Unlock! Kids review

During the summer break, it’s nice to be able to spend some time with the kids, and after a busy day at a theme park, pool or beach it’s great to have an option to play something together. Unlock! Kids is the kid-friendly version of Space Cowboys’ acclaimed escape room-inspired games, and here’s why we thought it could meet that need really well.

Although we were familiar with Unlock!, we hadn’t played it yet – having kids under ten means anything too taxing is going to be rough, and they’ll probably lose interest quickly. This kid-specific version of the game makes a few tweaks to the formula that make it very family-friendly, and not just because the mysteries are easier to solve.

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Rather than rely on reading (where a 6 or 7 year old could very well struggle to keep up), Unlock! Kids is much more about observation, with puzzles that rely mostly on simple logic and deduction rather than complex reasoning. When playing one of the six included mysteries you’ll see a bit of written text for context (an adult can play along as both storyteller and guide), but the puzzles themselves rely mostly on numbers, symbols and materials. You’ll get a small selection at the start of each game, and numbered cards will tell you when you’ve figured out a puzzle and how to proceed.

As you’d expect, the included stories all have kid-friendly writing, and the six missions are divided up between three different stories, each with two narratives attached to them. It’s pretty lighthearted stuff and kids will mostly be in “I know what to do!” mode, but we found that the story helps them feel like heroes while they’re doing it.

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As an adult, you’ll find that the puzzles lack challenge, but there’s a lot of fun in playing together with kids. When there’s an age difference, you could try to delegate tasks by having the young kids go after visual clues while the older ones solve logic-based challenges. When they get stuck, you can act as a gamemaster of sorts, reminding them of the hints in the story and where they could possibly look next. The puzzles are designed in a way so that kids will eventually be able to solve them, even if it’s with a nudge in the right direction.

The cards and materials are well made, but their small size can make it tough to play this with a larger group. When playing with the maximum recommended number of players (which is 4), it can feel a bit like a crowd – something else for the ‘gamemaster’/parent to manage in that case. Kids can also play this solo, but the sweet spot is probably to play this with two or three kids and an adult, which allows for cooperation without getting in each others’ way.

As a card-based mystery/escape room game, Unlock! Kids is extremely portable and travels well, which makes this a great choice for the summer – no matter if you’re traveling or staying home.

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