Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 30 June 2020

The Game Shelf Reviews:- Unlock! - Epic Adventures

Game: Unlock! - Epic Adventures

Publisher: Space Cowboys

Designer:  Cyril Demaegd, Guilaine Didier, Théo Rivière

Year: 2019

Unlock is one of many choices for bringing the experience of an escape room to your tabletop. If I remember correctly, it was the first series that we tried and it wasn't our favourite. But, it's big benefit is that you can play it once and pass it onto a friend with no destruction. With such a cost effective solution to have lots of new, 1 hour, cooperative escape room experiences at home, we've played almost every box.

Unlock initially stood out from other escape rooms because of its need for an app. In early boxes, the app seemed to be a way to take care of what might otherwise be a frustrating crib sheet to find out your answers. More recently we've been really impressed with how the app has become a hugely integrated part of the game play and has brought to the table some of the most creative things I've seen in escape room style games. I don't think anyone would be able to complain any more about the app being unnecessary - it's the best bit!

Like all Unlock releases in the UK, Unlock! - Epic Adventures contains three games, each lasting approximately one hour. We'll be sharing spoiler-free thoughts in this review of each scenario, all strangely themed around the number seven...

The Seventh Screening

The Seventh Screening puts you in the shoes of a group of movie-goers about to see a classic black and white horror film. While the game has a few moments in and around the cinema, most of the action is set inside the film. Since the movie is in black and white, so are the majority of your cards, so, anyone who has played an Unlock before might twig that it becomes a little harden to solve some of the tradition red/blue puzzles.

It should be noted that The Seventh Screening was billed as the easiest in the box, and while the puzzles themselves weren't too hard, the game's gimmick resulted in numerous moments of frustration. At points it felt like playing a Monkey Island game, combining everything you have with the problem at hand until one of them worked for reasons that didn't quite make sense until you see the solution.

By the end of the game if anything we felt a little disappointment. The Seventh Screening hadn't blow our minds like some of the recent Unlock games that we'd played and appeared to have elements (such as the giant movie poster) which went criminally underused.

The Dragon's Seven Tests

Coming up next we have the medium difficulty game of the triple pack - The Dragon's Seven Tests. In this game you play as erstwhile disciples looking to gain the favour of a great teacher. Things go downhill sharply when the first thing you encounter is a sign on their door telling you to go away. After this you embark on a quest, exploring the countryside, talking to locals and overcoming challenges. To aide you you have the game's gimmick, a book of predictions which will help you out if only you keep an eye out for the tell-tale signs that it's needed.

This mechanic is integrated extremely well, the signs that you need to use the app to decode a message vary from super obvious to relatively hidden, but once you see them there's little doubt that that is what is going on. This isn't all the app does, this game included the most memorable "machine" I think I've ever done in an Unlock game. If you aren't familiar with Unlock, machines are kind of mini games that you play on the app, sometimes it's simply putting in a code into a lock, but often they are far more creative. This machine could have been tweaked a little to make it flow a little better, but for the actions it made us do outside the game to try and solve the puzzles, it was absolutely great.

The Dragon's Seven Tests felt a little on the easier side for a "medium" difficulty mission, but was very enjoyable all the way through. They did a great job on integrating the theme into both the art and the style of the puzzles that you faced and the exploratory nature of the story led to the game splitting up slightly into sections with slightly different mechanics, which kept me engaged the whole way through.

Mission #07

The creatively named Mission #07 melds the escape room puzzle with a whodunnit. The game unfurls in two halves. In the first you are working out clues to eliminate suspects from a line up provided in your case files. In the second half you are trying to stop that suspect from succeeding in their dastardly deed.

Mission #07 had slightly less technology integration and mainly used things we've seen before in other Unlock games, although there was one element which tricked us and then impressed us about integrating with your phone or tablet.

This was my favourite mission in the box because it really relied upon logic rather than jumping to conclusions. I feel like we were clever in deducing the suspect - and we felt particularly proud to not be tripped up by one less obvious piece of information. A few of the puzzles along the way felt like they came pout of the traditionally more puzzly Exit series, most notably the last one in the box, which had some groaningly obvious aspects but one that we totally missed. (If you're finding the final puzzle impossible like we did, don't blame the game, you've missed a vital clue!)

You Might Like...
  • Each game in this box introduces a new, special mechanic.
  • The app integration is so integral and well woven into the game. We were quite surprised at some of the new innovations.
  • With the companion app, each mission brings a new setting to life and is very immersive.
You Might Not Like...
  • If you take a single deck in shrink wrap with you on a trip, like we have in the past, you might be VERY disappointed.
  • The Seventh Screening was a disappointment for us mainly due to its reliance on some very loose connections between cards.

The Verdict
7/10 Unlock! - Epic Adventures brings new mechanisms into every game as well as deepening the integration with technology in new was that never cease to surprise us. Unlock evolves and becomes more exciting as a system with every new box at the moment. For us this box provided two great games and one we didn't really enjoy, but was still worth it for the two great ones. Unlock never used to be our favourite escape room at home option, but it is fast becoming the one we anticipate most.

Unlock! - Epic Adventures was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £19.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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