Back in 2021, we covered John Szymanski’s Kyle is Famous; although he’s probably most famous for his recent muppet shooter My Friendly Neighbourhood (which still hasn’t dropped on Switch yet!). That’s not to say that he hasn’t been busy in the meantime, as his publishing label has put out a lot of titles recently on the console – especially ones made by his brother David (of Dusk fame), which we have also recently reviewed.

Now we have one of his own mini projects, Exiled, which attempts to fuse horror with puzzling in a bite-sized experience. But, is it any good?

In a word: yes.

EYE, EYE!
Charlotte is missing. Your wife had been researching eldritch tomes when she found herself mixed in with something that she should have kept away from. A note left behind hints that she is still alive, but is now trapped in a distant realm with little hope of escape. With little more than an untranslated scrap of paper she had been working on, you head off to the library to continue her translation work in the hope that it holds the key to bringing her back.

However, you are not alone. Her note hints of an ancient evil, and you soon realise that this being is aware of your presence and is closing in. You have Charlotte’s tome that she worked from, as well as a couple of other mysterious artifacts, so you’ll need to work hard if you want to save her in time.

Image

It’s an intriguing setup, even if the story is only really told by a wall of text at the start and end of the game. Whilst some may wish that there was a little more to it than that, these really are just small bits that help frame the gameplay. The real meat of the tale is everything that lays in-between, and the game does a great job at expanding the lore and helping you to realise the extent of Charlotte’s situation.

Gameplay is relatively simple due to being locked to a solitary position, but the aim is to peruse the book and find the clues needed to decipher the manuscript. One side of the document contains the alphabet and the symbols that appear in the text, whilst the other half shows what you have translated so far. In order to uncover more, you need to link the letters with the symbols, which will automatically decipher those parts of the text. Such clues may be creature names that appear in both languages, or they could be more cryptic in nature and require a tad more effort. Very little is too hard, but that’s because there are other things to worry about…

What makes the puzzling more challenging is the continual presence of your pursuer – The Eye of Nyarlathotep. This being will appear shortly into the game and will start to draw near unless you keep it in view. As such, reading texts and solving puzzles can thus be far more stressful with this approaching menace, and that really is where the bulk of the tension lies.

Image

In addition to the text, there are also a few other objects that you’ll need to interact with should you wish to bring back your beloved wife. There’s a clock that seems to create strange words at different times, a box with unusual runic symbols, and a 4×4 grid of blank squares. They all have their use and are absolutely essential if you want to receive the good ending (of which there are two).

Getting both endings probably won’t take you all that long, and there’s not a huge amount to the game beyond the half an hour or so it takes to complete it; however, Exiled does a great job at engrossing you in a translation project whilst being knee deep in terror. The nature of the puzzling had me making my own hand drawn notes whilst holding down the button to keep an eye on the …. well, eye – and it was absolutely thrilling. Sure, I could have just gone back to the home screen to make things easier, but I felt that would have been going against the spirit of the game.

VERDICT
It may not be the longest experience, but Exiled crams in an extraordinary amount of tension in its half hour runtime as you race to decipher an eldritch manuscript and save your wife. If you’re a fan of Lovecraftian themes, there’s loads of familiar lore here to tickle your fancy, thus making it well worth the €5 asking price.