Review: Unlock! Heroic Adventures

I love a bit of Unlock. The card-based escape room game has you solving puzzles, using an ingenious system of combining cards to try and use items together, and an app which is constantly improving and becoming an integral part of an excellent, time-limited experience. With each scenario taking an hour to complete (or slightly more if you don’t get done in time and want to finish it regardless) a set of three scenarios might be seen as short change, but these three continue the theme of excellent situations, and I’d go as far as to say this might be my favourite set from the series so far.

So working from left to right as we see them on the box, we start with the Sherlock Holmes scenario. This comes with an added sheet that you fold out to form part of the game, while the cards themselves work in the same way as before. This feels slightly more detective-like than an escape room, giving more emphasis on the story of who committed the crime as opposed to how you’re going to solve your way out of a room. That’s totally fine by me, it’s still a fantastic part of the game and it was really fun to try out a different style of Unlock scenario, but just keep in mind if you complete this one first that it isn’t a sudden and dramatic change of direction for the series; you’ll be getting the more traditional Unlock gameplay in the other two scenarios.

Which, incidentally, are also both brilliant.

Next along is the Alice in Wonderland scenario, which again has an additional book which you use as part of the story alongside the cards. The story throughout this one is awesome, and with the puzzles making a return here (some of which are incredibly clever and well put together) this is an hour which flies by. We used a few clues throughout this when we got stumped, but the feeling after was never “well that was stupid”, but instead that realisation that we were just looking at it the wrong way, or had failed to link the relevant clues together to get the right result. What’s also great about this one is that despite me worrying that a lack of Alice knowledge would be a problem, it didn’t turn out that way. It’s nice to know the characters and who has what personality, but it’s no necessary – you can still very much enjoy this one with no disadvantages if you’re not overly familiar with the story of Alice in Wonderland.

And then you’ve got my favourite one: Insert Coin, a video game based scenario with an irresistible retro feel that manages to steer clear of the usual cheesy stereotypes of retro gaming and actually be a very cool and enjoyable ride. This is the only scenario of the three with no extras beyond the cards, and while there are a couple of interesting new ideas and mechanics throughout it, it feels more Unlock-like than the other two. If you’ve come to love the way things work, then this will be a huge bonus for you, but with the other two offering some slight tweaks to the formula as well there’s something here for everyone, and with these three being totally devoid of those “how the hell was I meant to figure that one out?” moments, the chances are you’ll get to the end of each without that feeling of mild irritation that lingers after an unfairly difficult puzzle.

So Heroic Adventures, the 5th set of scenarios in the Unlock series, is probably the best one so far. All three scenarios are great, each one offers something a little bit different to the others, and they all feel fair and achievable without being a walk in the park. If you’re collecting these then this is a no-brainer; alternatively if you’re yet to dip your toes into the warm waters of the Unlock games then this could be a good place to start. It’s got variety, it’s got good stories and puzzles, but most of all it’s just brilliant.

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