Full disclosure: A review copy of EXIT: The Sacred Temple was provided by KOSMOS.
Kickstarter Season is either approaching or upon us, depending on when I decide to publish this review, but you know what else is back in town? The most wonderful time of the year: EXIT time. I have two new EXIT games to talk to y’all about, and as you might have noticed from the pictures, something’s different, this time. There’s puzzles. Not riddles; we already had those. And I still refer to riddles as puzzles in the review, so, whatever. I mean jigsaw puzzles. Physical, tactile, assemblable (that’s probably a word) puzzles! I’ve been tracking these for a little while, so let’s dive in and see if they live up to the hype.
In EXIT: The Sacred Temple, you’ve given up on your getting-trapped-in-strange-situations ways and taken on a job at the old, unnamed university (we all know the one). Unfortunately, you were late to a meeting with another professor, and showed up to find him gone! Or, rather, you didn’t find him, I guess? Language. Anyways, you find another mysterious disk and a note from the professor with some coordinates, and given your astonishing predilection for just diving into things, you go! Instead of getting caught in a strange situation, you’re now trying to rescue someone from one, so at least you’ve learned to use your powers for good. The situation is going to be quite a challenge for you to navigate, however; will you be able to piece it all together and rescue the professor before it’s too late?
All kinds of new stuff, this time, but some of your favorite old things, too! This time around, you’ll have to build the decoder disk:
That’s all well and fine. That said, you might notice that there are no Riddle Cards, no Answer Cards, and no Hint Cards! What a tragedy. You might be horrified. Instead, there are these weird document-looking things:
Don’t worry about those for now. You’ll also notice that there are a lot of … puzzle pieces?
They have different patterns (or lack thereof) on the back to help you keep them separated. Whenever you’re ready, you should start with the puzzle with no back pattern and the parchment paper!
So this title plays pretty similarly to your other EXIT games, with, as you might guess from the puzzles, some key differences.
The major bit is that Riddle Cards are old news, now; you have riddle puzzles. This causes a few changes. Essentially, now you solve the puzzle to get a set of three numbers, but they’re associated with a lock color, rather than a symbol. To check if you’re right, you now get the code, enter it on your disk, and then flip the disk over, and check the back. If there’s an X or a lock of the wrong color, you’re not quite right. But if the lock on the back matches the lock you’re solving for, you might be right! Finish up by checking the three symbols the disk is now showing, from outside in. If there’s a riddle document with that symbol combination on the front, you’ve solved it! You can move on to the next riddle.
Keep in mind that this game will take longer, since, you know, actual puzzles, but if you successfully solve all the puzzles, you win!
Player Count Differences
For this one, most of the puzzles can be solved with one or two people, but it may be worth having an extra pair of hands or two with the puzzles, frankly. Compared to your standard EXIT, this one is highly linear, so I’d say there’s very few ways to split the puzzles up beyond having multiple people on the same riddle or taking turns. As a result, I think this one probably sits nicely at two people, and I assume that will largely hold true for others like this unless they split it so that you’re working on four distinct puzzle zones. I’d be into that, just so we’re on the same page about this, but these would probably make a good game for two people!
- You gotta be quick on those puzzles. This is basically where all of your puzzle-solving skills are going to need to happen. We had one player on the outline and one player on the interior and that seemed to work pretty well, frankly. Just make sure you’re looking for places where things obviously connect (symbols on both sides of a piece, similar colors, similar elements, etc) and trying to look for some odd pieces that are necessary for some spots. On the plus side, by the time you finish one of these, you are going to be a puzzling pro!
- Just to prep you in advance, you are going to likely need to pop some pieces out of the puzzle once you’ve finished it. Might be worth having the puzzle on some sort of towel / non-table surface to easily get underneath of it. This is a non-spoilery suggestion, so, maybe worth considering.
- Look closely. This game is definitely on the darker end of games (just in terms of brightness), so you may need to have some lights on pretty high for the puzzles and scan closely for some elements, lest you miss out on something crucial!
- Don’t try to sequence break, either. You probably could with the puzzles, to some degree, but that would probably make things a bit less fun. Similarly, all the locks are usually visible on the puzzle, but you may be lacking some information to actually crack them. If that’s the case, save it for later and move on.
- Use hints if you need to. Everything’s made up and the points don’t matter, so, better to use a hint and move forward than to sit stuck for a long period of time. Up to you, though!
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I’m loving the puzzle stuff. First off, I love puzzles. They’re one of my favorite things to do with friends, especially on a vacation or trip. I just really like hanging out over the course of the day and working on a 1000+ piece puzzle that takes the whole week/end. It’s good. Nice sense of progression. These EXIT puzzles are awesome. Also decently made! Sturdy, the pieces fit together cleanly, etc. I have been excited about these since I heard about them last year, and I’m very pleased as a result. It really delivered on what I wanted while providing some new tactile experiences. I always wonder how the Brands are going to be able to wow me with another EXIT game (especially since there are a bunch coming; I’ll keep y’all posted), but if they’re consistently pushing the envelope like this (and yes, I know other escape room / mystery puzzles exist and have existed for some time; murder mystery puzzles, etc), I think the EXIT series has a lot of longevity. Anyways, I was very hyped.
