Friday, May 29, 2009


No, I'm not going anywhere. It's been a busy week and I haven't had time to blog much, but I have been squeezing in a few levels of Taito's XBox Live Arcade game, Exit.

Exit started life on the PSP in 2006 and was later ported to XBLA and (only in Japan, Wikipedia tells me) the Nintendo DS. But its origins lie farther back, in Taito's early-1980's arcade game Elevator Action, which also appeared on the NES and is available in that form on the Wii Virtual Console. Check it out there or on the Taito Legends collections on the PS2, it's a good design that's still fun to play today (even though it gets frustrating with cheap bullet hits and enemy attacks when you're trying to get in and out of doors on later levels.)

Exit is not a remake of Elevator Action -- it's more of a puzzle game, and hero Mr. ESC's action style resembles the Prince of Persia more than his ducking-and-shooting predecessor. But the roots are clear -- staircases operate just like the escalators in Elevator Action, accessed by landing platforms at the top and bottom, and there are elevators in many of the levels. And while Mr. ESC is an "escapologist" and rescue specialist, rather than a briefcase-liberating armed spy, there's a certain similarity in tone -- the jazzy background music and stylized visual design calls film noir and comic books to mind.

Of course, Exit is a much more sophisticated and varied game. Each group of levels (at least in the first 7 I have played so far) introduces new gameplay elements and challenges, and some levels demand paring the solution, once found, down to an optimal sequence of actions to achieve the maximum score. In the early going, Mr. ESC only has to save himself, but rescuees of different types complicate matters later on. The game's rules are sensible and consistent within the game world, but there's still room for "oh, I didn't realize I could do that!" moments -- like realizing you can crawl under a cloud of smoke, though you can't run or walk through it. The design philosophy is tough but fair -- I can usually play through a level in half an hour or less, depending on how much I beat my head against the wrong approach before noticing some detail that tips me off to the proper solution.

I really like this game, though I tend to play it intensely for a while, earn an achievement for completing a series of levels, then set it aside for a while. But it's a game I return to when I have just a little bit of time to play and am in the mood for a non-Tetris-like puzzle challenge.

There's a sequel, also on PSP and XBLA, named Exit 2, but I have a long way to go before I'm finished with the original -- I'm just approaching the one-third point (62 of 220 levels completed), and am nowhere near maxing out the score on every level.

(A side rant -- why do XBLA games have a 200 achievement point cap, generally, when they can take longer to play through than a full retail game? At this writing I have earned 15 points after approximately 25 hours of Exit play. I always feel like my gamerscore is negatively impacted by my gaming preferences. On the other hand, I have earned 50 achievement points while half-heartedly playing the Doritos-sponsored XBLA travesty, Dash of Destruction, so maybe I just need to focus on MEANINGFUL achievements and set points aside.)

No comments:

Post a Comment