It's possible to issue a string of commands to speed up progression instead of guiding characters through a puzzle element by element, but the game so often misinterprets instructions that you're better off issuing orders individually. Even if you position Mr. Esc at the bottom of a set of stairs and specifically target the top, he'll occasionally stand there stupefied or read the command horizontally instead of vertically, wandering off into a nearby fire. Likewise, he might waste time crawling around on all fours because he misinterprets a simple hang-and-drop command, or break his leg by "forgetting" to jump a gap you've ordered him to cross, which makes for especially frustrating stage restarts that aren't your fault. Though companions are usually intelligent enough not to attempt jumps they're destined to fail, they'll still blindly follow you into fires or other hazards if you forget to cancel the "follow me" command before navigating through a danger zone. You may also spy them wandering into trouble while carrying out your orders, so it's best to keep a sharp eye on their activities, even if it means tedious babysitting.
The 2D stages consist of simple black silhouettes that achieve a slightly cartoonish look, but you'll find a few bright bursts of color in fires, flooded areas, and other threats. Character models appear rather primitively as anonymous, blocky shadow people, though they do feature small details such as hats or bows, and even Mr. Esc looks dashing in his bold red tie. Characters also move fluidly and add to the game's unique comic-book influence, which keeps the game visually appealing even if it's graphically sparse. You'll find the frequent calls for help from companions waiting to be saved very annoying, but its jazzy background music more than makes up for it.
It should take roughly 10 hours to rescue every companion and clear all of the stages, of which there are more than 100. You might enjoy replaying stages to increase your score, which is determined by how quickly you finish a stage, but one play-through is probably more than enough unless you're submitting scores to the game's global ranking via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.
Exit DS is challenging and unique, with a great comic-book flair that should please those seeking an unconventional puzzler, but some may be highly disappointed by its finicky controls and frequent command misinterpretation.