Six years after EXIT, the Unlock! series, which is distributed in German by Asmodee, also received one of the coveted awards from Spiel des Jahres e. V.. The connoisseur and children's game special prize goes to the escape game series from the French publisher Space Cowboys. Over thirty scenarios have been released so far and with the Extraordinary Adventures the next box is already waiting for localization. The tenth box, whose scenarios are all based on popular board games, has now been honored as representative of the entire series.
The series of app supported Unlock! games has been around since 2017. Nothing will be destroyed. Things only get kinked every now and then, but when it comes to sustainability and reusability, the Unlock! games are the EXIT series of Kosmos clearly superior. There is atmosphere via the soundtrack from the app, which is even individual for most scenarios.
As far as the integration of the app is concerned, new things are always being tried out here - making noises, turning the mobile phone, scanning - everything can be necessary to solve the puzzles. Sometimes these "experiments" are outstanding and offer a great change from the classic feel of the series. Sometimes these are not so successful.
33 scenarios have been published so far. I've already played through 22 of them (mostly solo). To celebrate what I think is a well-deserved special award, I've decided to present ten of my favorite scenarios here.
The jury justified the special prize by saying that Unlock! always succeeds in surpassing and reinventing oneself. "The use of technical gimmicks enriches the analogue gaming experience, creates atmosphere and surprises with unforeseen effects such as moving graphics on cards.” it goes on to say in the justification.
Finally it says: "The quality that has increased over the years and the outstanding inventiveness of the puzzles, atmosphere and story of the whole "Unlock!” teams culminating in “Unlock! Game Adventures” and “Unlock! Kids: Detective Stories”. The jury honored this with a special award.”
My favorites of the series
I have summarized scenarios from a total of seven different boxes on this list. From some boxes I have only played individual cases or from the Mystery Adventures and from the Star Wars-Box no cases played yet. These cannot therefore occur here.
Especially with one-time games (only) the first impression counts. Combined with the individual stories and the constantly challenging puzzles, this list can only be subjective. Since everything should be as spoiler-free as possible, each scenario is only briefly discussed. The stars indicate the difficulty. There are three levels of difficulty in the Unlock! series: Easy, Medium and Hard.
10th place – train to train *
It also starts directly with a scenario from the prizewinner box. Ticket to Ride is a scenario of the easiest difficulty. The board game of the same name, on which the scenario is based, was itself an award winner in 2004 for Game of the Year.
The story of the scenario is exciting. Traveling across the United States is captured here even better than in the board game. The different colors of the tracks are also relevant in the Unlock! version of the game.
The beautiful puzzles are not only a pleasure for fans of the board game. For me the best scenario of the game adventures, even if the most difficult scenario that's on Pandemic based, is also very successful.
9th place – A noside story *
Professor Noside is a recurring antagonist in the Unlock! series. The mad genius threatens the world with his sinister plans over and over again. But thanks to the great cartoon look that characterizes his scenarios, he never seems that dangerous.
In A noside story, the lightest scenario of the Secret Adventures, we “visit” Noside in his domicile. Something must have happened there, because a dense fog has settled over the region. Like all cases with Noside, this one is just plain fun. The visuals and soundtrack match the puzzles, which are mostly simple and easy to solve.
So it's fun to meet the professor again.
8th place – The seventh performance *
Although it bothers the inner monk, this scenario lands in my eighth place. After all, it's in the seventh Unlock! Box Epic Adventures included.
What begins as a leisurely visit to the cinema becomes a truly cinematic adventure over the course of the 60-piece deck of cards. The clever puzzles immerse you in the story of this scenario, which is one of the best in the entire series.
In the end, you're not just there, you're right in the middle of the film that you actually only wanted to see. Luckily, you don't have to be scared, even though it's a horror film.
