Your archaeology professor has vanished—has he been kidnapped by treasure hunters? It’s up to you to follow the clues to puzzle out what happened.
Exit: The Sacred Temple (apparently the official title is Exit: The Game + Puzzle – The Sacred Temple but that’s a mouthful) is an escape room game that incorporates jigsaw puzzles. It’s intended for 1 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, and takes about 2 to 3 hours to play. It retails for $24.95 and is expected to release in early May: you can sign up on the KOSMOS website to be notified when it is in stock. Of course, like other cooperative mystery-solving games, you could include more players, though if it gets too crowded it can be hard for everyone to work on the riddles together, or some people may feel like they’re not getting to contribute as much. The game’s story involves traveling to a hidden temple in Indonesia and chasing treasure hunters—a bit Indiana Jones-ish, so some adventure but no violence or anything graphic.
Exit: The Sacred Temple was designed by Inka and Markus Brand and published by KOSMOS, with illustrations by Maximilian Schiller. The cover illustration is by Martin Hoffmann.
Since this game is all about unlocking secrets and solving riddles, I won’t show any puzzle spoilers or pictures that will give away any solutions.
Here’s what comes in the box:
The instructions say not to look at the “strange items” too carefully until they’re called for, so I won’t say much about them other than that the snake and the orange strip are made of cardstock.
The decoder disk will need some assembly before you begin—it’s four pieces of cardstock with some windows in it, held together by a plastic snap fastener. Color-blind players may have some difficulty since the locks themselves are distinguishable only by color on the decoder disk, as you’ll see on the image later in the review.
The riddle documents (don’t peek inside!) are small, each a single folded sheet, and made to look like a leather-bound journal. Each has three symbols on it (except for one labeled “Map”) and the interiors have, well, various text and other things that you’ll discover as you play.
There are four different puzzles included in the game, each bagged separately. The backs of the puzzles have different patterns printed on them so you can separate them out if they get mixed up, though you shouldn’t open any of the bags until you’re instructed to do so.
I can’t reveal the puzzles themselves, of course, but I can show you a few of the pieces. The puzzles themselves are illustrations showing various scenes corresponding to your journey, but there are lots of little details—symbols, letters, icons, and so forth, which will be used as you solve the riddles. Also included are many colored locks (you can see a bright green lock in the rightmost piece above), which are tied to the riddle booklets.
The rulebook has a bit of story on the front and instructions for getting started, and the back has a hint section, but I’ll get to that later. All of it comes in a box about the size of a large hardcover book—the puzzle version is about twice as big as the original Exit games.
Aside from the included game components, you should also have a writing utensil, scissors, some scrap paper for notes, and a stopwatch.
You can download a copy of the rulebook here—this PDF does not include the hints section.
The goal of the game is to rescue your professor and stop the treasure hunters—by solving a series of riddles and assembling puzzles!
When you begin the game, you should set all of the riddle documents to the side, spread out so you can see all of the symbols. You should have the parchment paper, the decoder ring, and the first puzzle (with the blank backs). The introductory story sets the scene: you’ve tracked your professor to an island in the Indian Ocean, the site of a hidden temple, and you’ve discovered a briefcase with a purple lock.
Start the timer, assemble the puzzle, and figure out if you can open the lock!
Throughout the game, you’ll be tasked to open a combination lock, which are pictured throughout the jigsaw puzzles. The riddle documents include more of the story and sometimes provide some additional clues, but they always tell you which lock you’re working on next, so finding the locks themselves isn’t part of the challenge.
Each lock has a 3-digit numerical code, which you enter into the decoder disk by lining up the digits with the colored lock on the outside ring. This reveals three symbols in the windows. To check if you have the correct code, flip the disk over and look at the small window on the back: it should show the colored lock that you are solving. If it shows an “X” or a different colored lock, then you have the wrong solution. (Note: if it shows another color, then it means the disk has been lined up correctly for that lock, so it’s best if you don’t peek around at the other numbers too much when you flip it back over, or you may spoil a later riddle.)
If you have the correct solution, then you’ve opened the lock! Find the riddle document with those three symbols (starting from the outside of the disk), and read it—it will direct you to the next lock, or tell you when you’ve moved to a new location and need to assemble another puzzle.
If you get stuck on a particular lock, you can turn to the back of the rulebook to get a clue. Be sure to read the instructions about using the clues section! For each lock, there are two clues that give you more information, and then finally the actual solution to the riddle. The book is formatted so that you can fold the page in half lengthwise so that you only see the first clue, and then you unfold it to see the next clue, and then fold it in half toward you to see the solution.
