Full disclosure: A review copy of EXIT: The Enchanted Forest was provided by Thames and Kosmos.
Alright, it’s the second of the two EXITs! I do generally try to space these where I can, so this one will be coming a bit of time after The Cemetery of the Knight; hopefully that’s fine. It’s for aesthetic reasons that nobody but me cares about. Anyways, we’ve been playing these online with my EXIT group and they’ve been going, fine, so let’s see how the latest in my long-running series on the EXIT series plays! I’m probably going to transition these to mini reviews, moving forward, since the setup and gameplay are the same (and have been for the last 16 of these). Let’s dig into this one, then!
In EXIT: The Enchanted Forest, not just satisfied with being a world-renown puzzler, you also somehow managed to wander into a mysterious wood and were cut off from the real world. Inside of this fantastic glade, you see talking wolves, very self-concerned snails, and honestly, a kind of pretentious spider. Sort of par for the course for you, I suppose; it’s a wonder that your insurance still covers you given how prone to this kind of stuff you, the character, seem to be. As with all games in the EXIT series, you are given a mysterious disc and told that it will help you find your way home. If you’re to do that, you’ll have to make your way through the storybook and solve problems to translate puzzles from the book and the Riddle Cards into three-digit codes. With those codes, you’ll be able to use the disc to get Answer Cards that will hopefully help you make a path forward for yourself. If you get stuck, don’t worry; there are also Help Cards to assist you on your journey out of the enchanted forest. Will you be able to solve all of the puzzles, or will this end up being more of an unhappily ever after for you?
Player Count Differences
With this one, we kind of struck a better chord with online play; I would offload some puzzles to my online friends so that they could participate if they only needed the images (this didn’t work for all of them, though). I think I personally would like at least 3 for this one; there is a recurring task that requires a bit of effort to do well and having one person focus on that while the other players do their thing might be kind of helpful. I don’t think I would ever play an EXIT with fewer than two people, honestly. I’ve spent a lot of time by myself (pandemic) and it’s … fine? I wouldn’t trust that guy to solve puzzles on his own, anyways. Lots of mistakes. Having a few extra people to bounce potential solves off of reduces that issue (though, I will say, the EXIT series is fairly fault-tolerant, given how quickly you can rebound from a mistake when the Answer Card is just a clear “nope”). I wouldn’t say that this was a Perfect Online Experience, but I imagine a lot of that could be solved by having an extra copy for my online group? May be worth looking into, at some point. Either way, I think 2 – 3 is a solid spot for this title, though I surprisingly lean a bit more towards 3, depending on how into one part of the game one of your players gets.
- Pay attention to what you’re told to do. There is one thing that’s a little not-fault-tolerant, and if you make a mistake there it may cause you some issues. It may not! Hard to say without being spoilery. But that’s kind of the case for escape room games in general, no? You do kind of need to pay attention to what you’re told to do and make sure you’re following the instructions. I get a bit more nervous about it with the EXITs, given that there’s often a “use scissors to irreparably damage this item”, and if you mess that up, well, that’s not game over, but you’re definitely going to have to consult the Help Cards for a solution. Which is fine, just, make sure you’re paying attention to what the puzzles are asking you to do.
- Organize your play area so that you know which pieces go to what puzzle. If you haven’t been given something, for instance, don’t use it yet. Just leave it in a pile so that you don’t pollute your scope with things that you shouldn’t be using yet. Similarly, as you complete puzzles, you can largely (but not always!) remove the things that you used from the game, so that you have a cleaner slate for the next puzzle. Figuring out what components you need for the current puzzle is so critical that it’s always the first Help Card for each puzzle. It’s a simple thing in theory, but it’s something I mess up at least once per game, so it ends up here as a reminder of my failings / whatever the opposite of an ominous warning is. Also, this makes you a bit less likely to lose components if you keep a well-organized play area (and you frankly need a well-organized play area if you’re going to be playing online).
- When in doubt, get a help card. This is starting to date itself, a bit, since we were far more obstinate at the beginning of our EXIT adventures. This is like, what, the 17th EXIT game review I’ve done? At this point, if we need help we grab it. But if you haven’t played many, you may balk at the idea of a Help Card and say “but what about my score?”. The points … don’t really matter unless you’re looking to dunk on your friends (and … why would you do that), so feel free to do whatever. This one being a bit lower-level difficulty meant that we didn’t feel like we needed Help Cards, but sometimes you can get stuck on “low-difficulty” puzzles just because your brain isn’t following the same path as the one the designers laid out for you (and that’s fine! It happens to me a lot). I just usually tell people to make sure they’re not being too proud to take the help that they might need.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- There’s a drawing component! What fun. I do like drawing in games quite a bit, even if I’m astonishingly bad at it. We all have our foibles, I suppose. I think you should spend some time just, going all-out on the drawings. I would say that I did that, but then you’d look at them and say “whatever child drew these obviously got less patient as they went on” and I don’t think I could take that kind of criticism. I’m very sensitive about my artistic pursuits.
