Unlock!, a series of cooperative card-based escape adventures from Space Cowboys. Each Unlock! game consists of sixty cards depicting objects, maps, and puzzles that can be activated, solved, or combined in an effort to access other cards and areas. Up to six players work cooperatively to solve each of the riddles and get through the deck within sixty minutes. The free companion app tracks the time allotted to win the game, while also offering hints and unlocking new, and necessary, elements. When the players believe they have figured out the code to escape each adventure, they will input the number into the app and escape the danger, or lose even more time in finding the real sequence.
Each box includes a ten-card tutorial deck so even those less experienced in the art of escape can dive right into the game experience. The tutorial briefly introduces each of the game's different card types and interactions so every player knows just how to take advantage of the cards in the game. We will use some of the tutorial cards to help illustrate the game here.
Your adventure begins with a starting card, explaining the situation in which you find yourself. To begin your escape, you then flip over this starting card and start the clock in the app. The card's backside will show a map scattered with numbers corresponding to other cards in the deck. You will have to combine or otherwise use these cards to unlock more of the deck. As you proceed, you will be instructed to discard anything that you won't be able to use again so you can keep your focus on the newly revealed puzzles.
Crunching the Numbers
There are a number of different cards you may encounter both in the starting room and throughout the game. Objects, machines, and codes will make up the majority of your puzzles, requiring a keen eye or a sharp mind to solve. Objects, for example, can be red or blue and can be combined with one another. When you match a red and blue card, you will add the numbers in the upper left-hand corner of the card. If there is a card in the deck matching the sum, it is a viable combination. Be careful though—some cards combinations will lead you into traps, and a wrong guess can result in a nasty time penalty.
Time penalties can be incurred in one of two ways: first, by combining cards incorrectly and flipping a penalty card; and second, by making an incorrect guess on the app. Some cards—yellow codes—will ask you to enter a four-digit code into the app in order to proceed with the adventure or to make your ultimate escape. For every incorrect code guess, however, you will be given a penalty, removing time from the clock and lowering your final score.
You may encounter other cards, including new locations, complicated machines, and object modifiers, all of which will lead you to explore even further. Many cards will also feature hidden objects such as numbers or illustrations. These can be concealed just about anywhere and will often provide clues necessary to move forward in the adventure. If you ever find yourself stuck in the game, the app also has "hint" and "hidden object" buttons that are specific to each adventure. Using these will result in a lower score at the end of the game, but may provide the nudge you need to figure out your next steps.
Your First Escape
The first Unlock! adventure, The Formula, takes you deep into the tunnels of New York's subway system in search of a brilliant chemist and his recently developed serum. Doctor Hoffman has been working for The Department developing a truth serum of sorts, but his communications with the agency have tapered off, and they have asked you to check in and retrieve this nearly-completed formula.
Unlock! Squeek & Sausage is the second escape adventure in the series. In this cartoon adventure, you'll be challenged to stop the diabolical Professor Noside from detonating his doomsday device. After getting caught in his clever traps, you'll have to do some quick thinking to break out and foil his evil plot.
The last and most difficult of the first three Unlock! adventures is The Island of Doctor Goorse. While the other adventures can be played by a single individual, this one requires at least two players, adding unique mechanics to the game. Following a crash on the island of an eccentric antiques collector and billionaire, you and your fellow players will be split into teams and cut off from one another, trying to simultaneously reestablish communication and find a way off the mysterious isle.
When you decipher and enter the final code for each of these adventures, you will be given a score for your efforts. This rating will depend on how many hints and hidden objects you needed help with, whether you entered any codes incorrectly, and how long you took to reach the end. Every play of the game will get you closer to the expert five stars, so even if you don't get there right away, pay attention to the correct path so you can improve your score the next time around. With three unique stories and puzzles to explore right off the bat, and the challenge of achieving a five-star score, you'll always have a mystery to solve and a clock to beat with Unlock!.
In the meantime, Android users can get a taste of the Unlock! system with a demo of the game, available here. You can download a beta version of the app for Android, the full game rules, a get-started guide, the game tutorial, and a limited-duration adventure, The Elite. Enjoy!