As Samuel L Jackson's Jules says in Pulp Fiction, "Personality goes a long way".
In Tarantino's movie the phrase explains why dogs are more appealing than pigs but the sentiment applies to many things. It explains why funny (yet funny looking) guys get gorgeous girls, why entertainers like Bruce Forsythe have been on TV for years, and ultimately why Exit, despite being such a simple game, is such an enjoyable one.
There's nothing particularly new here. The linear problem-solving required is positively retro in its simplicity, bringing to mind games such as Alien 8 and Head Over Heels from the early days of home computing. The visuals won't strain your PSP's processor, with levels made up of small 2D buildings interspersed with a smattering of simple 3D characters. Even Exit's basic premise of rescuing people isn't entirely original.
However, the way in which the action is portrayed is so crammed full of character that you're soon swept up by it all. It starts the moment you're introduced to your hero, professional escapaologist Mr.ESC via a high-tempo introductory cartoon sequence and continues into the game itself, as you leap into the comic book world and start to experiment with Mr.ESC's various abilities.
There are a fair few of these, from ascending stairs and crawling through small gaps to high-octane leaps and grabs onto high ledges, and each is rendered with such care that watching the animations unfold becomes a fascination in itself, especially when you begin to interact with the more distinct victims who also move in distinct ways (fat adults waddling, or hyperactive and whiny children skipping around).
The scenery is equally eye-catching, but you can't just sit back and admire it – you have to find a safe way out for yourself and the other escapees before the time limit is reached. Effectively this translates into two distinct stages of play – an initial problem-solving challenge requiring you to look around the level and concoct a plan, and then actually executing it.
The former aspect is the most important, and the collection of mini-challenges (transport fire extinguisher A to fire B, activate lift C from button D) at times feels more reminiscent of a logical problem such as Sudoku than a video game, particularly when multiple escapees are added whose skills you must utilise to affect your escape. Although some levels do offer reaction and timing challenges (navigating an electrified floor, for instance), fulfilling a plan is more a steady process than the frantic test of dexterity that most platform games demand.
In fact, it's often the slightly convoluted control system that provides the toughest challenge, as you accidentally trigger moves or summon escapees when trying to pull off a jump or use an item. And why there are different controls for picking up an item and using it we're not quite sure.
Directing other characters can be less than intuitive too, especially when you want them to use an item or there are several in tow, and your frustration isn't helped by their whining. Indeed, whilst the audio adds to the tension initially, both music and voices soon grate and demand to be turned down.
But once you've done so and gotten to grips with the controls, Exit is a treat. No single challenge will keep you guessing for too long (more avid gamers might say it's a bit too easy) and most will be completed well within your allotted five or six minutes. The key is there are 100 of them, roughly divided into ten themed areas, each of which adds a new puzzling element to overcome, such as fires, ice, underwater escapes, dark explorations or the use of pulleys and weights.
Together with the extra downloadable missions, introductory animations, and a brief sojourn through the bonus features (you can see profiles of everyone you've saved), you've got six or seven hours of gameplay divided up into bite-size snacks, ideal for gaming on the go.
True, Exit's quirky action and personality might not be to everyone's taste. But those that do appreciate it will, to borrow another Jackson phrase, recognise "some serious gourmet shit" here – and recognise an essential addition to a discerning PSP games collection.Exit is out now – click here to buy.