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Tabletop Escape Room UNLOCK! Returns With Dinosaurs, Boogeymen, and Arabian Nights

Tabletop Escape Room UNLOCK! Returns With Dinosaurs, Boogeymen, and Arabian Nights

This genre has exploded. There are gobs of tabletop escape room games vying for our attention, each offering their own set of gizmos and props to enrapture. The Unlock! series from Asmodee Imprint Space Cowboys is perhaps the best.

This is a mature product. I don’t mean in terms of content rating–sit down Dee Snyder–but rather in how it has grown over time. This series has seen 12 small box releases now, each progressing and furthering the creative boundaries of its predecessors. Most remarkable of all, this system has not turned stale.

The latest wave includes a trio of slobberknockers. Night of the Boogeymen features the lowest difficulty rating of the bunch. It’s a playful tale of a young child assembling his toys and stuffed animals to fight off the dark recesses of his mind, manifested through terrors lingering in the physical recesses of the bedroom.

Boogeymen sets the figurative table and prepares you for what is to come. This newest set features an inventive take on machines. Machines in this instance refer to a specific mechanism in Unlock, a sort of mini-game puzzle hosted entirely in the companion application. The solution to these enigmas must be pieced together through the analog adventure, the group splicing narrative and clue to formulate a metaphorical magic word.

Unlocked_MagicCarpet

The evolution of the application and this new breed of machines makes for a compelling ride. This is carried throughout Scheherazade’s Last Tale and Expedition Challenger. The former, inspired by the famous Tales of Arabian Nights work, also makes ample use of the central deck of cards to feature a new travel mechanic which proves interesting. The latter goes the opposite direction and hosts a more significant chunk of the game on the application, allowing you to explore a prehistoric countryside and stumble into the unknown with bated breath.

This oddball approach really provides an identity to Challenger. It allows the title to stand above the other two releases of this fourth wave and leave an indelible impression on your brain matter. This stands alongside the previous set’s The Adventures of Oz as the two most significant entries in the entire catalog.

Unlocked_Components

The common theme here is innovation. It’s astounding how such a simple design of flipping cards that tell you to flip other cards can really broach new systems all the while integrating an actual coherent story. It’s the primary reason Unlock! is a superior release to competitors such as Exit and Escape Room: The Game.

It’s also quite interesting to evaluate the system and these releases in comparison to Space Cowboys other similar escape room design, T.I.M.E Stories. That product line initially offered a very intriguing cardboard point and click adventure, but it ultimately lost itself when attempting to reach for greater meaning. By attempting to formulate coherence and ongoing linked narrative, it lost much of what made it unique in the first place. Unlock has avoided straying from its strengths and has seamlessly progressed along a path of continued success.

Despite all this talk of progression, these three releases stick to the same functional format of their predecessors. This is still a 60-minute cooperative escape room-adjacent experience that presents puzzles and cognitive involvement. They’re still best tackled by 2-4 friends ready to devote a chunk of time and immerse themselves in a wonderful little story. They’re still incredibly affordable for the gameplay on offer, avoiding the nuisance of destroying components found in their competitors.

The latest group of Night of the BoogeymenScheherazade’s Last Tale, and Expedition Challenger pack a wallop. Unlock is not slowing down, on the contrary, it may just be getting started.

 

Image Credits: Space Cowboys

In addition to Geek & Sundry, Charlie Theel writes for Ars Technica, Tabletop Gaming, Player Elimination, and co-hosts the gaming podcast Ding & Dent. You can find him on Twitter @CharlieTheel.

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