Review – Unlock! Game Adventures
|Designer||Mathieu Casnin, Thomas Cauët, Jeremy Koch|
|Artist||Atha Kanaani, Martin Mottet, Jérôme Pélissier, Chris Quilliams|
|Publisher||Space Cowboys (Asmodee North America)|
|Category||Escape Room Game, Cooperativce Game|
|Length||60-70 minutes per scenario|
|Player Count||1-5 (1-3 is more accurate)|
It seems that some game series came out strong and then fade, while some steadily keep at it and improve over time. Unlock! is one of the very best examples of the latter. While I believe the early iterations of this series in 2017 were successful, they have released box after box and just improved with each release. This culminated with Unlock! Kids, one of my favorite gaming experiences with my oldest daughter and one of my favorite games of 2022, and Unlock! Game Adventures. These two releases together earned them a special award from the Spiel des Jahres jury this year. I could see both having been nominees for the Kinderspiel and Kennerspiel respectively, but I assume this was not done because they were not “new” games. Still, is Game Adventures worthy of a special prize? Let’s take a look!
We don’t usually do content guides for board games, but older elementary age children could do a couple of these scenarios, so it’s worth mentioning. The first scenario involves stopping a criminal on a train, and one card says “damn”. The second scenario involves communicating with ghosts while solving a murder, including figuring out the weapon used, and communication with the ghost is done with a Ouija board at one point. The last scenario involves stopping a pandemic, and while it’s presented in a sanitized way (no pictures of people dying on hospital beds, etc.) and mostly focused on scientists doing research, it might be a sensitive topic so recently after the COVID pandemic in real life.
I have certainly not played every single Unlock! scenario, but I’ve played at least a dozen, if not more. That makes it a little hard to differentiate what’s unique about each scenario, but it’s a bit more obvious here. These three games are meant to each “represent” three other famous board games: Ticket to Ride, Mysterium, and Pandemic. The box says you do not need to have played those games to enjoy these, and I think that’s correct. However, you’d be crazy to do it that way. A huge part of the enjoyment I found from these scenarios was seeing just how amazingly they approximated the games in question. In particular, given that both Unlock! and Mysterium are games about interpreting clues on cards, that scenario felt particularly on point. However, all three were incredible in how they represented the source material. I also greatly apppreciate that the game now has a paper Solutions Manual and hints in the app; sometimes the hint button doesn’t always understand what you’re getting at or where you are with your question.
Another reason that I think Unlock! has been able to continue to improve over time is their extended app integration. Every scenario seems to use the phone in exciting new ways, and there were some very clever puzzles to be found here. In addition to the app, there also a few physical components beyond the standard deck of cards you expect from Unlock!, and they also had fun puzzles associated. Really, all three scenarios were a blast to play, and while puzzles often drew on the mechanisms of the original game, they also had their own unique Unlock! twists.
I have just one caveat, which is that the app is super slow about “confirming” anything you do in a machine (the green cards). Twice, we were doing the correct things in the app, but didn’t know we had to wait for the app to make some kind of “ok, yes, that’s correct” noise before moving on, and it cost us a lot of time and frustration. Now that we know, we’ll expect the same on future releases, and have even more fun next time. Granted, that will be hard to do, because this is a fantastic release, especially for fans of these three board games.
The Bottom Line
Unlock! just keeps getting better and better.