Unlock: Exotic Adventures—The Night of the Boogeymen
Publisher: Space Cowboys
Release Date: March 2019
Price: $14.99
Creator: Cyril Demaegd
Format: Co-op game with cards, items, and phone app. 1-6 players, 60 minutes
Age Rating: 10+, puzzles rated as easy
ICv2 Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

A game like this is difficult to review without spoilers, but I am making every effort. The only real weaknesses the game has are the need for the smartphone app, and the fact that it is difficult to view it as a “game,” because it’s really a co-op activity of solving puzzles as quickly and accurately as you can. Players are racing the clock, and the app will penalize you in minutes for certain kinds of mistakes.

As with other “escape room” activities, there is little point in the same players trying to replay the scenario, because they would know too much about the puzzles. This one, though, with the app, will let you both score your results and share those scores with friends who are also playing the game. So, you can sort of compete with another group.

The prices for the sets in this series, in this price range or a bit higher, mean that for the price of an evening movie ticket, you can have a group of up to 6 people having an hour’s challenging puzzles. The difficulty levels are marked on the boxes, allowing buyers to select ones appropriate to their group. While this is not a perfect solution in cases where some of the players are better at puzzles than others, the game offers suggestions to keep people involved with the flow of the puzzles. For instance, it is recommended that the main deck of cards be divided among two or three players, to permit finding cards quickly, to reduce wasted time. Also, each puzzle needs quick input from the players, and sometimes the answer needed is provided by the least “puzzle-solving” member of the group.

One downside is that players may be disappointed if they fail to solve the full set of puzzles in the designated time, or if they do it and get a bad score. That is true of any co-op game, though, and this one is no harder than some of the better ones in that field.

The game and app walk users through a 10-minute tutorial, to explain how things work, and this is an excellent idea. It reduces the “thrown into the deep end” aspect that some other such puzzle games have.

Will everyone like this? No. You can’t individually “win” this game. The group succeeds or fails together. You can’t try to get a better score, at least with the same version of the game and the same group of people. So, super-competitive gamers aren’t going to be as interested. On the other hand, people who solve puzzles for fun are going to have a good time with this, and it might get them interested in trying other forms of co-op games, so that could be a win-win in terms of marketing.

Our game groups came away wanting to try more products from the same company, but a little antsy on jumping in at the deep end. This was a Level One difficulty out of Three, so maybe a Two next…

--Nick Smith: Library Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.