Review – Unlock! Kids: Stories from the Past

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Designer Cyril Demaegd, Florian Fay, Wilfried Fort, Marie Fort

Artist Olivier Danchin, Rémy Tornior

Publisher Space Cow (Space Cowboys / Asmodee)

Category Kids' Game, Escape Game

Length 15-45 minutes

Release Date January 2024

Player Count 1-4

Price $29.99

When I first reviewed the original Unlock! Kids, I was floored by how good it was. And I was not the only one: this year, it won a special prize from the Spiel des Jahres jury. Unsurprisingly, we have a sequel, Unlock! Kids: Stories from the Past. Is it as good as the first, or are we just milking the Space Cow? Let’s take a look! 

The hardest thing about this review is simply the passage of time. My 8-year-old is now almost 10, and significantly smarter than she used to be. She’s also a pre-teen in the truest sense; participation in “board games with dad” is seen as a mercy, no longer a joy. (That hurt to write.) So while the box says 6+, I might say 6-8 and put an upper end, at least for a relatively advanced child; maybe 6-10 in general. The puzzles are a bit easy for her to figure out now, although still clever. But, unfortunately, the new game didn’t help my complaints any.

My main complaint before was the ability to “metagame” the “lock and key” reveal system that replaces the app. While it’s a brilliant system, sometimes with too few options, it’s easy to figure out what to do without actually doing the puzzle. It’s actually worse in this version; some of the scenarios have only 3 or 4 options, making this aspect way too easy. I’m not sure why more “dummy answers” were not included to avoid this. I also find physical manipulation absolutely obnoxious in Unlock! scenarios. A past “grown-up” scenario included trying to make a house of cards that infuriated me; similarly there is a pyramid players are supposed to assemble, and my lack of fine motor skills (and osteoarthritis in my thumb) made it impossible.  There have also been several “you have to notice the number” parts of the scenarios that were required to move on; the standard Unlock! games have moved away from this, and I thought this was absent from the first round (such things were only to collect “bonus stars”). 

I know I sound grumpy. All of those complaints are minor; this is still an excellent system and still the best kids’ “escape room” game around. Objectively, I highly recommend it, even though I lament the lack of improvement over the original. It’s just bittersweet and melancholy to see your kid grow up: I am so happy to see her progress, but sad to see such precious memories become, well, tired bores. It’s ironic that this set is called Stories from the Past. One thing is for sure: time is a room from which there is no escape.  

The Bottom Line

Not quite as good as the first, but still excellent. Just get it to the table before your kid grows up...

 

8.5

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Author: Derek Thompson


I’ve been a board game reviewer on Geeks Under Grace since 2011. I love card-driven games and party games. I have a Ph.D. in Mathematics and teach the subject at Taylor University in Upland, IN. My wife and kids are my favorite gaming partners.