#822 – EXIT: The Cursed Labyrinth [Spoiler-Free]

Base price: $15.
1+ players.
Play time: 1 – 2 hours.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 1 

Full disclosure: A review copy of EXIT: The Cursed Labyrinth was provided by KOSMOS.

There’s something inherently relatable about being trapped in an inescapable maze and forced to wander around indefinitely in hopes of finding an exit. Something something a metaphor for having to work during a pandemic for almost two years something something, but anyways. We’re back with another EXIT game to check out! This time, KOSMOS is taking us into the Cursed Labyrinth. Wonder what we’ll find there? Let’s find out!

In EXIT: The Cursed Labyrinth, you have apparently wandered into an extremely large and extremely cursed maze. I remain consistently impressed by your ability to specifically navigate into (and consequently, out of) these scenarios, but here we are. You’ll have to solve the gargoyle’s riddle, avoid some nasty goblins, and watch for the legendary minotaurus if you want to make it out in one piece! Will you be able to solve some a-maze-ing puzzles? Or will you be trapped in the labyrinth forever?

Contents

Setup

You’ve got your usual suspects, in this EXIT game. Get some scissors. You can set aside the Riddle Cards and the Answer Cards, but divide the Help Cards into their relevant stacks. Take the Disk:

And set aside the booklet; only open it when you’re ready. You may want to punch out all the other items and set them aside, for now. Whenever you’re ready, start a timer and open the booklet to the first page!

Gameplay

It’s an EXIT game! If you’re reading this, I mean, I’ve reviewed several others! But here’s the gist:

You’re currently trapped in what can only be described as “a situation”. You’d like to not be there, and the only way out is through a series of puzzles, clues, and shenanigans. Completing those puzzles, clues, and shenanigans will usually leave you with a symbol and a set of three numbers. placing those numbers in their specified order on the disk will give you the number of an Answer Card. Check that! It will either give you further instructions or tell you that you’re wrong.

Should it tell you to progress, you will likely gain more Riddle Cards, new pages in the booklet, or other stuff that’s puzzle-relevant. Keep using those to iterate through more puzzles until you solve them all!

If you ever get stuck, you can use a Help Card to assist you. They’re per-puzzle specific, and they offer a “Setup Hint” (do you have everything you need for this puzzle?), a “Puzzle Hint” (what is something that you should keep in mind or do to solve this puzzle?”), and the solution, if neither of the first two are useful.

Good luck escaping the labyrinth!

Player Count Differences

I wouldn’t say that my EXIT Friend and I were in the best headspace when we were playing this; we both had had days. That said, I think that illuminated that this was, once again, an EXIT title better suited for the lower end of the player count spectrum. I’d probably say 1 – 2 players is roughly ideal for this one. There’s a fair bit of drawing and a few tasks that can be distributed to more people, but fundamentally I would say that’s maybe every other puzzle or every three puzzles. More often than not, we split the work and one person handles the disk while the other person deals with the Answer Cards, and that keeps us both engaged. When we played this one, we probably both needed a bit more of a break, so we ended up taking the occasional phone break while we were playing and the other person did a bit more work on the puzzle. Considering that still went pretty well (~ 71 minutes to complete?) makes me think that this one didn’t require more than two people working at optimal efficiency. And that’s perfectly okay. But yeah, as a result, I’d probably recommend this with two players, maximum. I usually like to have one other person as a sounding board when I play, but I think with three or four people there won’t be enough for everyone to do.

