already over 2 years old?

How should I know? I have neither played the X-box nor the PSP versions.

I mean. . . Let’s go find out!

1. Story
You play as the hat wearing and be-scarfed Mr. Esc. People call you up. You help them get to the exit. That’s pretty much it for story.

Each scenario (I.e. world) starts with its own back-story. These consist of a couple of screens saying something like:

People are trapped in a hospital. Mr. Esc likes to recover from injuries in hospitals. Let’s save the people.

There is an option to view the profiles of the people saved by Mr. Esc. Each character is given a little bit of history and the like. In the end there are only a few types of characters, you have to save them all whether or not they like jazz or are secretly Canadian.

2. Graphics
The graphics of Exit are a highly stylized 2-d. It looks as though Suda51 did a remake of Wrecking Crew.

When Mr. Esc or one of his companions has an item, a box depicting the item in monochrome appears above that character’s head. Occasionally, it is hard to decipher what the picture is supposed to be showing. That notwithstanding, I have no major complaints. It’s not as though the game professes a level of graphical detail that can only truly be enjoyed on an HDTV.

The story pictures (You can’t really call them cut-scenes) have a nice pop-art feel to them. They contain a fair amount of charm, without too much pretension or gratuitous swankiness.

Mr. Esc will return in <i>Live and Let Egress</i>!

Mr. Esc will return in Live and Let Egress!

3. Sound/ Music
The music of Exit is great. It is simple, not distracting. It projects a sense of urgency and fits with the overall style of the game.

The voices, on the other hand, must stop. If you have a victim on your screen and it might take a minute or two to save them, well, be prepared to hear them yell the same phrase over and over again.

“I’m over here! I’m over here! I’m over here!”

It’s enough to make you want to drop a crate on his pate. (But if you do that, you will fail the level.)

4. Control / Gameplay
Mr. Esc helps people out of disasters, but these folks aren’t helpless. There are a few basic types, each with their own skill sets, uses, and problems. Dogs and children can fit through small spaces and won’t destroy weak floors. Fat people are slow and break floors, but are freakishly strong. Normal adults are like weaker versions of Mr. Esc; they can’t jump as far, drop as far, swim, or figure out how to use elevators.

(Really? You just push the button for floor you want to go to. )

There are also the injured, who need to be carried everywhere. Carrying somebody really cramps Mr. Esc’s style and he functions at less than half capacity when doing it.

As I understand it, there are also aliens in the game that need rescuing. I haven’t gotten to them yet. As near as I can tell they behave like fireproof dogs.

Anyway, once Mr. Esc comes into contact with these other characters, the player can control them as well. (This is provided that they aren’t one of the injured.) Prior to contact with Mr. Esc, the other characters lie around like beached whales, moaning and waiting to die. You can stand right next to them and they won’t even stir. They yell for help even though they are trapped by easily breakable ice and have a pickaxe right next to them! Get off your lazy duff and save yourself, you big baby!

Exit offers three styles of control. The default style is right handed stylus. With this style you use the d-pad to move the visible part of the screen, and point-and-click for everything else. You can move Mr. Esc by placing the stylus on his person and dragging it to where you want him to go. This works about as well as guiding the path of a flock of Canada geese via telepathy.

Thankfully this style of control offers a better way to move Mr. Esc. You can click on Mr. Esc, click on a destination, and Mr. Esc will go there if currently possible. This is a great thing. You don’t have to worry about timing your jumps or making the perfect landing.

Problems arise when you cannot do this thing.

For instance: In order to safely drop from a certain height, Mr. Esc needs to squat down, grab the ledge of the current platform, dangle a bit, and then drop below. You do this by taking Mr. Esc to the edge of the platform and wiping the stylus down across Mr. Esc. This makes him grab the ledge. Then you swipe down again to get him to drop.

Unfortunately, the downward swipe is also used to make Mr. Esc crawl. Half the time when I wanted to grab the ledge I was fruitlessly trying to crawl off of the edge. He can’t grab the ledge from a crawling position. So, I have to swipe upward to make Mr. Esc stand up again, then swipe down hoping that this time it’ll work.

If it does work, and Mr. Esc does grab the ledge, don’t be surprised if he starts to climb back up when you try to swipe him down.

Similar problems arise in elevators. These are also controlled by swipes, so you might find yourself crawling in an elevator in an effort to make it go down. If you have a crate in the elevator and want to go up, be prepared to climb to the top of that crate.

Problems also arise when characters occupy the same space. You can have your characters overlapping. If you click on the mass of digital humanity, you are most likely to get Mr. Esc. So, if you want to get a Fat Guy to move a big box, you might have to scoot a couple of people out of the way first. Similar problems can arise when transferring items between two characters.

But it’s not an unworkable system. There is nothing broken with the controls, so much as occasionally frustrating or tedious. Some things work quite well. Using items is fairly easy. If you have a pickaxe and click on something breakable, Mr. Esc will use the pickaxe on it. If you want to push a box, just click on Mr. Esc then the box.

