Exiting buildings has never been this much... fun?
Exit DS is a port of a game that originally came out on the PSP (some two years or so ago) to limited success yet critical praise for its inventiveness and interesting art style... well, more for the art style. However, the puzzle-solving aspects of the game are still fairly unique. The player takes control of the escape artist Mr. Esc (how many meetings did it take to settle on that name?) to save the helpless victims trapped in various locales: flooding cruise ships, burning buildings, the works. And how do you save them? With your wits, of course!
[image1]In each level are tools and people to help you save everyone (including the little puppy dogs) from the ravages of the environment. Everything you need – keys, fire extinguishers, ropes and buttons – are provided for you along the 2D landscape.
Now, after playing the PSP version some time back, I popped it back out of the package for this review (how lucky...), and I was reminded of why it was driven back into the package: It feels sluggish and filled with stutter for a “get out fast” puzzle game. For a professional escape artist, Mr. Esc really doesn’t move very quickly. On the PSP, the resolution is sharper, the graphics cleaner, the flow better, but the controls are far too annoying. Here on the DS, having everything done on the touch pad is wonderful and easier to pick up and play, especially if you like to take time off from playing other puzzle games.
The main problem with the game, however, is.... it's never anything new. The difference in locale is really all there is, and while the “minimalist-yet-awesome” look grabs the eye, it's not worth looking at after a while (kind of similar to approaching someone really attractive, only to have them open their mouth and shatter the illusion by proving themselves idiots).
[image2]And the main character reminds me that there are better main characters. Mario has a distinct look and personality; Spyro is little and adorable (with that badass attitude as he breathes fire up an enemy's crack); Ratchet and Clank are both fun and have good chemistry. Why then would I want to fill the shoes of an escape artist with no backstory (not even in the manual!), a funny hat, a scarf, and who's outright trying to say, “Yeah, I'm great, I'm awesome, I can rock you like a hurricane?”
One fun feature for the puzzles in the DS version is that you can basically complete a round with one swift move of the stylus, pinpointing everywhere Mr. Esc should go, everyone he should save, and every tool he should use to work his way through. Though this brings an intriguing challenge to each level, it's just too bad each level isn't more creatively engaging - worth playing through again and again to find out that best way to get from point A to point B. Especially when it's boring enough the first time through, and then plows you down the same path no matter which way you go.
There is a worldwide Wi-Fi ranking, where anyone can upload their best times to a leaderboard and see who has gotten through which levels the fastest... which is odd, since there was delay in checking more than one leaderboard. After checking one set of levels, I had to log completely out and log back in, with a TIMER telling me when I could log back in. And every time I logged out and tried to log back in, I had to wait longer!
[image3]The only comfort is knowing that I already knew Nintendo was behind on the whole “let's play with the Internet” thing, because the rest of the global rankings are simply wrong. The screen only shows the top thirty players, and the top of the heap in each leaderboard was obviously a cheater: If first place is at ten seconds and second place is at five minutes, then something is very, very wrong.
While Exit DS is amusing for a few minutes (and for puzzle fans, it's worth the purchase... from the discount aisle... maybe), it's a puzzle action title that's already been done and it really isn't exciting enough to get worked up about. The only perk to being yelled at by the helpless victims is that you realize that you control their fate. But you might try taking the stylus and sticking it into your ear just to block their overly-weak, depressing cries that repeat the same line over and over again. And when the back of the packaging promotes “injured civilians” and “long leaps” as selling points, how worked up can you really get?