We get our hands on an English-language version of Taito's stylish lifesaving puzzler for the PSP.
The first time that we encountered Taito's Exit was at September 2005's Tokyo Game Show, where its cartoon-style visuals and inventive puzzle-based gameplay really impressed. Around three months later, Ubisoft announced that it had secured the publishing rights for the North American and European versions of the game, which are currently scheduled for release next month. We recently had an opportunity to play through around 40 of Exit's 100 levels, and we're pleased to report that it wasn't just the game's art style that impressed us.
In Exit, you'll assume the role of a professional escape artist named--appropriately enough--Mr. Escape, who makes his living not by freeing himself from padlocks and chains at the bottom of a swimming pool, but by rescuing members of the public from equally dangerous situations. Exit will ship with a total of 100 increasingly challenging missions, including 10 that are set in a tutorial level. The remaining 90 missions span nine different disasters in which you'll be rescuing victims from fires, a flooded subway station, a hospital hit by an earthquake, a hotel caught in an avalanche, a factory explosion, and more. You'll be able to download additional disaster packs comprising 10 missions each sometime after Exit's release.
Your goal in each mission is to locate any victims that are trapped in your current location and then escort them safely to the exit before time runs out. The victims--much like the obstacles that will impede your progress--come in a number of different shapes and sizes, and the only thing that they all have in common is that they just stay in one spot, waiting to be saved until you find them. Fortunately, the majority of the victims that you locate will prove quite useful, though each victim "type" has its own pros and cons. Kids, for example, aren't able to swim or climb up and down from high places without help, nor are they strong enough to push boxes around--they're great at crawling through narrow spaces, though. At the other end of the spectrum, large adults are strong enough to push boxes that even Mr. Escape can't budge, but they're too large to climb up onto large boxes without help from two other adults. Young adults are the middle ground, boasting a similar range of abilities to those of Mr. Escape. The only other victims that you'll need to concern yourself with are severely injured patients, who are unable to move by themselves and so have to be carried or put on a stretcher.
One of the most common dangers that you'll have to deal with in Exit is fire, which, like most of the game's hazards, will kill Mr. Escape and his companions on contact. Fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems can be used to put out fires that are in your way, but many of the levels can only be beaten if you put out the fires in a certain order and if you don't waste any of your single-use fire extinguishers on flames that can be avoided simply by taking another route. Other hazards and obstacles that you'll be faced with include electrified floors, water (you can only hold your breath underwater for 30 seconds), walls, and large icicles that can be destroyed using a pickaxe, locked doors, conveyor belts, icy floors, pitch-black areas where your visibility is severely limited, ropes that you can climb down but not climb up, and, of course, falls from high places.
Although Exit is most definitely a puzzle game at its core, any skills that you've retained from the 2D platform games of old will come in handy from time to time. Jumping between platforms in Exit isn't nearly as challenging as figuring out the correct route through each level. But you'll certainly need to figure out the distances that are safe for Mr. Escape to jump and fall from, because one wrong move will often force you to restart an entire level. Equally important if you're to succeed in Exit, will be mastering the art of giving instructions to any victims that you rescue on your way through a level, which is accomplished via a particularly elegant control setup that uses the PSP's directional pad and analog stick to great effect.
At any point in the game, while using the directional pad to control Mr. Escape directly, you can use the analog stick to move a pointer that will scroll the screen around your surrounding area. The pointer not only affords you a good look at your surroundings, but also highlights victims that you've added to your party already and gives them instructions. You'll simply position the pointer over your target, press a button to highlight it, and then move the pointer to the location that you want your companion to move to or onto the object that you'd like the person to interact with. On many levels, having victims perform tasks that Mr. Escape is unable to do is the only way to reach the exit. But, even when that's not the case, you can use victims to speed up your progress through a level--maximizing your score out of a possible 100 once you complete it.
Like Mr. Escape, other characters in Exit are only able to carry one item at a time. To date, the items we've put to good use include keys, which are used to open locked doors; rope ladders, which can be suspended from hooks and then climbed up and down; planks, which are used to make bridges; torches, which improve your vision in dark places; spiked shoes, which stop you from sliding around on ice; as well as the aforementioned ropes, fire extinguishers, and pickaxes. Having taken a look at Exit's instruction manual, we're pretty certain that those are all of the items in the game--we'll let you know for sure in our full review next month.
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