- Definitely, thematically, one of the more family-friendly games in the EXIT series. It’s all fairy tale themed! But not in the “hey everyone let’s do a Dark Deconstruction of Fairy Tale Tropes” sense, which, what a relief. I’m tired of Wow Let’s Deconstruct This Genre And Make It Terrible As A Mirror Unto Society. I just want to play fun things. And this, thankfully, is a light and airy romp through a few familiar (and I suppose, unfamiliar? fantastical?) fairy tale tropes. It’s an enchanted forest; you should expect to see a few whimsical things.
- I appreciated the tactile puzzles. I do like that the EXIT games are going in a bunch of new directions in terms of puzzle design, though I think they cause their own problems. More on that in a bit. It keeps the game fresh. And you kind of need that after 16 of these, right? You have to branch out a bit. I still think that the EXIT series does a good job of preserving its creativity across so many plays, though, and that is why I consistently recommend these. They’re just a lot of fun. Or, at least, I have fun with them.
- Overall, I enjoyed the puzzles in this one a solid amount. Not just the tactile puzzles, either, I think there were a lot of solid, fun puzzles in this one. I wouldn’t say that a number of them were above my personal Preferred Challenge Level or whatever, but I still enjoyed them. As I said in my last review, you always start to worry about the point at which they sort of start losing the thread, but I don’t think that happened in this batch and it looks like they’ve still got a lot of ideas for a while, which is a relief.
- As the EXIT puzzles grow increasingly tactile, they’re going to lose a lot of the flexibility that makes them able to be played virtually. I think The Cemetery of the Knight was a lot worse for virtual play, but this one had some fairly inaccessible puzzles if you weren’t physically holding the copy of the game. I think, for the EXITs, I may on the whole downgrade them to “playable online as long as all players have their own copy”, which is unfortunate, especially in a pandemic where I can’t hang out with my normal game group. I’ll need a few more EXIT attempts before I can say it conclusively, but after the most recent batch of two, I’m definitely leaning in that direction.
- I still think the forced-linear ones make it hard for increased player counts, but thankfully this one still has a lot to do. Normally I don’t like that aspect of some EXIT games (and, to be clear, this one forces you down a linear path to the point that you can’t turn the page until you’ve completed the puzzle), but I think it works thematically here (storybooks and all that) and mechanically, since there’s a lot to do each time, in my opinion. It’s still not my favorite thing to see in an EXIT title, but, I think it largely plays out fine in this one.
- One puzzle felt mostly like following instructions, which wasn’t so much a puzzle as a test of our reading comprehension. That was a bit frustrating since it was mostly just “here’s a thing”. There didn’t feel like there was anything clever about the puzzle beyond “did you read the instructions properly”. Can’t all be winners, I suppose, but my entire group was very much a bit nonplussed by the puzzle; we expected there to be more than just “here are some instructions, and if you do them all you’ll have the solution”. Oh well.
Overall: 8.25 / 10
Overall, I think EXIT: The Enchanted Forest is another strong entry in the series! I will freely admit a slight preference for the “lower-difficulty” EXITs since, I mean, solving lower-difficulty puzzles is essentially a free slam dunk? It does mean I feel worse when I inevitably get stumped, but, what can you do? That’s trade-offs. I think that beyond one puzzle I didn’t particularly like, the puzzles in here are fun (and family-friendly enough that you may be able to, with the right scaffolding, let younger players participate in some of the activities). Plus, there’s a bit of time devoted to drawing something, which is also very pleasant. I’m not the biggest fan of fairy tale themes, generally speaking, but it wasn’t so over-the-top that it became laborious; like most EXIT titles, they did a good job weaving the theme through the puzzles and activities so that I, the player, felt like it was a part of the game but not the whole game. I think the games have always been pretty good about that, partially because the theme allows them to make more theme-specific puzzles that they can hook into to keep the games fresh. I mean, imagine if every EXIT game were just “you found a lab and you must escape” or something. That would be … challenging, after a while, to keep making novel puzzles that fit within that constraint. It does seem like the attempts to diversify the EXIT puzzles has caused a slight shift towards more tactile puzzles, though, which is fun for me but less interesting for my friends that might be playing this one online. While that’s a bummer for the long-term viability of playing the EXIT games remotely, it is always good to have a refreshing variety of puzzles, so, I’m a bit split on that part. Either way, if you’re looking to get a bit lost in the woods or want a fun puzzle game for an hour or so, I’d recommend checking out EXIT: The Enchanted Forest! It’s another strong entry in the series.