As I said in my Legend of Kage 2 review, I'm really growing to like Taito. They know what they do well and they just do it. The results may not be the most original games, or even the most impressive, but they're solid and fun and that's all that matters.
Real men wear scarves and hats.
The first thing I want to point out is that this is NOT a port of the original Exit on the PSP or 360 Arcade, as many reviews and previews have been claiming. This is an entirely new game(it MIGHT be a port of the Japan-only Exit 2, but I can't prove or disprove that notion since I haven't played it). In fact, there are several additions that should have made it abundantly clear that this wasn't a port, the most glaring of which being the inclusion of an entirely new type of evacuee(the dog).
In Exit, you play as the cat-loving and coffee-drinking Mr. ESC, a professional escape artist who goes to various disaster sites world-wide to help people in need...for a price. Mr. ESC lends his skills to anyone that pays and he does not judge the people he helps, although he has been known to help people free of charge when he's personally vested in the situation. If you've ever read the manga "Blackjack: Two Fisted Surgeon", you'll know the type.
The gameplay is best described as a puzzle-platformer, not unlike Braid
, and is identical to it's predecessor in every way. Each "situation" finds Mr. ESC in a different disaster site (burning building, collapsing tunnel, avalanche, etc) and consists of ten different stages where you must maneuver blocks, items, and traps in such a manner so as to reach the stage's "EXIT" sign with a pack of evacuees in tow. The real strategy comes in having your evacuees help you to solve the various puzzles by using their special abilities in conjunction with your own. It's in understanding how each evacuee operates and how to utilize their abilities in tandem that will allow you and them to escape each level unscathed.
You'll never have to control this many evacuees at once, thankfully.
The presentation is very stylish, and is one of the things that has made the game stand out so much to me. Compared to the original, which was 2.5D, this version is completely sprite-based. The overall effect has actually made the game a little duller(the spritework isn't very well done; everything feels very flat(lolol) and lifeless. It feels like they tried to take the 3D models and crush them into 2D space, and it hasn't been a gentle process.), but in the end it's still a very unique presentation and it still looks good; it'll just be a tad disappointing to anyone who enjoyed the original game on the PSP or 360. As for the music, well, it's largely forgettable, but it's not particularly intrusive which is just as important in a puzzle game. You're here to think and to act, if the music prevented you from doing this there'd be a problem.
To preface each situation, you get a very cool comic book intro to tell you what's going on.
And one thing in particular I feel I need to mention when talking about the presentation is the character profiles, accessed off of the situation select menu. This is a really small addition, and I'd be willing to bet most of the people who played the game never even looked at it, but it adds a touch of flavor to the game that really makes it stand out in my mind. You see, the people Mr. ESC rescues aren't just generic nobodies in need of help, they are people with lives and histories, many of which are highly entertaining and fun. For each person that you rescue over the course of the game, you can read their story in the character profiles. Some notables are the superhero who would help rescue people but he's too afraid to change clothes in public, the old billionaire withering in a hospital and the two young women claiming to be his long-lost daughter so as to claim his inheritance(and his real daughter who took a job at the hospital because she only cares about seeing her father get better), and many, many more. The fact that they took the time to give each and every evacuee their own (sometimes very comical) story is just that extra added bit of flavor that really sells me on this game.
One point of contention I have is that Taito decided that, since this was on the DS, they of course needed to shoehorn in terrible touch controls where they didn't belong. And believe me, the touch controls are ATROCIOUS. For just walking around and pushing blocks, they're serviceable. But the second you try to do anything advanced, like heaven forbid climb down a ledge or maneuver through a pile of blocks, it becomes nearly impossible to get Mr. ESC to do what you want him to do, and in a puzzle/platformer that's unforgivable. Luckily, a standard button control scheme has been included as well, although it still feels a little off and sticky compared to the original game's controls.
Overall, if you like puzzle or action games that make you think a little, and you either already beat the original game or don't have a PSP or 360(And if you own one of those machines and haven't played the original, GET TO IT, BEST GAME EVAR), then I can highly suggest this title to you. It's not nearly as polished as the original was, and the controls aren't as smooth as they could be, it's still a great game that everyone should at least give a shot. Plus it's only $20, so what have you got to lose?
Are "HEAVEN OR HELL" jokes getting old yet? I still like them.
Just don't use the stylus controls. Really. They're just awful. STOP DOING THIS SHIT, DEVELOPERS.