EXIT: The Game – The Sunken Treasure

Designer: Inka Brand and Markus Brand

Artist: Silvia Christoph, Michaela Kienle, Michael Menzel

Publisher: KOSMOS

The game is not as scary as it looks (Photo credits: Eric Martin@BGG)

SPOILER ALERT: STOP! 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 10th game in the series we have played, almost all exclusively with 2 players. However, since Sunken Treasure is a 2-star affair, we decided to include our 7-year old daughter who was pining to play an EXIT game with her parents. We decided that she had enough exposure to puzzles for it to be worth her while. In one previous attempt, she actually got a bit stressed out at the atmosphere of the game being too sinister and dark which led to some nightmares. However, she was ready for Sunken Treasure because the theme felt less terrifying. So note to kids who are a little more sensitive at the theme, the Sunken Treasure is actually a decent choice.

The narrative for Sunken Treasure is actually kid-friendly, what with the colorful symbols on the disc wheel and all. So, that is a good start if you are playing with kids. I am going to give my thoughts on this game based on both the adult and child perspective. Overall, we found that the puzzle difficultly to be uneven at best. The first half of the game, the puzzles just had the right level of difficulty – my kid had a great time figuring it out and she could do that with a few hints along the way. The second half of the game, the puzzles were uneven with at least 2 puzzles being very poorly constructed in my mind. Given how tight the puzzles have been in the past, these clues felt a little loosey-goosey. Some of these puzzles were also beyond my kid’s abilities to solve at her stage. Still, as veterans of the EXIT series, the puzzles fit the 2-star difficulty rating – it was definitely on the easier side. We didn’t find it to be much of a challenge except for the above-mentioned frustrations. The puzzle also took about 1.5 hours to complete as a family. Which wasn’t particularly long or time-consuming in our book.

A few notable puzzles:

“Star’: This is my next least favorite puzzle after the one from above. This is the obligatory puzzle which uses the box as part of the clue. Here, the box represented the sunken ship. In essence, they wanted to make this easy by assigning each number on the coded wheel to different parts of the ship. There is a clue card that directly points to this, but I guess I took issue with several aspects of the design of this puzzle. The flag hanging off the mast was limp felt more like it didn’t fit. Sure, it may look like a “1”, but I spent the whole time thinking how to afix the flag properly to the mast. The seaweed clue was ok I guess but the rope forming a “0” was also a stretch to me. I mean for all the possible choices for a number, the zero just looked like it could be an accidental circle on the deck from placing the rope card. Perhaps any other numeral would have been too obvious? I don’t know, I really didn’t like how “loose” all the clues were on this puzzle. It could have easily gone in a different direction if the flag was not hung properly. That said, we did solve it though.

“Y-shaped”: Let’s start with the one puzzle I really disliked. This one involved a series of gems where you arrange the sequence based several logic-type statements. After that, players are supposed to input the numbers on a grid on Page 15 of the booklet. This is easy enough except that the riddle card suggested to look at only page 14 and not 15. I tend to fold the booklet to avoid looking at other pages. So for the longest time, we were mulling about the clues, not knowing how to link them together. I can shoulder the blame here, but the resulting drawings from Page 15 based connecting the dots hardly looked like the sea creatures on the wheel. It really required a leap of imagination here and not at all intuitive for all of us. I suppose the closest we came to guessing was the starfish symbol. Still, we had to burn a clue card to figure this out. I think we sat through 30 mins trying to figure out the puzzle. Ugh.

“Hexagon”: Also not a favorite puzzle for me. The instructions suggested sign language to interpret the numbers from your fingers with “rock, paper, great”. We get the gist, but took us a few attempts mainly because the thumbs up sign, I took to be 6 instead of a 1.

“L-shaped”: This is a pretty easy clue. Once you read the passages and the words in CAPS, you will realize what they want you to do. The CAPS certainly made it clear and probably wasn’t needed for you to solve the clue, but as a 2-star rated difficulty, it is an understandable choice. Kid approved, I guess.

“Circle”: This puzzle appeared in the earlier half of the game and one that my kid figured out. I wasn’t hard, but kinda fun. You basically have to use the gold coin with pieces popped out from the coin. After that, you matched the empty holes on the coin with similar shared pieces on the map and drew an circle outline of the coin on the pages. Based on where the animals overlapped on the traces, you should find them on the decoder wheel. Cool, fun activity for kids.

“Triangle”: A box gimmick. We already saw before the game, the box aberration at the side. So you push the box lid up and align with the box bottom to find the answer. So, we knew what to expect. No surprise here.

“Square”: Super easy. Unscramble the words to spell numbers. Then fill in the gaps on the page. Another good one for kids.

“Cross”: This is again a super simple puzzle and appropriate for kids to figure out. They cut out the pieces and assemble them to connect the lines between the pieces to form the numerals. Again a fun activity.

“Diamond”: First puzzle which is also the simplest. Read the description and trace the path on the map based on landmarks described. As you pass through the different animals on the map, it should tell you which are the corresponding animals to use on the decoder wheel. Good for kids.

“Moon”: I would say this is the most “adult” clue in the entire puzzle. This is essentially a cryptogram with a corresponding cipher for you to decode the clues. It wasn’t hard, but it was fun to decipher the clues. We, the parents, kinda took over the puzzle, as we were eager to solve it. Probably should have let my daughter figure this one out herself. It’s doable.

As you can tell, the majority of puzzles in Sunken City is easy. Perhaps too easy for adults, and certainly so for veteran gamers of the series. This is perhaps my biggest issue with Sunken City: it is a good entry level game for beginners or kids, but the puzzles are uneven. The two puzzles that I felt were not intuitive really unbalanced the rest of the game. I suspect it will leave some newcomers frustrated. If they were on par with the rest, I could at least recommend Sunken City to the newbies with kids in the mix. As it stands, I just don’t know if I can recommend Sunken City to any group in particular and I think it is probably one of the weakest in the series.

Two things did come across my mind while playing Sunken City- is there a market for EXIT games designed for juniors? Perhaps a 1-star rating game? I bet you some parents might be interested. This is also the first EXIT game in the series that made me realize that we are probably done with the series as a whole. I think we have seen most of the game elements, clues and puzzles the series has to offer. While they are clever and the Brands are fantastic designers and super creative, I don’t think I need to see them all.

Final word: Average (Honestly, this is more a not for me except for playing with kids)

Updated rankings:

1. Kidnapped in Fortune City

2. Dead Man in Orient Express

3. Abandoned Cabin

4. The Sinister Mansion

5. The Haunted Roller Coaster

6. The Mysterious Museum

7. The Pharaoh’s Tomb

8. The Polar Express

9. The Stormy Flight

10. The Sunken Treasure

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