Unlock! Mystery Adventures

6
An escape room adventure in your own living room.

Everyone loves a good escape room, but not everyone can convince their friends to each spend $20 for an experience that'll last an hour. Enter: Unlock! Unlock is a series of escape room-themed CYOA games, in which you solve long sequences of puzzles with the help of numbered cards and an app. There are multiple adventures for Unlock, in a variety of series. We played through the "mystery" series. 

A Set of Different Difficulties

The mystery series had three difficulties: beginner, medium, and hard. It isn't required to finish one before you finish the others, so we separated into multiple groups to take on the different rooms. Each game comes with a demo run, so you can understand how the puzzles work.

The entire Unlock! experience is one of cards. The cards are numbered; you reveal locations which contain card numbers and you turn those card numbers over to reveal items. This is where it gets a bit fiddly. For instance, you might think to combine a wrench (17) with a window (21). To do this, you'd have to look at card 38. But you have no guarantee that what you're doing is anywhere close to what the creators intended.

The major weakness of Unlock! was that even though we stumbled through the puzzles, we never really felt as though we were figuring things out. Instead, we were just trying random combinations and hoping for the best. Because of the way the cards are revealed, we were often uncertain. And because the puzzles relied on card numbers and 4 digit code sequences, everything became very repetitive.

Did Everyone Have Fun?

People had fun, but it's funny -- it was almost in spite of the game itself. Most people had fun because they were working together against the game... out of sheer spite. And the puzzles themselves really weren't hard, in fact we had a few people who were just racing through the "hardest difficulty" puzzles without any hesitation. The only issues came up when there was some level of ambiguity, as we hesitated to flip over cards that might not be relevant. 

It seems like a social experience, but it really isn't. Because of the way the cards are managed, people have a tendency to pull a puzzle or two close to them rather than attempting to collaborate. And because people think in different ways, there actually was very little cross talk; for the most part, people simply trusted others to do their job and only chimed in if someone was stuck. This led to rather quiet game play as everyone raced against the timer.

It sounds like I'm negative about this game, and I'm really not; it was a fun experience and it was definitely one I'd do again. It isn't, however, one of the games that I'd buy myself. It's hurt by the fact that it isn't replayable and that it isn't a very social game. If anything, it probably operates best as a one person or two person game, rather than the full six player experience.