Room-in-a-box, Dec 2017
They’ve been out on the far side of the Atlantic for a while now, but the three new Unlock games finally reached the U.K. in December. Here they’re sold as a single box of three games with each described as a different difficulty level, and House on the Hill is the first and easiest.
This game is set in a haunted house, and your aim is to lift a curse and drive away the demonic spirits. The game tries hard with Unlock’s typically high quality artwork, plus creepy audio from the app and suitably themed messages on the penalty cards, but a card-based play at home game is always going to struggle to provide much in the way of atmosphere, so don’t expect any goosebumps here.
House on the Hill is a very typical Unlock game, with all the strengths and weaknesses of the series. I’ve covered those in other reviews, but broadly those are the slick design, the varied puzzles and the fact that the game is very portable and reusable; offset by overly punitive penalties and cards that may leave you squinting at tiny details. This iteration is marked as the easiest of the series, and if you haven’t played an Unlock game before it’s perhaps the best one to start with. There are a couple of tough searches (here meaning numbers hidden in a card illustration), which get easier when you notice that the app’s Hidden Object button illuminates only when there’s something for you to find. Puzzles are largely straightforward combinations of objects that only gave us pause because we’d been burnt by too many other Unlock games that penalised us for trying things that seemed too obvious.
The final puzzle is a step up in difficulty, with a small gotcha that had us reaching for the penalty button. Overall, it’s a perfectly acceptable addition to the series: if you like Unlock then you’ll enjoy it, and if not you won’t; and if you don’t know if you like the series or not, it’s a good starting point to find out.