Designer: Inka and Marcus Brand
Artist: Silvia Christoph, Michaela Kienle, Claus Stephan
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!!
This is the 5th EXIT game we have played and I continue to be impressed at the Brands. The puzzles are really good quality and they can still surprise, which is important given that there are probably more than a dozen games in the series now. Sure, we have a better sense of what to expect given a set of clues. For example, which ones to cut and reassemble, how to fold certain edges to match patterns and to pay attention to the box cover, inserts and code wheel as additional objects to manipulate.
In Orient Express, there is another twist to solve: a whodunit. To win the game, one has to piece together all the clues collected during the game, including items and alibis to figure out the 3 digit combination from the train car, compartment and item belonging to the murderer. The game flows well. Instead of somewhat stand alone puzzles as you go from room to room or location to location, Orient Express let’s you play detective and talk to the suspects as well as visit the train cars and compartments to sniff out clues. With the evidence gathered from each successful mission, players can piece together a story and check out all the alibis before pointing a finger at a suspect.
We found the puzzles overall pretty reasonable except for one particular instance where some additional icongraphy would help link the puzzle to the narrative. We searched for a while trying to match the puzzle to the riddle cards. I don’t think the puzzles are tough, but I suspect a large part of this maybe due to familiarity. Even though we are “veterans”, some of the puzzles still manage to eke out a chuckle or two from both of us and that says quite a bit.
Here are some of the more unique puzzles:
Moon: Nothing special here, but this one uses the decoder disk in a different way by matching the patterns on the page and on the wheel itself revealing a number printed on the page. Not really a hard one, but still rather cute.
Star: I really like this gimmick. You draw the lines with a pencil on the backside of the cards. It took us a while to find “U, i and W” because we weren’t expecting it. We searched every nook of the box and cover for this. Eventually, we did make the connection and it was pretty easy to guess what they wanted us to do. Still really neat to see the imprint showing up on the front side of the card once you trace the letters to complete the puzzle.
Square: Didn’t take us long to figure out the 3D nature of the puzzle where you prop up the table piece perpendicular to the page and then lower the crystal until it touched the numbers. OK puzzle, but the 3D nature scores an extra point.
Circle: The decoder wheel comes into play again. Every puzzle we have played thus far involved the decoder wheel beyond just providing the numbers. In this case, we had to draw a pattern on the wheel to eliminate all the spaces leaving 3 digits left. Not a hard one, but still neat to see the decoder wheel used in so many different ways.
“L” : This one stumped us even though it shouldn’t. We knew we had to do something with the clocks and had to turn over the 1st clue to the riddle. The missing link here was that we had to draw a continuous line on the clock face to complete the pattern of digits.
“Y” This one was the most frustrating one for us. We could not link the riddle card to this puzzle and so we mucked around not knowing which puzzle to do. Once we got to the puzzle, we knew it had something to do with either cutting or folding the puzzle to complete the track from station to station. I think the breakthrough was the realization that the grids on the page matched the grids on the cards. Then, from there, we just folded the squares to matched the grids. The is the one we got stuck on for the longest.
Hexagon: This is the finale puzzle. It involves solving the crime and then dialing in the cops in the station to catch the suspect. We got it right! It really requires some reading and deducing the clues and evidence collecting. It wasn’t all that hard, but there were some clues and narrative that didn’t match up. We had to take a leap of faith and chose between one of two suspects. We chose correctly. This is unique. Among the other EXIT games I have played, none requires you to solve a murder mystery and the puzzles are all quite independent. Countess Andrenzki ended up being the guilty party. Succeed or fail, you will have a different outcome and a different card to read (see below).
Overall, I actually like this EXIT quite a bit. It feels fresh. So, I highly recommend this one. The difficulty is probably right smack in the middle and I think it poses enough challenge for veterans and should be interesting enough for a newbie. The only thing about this murder mystery is that you actually have to solve it. So, you have to pour through the alibis and pieces of evidence in the end to eliminate suspects. This may not work for every one. I have to admit, we played this one quite late in the evening and I wasn’t sure I was in the mood to do any logic puzzles. We ended up solving and felt satisfied coming away with it. I think the Brands may have come out with more of these mystery type puzzles and we look forward to it.