Anyone who has ever dreamed of joining Frodo and Sam on their journey to Mount Doom, seeking advice from Gandalf, or riding into a battle alongside Aragorn will enjoy an epic game night with one of the newest Exit: The Game titles from Thames & Kosmos.
For those who aren’t familiar, the Exit series of games are cooperative, puzzle-based experiences. 1-4 players work together, using clues and solving riddles to progress in the game. The Lord of the Rings: Shadows Over Middle-earth is one of the newest titles in the ongoing series, and it is the first to feature characters and plot lines from pop culture. Each Exit game is given a difficulty and age rating: This one has a 2/5 difficulty score and is designed for kids ages 10 and up.
In Shadows Over Middle-earth, the challenges generally follow the plot of the The Lord of the Rings novels and movies, but in very large strokes. Players take on the role of additional hobbits who have joined the Fellowship on its mission to destroy the One Ring, helping get their fellow travelers out of difficult situations. I don’t want to give away too much, but fans will recognize plenty of key characters and moments, including exchanging riddles with Gollum, lighting the beacons of Gondor, and escaping from Shelob’s clutches.
Generally, the riddles were pretty manageable, especially for anyone who has played an Exit game before. As an avid Exit series fan myself (my mom and I have played more than 15 of them), I enjoyed having a familiar plot and characters mixed into the game. While it eliminated the element of surprise in some ways, it made me feel more connected to the experience. There are other books, shows, and movies that would translate well to this format, and I hope to see more licensed titles join the series soon.
While those who love Exit games and The Lord of the Rings — like me — are certainly going to enjoy this gaming experience, players don’t need to be familiar with both (or either!) to have fun. The Lord of the Rings lovers who have never played an escape-room style game, for example, may find this to be the perfect entry point into the genre! However, anyone who is concerned about getting the best possible score — which is calculated by how long it takes to finish the game and how many clue cards players use — may want to try another Exit game first to get the general mechanics down. But players who are looking for a more relaxed game experience can get help throughout the game from the easy-to-use hint cards, which fittingly feature Gandalf. I won’t give away any specifics and spoil the gameplay, but I will give one hint of my own: Remember that the puzzles can utilize any element of the game … maybe even the packaging!
While the game is designed for players as young as 10, tweens and young teens will benefit from having more than one player to help solve some of the trickier riddles. Teens and adults will enjoy this game, too, and it provides a great game night option for small groups.
The only real downside to this game is that, like all Exit games, it’s made to be played only once. To correctly solve some of the riddles, players have to write on, cut apart, and otherwise manipulate the game elements. That may seem like a bummer at first, but the reality is that once you know how to solve the riddles, the game isn’t especially replayable anyway. But with a price point under $20 and playtime of at least an hour or two, it is a worthy investment.
One does not simply walk into Mordor, but one definitely should run to get this game and add some Middle-earth fun to game night!