I find myself enjoying the Exit series by Cosmos more with each new set I play. Part of it is my expectations being set appropriately, part of it is improved design. Stormy Flight doesn’t quite reach a new high in the series for me, but it’s close.
I mentioned expectations being a key part of the improved experience. There are a few tips I have for playing these games based on my experience.
Don’t play with more than 2.
The box advertises 1 to 4 players. Even with players with zero puzzling experience, steer clear of playing with a group larger than 2. This is especially true with Stormy Flight, which is a very linear game in which the components needed to solve a puzzle are clear at every stage. There’s not enough material to go around to keep a larger group interested.
Embrace the damage.
Too often with my early attempts at Kosmos Exit games, I really, really tried to play without cutting, folding, or otherwise damaging the game. While it’s theoretically possible, more so for other sets than this one, it’s really not fun to try skipping around the physical elements of the game. It feels wasteful throwing away a game that’s 90% intact at the end of the day, but I’ve learned that it’s a necessary cost to have a good time with this set of games. This still leaves a bad taste in my mouth at the end of the day, but I have a better time when I play the game the way it’s intended.
Forget the clock.
The instructions contain an elaborate scoring system based on time and hints, but given that Stormy Flight and a few others in this series are somewhat linear, I recommend skipping that element altogether, unless you’re playing alone. With more than one person, you’ll thank yourself for allowing the time to take breaks or go back and explain puzzles that one of the players on the team didn’t quite understand. I find this recommendation generally applies to all escape room home games I’ve played, not just the Exit series.
With that out of the way, I can comment on Stormy Flight a little bit more.
An out of control flight is a unique theme for an escape room home game. It works well, and I find that it’s more memorable than the typical escape the ominous place themes that make up 90%+ of home games. It’s familiar enough of a theme (Airplane!, anyone?) but still creates a high degree of urgency for the scenario.
The puzzles don’t always make sense in the context of the game, but unless you’re a complete immersion snob, that’s pretty much par for the course for escape room home games. You never unlock a panel or repair a circuit in a way that would work in real life, but that ultimately shouldn’t impact your experience here.
The game has a few paper tools to play with to keep the game interesting.
The puzzles were fine. (I need to add a numeric rating system pronto to allow comparisons between average, fine, excellent, and beyond) All of the puzzles made sense, and most were fun to do. We got 2-3 good “aha!” moments out of the game, and most of the game’s other ~10 puzzles were straightforward from the get-go. This balance would work well for most groups, since inexperienced puzzle solvers would likely HATE any game that made a group like mine feel challenged start to finish.
I wasn’t blown away by the game’s final puzzle, but it was a step in the right direction and I appreciated what the designers were going for. The final puzzle toys with the mechanisms by which you typically play the game, and it required a sequence of decisions stacked on top of each other to reveal the final answer.
I really laud that approach, which I’ve grown to appreciate through challenges like Puzzle Boat, but the puzzle stumbles just before the finish line. Our final conversation at the end was:
“Do you think we’re supposed to look at <redacted>?”
“Maybe, that looks kind of like <redacted>.”
“Oh, yeah, that was it. It says we won.”
It’s sort of an underwhelming way to cross the finish line. Compare it to the finish of the excellent Dead Man on the Orient Express game from the same Kosmos series, where the finale is putting together a bunch of clues and pulling the trigger on making an accusation.
What’s strange is that the final puzzle wouldn’t have needed to change all that much to make something that would have stood out more boldly as an answer. Then our game could have ended on a high note, with a conversation like the following.
“Do you think we’re supposed to look at <redacted>?”
“Wow, good call! That must be it!”
This is a general principle of puzzle design, whether it be escape room or home game or puzzle hunt- it’s more satisfying to have that “aha!” moment than it is to try something that’s plausibly, but not definitively, the answer and find out you were right.
Stormy Flight rates as my second favorite of the Exit series, and around middle of the pack overall on escape room home games. A few of the puzzles afforded us a chance to have a really neat “aha!” moment and the airplane setting was well-conceived.
Being a very linear game, Stormy Flight would make a good introductory game for anyone looking to try out an escape room home game with a spouse, date, or good friend for the first time, but there’s still enough meat to the puzzles to give all kinds of players a rewarding experience.