Star Wars Unlock! is a themed spin off of the escape room series of board games, from publisher Space Cowboys. Coming with 3 separate adventures, this is the 9th Unlock! collection of cooperative escape room games – though this is the first box which features a single IP based theme. The game uses a combination of the included decks of cards and a free to download app to drive the escape room style experience. Players will visit the Outer Rim, Echo Base and the Holy City of Jedha, with droids, smugglers and an Imperial informant found along the way. However, is the Force with this game? Let’s find out!
(Editor’s Note: Only vague details of the puzzles and stories that players will encounter are mentioned in the review. This is to maintain the challenge and the mystery of the adventures.)
The first adventure is Escape From Hoth. As the name suggests this sees players venture out into the arctic weather on the ice planet Hoth. From a trusty tauntaun, included in the adventure are a few iconic scenes from Episode V. Having such a recognisable location brought to life in a different medium will surely please fans of the Star Wars franchise. Plus, having it as the first adventure helps to capture fans’ imaginations instantly.
The slight downside to recreating scenes from the films is that some of the puzzles in this adventure are on the easier side. The logic is already known from viewing the films, just transposed into card and app based puzzles. As a 1 padlock, easy, rated adventure this isn’t a huge issue though and players still feel a sense of satisfaction when completing the adventure.
An Unforeseen Delay is the second adventure, seeing players taking up the roles of smugglers who have been intercepted by an Imperial Star Destroyer. While there are nods to known characters, this adventure branches away from just being scenes from the films, akin to how Rogue One as a film explored the universe – while being in line with the main Star Wars storyline.
One awesome part of this adventure saw a single player having to take control of the app, with the screen hidden from the other players, as they became a droid. This was a great way to split the group and make players communicate in a different way. The game is sold as an experience playable with 1 – 6 players and this puzzle would only work with two or more players. Being a fun part of what is realistically an experience you can only play through once would therefore not be good to (Han) solo.
The third adventure, Secret Mission On Jedha, felt the most removed from the main Star Wars plot but shows how the theme can be extended. This adventure sees players start by heading towards a cantina, looking for information from the locals and an informant. Lasting a good hour, not only did the adventure use the app and a deck of cards, the adventure also used a map of the area. This wasn’t just a one puzzle and done with item, utilized at points throughout the adventure. This made the map feel a useful addition to the components. Similar to the Around The World In 80 Minutes mission in Unlock! Mythic Adventures box, there was something to look out for throughout the experience. This gave players new information, which wasn’t on the cards, and just added something extra to keep an eye out for.
Interestingly each adventure includes advantage cards, which give teams different hints to start their journey with. Out of six the team together picks 3 pieces of information, returning the rest of the cards to the box. These worked incredibly well with three players, as we each felt like we could take one and then have extra input for a specific puzzle. With less players it wouldn’t be an issue but this wouldn’t quite be possible with more players, as someone would feel left out. For the most part these were little hints, which thematically made sense – such as an expert pilot having knowledge of formations. Only once did we find that without the advantage card we would have been stuck and left to hint at the answer in the app, and even with it the puzzle wasn’t simple.
The Star Wars theme does shine through which is both a testament to the game and a detriment to it. Gamers are getting adventures with storylines and puzzles that may work in a generic sci-fi setting but flourish in the Star Wars universe. These are cool little snapshots of iconic locations from the films. Especially with Escape From Hoth being aligned with the films so much does at times spoil the puzzle side of the experience. What could be puzzles that make players think are instantly recognisable as a scene from the film, thus the puzzle that is there ends up not being a puzzle at all. Thankfully, not every puzzle is spoiled ahead of time, with adventures breaking away from the main narrative and some standard code based escape room style puzzles included. It may be these moments that cause the first two adventures to feel on the short side, as instead of taking minutes they were quickly surpassed.
Being on the short side does call the value for money of the set into question. There is no doubt that players are paying for the Star Wars theme to some extent. Still, it isn’t like the decks of cards for each adventure are noticeably smaller than the other Unlock games, nor is the app any less involved. The first two adventures lasted only around 30 minutes, with the third adventure lasting the full hour. Part of this can be attributed to the first two adventures both being rated 1 padlock difficulty wise. The Secret Mission On Jedha adventure did present a bigger challenge though, with the play time reflecting this, as we stumbled through the harder puzzles.
Star Wars Unlock seems aimed more towards fans of Star Wars and getting them into Unlock, perhaps into modern board games, opposed to fans of Unlock. By including two adventures rated a single padlock for difficulty it allows new players to get the game to the table and have fun working through the easier puzzles. Some will love this, as it opens it up for more of a family game night. Those looking for a bit of a brain burning Star Wars themed escape room will only fully get that from the final adventure though. Star Wars Unlock proves an entire set of three adventures can have the same theme and bring something new to the table. Many will enjoy playing through the adventures and let’s hope this is only the beginning of more IP based Unlock boxes!
(Editor’s Note: Star Wars Unlock was provided to us by Asmodee for the review. The game is currently available from local board game stores! Find your local store here.)