With all the rooms closed, I needed to find an outlet for my escape room cravings. Fortunately, there were already a few games on the market, with a few more beginning to appear as it became the lockdown was here to stay. Here I’ve reviewed the second of a few of the ones I’ve played (previous post here) – I’ve focused more on the gameplay for the company as a whole, rather than specific scenarios.
This is the game series I see on sale most often, particularly at physical escape rooms! The games themselves are essentially a few different card decks (one for hints, one for puzzles, and one to check your answer is correct), a booklet to work through, and often some other sort of prop.
Pro: There is a wide variety of scenarios on offer, and the boxes helpfully label the level of difficulty to expect, as well the different mechanics you may encounter. They are also reasonable priced (often less than £15) and, in my experience, do take a reasonable amount of time to solve. I believe there is also a companion app to offer hints, although I haven’t used this.
Pro: These games feel a lot more similar to being in an escape room than the Unlock! puzzles. Often you need to physically do/use things, make notes and keep track of what puzzles you have on the go. Most of the boxes are fairly linear, although a couple I’ve played have diverged slightly.
Pro: Some of the puzzles can be quite clever, making the most of the whole game, “thinking outside the box”, if you will…
Pro: These games work well both playing individually, or with a group. It’s easy enough to pass around whatever puzzle you’re working on and make notes without necessarily needing to be working on everything together at the same time. That being said there are a few things which are hard to share…
Neutral: The gameplay itself is quite straight forward. Usually you’ll read the intro from a booklet before being presented with a scene, with ‘hidden’ clue cards. You pull these clue cards from the pack and solve the puzzle – using a (very nifty) decoder wheel to work out which ‘answer’ card to pull. You will sometimes need to then match up what you’re trying to unlock…and hey presto! You’re onto the next puzzle. Although this is fairly simple, the clue/puzzle/answer process does seem a little convoluted, particularly as only one person is necessary to this process.
Con: If you’re stuck for what to do….good luck. If you’re on a puzzle, you do have a few hints available to you, but I’ve found they’re not too useful. The first hint tends to be either too vague (have you thought about this….?) or too obvious (there’s something on that painting). The second might tell you the start of the answer, but not how to derive it, and the third is just the answer. It’s even worse if you can’t even find the puzzle/work out what you’re meant to do! Hopefully the app would fix these issues.
Con: These are made to be one-play, disposable. I didn’t like that, so for most of the games I’ve tried to avoid any cutting/ripping/drawing/folding where possible, although this did hamper the experience slightly. Suddenly that £15 price point is starting to seem a little more steep for a one-play game.
Con: As mentioned, it still isn’t ideal in terms of co-op playing. For the most part you work on one puzzle at a time, and the cards and images are quite small so you can’t really place them in the middle of the table for everyone to see.
I have enjoyed some of these games more than others, and the single use (unless you’re careful) does annoy me slightly. If you want to try it, see if you can swap with someone else, rather than purchasing new. I don’t think they’re worth the money, and are better played with smaller groups.