I love escape-room games. There are lots to choose from now, but the two series that have risen to the top are the Exit games and the Unlock adventures. The key difference between the two is that the Exit games are destructible (you cut, fold and draw on the components), whereas the Unlock games use an app.
They’ve been vying with each other for supremacy over the past few years and while some games have been better than others within both series, overall the Exit series seems to have just had the edge. The Unlock games seem to have waned particularly over the last year.
That was, until the latest installment of Unlock: Exotic Adventures. The Unlock series is back on form – with a vengeance! I’ll tell you right now, I think the Exotic Adventures are the best set of escape-room games I’ve ever played! Why? Let me explain (without spoiling anything!)…
Originally, I think I preferred the Unlock series to the Exit series. They were more thematic. They tried to tell a bit of a story. The Exit games seemed to be more focussed on the puzzles – and they had some great puzzles! – but the theme often felt a bit redundant.
As time went on though, and more games were released for each series, the Unlock games carried on doing what they were doing whereas the Exit games kept pushing the boundaries of ingenuity with their puzzles. They really made the most of the destructible nature of the game. My compatriots at Boardgame Opinions kept saying, “What more can they do?” and they kept surprising us!
Now don’t get me wrong, I still really enjoyed the Unlock games, but compared with the Exit games, they weren’t as innovative. We put this down to the nature of the two games: “The Unlock games can’t be manipulated like the Exit games can, so they’re never going to have that edge.”
However, the latest series of Unlock games seems to have rediscovered what makes their games so unique. It’s almost as if they had a conversation at Unlock headquarters…
“The Exit games seem to be doing so well.”
“Yeah, they’re really making the most of their USP.” (USP = Unique Selling Point, ie. the destructible nature of the game.)
“What can we do to get on top?”
“Well, what’s our USP?”
“Our games are more thematic, but our main USP is the app.”
“Right then, that’s what we need to work on!”
And work on it they did. Without giving away any spoilers, the single biggest improvement they’ve made with the latest series is how they use the app. There are lots of things that you can potentially do with an app. In fact, you get purely app-based escape-room games, which I enjoy.
I prefer the physical escape-room games because I prefer playing with others, but the apps have some very clever puzzles in them that you can only do on an app. Unlock has really learned from these. The Exotic Adventures set of Unlock games have some fantastic puzzles and many of the best ones are things you can only do with an app.
The thing that excites me is that there are still lots of things that I’ve seen in other apps that the Unlock series have yet to make use of. There is lots more scope for interesting and inventive puzzles if they continue to develop and make use of their app.
The other thing I loved about the Exotic Adventures was the theme. The Unlock games were already fairly thematic, but they’ve definitely made an effort to tell a story with this latest set, which I really appreciate.
One of them has an “Arabian Nights” theme and has you running around trying to save a princess. One of them is set in the lost valley of the dinosaurs and requires you to find a group of explorers who have got lost.
They’re interesting adventures with a clear narrative drive. You’re not just solving puzzles for the sake of it, you’re solving them to achieve a goal that makes sense in the context of the story. I found them much more engaging than many other escape-room games.
There was the odd puzzle that made me think, “Hmm… that’s a stretch,” but the overall experience with this latest set of Unlock adventures has been my favourite so far. Great puzzles and great stories. What more could you ask for?
Have you tried any of the Exotic Adventures yet? What did you think? (No spoilers!)