A locked…. box(?) mystery
There's a real sweet spot to puzzles in games. Trying to find way to incorporated enough clues to give the players a way to solve them. Too easy and the game is a bore and people might not have the drive to continue, too difficult and you'll discourage players from being able to continue. The right mix is what games like EXIT: Theft on the Mississippi aim to achieve. The latest in the Thames and Kosmos EXIT series this board game is one you can only play once which makes that balance even more important.
As with all good escape rooms EXIT: Theft on the Mississippi has a built in story. In this game you and your friends are part of a team of investigators aboard the River Queen paddle-wheel steamboat. It seems that while you and others were aboard the boat there has been a robbery. The event took place in the smoking salon and there are 8 culprits that it could have possibly been. With the knowledge of the location of the documents and that the perpetrator would have been behind the owner, George Nagelmackers, you've been asked to interview all those who were present to find out their locations.
Immediately the hook catches, it's a classic locked room mystery where no one is allowed to leave until the case has been cracked. Starting with a few of the suspects you'll have a chance to hear what they saw or were doing at the time of the crime. The puzzles in this box aren't as linear as those in The House of Riddles, you'll have clues from a few suspects at a time but the order that you work through them is mostly up to you. If you feel that you're missing a piece of the story then it's normally worth circling back to after attacking puzzles at a different angle. This non-linear format immediately scales the difficulty of the puzzles as there are more pieces in play. Compared to the level 2 difficulty of House of Riddles this was already a step up.
Each passenger on the steamboat is associated to a different symbol, for example Matt Kinsleigh the Industrialist is the Circle while the pianist Charlie Ray is an upsidedown triangle. As you unveil more you'll be able to look at the different clue cards that are in the deck, some will be associated with these symbols. It's through lining up the symbol for the passenger you want to solve, with the three numbers in the answer that you'll be directed to an answer card which may allow you to progress or stop your progress. There's no greater feeling than turning over an answer card and seeing you've solved it, but after banging your head against the wall to solve a problem a big red X is the last thing you want to see. The process of deciphering and keeping you on your toes until the card is flipped is an excellent way to work your way through an escape room game.
There's a lot of pieces in play for this escape room game and you'll be doing a lot to try to figure them out. As well as the multiple riddle cards that single puzzles might require you also have an image of the full layout of the bar aboard the River Queen and a logbook where each page is a new puzzle. The creators have done a great job of not letting anything go to waste. You'll be cutting out pages into pieces, revealing and folding cardboard, even using the box of the game itself to solve the puzzles that you face. The biggest rule is that aside from the player guide that you find at the top of the package you don't look at any of the contents until you're ready to begin.
The Bottom Line:
Even the step up from a level 2 to a level 3 puzzle threw a lot more into the works. The puzzles weren't linear with pieces scattered around, the format of the investigation was completely different, and the clues were much more obscure. There are certainly moments where you might under, or overthink what you're going into. Just like the original though, if you have a few friends in the mood to try working their way through a series of puzzles towards a common goal then EXIT: Theft on the Mississippi is a fantastic addition to the EXIT game series from Thames and Kosmos. Even the obtuse puzzles once that white towel had been thrown in and we'd moved on still felt like a good experience, even if it was communal suffering over a puzzle.
Get this game if:
- You want a mental challenge
- Your have a group of friends you enjoy suffering with
Avoid this game if:
- You don't like pieces of paper and cardboard being smarter than you
- You don't want a board game you can only play once
This review copy of EXIT: Theft on the Mississippi was provided by Thames and Kosmos.
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I have been playing all kinds of games for as long as I can remember with a particular interest in action adventure and platforming titles. While I am primarily an Xbox gamer I also spend a fair bit of time on the PS4 and on my PC in VR.