Strategy

  • You’re going to be holding a lot of things at arms’ length. Sometimes you just need to get a different perspective on a puzzle or view it at a weird angle or just walk around it for a second, sit down, and look at it again. It’ll help resolve a number of things that don’t immediately stand out. And they should pretty immediately stand out, if you’re not making the puzzle harder than it actually is. On that note, actually.
  • At least one of the puzzles is exactly as simple as it looks. Don’t overcomplicate things. There’s a real temptation to do so, especially since we were coming in hot off of The Light in the Mist, which could get pretty tricky, but not everything is a Whole Production. That said, some of these puzzles are pretty tricky.
  • If you’re stuck, try using the first Help Card to get your bearings on a puzzle. Thankfully, since this game is fairly linear, you’ll usually have everything you need for a puzzle, but if you’re not sure, the Help Card will always clarify that on the first one. I usually recommend it as a grounding point if you’ve been tackling a puzzle for a while and still can’t figure out what to do next. If you know you have all the right components, then you can usually figure something out.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • I appreciate that it has some lore connections to EXIT: The Enchanted Forest. There are a few sets of interconnected EXIT games, and I find that just fun. There are a handful where you’re explicitly playing the same character as they clown their way into all sorts of dangerous traps, and while that seems implausible, I do enjoy the concept that you’re essentially Forrest Gump by way of Robert Langdon. I also just enjoy interconnected games, and the subtle lore connections between them is pleasant (though I’d hardly call this one subtle).
  • There’s a couple pretty great puzzles with some metagame qualities to them. I usually am just like, “ah heck, the Brands have done it again” when they surprise me with some of these puzzles. They’re quite enjoyable! My favorite of all time was one a few EXITs back where the Brands were holding up fingers that were the solution code to a puzzle in their author photo. That was a rude one. But it gets me to read the whole rulebook, now! There are some similarly fun puzzles that play with my expectations here, too.
  • The insert looks really cool. It’s all labyrinthy! It’s a very nice aesthetic.
  • The game plays fast and loose with mythology, but I enjoyed the references. Not everything has to be a textbook; sometimes it’s just fun to be able to point at a thing and be like “oh, I recognize that”.
  • One puzzle made us laugh out loud. We were a bit surprised, but it was pretty unexpected. I like that the EXIT games can still surprise me from both a puzzle complexity perspective and an entertainment standpoint.
  • I think this is a great EXIT for experienced EXIT fans. There are, as I mentioned, a number of fun metagame-y puzzles in here that really reward folks who have played a lot of EXIT games. I do have some worries that EXIT will have to increasingly move in this direction to keep generating new puzzles, but the Brands have managed to prove me wrong with the EXIT jigsaw set, so, we’ll see what happens!

Mehs

A picture of a push pin, individually bagged.
  • Just this entire thing. I understand, logistically, why a single push pin has to be in a baggie, but it does come off as a little ridiculous. When you imagine the volume of games that have these individually-wrapped push pins in them, you start to wonder about how sustainable that kind of thing is, and the answer has to be “not very”. I am curious what sort of rule or regulation requires the pins to be bagged up like this, as I assume it’s something.
  • I always prefer the nonlinear EXITs to the linear ones. I think I like that you gradually get pieces to puzzles you can’t solve yet. It gives me a pleasant sense of foreboding for the next puzzle to solve! That still happens in some EXIT games, but that did not happen here. Pretty much every puzzle we flipped was entirely self-contained to what we had just received. That’s okay; I just prefer the more expansive ones.

Cons

  • There are a lot of “this kind of looks like a number” puzzles in this one, and your mileage may vary on those. I find those kinds of things challenging? Sometimes a bit inscrutable? But that’s me. I think one of the puzzles threw me off a bit because we couldn’t actually resolve the number we saw down to an agreed-upon number, but that’s how it goes.

Overall: 7.75 / 10

Overall, I enjoyed EXIT: The Cursed Labyrinth! It was a pretty middle-of-the-road EXIT for us, compared to the other ones we’ve played, and that’s perfectly reasonable! I did find their emphasis on “does this look like a number from a set distance” puzzles to be a bit odd, but, I mean, they were still interesting to get to! The difficulty was also pretty nicely tuned. Ironically, the puzzle we were struggling with the most was the first one! We were very significantly overthinking it, but, that’s liable to happen when you’ve played a whole series of escape room box games. They can sneak up on you and mess with you, if you’re not expecting it. I wouldn’t necessarily call this a significant innovation on the EXIT series, but I would say it hits that “comfort food” point, for me, where I find the game enjoyable and a solid experience from start to finish. If that’s what they’re shooting for with the EXIT series, no problems with that! I find the games are easy to get into, fun to mess around with with a friend, and ultimately satisfying when you figure the puzzles out. And The Cursed Labyrinth is no exception! If you’re a big fan of the EXIT series or you’re new to the franchise or you just want to try an escape room on a smaller scale, you’ll probably enjoy The Cursed Labyrinth! I did.


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