Room-in-a-box, Jan 2018
The Unlock games have so far been released in sets of three, and both times the third game in the set has had the highest difficulty rating and has also seemed to be the one with all the designers’ favourite ideas. This one, The Tonipal’s Treasure, is a pirate-themed scenario that shows off the best of the Unlock format while introducing new ideas of its own.
The Mystery Adventures set of three games came with an app upgrade that added a ‘machine’ button to handle a new card type. Each of these machine cards have a special screen in the app, accessed by entering the card’s number, that allows the players to enter a solution in a custom way, tailored to that card. Obviously, that adds much more flexibility to the format. This system was used only once between the first two games, but appears multiple times in Tonipal.
Escape games, whether physical or play-at-home, tend to take place in confined areas. One of the strengths of the Unlock format is that it doesn’t need to limit itself in that way, and after a jail cell start Tonipal takes place across an entire island. It feels as much like a computer adventure game as an escape room, moving from location to location and solving a set of puzzles in each one.
At one point we thought we’d hit the problem we’d encountered in Nautilus, where we weren’t sure which of several cards to focus on, and were faced with taking potentially unwanted hints until we stumbled across one that gave away where we should be looking. But we eventually solved that section without needing to resort to random hints, and the game’s sequencing into distinct areas greatly reduces potential confusion.
Despite the high difficulty rating, most of the puzzles in Tonipal aren’t that tough, particularly in its first half. The challenge comes more from the quantity of them. There’s plenty of scope for players to confuse themselves, but very little that didn’t seem fair once solved.
A pirate theme should be fun, and Tonipal is a blast. It uses the new ‘machine’ system along with a palette of tricks from the earlier Unlock games to provide a hugely varied set of puzzles, that go way beyond searching and combining pairs of objects to a sword fight, a crude dialogue tree, and other elements that I won’t mention for spoiler reasons. Even better, it’s largely free of time penalties for trying plausible solutions.
Tonipal isn’t the best choice if you haven’t played an Unlock game before – it uses a mix of ideas and game mechanics that could be bewildering if you’re new to the system. And the ‘machine’ cards increase the reliance on the app and make it feel a little closer to a computer game, which might put you off if that’s not your thing. But otherwise, try one or two of the other Unlock games first, and then snap this one up as a juicy highlight of the series.