Unlock! Epic Adventures is a set of three escape room style board games, released in 2019 by publisher Space Cowboys. Designed by Cyril Demaegd, Guilaine Didier, Gabriel Durnerin and Théo Rivière, the adventures play with 1 – 6 players taking around an hour each. The three adventures are available separately in the United States, with this set including The Seventh Screening, The Dragon’s Seven Tests and Mission #07. However, will these be missions you’ll want to self destruct? Let’s find out!
For those of you who have never tried out an Unlock! there are many sets available including Heroic Adventures and Secret Adventures. Each coming with three adventures, these boxes come with a tutorial and then 1, 2 and 3 padlock rated adventures – where the padlock rating denotes the difficulty. Working their way through the deck of cards, using the free to download Unlock! app, players will combine objects they find across a variety of locations. Riddles and codes also come into play, all to trip players up and test them in different ways as they work off clues.
The first adventure “The Seventh Screening” takes place in an old school movie theater, with the premier of a black and white horror movie “The Werewolf’s Final Night”. Being the 7th set in the series, there is the increasing importance of something new or unique to appear. Turning the usual usage of blue and red item combination cards on its head, most of the cards are black and white, allowing the adventure to break away from the norm.
This is one of the two adventures in the set that comes with an additional component. Unfolding the paper players will have the movie poster for “The Werewolf’s Final Night” just like you’d see on the movie theater walls. Whilst it is a thematic component it is sorely underused, to the extent it feels a waste and more of a flair piece than exciting content. Saving the day, without spoiling the solution of what to do, there is a novel usage of the cards for the final puzzle, that is very satisfying to see. This makes the adventure a great one to get back into Unlock! and remember how it works, or for those new to the format to learn.
The Dragon’s Seven Tests is the second adventure, seeing players transported to the Gold Dragons temple. With 77 minutes on the clock players find themselves attempting to become a student of Master Li, something that only occurs every 7 years. Jumping straight into the tests, players will have to overcome each not to escape but to become a student. During the adventure there is one machine that it keeps coming back to. While this could have been irritating seeing content re-used, it instead fits the theming of the temple – plus it fits with the riddles perfectly.
There is one puzzle where the app instructs players to distribute out cards and the app between the players. This is to stop players becoming too quick at knowing their section of the information, maintaining the puzzles challenge. This passing aspect worked well with 3 players, and there would be exactly one item each with 4. While the puzzle would still work, this small section could fall flat if played solo, or with the full player count of 6.
For the first time in an Unlock game one clue gave two answers, both which worked on the app. This was odd as it said to take an item card we had previously discarded. This slightly threw the flow of the adventure off, though only momentarily. This was perhaps a minute or two in the hour experience, and is something more to be aware of rather than an issue.
The third, 3 padlock difficulty, adventure is Mission #07. This seems to combine Mission Impossible and 007 into the title as much as the spy like theming it incorporates, without breaching any copyrights. In this 2 part adventure, players will take up the roles of agents trying to find and oust the mole in their organisation. Coming with two distinct chapters, only a handful of cards actually remain throughout, the agents roles being the most important aspect. Not a huge amount of creativity has gone into the team makeup: made up of the typical stereotypes of an agile fighter, a brute, a weak IT guy and the gadget user.
For the whole adventure there is 90 minutes on the clock and a top secret folder to hand. Again, this added component is rather underused. Though, the information it contains would have taken up a good 6 cards of the adventure. It also means the information is far from squished in, allowing it to be easily read by all.
There was a good variety of puzzle types including app based machines and card placement manipulation. One of the stand out elements, which players have access to from the beginning, are one of the characters spytastic x-ray glasses. Performed by using an AR feature in the app, despite it being one characters “ability” we found it best to allow different players to use this at different stages, just to spread the fun out evenly.
Almost improving as the perceived difficulty rose, Unlock! Epic Adventures went from strength to strength. While the 90 minute long Mission #07 only took us around 50 minutes, it was still our favourite of the box. While the others offered new puzzles and had twists on the normal Unlock gameplay, it was the Mission Impossible like theming that captured our attention the most. Unlock! Epic Adventures doesn’t have an IP assigned to an adventure akin to other recent Unlock sets, yet it still provides three awesome adventures to experience!
(Editor’s Note: Unlock! Epic Adventures was provided to us by Asmodee for the review. The game is currently available from local board game stores, some of which are reopening! Find your local store here.)