Exit DS DS
Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: Taito
Release Date: Out Now
A couple of years ago we reviewed the impressive puzzle game called Exit. In the game you controlled a silhouetted professional escape artist known as Mr. ESC. The game consisted of 100 different levels and in any given level the idea was to reach the exit. Seems easy enough doesn't it but you soon realise that the game is no cakewalk. For starters there are obstacles and hazards to overcome and you have to rescue others and get them to the exit. You certainly have to be careful because you are being timed and one false move can result in you having to redo the level again. Tricky and occasionally punishing it might be but Exit was a success on the PSP and on the Xbox Live Arcade. It's a game that's quite unlike anything else and its arrival on the DS is more than welcome.
The game has 10 different situations, and each situation has 10 different levels. These situations include shoppers trapped in a frozen mall, rescuing passengers from a sinking ship and rescuing patients from a hospital after an earthquake. Mr. ESC will have to rescue four different types of people. There are young adults, adults, kids and injured people who are simply known as patients. Each of these has different abilities, which have to be taken into consideration. Adults for instance can push large boxes but they can't get into small spaces. Kids on the other hand can get into small spaces but they aren't very strong and need an adults help to climb up and down floors. Patients are severely injured and can't even move without assistance. Thankfully there are also young people who can do virtually everything that Mr. ESC can do and these cause no problems at all. By default these characters will follow Mr. ESC as soon as he encounters them. However, you can order those you've discovered to go into standby mode and stay where they are. Whilst they are in standby mode you can give them specific orders such as picking up objects or have the character carry a patient if they are able to. In any given stage there are a variety of objects to collect and use. You'll encounter keys, rope ladders, fire extinguishers, pickaxes, flashlights and even spiked shoes that can be used for crossing icy floors. All of this makes for a challenging and very addictive puzzle game that's quite unlike anything you've played before.
We commented in our review of the PSP version that there was a bit of a learning curve when it came to the controls. The DS version has three different control schemes. There are two stylus control schemes for right and left handed people and a conventional control scheme that's pretty much like the one found in earlier versions of the game. As great as it is to see a control scheme that makes good use of the handheld's unique controls, it's a fair bet that most won't persevere with the stylus controls because they are too awkward. The basic idea is that you tap on the character you want to move and then tap on the item you want them to pick up or the location you want them to move to. Some actions, such as grabbing a high iron bar that you can hang from, require you to tap and slide the stylus. Sometimes it's a little fiddly however and it definitely takes longer to give orders than I would like. Still the conventional control scheme is absolutely fine, so this isn't really an issue unless you had your heart set on using the stylus control scheme.
Due to the pleasing but simplistic look of Exit it's no surprise that Taito have managed to make the game look just as good on the DS as it was on the PSP. The main action plays out on the touch screen and the top screen is used to display a map which will help you locate any survivors and the all important exit. If you have played the PSP or XBLA version of the game you'll notice that you don't have as wide a view of the action due to the smaller DS screen but it's of no real consequence thanks to the map giving you a clear overview of the building. When using the stylus the directional pad can be used to pan around the screen allowing you to move Mr. ESC over greater distances than would normally be possible.
Exit DS is fine for deaf gamers. All of the instructions and tutorial messages in the game are exclusively in text. Important comments from the people you rescue and Mr. ESC himself are shown in text too. When issuing orders to those you are rescuing they will reply to you, and this is shown in text. Of course sometimes you'll want a person to pick-up something that's quite a distance away (meaning you'll have to scroll around to point to the item you want them to interact with). If it's an item they can't use they will tell you. However if you've scrolled around so that the person isn't in view (something which is more likely in Exit DS as the screen is smaller) you won't be aware of what they are saying as the text for their verbal comments will be off the screen. This is only a minor complaint however and there aren't any real problems. The game manual has been very well written and not only covers the basics but also gives you important information on the various characters in the game which is very pleasing to see.
If you own a DS and haven't yet played a version of Exit then Exit DS is well worth checking out. As a puzzle game there's nothing quite like it on the DS. The puzzles can be very challenging at times and even when you've completed a level you will want to do it again to see if you can complete it more quickly. Unlike the PSP version of Exit, Exit DS doesn't have the ability to download extra levels (pretty obvious really seeing as there's no storage capabilities on the console) but you can upload your mission completion times using the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service. Some are going to find the stylus controls are not to their liking but it's important to remember that Taito have included a traditional control system and it works just as well as the control schemes in any of the previous versions of the game. At just £19.99 Exit DS is a bargain.