Room-in-a-box, Nov 2017
Last of the Exit games until they finish translating the next four in the series, Forbidden Castle is marked as a harder game (4/5 difficulty, where Polar Station and Forgotten Island are marked as 3/5) and is my favourite so far. It follows the usual format but does so particularly well, with a set of challenging, original and inventive puzzles that seemed to me to be entirely fair – at least in retrospect.
All the Exit game codewheels provide a way of verifying a three digit code. Some of them allow the puzzle solution to be a set of three colours or symbols or shapes instead. In this game the codewheel uses key parts, so that each three-digit code is equivalent to a unique key shape. While it’s the familiar mechanism under the covers, it looks cooler and uses a more interesting lookup chart for converting numbers to keyparts.
An interesting innovation is that partway through the game you have a choice, with no right or wrong answer. Depending on which option you select you then get one or another puzzle to solve. Each option is a destructive puzzle that will leave the alternative puzzle unplayable… though if you mess around with tracing paper as we did you might just about be able to do both without destroying the relevant part of the game. It’s curious that they’ve effectively included one more puzzle in the box than teams will normally be able to play, particularly since you have no basis on which to make the choice of which to attempt – and as it happens, I thought one of the options was a lot harder than the other. But while I can’t see much reason for the choice, there’s no downside except the emotional pain for completionists (me) who can’t bear to miss out on a puzzle (me) and who therefore have to struggle to find a way to do both branches non-destructively (me again).
The higher difficulty rating is fair, and this game is even trickier than the series’ normal high standard. As usual much of the difficulty comes from working out what to focus on, and there’s an ‘either you see it or you don’t’ characteristic to many of the puzzles, which left us struggling at several points. But it felt tricky without being unreasonable.
Exit always have a set of ‘mysterious items’ that you ‘find’ along with the more normal puzzle cards. Forbidden Castle’s items are less mysterious and more amusing, and give a silly fun last puzzle to end the game on an entertaining note.
Because of the somewhat higher difficulty level, start with one of the other games in the series first, but if you’ve played and liked their games, Forbidden Castle is a good one to get.