Unlock games are inspired by escape rooms. The difference is that the game is run with a deck of cards and an app. During the game, you will be told to look at certain cards. These will give you more clues to allow you to continue your adventure. Some cards will also tell you to get rid of others on the table. This helps keep the information at a more manageable level. This also prevents you from having to consider cards which have no more information to be used. The app does have a timer element, though this can be turned off.
Unlike other, similar, games in the genre, Unlock games can be played more than once. This is because the components remain intact throughout the game. This means that once you have played an Unlock game, you could pass it on to a friend. In theory, you could also revisit the game yourself. I would say that you need to leave quite some time between playthroughs though.
Below is my spoiler free review of the scenarios contained in the Timeless Adventures box. As this is spoiler free I’m not going to go into a lot of detail to allow you to explore and enjoy each scenario yourself!
Life is a circus
The easiest rated game in the box is the Noside Show. If you have played earlier games in the Unlock series, you are likely to have come across the villain of the series, Professor Noside. In this scenario, Professor Noside has taken over the circus and you have to make sure the show goes on. As well as the deck of cards, players start the game with a programme with space for various cards.
The Noside show was my least favourite of the three games. That is not to say that I disliked it. I just found it the least intuitive of the games. I don’t mind using hints. However, there were several times in this scenario where I used a hint and was no wiser as to how the answer was reached. There is also a particular puzzle near the end which is very exacting. This was frustrating as we knew what to do but getting to the solution was very difficult. Unfortunately, this may have overshadowed my enjoyment of the scenario. Although it might be the lowest rated game in the box, I definitely didn’t find it the easiest.
I did find the theme very cool though. Who doesn’t want to go to a circus and see all of the different acts? Whilst I can’t go into detail the use of the programme was very clever too!
Racing across Paris
In Arsene Lupin and the Great White Diamond, players are a group of orphans racing to find the diamond which has been hidden. The reason, whoever finds the diamond first will get to work for the great Arsene Lupin and not have to worry about their future. You start the game with a letter from Mr Lupin and a map of Paris. Armed with these, your wits (and the contents of your pockets), the treasure hunt begins.
Much like a traditional treasure hunt, this scenario will see players racing around locations in their hunt for hidden clues. There are some false leads in this game which, if you follow will lead to you losing time. So be careful what information you are using. This is not unduly punishing, however, and does feel very thematic; as the rival gangs are trying to get one up on each other. The treasure hunt aspect of the scenario is done very well.
This was the first scenario I played from the box as the theme really appealed. If you are a veteran of the Unlock series you will be aware that on some cards there are hidden numbers. These numbers lead you to other cards. As this was the first scenario I played it took a little while to pick up on this so it took me a little longer than thought to complete the scenario. But this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of it.
Let’s do the Timewarp again
Lost in the TimeWarp is rated as the hardest game in the box and with good reason. There is a lot of information to maintain and you do end up with a lot of cards on the table at some points.
At the start of the scenario, you have turned up at your friend's house to find him missing and a strange machine in a corner. This is a time machine. During the scenario, you have to travel to various points of the timeline to try and put events back in order so your friend can return. This is a clever idea as you have to consider how events in the past can affect those later on in the timeline. There are also occasions where you have to overlay cards onto the living room picture, included with this game. This in turn helps you unlock further elements of the scenario.
I found the idea of the interlinking events and temporal effects to be very clever. The scenario flowed very well and the progressions never felt stilted. Before starting the scenario, this had the theme I was least interested in. However, it turned out to be my favourite scene in the box.
Timeless Adventures was the first set of Unlock games I had played. I must say I was very pleasantly surprised by my experience. I had been worried about how good a game with just cards and app could be. For the most part, these worked very well together. I particularly liked the music which played via the app. This fits very well with the theme of each game and gave a little extra depth. The artwork was a consistently good quality on the cards, and again this carried the theme well.
I know some people might not like the idea of using an app. However, it does allow the game to do more than would otherwise be possible then with a deck of cards. In particular, they enable the use of machines (green cards) which give the puzzles a different dimension. There are not too many machines and they tend to be well spaced throughout the scenarios. I do think that this gives the game some more depth and allows some very clever puzzles.
If you enjoy escape room style puzzles then it is definitely worth looking into one of the Unlock boxes. I think Timeless Adventures is a great starting point for an Unlock newbie.