Get on Board: Unlock!

Could this virtual escape room game be a precursor to a greater immersive table top gaming experience, or is it just a recycled game from the 1990s?

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If you’ve not heard of escape rooms, you must have been living under a rock the past five years. The live-action team games where players solve clues and puzzles to get out of a set situation are everywhere now, even in the smallest of towns. But if you do live under a rock, or you just prefer the hermit way of life, then Space Cowboys can bring the excitement and frustration of the entertainment experience to you.

Unlock! has three separate virtual rooms for you to escape from in one box. Each adventure has a specific deck of cards that remain face down in a pile – and that’s it. The only additional thing you need is a smartphone (surely even rock dwellers have one of those?) to download the accompanying app. The app is required for gameplay – it acts as the timer, is needed to input codes and gives commands.

Just like an Escape Room, each card acts as a clue, key, riddle or puzzle. When instructed to, the team can flip over certain numbered cards, which may help with solving conundrums. Solve that puzzle – flip over another card. Some cards require attention to detail as they may be hiding keys to allow your team’s progression. As everything is condensed to playing card size, it may be a struggle for those with less than 20/20 eyesight. Space Cowboys does its best to replicate an actual escape room, however. The starting card is a picture of the room you are in, and the app plays atmospheric music.

Unlock! is reminiscent of 1990s board game Atmosfear, in which participants played a video tape alongside the actual board game within a timeframe of 60 minutes. But, just like Atmosfear, the game can only really be played once. There are no alternative outcomes to each adventure and they all have a set path. Despite its limited gameplay, Unlock! does offer an enjoyable hour, is easily accessible and requires no setup other than downloading the app.

Those hooked onto the game’s concept have a wide variety of titles to choose from, each containing a completely separate theme and story. Perhaps Unlock! and its counterparts will be a precursor to a greater immersive home experience. But for now – where do I use this key?

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