The Exit 8 Review

There’s a belief that the biggest fear that young people who grew up in the 2010s have is being alone in their own thoughts. This may have to do with growing up in an environment of constant stimuli, rampant Adderal consumption, and having the world’s information and conveniences at their fingertips. This has led to a new genre of horror where terror emphasizes uncanny desolate isolation in familiar locations where there is no escape.

Liminal spaces became a fertile setting for this rise of sensory deprivation hell. Mundane areas that were meant to be passed through have taken on a new meaning and are the model for hellish labyrinths for places like the “backrooms“. It didn’t take long for aspiring indie developers to cash in on this trend and release an unfathomable glut of one-and-done streamer bait. The premise not only taps into the current zeitgeist but also is cost-effective for hobbyist game developers.

Why bother making a whole game world when you only need a single hallway? The Exit 8 smartly capitalizes on the new wave of liminal horror by incorporating “spot the difference” elements akin to Highlights Kids activities… but with the sleek and dazzling veneer of the Unreal Engine. How scary can a Japanese subway hallway get? Find out in The Exit 8 review!

The Exit 8
Developer: Kotake Create
Platforms: Windows PC,  Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release Date: April 17, 2024
Price: $3.99 USD

The Exit 8 begins ominously without any title cards or “press start” screen. There aren’t any company logos or even an epilepsy warning. The game begins immediately after booting up and you’re left wandering about in a white tile infinitely looping hallway. This creates a sense of unease and dread creeps up your back like a tarantula.

The controls should be familiar to anyone who’s played a video game in the past 30 years. This is a very basic walking sim where you can move and look around freely and the only action available is to sprint which is mapped to a face button, left stick click, or one of the bumpers. You won’t need anything else because the primary mode of action in The Exit 8 is looking around the surroundings and either moving forward or retreating.

The audio is sparse. Apart from the faint footsteps and the ghostly hum of the fluorescent lights, the only other sounds are the few times The Exit 8 will throw a jump scare at you. Compounded with the minimalist liminal subway thoroughfare, players will feel starved for stimuli, and when anything does disturb the austerity it becomes all the more noticeable.

The core gameplay in this walking sim is to look around the main corridor of the thoroughfare for things that are out of place. The first sign you encounter explains that if you experience an anomaly you should turn around and go the opposite direction. When you do this, the hallway loops, and the large yellow sign will indicate that you’ve reached the next level.

If you fail to notice any anomalies and you keep moving forward, the hallway will still loop, but the exit sign will indicate you’ve reset and are back at level zero. While the game doesn’t make this clear, there appears to be a system in place to prevent players from encountering the same anomaly twice. There is a limited amount of them and missing one on a loop means it will show up again later, but it’s easy to miss some of these because a few of them are too subtle.

The obvious ones like the creepy skull posters or the black goo oozing out of the vents will be easy to spot. The ones where there is a thing that tries to kill you or fake you out with a distraction are also fun. However, the anomalies like one of the posters having a slightly crude face drawing, the moving eyes on the security poster, or the tiny red light on the camera are examples of too small to notice. Sometimes some anomalies don’t manifest for several seconds.

The anomalies that kill you like the tile man or the river of blood are earned jump scares. For the most part, The Exit 8 is very restrained with its horror. The very obvious irregularities like the hundreds of non-smoking signs are too obvious and not interesting or creepy. The best moments are when you notice something slightly off like door nobs in the center of a door or the walking man staring or smiling at you.

The worst thing that can happen is missing an anomaly and having to work your way back to level 8. When you don’t know what you’re missing, you can waste a lot of time staring at walls or posters trying to see if something is off, when there may not be. This can become annoying and tedious at worst.

The Exit 8 looks about as good as one would expect from a four-dollar indie horror game made with Unreal Engine on Nintendo Switch. Most of the graphics might be premade Unreal Engine assets and everything is evenly lit due to the harsh fluorescent bulbs.

This game does a good job of establishing the cold and brutalist aesthetics of a Japanese subway station that could be haunted or might be some kind of purgatory. Life itself is a thoroughfare, a liminal passage we take until the day we reach our final destination. It isn’t until you stop and look around you to admire the details that you realize just how weird life is.

Not everything works as intended. The walking man that shows up has very splotchy hair due to the Switch’s inability to render hair effectively and sometimes the textures on signs take a minute to load which can be mistaken for an anomaly.

While the “eight” in The Exit 8, was probably meant to symbolize infinite loops, the truth is that it doesn’t take more than an hour to get to the exit… That is if you’re lucky to have skipped a few of the more easily overlooked anomalies. For its price, you’re getting exactly what the game promises, but it is hard to not be impressed by its inventiveness for such a modest game.

The Exit 8 is a unique and interesting experience, but not one of substance. The “hidden object” gameplay is very shallow and was designed to be picked up and played by anybody with eyes, thumbs, and index fingers. This is a novel and amusing distraction that works as intended and earns a few good chills when played in the dead of a silent night.

The Exit 8 was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a code provided by Playism. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. The Exit 8 is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), and Nintendo Switch.

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The Verdict: 6

The Good

  • Sensory deprivation makes you spooked at basic things
  • Spot the difference gameplay makes it easy for kids to play
  • A few well-earned jump scares
  • Uncanny atmosphere

The Bad

  • There is not much substance to the gameplay
  • Texture loading issues
  • Some of the anomolies are too well-hidden
  • Missing an anomoly is tedious


A youth destined for damnation.

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