Unlock! Secret Adventures is a collection of three escape room games from Space Cowboys. Using a deck of cards and a free app, they replicate the experience of an escape room in the comfort of your home.
Escape room games are something I’ve wanted to try since they became popular in the last two years. Unlock! A Noside Story is the first one I’ve attempted and I had some concerns going in. Can the game be played more than once? If not, is the experience worth the price? If the games are one and done, what happens if you don’t finish in an hour? Is that a game you’ll just never beat? Turns out I was quite satisfied with how the game answered these questions.
The Unlock series of games are one and done, but are certainly worth their cost. They could potentially be stretched to two plays, if you play with your friends and then assist your kids through a game. Even just playing once, Unlock adventures offer an entertaining family game night that is much cheaper than a night at the movies. Not to mention, with only one play through the games are in great condition to trade or sell on the secondary market.
Playing A Noside Story it was more about solving the puzzles and figuring out which cards go together. My group wasn’t quite invested in the story. Thematically, I’m more interested in the stories the next two games in the Secret Adventures collection will tell. Those being a western train robbery and an adventure in the land of Oz.
As mentioned, one of my concerns was not being able to beat the game in under an hour. Then you can never truly complete the game, because a second play through would be with the solutions you found during your first failed attempt. This was a scenario I was envisioning for the hardest adventure in the series, not A Noside Story which has the lowest difficulty rating. While we solved the puzzles quite well, we made some rushed decisions to reveal cards that incurred time penalties. In all, we lost 18 minutes to various penalizations. As the time was ticking down to zero, I thought we were defeated, but was glad to find that you get to play through the rest of the game. You just end up with a terrible star rating at the end. It is good to know that even the easiest adventures provide something of a challenge and aren’t a walk in the park. Now that my group is more familiar with the different tricks the game presents, I’m much more confident we can crush the other two adventures.
Most of the game consists of matching blue and red puzzle piece cards together to add up to a number matching another card to reveal. These cards can provide clues to decipher codes to move onto the next area in the game. There are also machines which are interactive puzzles completed in the app with solutions found within the cards. While fairly simple, this actually replicates the feeling of an escape room experience quite well. The game is full of moments where things just click together in your mind and the solution is clear. The game is completely cooperative, but it does feel great to be the one to discover a hidden number or make sense of a cipher.
The maximum players listed on the box is 6, but this is really a soft limit. If you wanted to play with 7 or more, you could. It is just a matter of making sure everyone is included in solving the puzzles and revealing cards. Space Cowboys consistently puts out well produced games with great artwork and the illustrations in the A Noside Story are no different. Plus, you actually get to appreciate every little detail as you meticulously inspect cards for clues.
The Unlock! adventures create an experience unique from a typical board game night. They are a bit of a novelty, as they can only be played once, but are certainly worthwhile. A Noside Story is a good adventure to start with to familiarize your group with the Unlock! gameplay. From there you can pick and choose which adventures suit your interests. There are currently 9 published adventures, another collection of 3 upcoming, and several print and play demo adventures to choose from.