Room-in-a-box, May 2019
In Exit’s ever-expanding range, Mysterious Museum is pitched to be less challenging, intentionally one of their easier games. Puzzle difficulty is a very subjective matter, but Museum is made more approachable by being much more linear than their normal style. That’s a reasonable and sensible change, but in practice I was unimpressed with the result.
In a typical Exit game, you have a booklet of clues to leaf through, with different pages being relevant to different puzzles. In addition, you’ll often receive clue cards that can’t immediately be used. As a result, half the puzzle is often to work out which clues go together, and which puzzles can actually be solved with the available clues. In this one, the booklet is solved one double-page spread at a time, with warnings not to proceed to the following pages until you’ve finished the current ones; and for each puzzle you’re typically provided with precisely the cards you need to solve it, in strict linear sequence.
I tend to like Exit’s easier games less, and that’s not because I’m a snob about difficulty. With their harder puzzles, all the pieces are there and when you have the flash of insight that sees how to combine them, everything comes together with a satisfying sense of inevitability. With their easier puzzles, it seems like they deliberately introduce vagueness or ambiguity, because the underlying puzzle is so straightforward that if they don’t obfuscate it in some way it’d be too trivial. But the result is less pleasing when you get it, and all the more frustrating when you don’t, because it feels like it ought to be simple.
With Museum, there were several puzzles where I was fairly sure I knew the intended approach, and yet for one reason or another still found myself trying multiple answer cards before finding the right one. In one case the most charitable interpretation is that the puzzle worked better in the original German. To be fair, Museum also has several cute ideas, particularly its stand-out gimmick – though even that had to contend with the game’s fondness for little gotchas, where you can get the main idea but be tripped up by a further wrinkle.
In case it’s not abundantly clear, Mysterious Museum is amongst my least favourites of the Exit series; I think they’ve done considerably better with some of their others. Even so, the series follows a very tightly defined style, and whether you like the Exit style in general will matter more to your enjoyment than the quality of this specific game. If you like Exit’s games, then this definitely isn’t the best but you’ll probably have fun with it anyway.