Exit DS Review
Exit DS box art
System: DS Review Rating Legend
Dev: Taito 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Square Enix 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Nov. 3, 2008 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Everyone 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Control Freakout
by Nathan Meunier

The cool visual style and pick-up-and-play nature of Exit, an action puzzler first released in the U.S. almost three years ago, made it an easy sell for PSP owners. Last year, the game got some love on the Xbox LIVE Arcade.

Exit DS screenshot

Needless to say, it took quite a lengthy amount of time for Nintendo’s handheld to finally get its own version of the game. Now the wait is over, and it’s very clear this title could use a little more time in the oven. However, even that may not be enough to save this train wreck of a port. Though some players may initially rejoice at the thought of being able to play Exit on the DS, the few unique features of the handheld serve more to hamper the game than improve on the original design. The game has lots of quirky personality and some very challenging puzzles to enjoy, but contending with the nearly broken controls and generally unforgiving “instant death” health system will quickly whittle away at your patience.

The premise of Exit is to do just that. A yellow fedora and red scarf wearing escapologist named Mr. Esc has taken on a quasi-super hero lifestyle and jumps at the opportunity to thrust himself into dangerous situations. Rather than simply doing this for the thrill of the escape, he risks his life to save others. What a nice guy. Mr. Esc has no cool superpowers to aid him in his mission; he’s just a tad crazy, relying on his own mortal abilities. His death-defying missions run the gamut of diving beneath the depths of a quickly sinking ship and dashing into a hospital decimated by an earthquake to rescuing shoppers trapped in a snow-bound mall and a mobster caught in a fire-bombed building.

In each level, Mr. Esc winds up inside a structure in some varying manner of distress. He must navigate a series of obstacles and safely usher any trapped civilians to the exit before time runs out. Doing so is relatively easy at first, but getting farther along in each tier presents more complex situations to solve. You’ll often be required to push boxes around and climb up and down on them to reach different areas. There are fire, water, and electrical hazards to navigate, and you’ll use tools like the fire extinguisher and a pickaxe to deal with some problems. Pressure sensitive switches, control panels, keys, and doors are also frequently put into play. Dealing with these and other elements in and of themselves is pretty straightforward. The process becomes complicated when the game adds in different kinds of victims to save.

Exit DS screenshot

Mr. Esc will come across a handful of different types of people huddling in fear and yelling repetitively until they’re found. The victims you’ll encounter, and their strengths and limitations, directly come into play in the puzzle design. Kids can crawl through small passages, yet they require Mr. Esc or another adult to help them climb over anything but the smallest obstacles. Young adults are generally helpful and mobile. Adults are rotund, requiring two other people to help lift them up moderate obstacles. On the upside, they possess massive strength and can be used to push heavy objects. Mr. Esc will also run into injured people who must be carried by an adult and a K-9 pal who can swim and retrieve items. Unfortunately, Mr. Esc and the people he’s trying to save will meet an untimely demise far more often than not, thanks to the game’s real killjoy: the controls.

By default, nearly all of the controls in the game utilize the stylus and touch screen. While this could have been a great opportunity to really make the game shine on Nintendo’s dual-screen handheld, the way the touch controls are implemented ends up being a critical misstep. To move Mr. Esc, you must first tap him and then tap where you want him to go. You’ll have to do this every single time you want him to move, which often doesn’t allow you to do things very quickly.

Exit DS screenshot

Screenshots / Images
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