September 30, 2017
“Unfortunately, the aircraft had been caught in a storm, and you only just had time to bail out before seeing the plane crash in the middle of the jungle…” So begins our tale in the mischievous game of Unlock!: The Island of Doctor Goorse. This new experience from publisher Space Cowboys is a card-game replica of the escape room phenomenon sweeping our Friday nights. And trust us, escaping this Island is no walk on the beach.
Unlock! consists of one(!) deck of cards, with numbered backs. These decks contain everything from investigative tools, clues, and mystifying puzzles. As you combine cards together, you add their numbers. If the sum you receive matches a card that is still in the deck, you’ve found your way to that card, and can take it to further explore your escape! Some other cards will be labeled as puzzles, with a lock icon in their corner. These puzzle cards do not add to other cards, and instead, require a 4 digit code to be entered into the (free!) companion app. If you solve the puzzle and enter the correct code, you’ll progress and draw more cards! Simple enough, right?
Well, in concept, sure. Some of the puzzles contained within are simple. Consider this exchange from a recent playthrough:
Person 1: “Hey, I have a key labeled ‘11.’”
Person 2: “I have a locked cabinet labeled ‘35.’ What do you think?”
Person 3: “Thirty-five…eleven…forty-six! I’ll look through the deck. *hasty card-handling* I found ‘46!’ Ah, schweet! We unlocked the cabinet, and found some electrical wire inside!”
Obviously, these people are nerds. Like us. But then there are the puzzles where this happens:
Person 1: “I have a straw, and a laser, and, like, a metal detector, but there’s a grate in my way.
Person 2: “I have nothing to use, two of those 4-digit puzzles, and there’s some illegible markings on a nearby wall.”
Person 3: “I have a record that gives me a code for the app. Whenever I enter the app to ‘listen to the record,’ it just sounds like a man screaming.”
Persons 1 & 2: “…”
Person 3: “Oh dear.”
What we’re trying to say is this: This game is a blast. Making new discoveries in Unlock! is like tasting a new flavor of pie: unexpected, and way too sweet! Just don’t expect to breeze through these challenges without testing your mental agility, stamina, and accepting that you probably won’t beat the game’s self-imposed one-hour time limit on your first go.
Do you have what it takes to escape?
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