Happy New Year! We ended 2021 by finishing up our EXIT Advent Calendar, which was a big first for us even as avid board gamers – we’d never tried anything like this before! We were so impressed by what the experience offered us that I just had to share our adventure.
Warning: If you’re planning on playing this, or haven’t finished it yet, don’t read on! This is best played with no spoilers so the surprises remain just that… a surprise!
You might have heard of EXIT games from the many standalone escape room experiences they sell. I’ve not tried them, but I’ve dabbled in the Unlock! Escape Adventures, so knew that escape games were my cup of tea (even though I’m admittedly quite rubbish at them).
After seeing a lot of people in board game forums talking about the fact the company had made an advent calendar, Neil surprised me by buying it for us! I had no idea how it would work – how do you escape from 24 calendar doors?! I was looking forward to finding out, and we waited with anticipation for 1st December to roll around…
Finding yourself trapped in a crazy man’s ice maze, each day of the calendar offers a little piece of story that moves you through each room of your captor’s house. As the calendar doors aren’t traditionally numbered, instead having nothing more but a jumble of symbols on them, each stop also reveals a puzzle that leads the player to the combination for the next door. There is absolutely no way of guessing which location you’ll be guided to next, so there is a lot of motivation to figure out the answer and ensure it is correct.
Puzzles included folding cardboard into clues, cutting out shapes to lead us to the answer, searching in the rooms, searching the box itself. Some stared us right in the face, while others challenged our sense of logic and required deeper thought. Some we had to peek, frustrated, at a written clue that was provided by the makers, and others we laughed at how incredibly smart we must be to get to the answer so quickly.
For much of December it offered a wonderful treat the two of us could indulge in after work, something without screens that required a team effort to solve. As things got busier towards Christmas, we let the daily routine slide and enjoyed even more sitting down for up to half an hour at a time to do several days in a row while we played catch up. This was actually a more immersive way of doing it, and we ended up preferring to do this in the final fortnight!
The story was ridiculous, a totally unlikely supernatural journey that at least allowed the creator’s to keep the puzzles varied and exciting. The creativity this fictional world allowed meant that every single room we peered into was an experience in itself – even when the room offered little clues to help us with the puzzle, we enjoyed peeking around at the effort put into creating a whole concept to accompany the day. This could be anything from an ice cave, or a homely kitchen, to a railway diorama.
I don’t know how much Neil paid for the calendar, somewhere between £20-£30, a few weeks before copies became hard to get and the price went up. It may seem unusual to spend that money on a one-off experience, but we are quite used to the idea of legacy board games now, so we just appreciated the time it gave us together (it doesn’t really cost more than a trip to the cinema).
Personally, I think it was well worth the money. We had a lot of fun and were constantly surprised by how the rooms, the game components and even the advent calendar box itself deceived us many times. Roll on the next calendar!
Have you ever played an escape room advent calendar before? What are your thoughts?