- The puzzle assembly does give multiple players a lot to do at the same time. Even though the riddles are linear, the puzzles are a team effort, so everyone can work in tandem. The timer element does kind of take the “relaxing” part of the puzzle out, but, that’s what you get for playing with timers, I guess.
- Also, the puzzles having different patterns on the back does a great job of helping you keep the puzzles separate. That’s one of those simple quality-of-life features that someone had in mind early and it works very well, here. I’m trying to imagine the game without them and it would have been an annoying nightmare, to be honest.
- It’s not really a negative, but they definitely had to do some work to cut costs on this one and honestly, I’m kind of impressed? I don’t really talk about cost vs. value when I talk about games for a variety of “it’s skewed by my considerable privilege as someone with the time and capital available to review board games as a side hustle completely isolated from my day job” reasons, but I am impressed at the EXIT series consistently trying to come in at the $15 price point, if only because I end up buying them as gifts fairly frequently for holidays (and should probably get a few for my dad for the holidays, since I turned him on to the whole escape room thing, now that I think about it). These have four unique puzzles in them and only pushed the price point up to $25, which is good. I assume they got there by pretty aggressively decreasing the tactile quality of the disks and eliminating cards entirely, but I’m still impressed at that, honestly.
- I appreciate that they have the extra triple symbol check to keep players from accidentally guessing the correct solutions. One problem I had in one EXIT game was that there was a technical glitch that allowed us to input the wrong numbers but still get the right solution. This one specifically blocked that by giving us a set of symbols that were invalid, and I appreciated that.
- Lots of fun puzzles in this one! There are a lot of good ones! Some spatial puzzles, drawing puzzles, word puzzles, and the like. I don’t think there were any puzzles I actually disliked, and then assembling the puzzles to get more puzzles was fun, as well.
- Keep an eye out for the increase in playtime; this is likely going to be at least two hours. Just be careful if you’re getting this for your EXIT group; if you start this thinking it will only take an hour, you might be playing a bit later than you would otherwise like. I happened to open this one on the day I was getting my first vaccine, so I was also pretty tired on top of that, which didn’t help. Gotta set out some time for these puzzles!
- I had an extra puzzle piece in my box, which was odd. Not bad, just odd! We noticed the duplicate pretty quickly and it wasn’t related to any puzzles (though I will say I am so thoroughly traumatized by the EXIT series that I definitely kept the piece around just in case and yelled “tell me your secrets, criminal” at it), so we just kind of left it with the puzzles.
- The linearity of the game makes the clue parts of the rulebook work, but it’s very easy to accidentally open the book and see solutions or hints by mistake. I do prefer the old Hint Cards. Not much to say about that other than something had to be cut for cost, and it’s cheaper to print rulebook pages than cards, I figure.
- Honestly? The brightness being low for this particular set of puzzles made some of the challenges more difficult than they probably needed to be. This was an odd problem, but it almost seemed like a printing error? A few puzzles were just … dark. We could still make them out, but we’re sitting in the dining room and discussing using lighting kits to try and shine extra light onto the puzzle, and that seems odd. Beyond my preference for nonlinear puzzling, this is my biggest complaint. The puzzles should be difficult because of things within my control, like my inability to read clues correctly, not because I can’t discern a piece of moss somewhere or a rock on top of a book because the tile just happens to be dark. Just an odd thing to happen in an otherwise great experience.
Overall: 8.75 / 10
Overall, I had a blast with EXIT: The Sacred Temple! Really and truly. I’ve been hyped for this for a while, and you can only imagine how thrilled I was that my excitement was rewarded. First off, I love puzzles; always have. And now two of my favorite things (puzzles and EXIT games) are now one thing. Love that for me. I’m also consistently pleased with the novelty of EXIT’s riddles and puzzles. There was maybe one? that was similar to a puzzle I remembered from another EXIT game? But honestly, hard to keep track. Every game I play feels pretty fresh, even if I don’t always figure out the puzzles straight away. I think long-time EXIT fans are going to love this, honestly; it’s similar to The Catacombs of Horror in that it’s a longer, more intense experience, but rather than being two EXITs it’s just one EXIT with four puzzles you have to build. And that’s superb. The puzzles themselves are easy enough to assemble (…mostly, again, some parts are just … dark), but if you’re a fan of assembling puzzles, getting to shout “corner piece!” “gimme them edges” and such at your co-player is fun. We were also a fan of the difficulty; there were a few puzzles that stumped us for a little bit, but we got through everything. I believe The Deserted Lighthouse is next on our list and it purports to be a more challenging experience, which is exciting. I think these games are similar to Dead Man on the Orient Express, however; they represent a shift in my expectations for the EXIT series, and a positive one! Currently there seem to be three concurrent series: your standard EXITs, the EXIT mysteries, and now these EXIT + Puzzle combos. And I’m loving it. I can’t wait to play the next one, and if you’re looking for your next EXIT title or want a little mystery with your puzzles, I think EXIT: The Sacred Temple is a lot of fun! I’ve certainly had a blast with it.