This year at the “Game of the Year” there was the Connoisseur Game of the Year special prize for the “Game Adventures”. Unlock! series. Just in time for the SPIEL, there was a sixfold increase in supplies Series of app-supported escape games. The “Shorts” promise to implement the usual Unlock! concept in around half the usual playing time. We tested the titles in the series.
The success story of the Unlock! series began in 2017. The “Escape Adventures” already introduced Professor Noside, the most frequently occurring antagonist in the series. The app support, which is the heart of the series, already existed back then. New things were tried out again and again using the following scenarios. Regardless of whether it is creative applications of the app or other new ideas that are implemented with additional rules: there is never a lack of fresh air. For me, this series is at the top of the escape game genre.
The new line of “shorts” cuts the playing time to about half. Instead of 60 to 90 minutes, these scenarios only last about 30 to 45 minutes. In terms of scope, they are comparable to the promotional individual scenario “The Iron Mask”. At that time (probably because of the shorter playing time) this was rated with half of a possible three difficulty points. In the “Shorts” it would be pretty much in the middle of the pack and probably get two out of three difficulty points.
The concept does not change compared to the “Longs”. The only difference is the missing code puzzles (yellow).
There are red and blue cards that, when combined correctly, form the number of a new card. Green cards are machines that can be operated and solved in the app. Gray cards contain important clues for solving other puzzles.
As you discover new locations, you will find new cards whose numbers are highlighted. Some numbers are also hidden. You can only discover these if you look closely.
This is how you work your way through puzzle by puzzle to the end of the scenario. At the end, the app gives you a rating based on the time required and the penalties received (e.g. for incorrect entries on machines).
From classic to extraordinary: The six scenarios at a glance
Whether you're a newbie or an experienced Unlock! fan, there's something for everyone in the shorts. As in the larger scenarios, there are scenarios that use the app almost exclusively as a timer and for the machines, and those that integrate it in more unusual ways.
I played all of the “shorts” solo and report my impressions without spoilers.
Secret family recipes
My first and easiest “shorts” scenario is all about baking. Armed with the eponymous recipes, we try to win a local cooking competition.
Central to this scenario is an additional rule that creates a gaming experience that is unusual for the Unlock! series. Personally, I liked this change (similar to “The Night Full of Terror”). Even though the difficulty is very easy apart from the additional rule, it is a successful scenario. However, I would not recommend it as an introduction to the world of Unlock! games, as it differs greatly from the “average” gaming experience. For the final puzzle, a larger screen with the app is recommended.
Rating: Feel: 6.5/10 Perceived difficulty: 2/10
The Dungeon of Doo-Arann
The setting here is a classic adventure scenario in which we want to capture the dragon's treasure. The Dungeon of Doo-Arann, despite having the same stated difficulty, offers noticeably more challenge than Secret Family Recipes.
Here the app is used in a “magical” way and the scenario offers varied puzzles that bring you closer to the treasure, card by card. In the end, only the dragon stands between the adventurers and the treasure.
This is a feel-good scenario in terms of difficulty. The topic is also implemented without any major surprises. However, through the successful integration of the app, you can collect the necessary plus points to attract positive attention.
Rating: Feeling of the game 7.5/10 Difficulty felt 4/10
The angel's flight
Here we find ourselves in Venice in 1758. As Giacomo Casanova, we try to steal “important plans” at the beginning of the Venice Carnival. With the exception of one puzzle, this scenario can also be played alone despite the stated number of people being 2-6. Since the app announces the group puzzle, you could also turn it into a “memory task” when playing alone.
The puzzles here are very varied and cover everything from skill to visual to cracking a code. The app accompanies the scenario with appropriate music.
For me, “The Angel's Flight” is one of the best scenarios in the “Shorts”, which offers a great mix of the usual Unlock! elements and surprises, both thematically and in terms of puzzles.
Rating: Feeling of the game 8.5/10 Difficulty felt 6/10
The Search for Cabrakan
The setting here is comparable to “The Dungeon of Doo-Arann”. We are looking for treasure again. Instead of a castle, we puzzle our way through a cave hidden in the jungle.
The unexciting setting lacks that certain something that could make it stand out from the mediocrity. Without any surprises in the story, we'll be puzzling over one or two “Indiana Jones moments” in order to hopefully escape the cave with the legendary treasure at the end.
Rating: Feeling of the game 5/10 Difficulty felt 6.5/10
The mummy awakens
This scenario is the most compelling thematically. Supposedly the mummy is supposed to simply walk through the corridors of the “Red Pyramid”. We don't really want to believe that and try to bring the truth to light.
The atmosphere created by the visuals and acoustic background is extremely well done. Even in the big Unlock! games there are few such immersive scenarios.
It helps that the puzzles are rather simple and you can fully immerse yourself in the story and the “feeling”. For me personally, it is the strongest scenario of the “shorts” and would have received full marks with slightly more crunchy puzzles.
Rating: Feeling of the game 9.5/10 Difficulty felt 5/10
The Octopus' Treasure
In this scenario inspired by “Pirates of the Caribbean” we go looking for treasure again, although we actually already have the treasure. The only problem is that he has a voodoo curse placed on him that we now have to break.
In this scenario, the app is again very heavily integrated. Unfortunately, the good idea feels rather complicated to implement.
While it is still far from the highest difficulty level in the Unlock! series despite the stated maximum difficulty, this is not a scenario for beginners. Anyone who is already familiar with other games in the series will find this a challenging but easily solvable task.
Rating: Feeling of the game 6.5/10 Difficulty felt 7.5/10
Information about Unlock! shorts
|Number of people: 1-6 people; “The Angel Flight” 2-6 people|
Age: from 10 years
Playing time: 30/45 minutes
Difficulty: expert game
Long-term motivation: one-time game
Classification: escape game
Game idea: Cyril Demaegd
Scenarios: Cyril Demaegd, Vincent Goyat, Fosco Garibaldi, Mathieu Casnin
Illustrations: Neriac, Pandaluna, Cyrille Bertin, Pierre Santamaria, Bruno Tatti, Arnaud Demaegd
Publisher: Space Cowboys; German edition: Asmodee
Official Website: Link
Year of publication: 2023
Cost: approx. 7 euros
The “relationship” to the Unlock! series can be felt at every corner with the “shorts”. Everything is known. It's just that the playing time is less. The concept also works well with the shorter playing time.
Basically, the perceived difficulty of the “shorts” is about one level easier than that of the long representatives of the series. “Secret Family Recipes” is by far the easiest puzzle scenario in the entire series. Even the additional challenge through an additional rule that is offered there doesn't change much.
The cards are, as you know, beautifully and variedly designed. The acoustic background music provided by the app is also atmospheric and very well done, as usual.
If you haven't been able to do anything with the Unlock! series, you won't be able to do anything with the "shorts" either. For fans, the shorts offer the usual quality and entertainment in an after-work format and are great for bridging the waiting time until the 12th box (Supernatural Adventures) is released in Germany.
Even beginners who have never tried an Unlock! game before have an alternative, both in terms of price and time, to try out the concept of the series.
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