SONY PSP REVIEW: EXIT

Escapism at its finest with the latest PSP game from Taito and Ubisoft. by Cole Smith

February 21, 2006 - Exit is literally an escapist game. You play as Mr. ESC, a hero that is intent on saving people from a variety of disasters from blazing buildings to collapsing subways. Finding escape routes requires puzzle solving skills, but since this is a race against time you must also be able to think fast under pressure. There is action and some platforming elements but at its core Exit is a puzzle game - and an excellent and unique one at that.

Exit has a very cool look to it. Mr. ESC is almost a silhouette, concealed by his trench coat, yellow tie and over-sized hat. As a cartoon figure he's outlined with a thick black line which gives him a striking vintage comic book appearance. The backgrounds all have an artistic hand-drawn interpretation that would make Andy Warhol proud. The colors are bright and primary; the objects and models are simplified and presented in 2D. If this game just relied on platforming, the impressionistic-style graphics and repetition of textures and forms would by a serious detriment but since most of the action takes place in your head you really don't want to be distracted by an abundance of detail and animation.

Mr. ESC is not a superhero. He has human limitations that you must exploit and protect in all situations. He can get hurt very easily. You have be careful not to put him into harm's way. With basic platforming abilities such as running, jumping and climbing, you can get him close to his objective and help him escape pitfalls such as fires, floods, open pits, electricity and falling objects.

As a rescue mercenary of sorts, Mr. ESC is hired to help people that are trapped in dangerous situations. Locations of trapped subject include a hotel, hospital, subway, mall and office complexes just to name a few. There are more than 100 different scenarios, each one more complicated than the last. Each mission lasts between five to ten minutes. If Mr. ECS gets injured during the mission or runs out of time, the mission is over. The last quarter of the entire game is very challenging. You really have to play this game from the beginning to become comfortable with all the different techniques that you can employ.

When you arrive on the scene you will immediately begin to look for the trapped people. With the press of a button you will access a map that will locate them for you as well as point out the exits. The interface won't devise an exit strategy, that's where you come in. Similar to Elevator Action, these locations have multiple levels with many of them being connected via elevators and stairs. You will also use ropes and ladders to execute your escapes but often there will be obstacles in your way that need to be eliminated, moved or otherwise bypassed altogether. Here you will employ standard puzzle-solving elements such as switch flipping, puzzle jumping and crate moving.

One of the most interesting and complex elements in the game is the ability to direct those that you are trying to rescue. There will be different characters with different strengths and abilities. You could direct a youngster to crawl under a small opening to gain access to an area that you or another adult cannot get into. Other times you will need the full weight of an adult to set off a trigger or push an obstacle out of the way that is beyond your strength level. The youngsters can't jump as far as the adults but they can walk on ledges that would otherwise crumble under the weight of an adult. Injured survivors are your biggest liability. They can't move under their own volition and therefore must be carried which seriously reduces your speed.

You must be careful to use these characters in a specific order as they can block the escape route if they get caught up in something that a character behind them could have opened. Sometimes they won't be able to work elevators and other times they don't seem to understand commands and will get stuck when they come to a crossroads between a vertical path and a stairway. In some ways you could chalk this up to a panic or hysteria situation which is a very real variable that occurs in real-life rescue attempts. It may be annoying but you can't just leave them there - even though they will obey your command to walk right into the flames of a fire if so directed.

There are no multi-player modes but you can download another 11 challenges online which contain 10 levels each. That's a lot of extra bonus games. I only managed to do a few before this review was due and I can tell you that they are not easy. These puzzles blend action and platforming to such a degree that you cannot make any mistakes. One slip and the mission is over. The controls aren't exactly buttery smooth. They are a little clunky, kind of like trying to hold a butterfly with a pair of pliers. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration but as a poor carpenter, I absolutely must blame my tools.

Echoes reminiscent of the James Bond theme comprise the soundtrack. The music is thematic but with seemingly endless variations it's never in danger of becoming repetitive. The voiceovers are another story. The survivors whine and bellyache the whole time about wanting to go home and being hungry. At time it makes me want to change my name from Mr. ESC to Mr. DELETE as I direct the mouthy bastards back into the flood, flames or rubble.

Exit is recommended for everyone. There's no sex, no foul language, nudity or violence - and despite all those shortcomings, it's still a great game. Even if you're not a big fan of puzzle games you'll enjoy the structure of the puzzles that are anything but obtuse or arbitrary.

Features:

  • Intense action puzzler: Players use decision-making skills and wits to escape various obstacles while rescuing people from more than 100 different emergencies. Additional levels are also available for download.
  • Do whatever it takes to get everyone out in time: Rescue people and find the fastest way out while braving exploding factories, burning buildings and flooding subways. Players will climb ladders, move objects, slide down ropes and collect numerous rescue devices to assist them in their missions.
  • Turn victims into allies: Saved characters can be enlisted to help move heavy objects, master tricky obstacles and help each other.
  • Smooth, stylish character design and movement: Accompanying the intense action are some of the most stylish graphics to be seen on the PSP system, allowing for a viscerally and aesthetically satisfying experience.

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
Exit (PSP)
4.5
Graphics
Excellent looking art. It reminds me of what a comic book would look like if it were created by Picasso.
3.4
Control
Executing platform moves with the control system is the game's weakest point. For the most part the platforming doesn't always interfere with the puzzles.
3.1
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is great. It enhances the lighthearted mood of the game with little repetition. The voiceovers however, are repetitious and get on your nerves.
3.5
Play Value
With more than 100 new downloadable levels, how can you go wrong?
4.4
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PSP
Dev: Taito
Pub: Ubi Soft
Release: Feb 2006
Players: 1
Review by Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best