Unlock! Star Wars Escape Game by Cyril Demaegd and Jay Little, published by Space Cowboys in 2020.
I received a review copy from Asmodee Nordics.
Elevator pitch: Three Unlock! escape room puzzle scenarios set in the Star Wars universe.
What’s in the box? This is a typical Unlock! three scenario box: there’s three decks of cards, including three scenarios and a small tutorial scenario. There’s also rules, some additional paper material for one of the scenarios and a thorough solution booklet.
It’s all well done and looks good, while being true to the Star Wars license. In addition you need a smart phone or a tablet with the Unlock Star Wars app (which is different from the previous Unlock! app!). No internet connection is required to play the game once the app is installed.
What do you do in the game? Each scenario has a set goal and a time limit to achieve it. You solve puzzles by interacting with a deck of cards and the app. The cards are numbered (and lettered) and as the game proceeds, you are allowed to fetch certain cards from the deck. Some numbers are given openly in the cards, some are hidden in the cards, some are solutions from the puzzles.
There are different types of cards. Red and blue cards are combined by summing up the numbers of the cards and seeing if there’s a card matching the sum in the deck – if you have a blue key card number 5 and a red locked door card 24, it’s highly likely there’s an open door card 29.
Yellow cards require you to enter a four-digit code in the app to proceed. The codes require puzzle-solving to figure out. Green machine cards have some kind of app interaction, the puzzle is in the app and uses all kinds of capabilities a modern smart phone offers.
The app also keeps time and offers hints: you can key in a card number to get a hint about that card. This all is very smooth once you get used to it, and there’s a short five-minute tutorial scenario to familiarize you with the system.
The puzzles are a mixed bunch. Some are obvious and straightforward, some require out-of-the-box thinking. Some are more mathematical, some are based in language. All in all they are a decent mix of clever ideas, but the overall difficulty level is fairly low compared to other Unlock! scenarios: these are some of the easiest Unlock! scenarios so far.
Lucky or skillful? No random elements are involved, though sometimes spotting the hidden numbers feels a bit lucky, and of course there’s the question of how well your thought processes match what the puzzle designers are thinking.
Abstract or thematic? The Star Wars theme is superficial: don’t come expecting deep narrative, or you’ll be disappointed. It’s all about the puzzles. However, Star Wars art is nice and names are dropped and while you could probably convert these into, say, Lord of the Rings scenarios with reasonably little effort, it should be interesting enough for Star Wars fans. However, no Star Wars knowledge is required, so those who know nothing of the Star Wars world can still participate.
Solitaire or interactive? These kinds of games are always better when there are more minds involved, but it’s up to the players to run the game so that everyone gets to participate as much as they would enjoy.
Players: 1–6. One of the scenarios (An Unforeseen Delay) requires at least two players (and that’s the funniest part of the whole box, really) and in general I wouldn’t recommend these as a solitaire activity. I like these the best with two players; I don’t think there’s really enough to do for five or six players, unless you’re fine with the fact that the participation is a bit thin.
Who can play? The publisher age recommendation is 10+. I don’t see a problem including younger players in the mix, especially if they’re familiar with escape rooms and puzzles.
What’s to like: As an introduction to the world of Unlock! games this is top-notch, especially if you like the Star Wars theme. The whole package is well done – it is after all the eight set of Unlock! scenarios, so it’s to be expected they have the process well thought out at this point. I like it how you get three different aspects in the scenarios: first one is Rebels, the second one a smuggler adventure, while the third one is Imperial agents.
What’s not to like: This is super easy, if you’re experienced with puzzles. The first scenario gives you 60 minutes of time; we did it in 22 minutes, and blazed through the whole box in just 90 minutes. Had I paid for this, I would’ve been disappointed (I knew this was an easy set, and didn’t buy this myself because of that). The Star Wars theme can feel a bit thin, if you expect deep narratives.
My verdict: I knew going in that this would probably be too easy for me to really enjoy, and I was correct. It was still fun to blast through the scenarios, even though I’m not a huge Star Wars fan – I’ve watched enough movies to know the basics, but that’s about it. But I’m not in the target audience.
I think someone who hasn’t played lots of escape room games, but is interested in the concept and willing to give it a go and enjoys Star Wars, would really like this box. Even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, this is probably one of the best introductions to the Unlock! games.
On the scale of Enthusiastic, Suggest, Indifferent or Avoid, Unlock! Star Wars gets Indifferent from me for puzzle enthusiasts, but Suggest for puzzle newbies and Star Wars fans.