We recently had a go at our favourite play at home escape experience yet; UNLOCK! is a perfectly engineered game consisting only of playing cards and a free downloadable app. The instructions are simple, and even an optional read if you play the small tutorial deck available to download HERE. This tutorial will also give you a flavour of what to expect from the main games that have a target time of an hour to complete. In addition to the instructions and tutorial there are 3 scenarios to get stuck into which are all very different in terms of theme and difficulty yet fantastically entertaining.

How does it all work then?

The mechanics are brilliant. I was sceptical when I read that Space Cowboys had managed to emulate an escape game environment using only cards, and an app which is free to download. This app provides all of the aspect of the game that are usually provided by the games masters; it starts the clock, issues hints, and even gives time penalties should you make an incorrect guess (more about these later). It also adds to the atmosphere by providing an immersive yet unobtrusive soundtrack and looked absolutely lovely on the tablet screen that we were using. The cards represent rooms, features or items and are all numbered so need to be in a predefined order to start the game – this is the order they will arrive in if you are buying the game from new, but can be resorted should you opt for a pre-loved game. When progressing through the game you either find hidden numbers in the card images, or combine numbers on the front of cards in order to identify additional cards that you can bring into the game from the deck. If you combine the incorrect cards (i.e. use tools on incorrect puzzles in the game, or in an illogical order) then you draw a fine card that instructs you to press a button in the app which docs you some penalty minutes! The hints are also fantastic. As the app can’t monitor how you progress in the game you enter a card number when asking for a hint and it will give you an appropriate nudge in the right direction. The app also allows you to type combinations for locks, another mechanic to aid progression in the games. I don’t want to go into too much details about the scenarios as they have an interesting narrative which is best discovered both as you are beginning the game, as well as throughout its duration. One word of caution that I will include is to try and get a group of 4 or more for The Island of Doctor Goorse scenario, as the group is split into two halves – we played as a pair and it felt a lot less social trying to crack clues on your own! We had no such problems with the earlier scenarios.

How was the gaming?

In a word: brilliant. It has the ‘search’ and ‘solve’ mechanics that we are used to in escaping, along with a good level of theme, immersion and tension. It’s incredible how they’ve managed to be so creative, with little to no repetition between games. They are a stretch too, we only completed one in the allotted time, we got a bit stressed and pressured, there were times when everything was making sense and we felt like we were powering through everything at the speed of sound and others where we had to ask for hints. The timer is set at an hour but if you have still not escaped after that time you can play on and it will keep a track of time used and the amount of hints requested. I highly recommend these games, and hope that they release more in the future. As soon as they do I will be ordering a copy. For information about Unlock! and several other play at home games head to our PRODUCTS page!

Happy gaming!

By: Tom Southerden

On: June 19, 2017