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Exit 2 (PSP) artwork

Exit 2 (PSP) review

"Sorry, but I've not played the first Exit and unless you're a big puzzle enthusiast or Japanese (in which case, konichi wa!) odds are, neither have you. Despite racking up respectable review scores, Taito's PSP brain teaser/action hybrid didn't fly off shelves. If the sequel is anything to go off of, that's really a bit of a shame."

I know what you're expecting here. You've been expecting it ever since you saw the '2' in this game's title and you've been expecting it because it's an iron-clad law that all reviews since the dawn of time (i.e., when a middle-aged Zigfried penned the first Pong review) have had to abide by. You expected to find included a little teaser of the previous game then to endure an uncomfortable transition into the newer one and how the sequel has evolved.

Sorry, but I've not played the first Exit and unless you're a big puzzle enthusiast or Japanese (in which case, konichi wa!) odds are, neither have you. Despite racking up respectable review scores, Taito's PSP brain teaser/action hybrid didn't fly off shelves. If the sequel is anything to go off of, that's really a bit of a shame.

Mr. ESC returns (I assume!) as your stylish avatar. One cast in shades of abstract silhouettes constructed of contrasting blacks and whites, set against strong, striking backgrounds that give Exit 2 its wholly unique look. As his name suggests, he’s an expert in escapes, so much so he's managed to make a career out of it, and escaping is exactly what you'll be helping the trapped denizens of the game’s 100 levels do. (Plus another 70, should you go the extra mile and download the bonus pack)

Completing each stage requires him to lead whoever is trapped inside the numerous rooms to the exit: but sinister architects conspire against him! To reach his goal and rescue those inside, Mr. ESC has to bypass such pitfalls as, well, pitfalls for one. Some rooms blaze with fire whilst other bubble serenely under welling waters. Icicles impede pathways, broken floors and ceilings cause countless problems and locked doors prompt fist-shaking annulment. While your avatar has numerous skills to bypass such barricades, the large number of trapped civilians is not always as capable. The large adults that dot the rooms are slow, ponderous beings that can't jump very high or move very fast, but they can lift objects heavier than Mr. ESC can manage, but they have trouble climbing over large obstacles. They can achieve this with the help of Macho Adults, who can do everything their tubby counterparts can do and more, such as scale ropes. Young adults boast similar capabilities to the protagonist, but can't swim whilst dogs can indeed tread water as well as leap large distances, but can't use any items they manage to pick up. Children are just as dead in the water as their slightly older counterparts, but the little buggers can squeeze through tight gaps that others cannot, while the odd injured person you come across can only call for help and be a general pain.

Rescue them quick, because the constant cries of "HELP! HELP!" get very annoying, very fast.

Every single person you rescue is then recruited into your team, allowing you to boss them around as you please. However, despite their many uses and skills, their inability to escape on their own soon becomes clear: every single person trapped in the rooms you explore has the intellect of a chipmunk. Simple instructions such as 'lift item' or 'push box' are usually followed without complaint, but trying to convince them to employ objects like a pick axe on a crumbling wall will often require the patience of a saint, especially should you dare ask them to attack a weakened wall on a differing floor to the one on which they reside. Even if an elevator is no more then a handful of feet away, you'll need to take them by the hand and lead them to it before reissuing the order. And that's if they're able bodied enough to do so in the first pace.

While those unable to walk could be considered useless, they can be dumped on top of any of the numerous switches that dot each level to prompt some kind of effect. It may turn on the sprinklers and douse an annoying fire that blocks you path, or slide open a locked door. Every person you collect to aid you in a level often has a use they are custom built for: that tight gap needs the whiny child's small frame to bypass, that switch the other side of the huge drop needs a canine helper to leap across the chasm and drop a bridge for everyone else. Although sometimes you'll swear at your helpers, Mr. ESC still oftentimes can not advance without them.

A lot of the frustration from the cast comes not only from their own stupidity but from the clumsiness often exhibited by the control method. Nudging the analogue stick will bring up a cursor which lets you click on obstacles or helpers. However, you'll often find yourself longing for an extra few fingers as actions like asking a rescued adult to move a box will require a lot of input. Speed-runners need hold down a shoulder button to increase the cursor’s speed, the analogue is used to seek out the helper, the triangle button to select them, the triangle button at the same time as the d-pad helps to scroll through your cast.... it's easy to get muddled and superhuman dexterity becomes a must.

Mr. ESC himself is guided around the screen with the D-Pad and is prompted into a run by holding down a shoulder button which, while he moves around faster, has to suffer from a skid-stop. Little time-killing animations are abound, forcing the gamer to think ahead of every action should they seek to escape in the quickest time possible. Scaling that ladder, using those stairs, employing that rope, riding that elevator: make sure you actually need to do so because the animations for each task can not be stopped once they're in action. For those that want to simply beat the level with a solid time, these are little more than a nuisance; for those that demand perfection, it's a second veneer of strategic forethought.

Not thinking ahead will cost you more than just time in some instances, and you'll find yourself in the odd inescapable position, forcing you to restart the level. This isn't common, but it's frustrating to be mowing through a level at a steady time only to jam a shrugging Mr. ESC between two unassailable crates. Sometimes this is your own stupid fault for not thinking ahead enough, sometimes the fault lies in your brainless helpers and sometimes you'll simply wonder how the hell you got there.

But what I found myself wondering more is just how the hell this series got overlooked for so long. With the first Exit rumoured to be XBLA-bound, and this chapter displaying a strong sense of almost retro-puzzling brilliance (more than once was I taken back to the countless hours spent meandering away on titles such as Lemmings) mixed in with an electric dash of action and adventure. Exit 2 seemingly has a little something for everyone. It’s one of the most adaptable, and the most brilliant games in my PSP collection.

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (July 20, 2007)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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