You should keep track of how many clues you use during the game, since they count against your final scoring. However, if you look up a clue and it gives you information that you already knew, then you don’t count that clue.
The game ends when you’ve solved all of the riddles, of course. There’s a “certificate” page that lets you record the names of your “scientific expedition members,” the date, and some information about how you fared. You’ll earn 1 to 10 stars, based on how long it took you and how many clues you used. You also get to write down the coolest riddle and the trickiest riddle. Congratulations! You’ve rescued your professor and stopped the treasure hunters!
The Exit:The Game series has been around for about five years now—GeekDad Jim Kelly covered the first three titles back in 2017, when the English translations became available in the US. There are now over a dozen of titles in the series: you can solve a murder on the Orient Express, look for sunken treasure, or fly a plane through an electrical storm. The series is known for its innovative use of game components—you never know what you’ll need to use from the box! And since some pieces are drawn on, folded, cut, or otherwise altered, the Exit games are typically single-use. In this particular title, not too many components are destroyed: there’s some cutting, and some drawing, but it was little enough that I loaned my copy to a friend (who loves jigsaw puzzles), with the understanding that she’ll have a head start on two of the riddles because of the components—though if you want the full experience, you do have to buy another copy.
Exit: The Sacred Temple is one of two new twists on the genre: the four jigsaw puzzles included in the game provide a different sort of puzzle-solving, and the game length is increased to take into account the assembly. The original games usually have a 1–2 hour estimate, and the puzzle series have a 2–3 hour estimate. (We finished in just under 2 hours over two sessions.) The jigsaw puzzles are pretty small, at only 88 pieces each, so depending on how quickly your group works on them, it can add a little or a lot of time to the total game length. The Sacred Temple is the easier of the two: it has a 3 out of 5 difficulty rating, and is recommended for 10 and up; The Deserted Lighthouse has a 4 difficulty rating and is recommended for 12 and up.
My family enjoyed the puzzles for a few reasons: first, the puzzles served as a large illustration of the scenes described in the riddle booklets. It was fun to get a description in the story, and then see the depiction of the scene. Second, we just like working on puzzles. The small size meant it was a bit harder to share the assembly, compared to the full-size puzzles we usually do, but we still had a good time picking out border pieces, looking for bits of an image, and so on. In this case, we also had other fun details to look for. And although it can be hard to crowd around a small puzzle, it did mean that everyone got a little more to do. My wife commented that sometimes she feels like she can’t contribute to the riddles as much, so she liked the fact that she could help more with the puzzles. My 7-year-old also joined us, and while most of the riddles are too hard for her, she’s old enough to work on the puzzles. (There was at least one puzzle where she figured out the key, though!) The puzzles also allowed for some new types of riddles, and (without giving too much away) we really enjoyed figuring out the tricky solutions to the riddles.
The hints system is nice, in that you get progressively more information with the three clues. So you can get a small nudge, and then a bigger hint, and then finally the answer if you’re just totally stuck. We needed to use the hints section for two of the riddles, but managed to solve the rest on our own.
The storyline has you chasing down treasure hunters who have kidnapped your professor. Some of the riddles are clues that he’s managed to leave behind, and others are part of the secrets of the temple. (It does seem a little strange that this ancient temple includes colorful 3-digit locks, but just turn up your suspension of disbelief for that part.) What stuck out more than those locks, though, was the whole “it belongs in a museum!” notion, that we were going to protect these artifacts from treasure hunters by finding them ourselves. I feel like in recent years there’s been a shift in the conversation about ownership of historical artifacts and where they belong, making this story feel a bit behind the times. We enjoyed playing the game, but I think we might like a change of theme.
It’s interesting that Kosmos is adding jigsaw puzzles to its escape room games, while Ravensburger has recently added escape room games to its jigsaw puzzles. I haven’t had a chance to try Ravensburger’s puzzles yet, but it looks like the Exit games are still predominantly games that use jigsaw puzzles as a component, while Ravensburger’s are much larger puzzles and your time is primarily spent assembling the puzzle, and then working through the story booklet with the image as a set of clues. They both sound like a lot of fun, and your preference may simply depend on whether you want more riddles or more puzzle pieces.
If you’ve enjoyed other Exit titles and you also like jigsaw puzzles, I recommend giving this one a shot. If you’re new to Exit games, it might be good to try one of the non-puzzle titles first to get a feel for the types of riddles that they’ll throw at you, though if you enjoy a challenge you could jump right into this one.
For more information, visit the KOSMOS website.
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Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.