7th place – Sherlock: The Scarlet Thread **
Similar to Noside, what is probably the most famous detective of all time makes multiple appearances in the Unlock! series. Due to the setting, the story is accordingly oriented a bit more towards a crime thriller and you have to solve the murder of Mr. Hall here.
Hearing witnesses and reconstructing suspects' movements offers a slightly different feel than what you're used to from other games in the series. This variety makes this scenario stand out positively in the series, as it combines the aspects of a crime game with the "classic" feel of the Unlock! series in a very successful way.
It's not for nothing that she belongs Heroic Adventures Box to which this case belongs is one of my favorites.
6th place – Lost in the vortex of time ***
Just before the Heroic Adventures for me there are only those Timeless Adventures. The most difficult scenario of the box, which was surprisingly easy to play, bears the name Lost in the vortex of time. Here, too, you meet a professor. However, Alcibiades Tempus is not the villain of the story, but we have to help him, since his experiments with his time machine may not have brought all good things.
It goes through different levels of time and again and again our actions at one point in time influence the possibilities at other points in time.
I generally love time travel as a theme in board games and again it works very well here. The puzzles can be solved very intuitively, especially given that the scenario is assigned the hardest difficulty, and the whole adventure can be played through fluently.
5th place – The Noside Show *
Another academic who challenges us in the Unlock! series. This time again as a villain in the person of Professor Noside. What does the circus Diosen have to do with Noside's plans? Why did everyone get free tickets to the circus?
Like the circus performance, the puzzles are wonderfully varied and easy according to the stated difficulty. This was the first and so far only scenario that I was able to play through without any hints.
Here, too, the fun factor in the puzzles is very high, even if animal welfare would certainly object to the solution of some puzzles.
4th place – Tombstone Express **
An Unlock! scenario that doesn't look like Unlock! feels. The second scenario with trains on this list scores with a very open story.
Piece by piece, information spreads without really many cards being discarded. Unlike many other Unlock! games, the majority of the cards are revealed at the end of the game. While playing, you're already guessing what this story could lead to.
If you're really looking for a classic Unlock! scenario, you might not be 100% happy with Tombstone Express. If you like crime games that involve identifying the culprit and correctly interpreting statements, then this case will be a very positive surprise.
3rd place – Action Story *
Even in an overall rather weak box like that Legendary Adventures there is an excellent scenario. The story of the "Action Story" is not surprising at first, only to take a completely unforeseen step just before halfway through.
At the latest from then on the fun of this adventure is high. The puzzles fit perfectly into the new setting and once again belong to the category of puzzles that are simply fun. The final puzzle is a prime example of how well app and analog game can be combined.
2nd Place – Down the Rabbit Hole ***
In addition to many literary role models such as "Sherlock Holmes", "The Wizard of Oz" or "Around the World in 80 Days", "Alice in Wonderland" also has its own scenario.
If it weren't for the final puzzle in this scenario, there would have been chances of first place. Apart from that, you are challenged here with imaginative puzzles built into the story really well.
Among the scenarios of the highest level of difficulty, this captivates with an ease that is otherwise rarely found in these. The wondrous world of wonderland makes this scenario a real experience.
Along with Sherlock: The Scarlet Thread this scenario in particular ensures that despite a moderate third scenario (Corner Insert) the Heroic Adventures Box just behind the Timeless Adventures lies when it comes to naming my favorite box.
1st place – Professor Nosides TIER-O-MAT **
The good Professor Noside has been on this list twice already. At the end of the day, he (or his TIER-O-MAT) deserves the limelight again.
Everything that applied to the other adventures with Professor Noside applies to this adventure. The story in combination with the cartoon look and the wonderfully absurd TIER-O-MAT make it hard to stop smiling.
Some of the puzzles and their solutions are so nicely thought out around the corner, especially thanks to the TIER-O-MAT, which will be invaluable more than once without completely drifting off into confusion. The medium difficulty of this adventure is a real puzzle feel-good place.
Here the balance between crazy and ingenious is right down to the last detail of the scenario.
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