What’s the best way to cope with a lockdown? Well, actually, there are multiple options – but the best way in my opinion is with puzzles, codes and challenges. However, without being able to go outside it’s time to turn to the other big contender in the escape room board game market – the enthusiastically named Unlock!
The Unlock games come in boxes of 3 levels, packaged into vague titles such as ‘heroic adventures’ and ‘mystery adventures’. They also require a smartphone which will act as a timer, allow you to input codes and interact with the cards in various ways – none of which involve destroying cards. This means once you have played them once you can share the games with friends and compare escape times.
Whilst arguably it’s the strength of the puzzles and the game mechanics that really define whether an at home escape option is decent – and the Unlock games certainly score highly in that regard – the real stand out part of these games are the app and the levels of game in each box. Committing to an app enabled experience means that Unlock captures that puzzle interaction in a way you just can’t do with cards or cut out pieces. Need to show a complicated pattern? Play a tune? Add a nose to a clown? Easy, just do it on the app. It also makes entering codes and getting clues much easier.
As mentioned, you get 3 levels of game in each box, of which all are different games when they could have easily just been chapters of the same game. For the most part you’ll have an easy, medium and hard adventure to complete. Having multiple full games at varying difficulty really adds value to a purchase where you can literally only play each game once.
The Unlock games I have played have been varied in both theme and puzzle style, but there was a point in probably every game where the next step or the solution isn’t as logical as the others or the explanation on how to do a puzzle is a bit vague. It’s frustrating, but if you get really stuck, there are both hints and the solution available in the app. The Unlock games also struggle a bit when they are themed around popular franchises. If, (for example) you know Alice in Wonderland, that game is relatively easy, but if you don’t it just feels very confusing.
Overall the Unlock series is a very strong collection of escape games, with a really great puzzle system that many games probably wish they had implemented, backed up by a superb app. If you’re locked down and need a pick me up, then picking these up will certainly help get those brain cells flowing.
A sea monster, a spooky house and a pirate theme, this set definitely feels the most ‘escape room’ from the ones I have played. They all have some really good puzzles, tricky parts, hidden objects and a good ending. My favourite Unlock selection box.
The original box from Unlock with a billionaires island to escape from, a secret lab to break into and a story around the Unlock villain Dr Noside. I have to say that the Secret Lab game was one of my favourites from all the games I played. These games all feel entirely different from each other which is likely from finding their rhythm as the first set of games.
The final puzzle in the Island of Dr Goorse is one you’ll either get or you just won’t understand at all.
Featuring Sherlock, Alice in Wonderland and arcade themed adventures, these games are not the traditional ‘escape’ style and instead play into the stories that inspire them – solving a murder, the bizareness of Alice and retro video games.
As a collection, they are very reliant on the respective themes so if you enjoy those you’ll enjoy the games. If these don’t appeal, the experience won’t be as good as others.
Set across different time zones, there is a circus theme, gangs in paris and a very back to the future esque time travel game that looks at the butterfly effect. This collection is quite interactive and they have an almost board game feel to them. A solid selection of games that challenge you mentally and plays on the tactile nature of the app.
Very storyline heavy games, with a Train heist, a Noside story and Wizard of Oz game. With lots crammed into each game, these would be great for groups of people. The Wizard of Oz and Noside games are quite whimsical so would suit families with young kids.
Other Unlock! adventure games are available, including print and play options (https://print-and-play.asmodee.fun/unlock/) and individual game packs.