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Courtesy Thames and Kosmos
The Exit games by Thames and Kosmos come in three flavors. There is the Pharaoh's Tomb, the Abandoned Cabin and the Secret Lab.

One of the game themes that is all the rage these days has to do with escape rooms. Players are placed in a locked room — either real or imagined — and must find clues that will secure their release. The creative minds at Thames and Kosmos have released not one, but three, escape room-type games to challenge friends and families to think outside the box.

The particular title that Thames and Kosmos is using for their three escape room games is called "Exit the Game." The Exit games, for 1-6 players, consist of the abandoned cabin, secret lab and the pharaoh's tomb. Even though the game deals with solving puzzles that lose their appeal on future plays, the game is only $15. That's the price of a couple of movie tickets.

Please note that the components of the three games are similar in form but different in content. Each of the games has a set of cards, a decoder wheel, some kind of cardboard punch-out puzzle, an instruction manual and a game manual.

In Exit: The Abandoned Cabin, the players find an old cabin after seeking shelter for the night. They rest the night and awake in the morning only to find the door has been locked with a combination lock. Checking the windows reveals that they have been barred in. Two unusual things get the players attention: a mysterious book and a spinning code dial.

After players read the instructions to the game, they are encouraged to start a timer and then dive into the mysterious book that says, "Welcome guests" on it. Upon opening the book, the players discover illustrations, a colorful puzzle, a layout of the cabin, a domino puzzle and several others riddles.

As players take a look at the puzzles in the book, the puzzles may lead to more riddles in the deck of cards in the box. The spinning code dial is also used to match different colors, symbols and numbers found in the puzzles to draw answer cards.

The answer cards help progress the storyline, if correct, or let the players know they have made a mistake. Additional cards come in the form of clues if players just can't figure out a particular riddle.

The abandoned cabin is the best in the series and offers several memorable puzzles. There is even a puzzle that utilizes the box the game comes in for an especially memorable effect. It is also the easiest of the three games.

When the game tells you that you're done, the players escape and win. A ranking system is included in the game using stars from 1-10. Ten is the best. To achieve 10 stars, players must use no clue cards and complete the game in under 60 minutes.

Exit: The Secret Lab puts players in the roles of patients in a medical study. They are invited to a facility and check in. However, the lab looks empty and one of the test tubes in the lab emits a bunch of steam that knocks everyone out.

When the players awake, they are trapped behind a locked door. They must try to escape. A notebook and a spinning code dial are found in the lab. Sound familiar?

As players dive into the mysterious notebook, they discover clues and puzzles based around colors and number codes. An illustration of the lab is drawn in the notebook and this gives players a good idea of what it is like being trapped in the lab.

Players are again trying to solve puzzles, follow directions, drawing cards and getting clues when needed. One of the more memorable puzzles uses a periodic table that contains clues and information to progress the story.

Another cool part of this particular title is a puzzle that requires players to cut things out and arrange them in a particular way to solve the riddle. It was very tactile and interesting to debate with other players about how things should be configured.

All in all, this was not too difficult of a game and the theme is probably the least interesting in the series. This particular title would be a great place to start for those who are new to the idea of escape games.

Exit the game: The Pharoah's Tomb kicks off with players on vacation in Egypt. The highlight of the journey is the visit to an Egyptian pyramid. After exploring its winding hallways and corridors they end up in a secret burial chamber. And then, you guessed it, the door springs shut and the group is trapped. They must now try to find an escape.

On the floor of the burial tomb is a sand-covered notebook and an ancient spinning code dial. Players begin by reading the notebook from Dr. Ford, an old explorer who was trapped in the same tomb.

Following his clues, players must decipher hieroglyphics, play Cleopatra's game and explore Tutankhamun's burial chamber. One of the puzzles utilizes the inside of the game box to help figure out a perplexing puzzle.

This particular game in the series is the most difficult. I found myself going to the clue cards quite often and my final score was abysmal. I started with this title and wish I would have started with either one of the others. I like it that it is difficult because the games in the series seem to offer gamers of every level a challenge.

In summary, there's nothing worse in these type of escape games than a poorly written rulebook or incorrect clues that lead players on a wild goose chase. However, in this series of Exit games, there were no dead ends or incorrect puzzles. Yes, some of the puzzles were much harder than others, and yes, I felt stupid sometimes not seeing clues that were right in front of my face. But Thames and Kosmos did an excellent job of making sure these games were well-designed.

The Thames and Kosmos Exit games are a lot of fun. Break one of these out at a party and it's guaranteed to be a hit. The puzzles are challenging enough to stretch your mind but not too hard that players will give up in frustration. Be aware that once the game is played, it can't be played again with the same surprises. Some of the parts even get cut apart or destroyed but if one is careful the parts can be preserved. These games come recommended for puzzle sleuths. Find out more at the Exit website.