The Exit 8 perfectly captures the surreal horror of navigating a busy tube station

By admin Jan 10, 2024

If you’ve ever been to Shinjuku station in Japan, you know what it’s like to be transported to a dizzying realm of limbs and tickets and signage with myriad squiggly lines that make about as much sense as rainbow spaghetti that’s been hurled at a white rectangle. You, quite literally, need to plunge yourself into an entire city within a city to get from one place to another.

Surface from the chaos, though, and it can feel like quite the achievement. Small horror game The Exit 8 captures this sense of elation perfectly, as well as all the subtleties that come from navigating a crash of noise. I’d say it will make for an initially cursed start to your 2024 endeavours, with the promise of a big reward at the end if you can stomach it.

Posters adorn the wall in The Exit 8
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Kotake Create

The setup is simple: you need to reach exit eight and your only path forwards is a seemingly innocuous corridor. However, there’s an announcement on the wall that’s not exactly your typical, “Sorry for the inconvenience”. It says that there’s a bunch of “anomalies” affecting the station, so to reach your desired exit you’ll need to identify them correctly. If you spot anything different, go back the way you came. If there isn’t an anomaly, then you’re free to move onwards. Successfully follow the protocol eight times and bam, you’ll have reached your destination. But if at any point you fail to identify an anomaly and break the code, you’ll loop back around to exit zero.

How hard could spotting an anomaly be, eh? The corridor is only a mundane tube of white tiles and there’s an average looking bloke who walks down it every single time. And then it slowly sinks in. The corridor actually has a few posters. There are a number of air vents in the walls, too. There’s a sign that says “concourse” and another sign that says “no smoking”. The “no smoking” sign is on the right as you walk in, with the cigarette butt facing a certain way.

What happens is you start to loop from exit zero to exit zero. You imbecile, you fool. You’re not paying enough attention! You dig deep, you pay MORE attention! After appraising the man more carefully, you notice he holds a phone in his left hand, and a briefcase in his right. Okay so, there’s a red light at the end of the corridor, too. Let’s look at the details of the posters, perhaps brush up against them a bit to really make sure they’re looking just right. Then… then you might step into the corridor and your gut feeling says to you, “The posters… they seem a bit further away than usual”. And you turn back and you finally ascend to the next floor.

A torrent of red water rounds a tube tunnel bend in The Exit 8.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Kotake Create

There are some jump scares in there, like sudden black outs or torrents of water. But fear in Exit 8 stems largely from commitment, then the paranoia that drips from that decision – did you make the right choice?! And, in a genius stroke, these fears are heightened by the bloke who walks down the tunnel to catch his train. Not only are you absolutely convinced he’s on time, with zero fuss in his gait and a quiet confidence in his stride, he’s the equivalent of the game flipping an hourglass if the hourglass was 5ft 10 and wore a crisp white shirt. If he makes it around the bend before you do, then you’ll get looped back to floor zero no matter what. Best keep your eye on him.

I won’t spoil anything, but I’ll say the game also does an excellent job of playing off Japanese comedy and game show humour, with sudden turns to the whacky or fantastical. Honestly, the game itself wouldn’t be amiss in a Yakuza, and for the price of a tuna and sweetcorn sandwich I simply can’t see how you go wrong here. The sheer number of anomalies, the laughs, the scares. Treat yourself.

By admin

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