Just wait for the cherry on top...
You'd have to be living under a rock nowadays to not see the craze that is Escape Rooms. These immersive puzzle rooms have become popular all across the world and in pop culture. These rooms serve to give players an immersive experience of getting trapped and havign to solve clues to escape. Just like video games, transitioning from arcades to home systems, companies like Thames and Kosmos seek to recreate the experience on a smaller scale. One of these games is EXIT: House of Riddles.
In House of Riddles, you take part in a roleplaying puzzle-solving experience. You and up to three other players will make your way through different rooms of the house, solving each puzzle allows you to progress. Inside the box, you get a player booklet, three decks of cards; Riddles, Answers, and Clues, and a decoder ring. There are also other items such as a ball, black card, a cardboard magnifying glass. You can get your Riddle and Answer decks ready in front of you and place all the clues to the side. At any time during a puzzle you cal pull from the specified hint deck if you need a nudge in the right direction. You start the game by beginning a timer and reading the first page of the book.
The book plays out somewhat like a tabletop adventure game, you're told that you've gotten told by three detectives to meet them at an eerie house. Once you arrive you and your group step inside only to have the door slam shut behind you and lock. Locked inside and with no sign of the detectives, you notice that the only way to progress is to begin solving the different puzzles before you. The instruction book does a great job of feeding players all the required information. It then instructs them which of the puzzle cards they need to look at for the room. These riddles are also accompanied by an image from the booklet.
Each image is a room in the house while the riddle instruct you on what to solve you'll come out of each puzzle with three numbers, and a symbol. An example of an early puzzle requires you to draw the points between lights. From that the lights form numbers that you can put in a particular order. The decoder ring will then point you towards the number of an answer card. If successful then the card will direct you to your next riddle, if you mess it up it will let you know. The numbers of the answers you go to aren't sequential at all, how they've set up the correct and incorrect answers is beyond my understanding but it leaves you in suspense until you flip over the answer card.
This game is advertised as having a 2 out of 5 difficulty rating. For four adults playing it, House of Riddles took a little over an hour and a half to play. The puzzles had us relying on not only logic solving and word problems, but also required us to listen for clues, use real objects, and even light. As each puzzle got more and more complex it was great to see them get more complex and abstract. While I'm sure it pails in comparison to a full experience Escape Room for a couples night or just home with friends it's a fantastically absorbing game. The big downside is that you can only play it once. Not only will you have to draw on and rip up certain clues as there's only one path there's not much replay value in it regardless.
The game also comes with a companion app, that while completely optional will add a little bit of ambiance to your experience. The helper app comes will animated and narrated instructions, in case you need more assistance setting up the game. This also comes with a timer that plays ambiance. You're timing yourself through the entire House of Riddles to try to come out of the game with the best score. This score gets determined in parts by the number of players that were competing, the number of clues that you had to use, and your final score at the end of the game. Instead of needing the charts at the back of the booklet once stopping the game via the app it will ask you to enter your player count and hints to give you the score automatically.
The Bottom Line:
EXIT: House of Riddles is a great way to absorb an hour or so in an afternoon. The mix of narrative and puzzles almost makes the escape room scenario feel like an RPG. Aside from one or two the puzzles are difficult enough that you'll get a sense of accomplishment, but not so bad that you'll be beating your head against the table. It's a great way to get into the EXIT series of games and maybe look for a bit more of a challenge for next time.
Get this game if:
- You enjoy thinking puzzles
- Have 1-3 friends who also enjoy thinking
- Want a starting point to home escape rooms
Avoid this game if:
- You don't want a game that forces you to think
- You don't want a game you only play once