Room-in-a-box, Nov 2017
It was Forgotten Island that finally made me surrender and start playing the Exit games in a way that marked the components – though so far still only in ways that I could reverse to restore everything to its original condition. But for most players I recommend biting the bullet and accepting that these games are single use only. Destruction is deeply baked into the design here.
As with their other games, the challenge here is often working out which clues to focus on. The game starts with all pages of the clue booklet available, and you frequently gain access to partial clues to puzzles before it’s possible to solve the puzzle, and it’s often far from obvious which items to concentrate on. This is perhaps the biggest weakness of the series, other than its one-use format: each game is a linear series of puzzles, and you inevitably spend significant time struggling to solve parts of the game that are literally insoluble, since critical clues haven’t yet become available. At least, I experience that as a weakness. Your mileage may vary, and certainly the meta-puzzle of working out what’s relevant to the current step and what needs to be left for later could be seen as part of the appeal.
The clever two-step verification system worked flawlessly as ever, with zero danger of getting a false positive answer. The multiple steps involved have the downside that you’ll find yourself flipping pages back and forth trying to remember which lock you’re supposed to be opening, and it’s not difficult to make a mistake and get a false negative. But it’s easy enough to double check when a promising-looking answer unexpectedly fails to work.
Forgotten Island is a middle of the road entry in the series. The theming is nice enough, though the symbols used by the codewheel are a simple veil for puzzles that mostly just spit out three-digit codes, and in places it felt like it revisited puzzle ideas I’d seen in previous Exit games. But those still worked well, and they continue to find new ways to surprise players; plus small touches such as which items come out of which locks demonstrate the care and attention to detail that’s going into these games.