Unfortunately, if you want to push the box across the floor more than a meter things get complicated. You click Mr. Esc, then the box, wait for Mr. Esc to move the box, then click Mr. Esc, then the box, then wait, then click, Mr. Esc, then the box.

Congratulations, you just moved a box 3 meters.

You can avoid some hassle by holding L. When Holding L, you can program a couple of steps into Mr. Esc. You can’t move the box three meters by clicking on the box three times though. You can’t click on the box, and where you want the box to go either. You have to click on the box, and then click each and ever meter individually.

Slip up, and Mr. Esc will push the box, then climb over it and walk to the destination.

GAH!

The second control style for Exit is just the left handed version of the first. This just means that you move the camera with the letters instead of the d-pad.

The third control style doesn’t take advantage of the touch screen at all, and is generally more frustrating than the other two. Ideally, there would exist a hybrid between the D-pad and touch screen styles. You know, so I could control Mr. Esc with the d-pad in order to get off of a ledge, but still click on things to cycle between characters and such?

You know, a system that takes advantage of both the touch screen and the d-pad to make for a game that is easy to play?

5. Replayability
There is a fair amount of replayabilty to Exit. This is a good thing, as it is easy to irrevocably screw up any given level requiring a restart of said level.. Most stages will require a couple of trial and error restarts, because you accidentally pushed two boxes together, or crushed a companion with a crate, or fell and broke Mr. Esc’s leg.

There are 10 scenarios each with 10 distinct stages. Right off the bat, the game starts with 6 of these scenarios unlocked with all their stages open. You can easily skip around, play all the level 10 of scenario 6 before finishing scenario 3, and so on. The ability to level select is appreciated as some stages have solutions which I would describe as a combination of frustrating and stupid.

I call it frupidating.

You can unlock 5 bonus scenarios, giving us a grand total of 150 stages.

Each level keeps track of your best time and best score. The game is wi-fi compatible, so you can keep track of how your scores compare to others. That’s nice if your into that sort of thing, but there is usually only one solution to a stage. So, it is a bit like re-solving the same sudoku puzzle over and over again.

6. Balance
The progression of difficulty is reasonable. Some solutions come easier than others, but if you get stuck you can always try a different level. There are some frustrating aspects of the game, but they are more indicative of a problem with the puzzle genre itself rather than of Exit.

Let’s talk about those in the miscellaneous section.

7. Originality
Though I can’t name too many action/puzzle/platformers, I don’t know how well I can score Exit for originality. This game was released already on the PSP nearly 3 years ago. It was released on X-Box Live Arcade last year. Some changes seem to have been made. For instance, I can now place a cartridge containing Exit into my Nintendo DS. That UMD disc thingy would always pop right out.

8. Addictiveness
The game is easy to pick up, and easy to put down. It’s the sort of thing you can keep around, and play for a couple of minutes at a time. You could avoid it for a week without really worrying about getting rusty.

I sure that this game is somebody’s crack cocaine. For me, I can only play about three levels in a sitting before the thing feels less like a video game and more like the SATs.

Listen Gollum, I’m tired of these dang riddles! I’m gonna chuck the goldurn bag of seed across the river, put the chicken in the boat, and drown the fox!

9. Appeal Factor
Let’s face it, people have been clamoring for a game wherein you play as a naked version of the Shadow in order to rescue dogs and the morbidly obese from sinking cruise ships. The fact that you also get to push boxes together and carry invalids is just a party bonus.

10. Miscellaneous
I kinda like this game, but the following needs to be said: Puzzle games of the world, knock it off! If I can push a crate, I can probably pull it too! If my character is strong enough to push 4 boxes across a room, he can probably lift one of the boxes. Ice or no ice, there has never been a real world situation wherein I can push a crate 2 meters but not 1!

I know, the ice makes it slide an extra meter; can’t I push it half as hard? What rubbish escapist couldn’t figure that one out?

And while I’m at it, allow me to introduce you to a novel concept: diagonal jumping. When I jump from one platform to the other, they can be at different heights. If I can jump straight across a 4 meter hole, I should be able to jump to a platform that is two meters forward and one meter down. In fact, that jump should be much easier!

Why can’t I crouch and push at the same time? I’ve tried it! It’s not a bad way to push!

How come I can’t wear cleats and carry a pickaxe at the same time? I don’t see a conflict there. You know what? I can probably wear cleats, carry a pickaxe, and carry a rope at the same time. I don’t see that as being a problem at all! If action game characters can carry 14 guns at the same time without even having a bag, I should be able to carry something while wearing shoes!

What do the homes of video game developers look like? Are there rooms with tables stuck in every corner, unable to be moved?

The Scores:

Story/Modes: Decent
Graphics: Above Average
Sound: Enjoyable
Control/Gameplay: Decent
Replayability: Great
Balance: Good
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Enjoyable
Appeal: Decent
Miscellaneous: Poor
Final Score: Above Average Game

Short Attention Span Summary
Exit is a perfectly acceptable game. It is fun to solve a puzzle here and there, and isn’t so involving as to require you to block out your schedule to accommodate it. Basically, Exit is something to do while waiting for a bus.

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