EXIT: Theft On The Mississippi

6.5 Overall
Component Quality
Puzzle Design
Game Experience
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EXIT: Theft On The Mississippi

  • Played June 2020

  • Unlimited
  • 1-6 players
  • $20 USD (approx)

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When the good people at Thames & Kosmos asked if we would review their two newest games in the Exit series (Stormy Flight and Theft On The Mississippi), we had some mixed feelings. The Exit series of in-home escape games are without a doubt among North America’s most commercially successful and well known. You can find them just about anywhere nowadays. At the same time, they’ve also had some struggles winning the hearts and minds of escape room and board game enthusiasts. After reviewing A Stormy Flight our ERA members were a bit hesitant to jump right into Theft On The Mississippi because we didn’t feel it was fair to mix our rough impressions of A Stormy Flight with this one. Maybe they were different? Maybe we just had an off day with the other game and we’d come back to feel a lot better about this one? Either way, we waited a couple weeks… and we’re glad we did! Why so? Read on to find out!

Once again the component quality was pretty much the same as most Exit games. Some thin paper cut-outs, a small game booklet, a paper game wheel, and of course a bunch of game cards which include puzzles, answers, clues and other items for the game. Unfortunately the QR code wasn’t working properly with our Android devices once again, but we were able to access the app via the website. The cover artwork on the game box was once again impressive, and the app provided a timer, an introductory tutorial, and some good ambient music. One thing that intrigued us about this game was that it also included a small poster of a crime scene, along with character cut-outs that were designed to be placed on the crime scene as you gain more information… this definitely piqued our curiosity! Overall there’s nothing that stands out as particularly disappointing or impressive, but again our curiosity was heightened so that’s a good sign.

If you read our review of Exit: A Stormy Flight (or any of our previous reviews from the Exit series), you’ll know that puzzles and immersion have often been the Achilles Heel of this game series. We’ve always enjoyed the concept of Exit games, and for the most part their stories are interesting and manage to give you a small glimpse into an immersive adventure… but on the whole, the puzzles and immersion have been rough. The good news is, most of us on the ERA team are eternal optimists who strive to find the positive. So who knows? Maybe THIS game will be different… and… it… was!!! Yup, you read that correctly. Theft On The Mississippi managed to give a far more engaging experience than any of the previous EXIT games we’ve played. In this game, you know that a valuable item has been stolen from one of the passengers. It’s your job to not only find out what happened (by solving puzzles and using pieces of deductable information), but also to figure out who was where at the time of the crime. Why did a routine crime mystery (designed in this fashion) impress us so much? Because it kept us guessing on what happened, when it happened, and ultimately who did it until the very end! Far too many escape rooms and in-home escape games, (including previous Exit games), have you playing through a story to which the ending is already known. How does that impact immersion? Well imagine it this way… let’s suppose you’ve entered a marathon that will take place six months from now. But there’s something interesting about this marathon… no matter what you do, no matter what choices you make along the course, and no matter how hard you try, your time will be recorded at four hours. Knowing that you can’t change the outcome no matter what you do in the next six months, how many people could honestly say they’ll actually care about the experience? It’s the experience of being pushed, of knowing your choices have a cause and effect relationship, and knowing that you made an impact… For those who seek an immersive game experience it’s very much the same. You want an experience where you don’t know the ending… until you get there! Even moreso, you want your choices to matter. What if you don’t end up slaying the dragon? Or rescuing the princess? Heck, what if you discover YOU are the evil killer you’re seeking? It’s the discovery of information along the way that makes something more engaging… in short, you’ve got an IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE the way it should be! And Theft On The Mississippi provides that experience. Now don’t get us wrong, there were still moments in which the puzzles unfortunately pulled us out of the moment. And there were some aspects about the story and/or component quality that could have been improved to increase their effect on the immersion, but overall, we’d have to say this game is a very good immersive adventure with a LOT of potential to be built on in future games. We hope the Thames & Kosmos team will learn from this game and continue to integrate better immersive experiences moving forward.

Onto the puzzles then! Unlike most of the Exit games, there’s a ‘flexibly linear’ puzzle path we appreciated. This meant we could work on certain aspects of multiple puzzles, but ultimately we needed to use information gained in a linear fashion from one puzzle to the next. The downside was we didn’t always know which puzzle was next in the linear path until we relied on the hint deck. It’s unfortunate this remains one of the EXIT game weaknesses we see time and time again… the need for more clarity and direction given to players. Although not specific to games in the Exit series (more of a general comment on all in-home escape games) the puzzles are somewhat inclusive but not designed for team building which is a missed opportunity in our opinion. In Theft On The Mississippi you’ll need an experienced team of 2-3 adult puzzle solvers. Individual puzzles were sometimes a struggle because we didn’t know if we should approach the puzzle literally, laterally, or even destructively. And if we did destroy something was it going to be counter-intuitive to do so? We know puzzle designers are always looking for new ways to stump puzzle enthusiasts, but there are times it detracts from the game (totally unrelated, but one time we were required by a game to stick a coat hanger into an electric socket… the game designers loved how it forced players to ‘think outside the box’ but this is an example of when it’s NOT a good idea to think outside the box because you’re asking people to abandon common sense, and/or safety). It’s not all bad however… again we felt like the puzzles were nicely tied into the story and theme of the game. We also liked how the puzzles weren’t just busy work designed to take up time, but with each puzzle solved we gained more information towards the end solution. So you could say although the puzzle themselves aren’t the highlight, they do a decent job of supporting the above average immersion of this game which is good!

So did we have fun? Well it depends who you ask from our group. Some of us are immersion addicts who will do anything for an engaging story where our game choices and discoveries actually matter in the end! If you like strong immersive experiences this game has it! At the same time, there are some people in the escape room industry who couldn’t care less about immersion and they’re just in it only for the puzzles… even better if they can sit in front of a puzzle without too many people wrecking their concentration. Those types of players will probably find less joy in this game because it’s meant to be played socially and deductively with others. We’d say it’s best played in a small group of 2-3 people, and you’ll want at least one experienced puzzle enthusiast, and one deductive thinker in your group to avoid feeling disengaged. It may not make everyone’s top 10 in-home games list, but it is clearly one of EXIT’s better games and for that we were thankful to have played it! It’s important to note there are several single use components in this game so you won’t be able to share it once you’ve played it.

We want to hear your thoughts on this game! Be sure to comment in the section below or send us a message via ERA’s email, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Twitter… As always, happy escaping!

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