Ladies and Gentlemen, the following match is scheduled for one fall, introducing first weighing in at 13 oz’s Exit! And his challenger Unlock. This looks like it should be a real doozy of a match.
So what’s the crazy Peder talking about? Board Game Battles is going to be a new article series where I or Kristen or a guest poster, writes about two similar board games, compares and contrasts them, and then declares a winner. The games can be similar mechanics wise or theme wise, just something consistent across them that people compare them. The first match is Exit versus Unlock.
Exit and Unlock are both escape room board games. You’ve probably heard of the trend of escape rooms around the country. These are rooms where you are “locked” in and maybe given a clue of where to start, but then, in a time limit, you need to figure out various puzzles and find clues to get the code or key to unlock the door and escape the escape room. The two games battling are like this, but instead of going to a physical location, paying a chunk of money, these all come in small boxes. I don’t really know what they weigh, I just needed it for the intro. Both of the games come in very small boxes with cards, maybe a book, or possibly a few other things. These are very small games, but there is plenty of game to each of them.
The Exit game that I’ve played had a booklet that you used for solving your puzzles. You’d look for clues, fold pages, and mess with the box and other odds and ends in the box to try and figure out the puzzles. If they got too tricky for you, you could flip over a card to get a hint depending on what puzzle you were working on. Then once you think you’ve solved the puzzle, you would match the characters of the key to the symbols on a wheel and that would give you a numerical clue. You’d then flip a card with that number and see if you got the right key or not. If you did it would give you more information to solve future puzzles, if you didn’t, you’d know to go back to the drawing board. Once you’ve gotten the whole thing completed you check your time and you get a ranking on how long it took you.
Similar to Exit, however, Unlock doesn’t have a booklet and it has an application instead. The application is where you enter in the various keys and codes you need to throughout the game. And instead of counting up, the time counts down. So you’re trying to combine cards, look for clues, and make equipment and figure out the answers confidently. However, if you get it wrong, you have to press the got it wrong button in the app (if a card tells you to) and now you lose time. And suddenly your hour of time to solve everything is getting shorter faster. When the time runs out you “lose” technically, however, you can continue with the time counting up now and you still get a rating at the end.
There are a few big differences. The first being the Exit games booklet. This means that you are all crowding around a booklet and that they can lay out some elaborate puzzles. This was sometimes put to good use in the Exit game that we played, and also allowed you to manipulate the pages to line things up differently to solve puzzles. Beyond that, the Exit games use the whole box. The one that we played, you had to use the box insert to figure out one of the puzzles and really you should have pulled it apart, but we were playing with a store copy, so we couldn’t do that. The other big thing is the timing. While the Exit game counts up and you can play for as long as you want, the Unlock game counts down. In my opinion, I like counting down a whole lot better. This means that you can’t just agonize over a puzzle for a long time, instead you’re feeling the crunch to come up with an answer and get the puzzle solved. And with that, then you are torn between taking a stab at something and solving it quickly or potentially losing time because you got it wrong. Finally, the app is different as well, there was actually an audio clue for the unlock game we were playing, and that was fun. It also has a nicer way of giving hints as you can do that through the app.
Both of them have interesting puzzles though, and they do try and develop a little bit of story as time goes by. For a very small game, both of them pack a ton of content in as well. each of them has a number of puzzles to solve and while you have to solve all of the puzzles to get out in the end, you don’t have to solve them in a certain order. Sometimes there are a couple that you can be working on.
So, who wins the first board game battle? I’m giving the victory to: Unlock
There are a few main reasons why I think unlock is better. First, while Unlock is more limited on the puzzles it can do, because it’s only using the cards, that makes it easier for more people to be engaged. Some people can be looking at other cards than other people, and you can spread them out more on the table. Even with three people playing the Exit game, it was hard for all of us to be at the book at one time, and that was what was really needed to get a lot of the puzzles completed. Secondly the timing makes a big difference in the game. Counting down and worrying about running out of time is way more stressful than counting up, and it makes you want to work faster. That pressure is a good thing as it makes the game seem like it means more to complete. The app is also very nice as it allows them a bit more that they can do with puzzles, and it’s less fiddly to get a code entered in than for the Exit games. Finally, the Exit games are not reusable. Yes, I played a store copy, so that means I am technically wrong, but really the box/insert/booklet should all be mangled to a point that no one can play it again. Sure, with the unlock games we’ll play them once and not be able to play them again, but we can pass it on to someone else, that is not the case with the Exit games.
Both games are fun, and if you are fine dropping the money, about $15 into the Exit games for a one off experience, they are a lot of fun still. I think that the Unlock games just work a little bit better and are a bit better thought out in terms of a board game experience. Neither are bad though, and you aren’t guaranteed of having a good time, but if you like those puzzle sort of games or if you like escape rooms, you’ll likely enjoy either of these games.