EXIT The Game: The Polar Station

Inka Brand and Markus Brand

Publisher: Kosmos

What an odd cover (Photo credits: Eric Martin@BGG)

SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU WANT TO PLAY THE GAME.

There are plenty of reviews of this game out there that are spoiler free. This is not it. I am going to directly discuss about the game and the puzzles. You have been warned!!

The Polar Station is the third game in the EXIT series right after The Mysterious Museum. There are three difficulty pips on the game, which is one more than the previous game we played. Actually, Polar Station does seem slightly more difficult than the Mysterious Museum, but the clues and puzzles are becoming increasingly more familiar, so it is hard to tell if the puzzles are harder or if we are just better at anticipating the type of answers they are looking for.

In Polar Station, players have to escape the Polar Station which has been compromised by an alien dug up from the depth of the arctic core. The alien has killed a team of scientists that discovered it and now, will want to finish off the other researchers in the Polar Station. You are the unlucky sap stuck on the station. Inexplicably, the now-dead researchers have devised a series of puzzles that only a human mind can solve, thus making sure the alien was not fooled. Way to go, guys. You are dead but yet had the time to devise such a silly set of puzzles to stump your would be survivor. Why so complicated? Why not say the aliens made you guys all turn insane and prevented other from escaping by creating these mysterious puzzles. I’d buy that. Some twisted alien.

So how does Polar Station compare against the other games in the series?

By now, after two games, I am familiar with the type of puzzles on tap for the EXIT series. Very quickly, there are a total of 10 puzzles. First lead in puzzle is also the simplest: matching the card with a pattern on the floor to reveal a 3 letter code. Here are some highlights of the puzzles:

Star puzzle: pretty neat except it requires you to fold the cube. If you have cut the cube up, you will need tape. I bet most folks just cut it all up. But the clues are only visible if you fold the structure into the cube. Lots of hints of that in the cards include the term rocks and ice cube. This should be easy, but we struggled.

Circle puzzle: E on X on IT puzzle was pretty clever but is not too tough once you figure out that most of the puzzles are actually quite literal in their meaning. Here, you take three objects and stack them together and transcribe the clues to find the number on the wheel. All you need to know is to pick which side of the cutout to match the pattern. Once you realize that, the puzzle solves itself.

Triangle puzzle: This one was a bit interesting and took us a while. The clue is a bit gimmicky in that you had to look at the shapes of the photo frames and realize that it spelled “COD” Then you just count the number of shapes around each frame.

“Y” puzzle: was quite lame. Matching the alien symbol from left to right in size with the frame didn’t make much sense at all. Not an intuitive clue.

Square puzzle: By now, you should realize that every EXIT game has a fourth dimension breaking clue which makes you look at the box. Here you align a page in the clue book with the Kosmos logo in the box front. From the open windows, you will see some vague numbers on the cover which were previously hidden. I do love these out of the box clues…. but they do get old.

Moon puzzle: Was tougher than it ought to be, but the computer screen basically spelled out which type of snow you have to take into consideration. It wasn’t that hard but we struggled to piece this together since the moon symbol on the clue book was so lightly shaded it wasn’t obvious. Again, you expect that one of the clues will use the decoder wheel in some fashion and this one is the decoder wheel clue.

Diamond puzzle: Also the final and worst puzzle of the lot. You would think the game would end with a bang, but this one died with a whimper. Here, you look at a series of plaques in the safe where words are read differently from top or bottom. Depends on how the cards are laid out, an eight can read as a three. There was no challenge whatsoever since the lettering on the plaques were so suspicious. It took us all of 15 seconds to figure out the final clue. What an anti-climax.

By now, three games in, I have a good handle on the types of clues expected. I can easily anticipate a clue that uses the wheel, one that breaks the fourth dimension, one that requires you to fold the card and one that makes you cut out the pieces and reassemble stuff or overlay stuff. It’s not to say every puzzle is easy but it helps that you can anticipate the type of puzzles that come out.

There is one thing that annoys me and continues to annoy me about the games in the Escape Room genre. That is the inability of the game to tell you if you have enough clues to solve the puzzle. You should know if you enough pieces to solve a puzzle outright because I hate sifting through the clues only to find that we are missing one critical component. It takes the wind off my sail and deflates my enthusiasm. Tell us if we have enough to solve. I know the first help card will tell us that but I don’t want to use the help cards. This should be known information. I know, some people think this is part of the puzzle. I do not. Yes, perhaps this is not in the spirit of the game but I don’t care. I want to solve the puzzles when I know it is solvable.

Ultimately, I think Polar Station fails to capture my enthusiasm. Both Abandoned Cabin and The Mysterious Museum played better and had better puzzles. The story in this one was also kinda lame. While some puzzles were hard but fair, the final puzzle was an absolute letdown. Well, you can’t always have hits I suppose.

Initial impressions: Average

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