exit strategy

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 October, 2007, 12:00am

Overlooked action-puzzle game Exit, created by Japanese developer Taito Corporation for the PlayStation Portable (PSP), has been re-released in Hong Kong under Sony's budget label, PSP: The Best.

Exit received little attention here when it first came out in December 2005, just months after the worldwide release of Sony's handheld game console. The re-issue will hopefully rectify that and show what a highly original and fascinating game it is.

Players take on the role of Mr Esc (short for escape), a professional escapologist who breaks

loose from restraints and traps to rescue people from danger. As Mr Esc, players undertake myriad actions - running, jumping, climbing onto ledges and descending on ropes - on their way to becoming the ultimate escape artist. But any mistake or injury can result in a failed mission.

The game play is simple, providing players with an easy learning curve. The first 10 levels are designed as tutorials so players can figure out the mechanics. Mr Esc must tackle various obstacles while rescuing people from more than 100 different emergencies.

At least one person must be rescued on each level.

On top of saving those in danger and finding the fastest way out of exploding factories, burning buildings, flooded subways, submerged ski lodges and the like, Mr Esc must collect devices such as fire extinguishers, door keys and rope ladders to help him in his missions. However, players can only carry one item at a time.

Those who have been saved can be enlisted to push or carry heavy objects, overcome difficult obstacles and help others. The game's artificial intelligence, however, can sometimes stall the flow of play. This happens when a player issues a command and the character becomes confused, requiring a revision of the directive.

Although all the game's characters are shown as silhouettes, each one has distinct features so you can tell male from female, children from adults and the fit from the portly. Those differences help players to decide how to put characters to good use. Additional content gathered online can more than double the game's original number of levels. Eleven stages, each containing 10 puzzles, can be downloaded to make a total of 110 more puzzles.

The game blends an art deco style with comic-book graphics, which makes good use of the bright colours in this 2D puzzler.

The soundtrack is apt - a 1960s jazz vibe that echoes music from the era of American television series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the early James Bond movies.

Pros: Fun and easy to play, with extra levels available for download.

Cons: The artificial intelligence can be difficult to handle.