Room-in-a-box, Apr 2021
Where I’ve disliked Unlock games before, it’s pretty much always been due to confusing puzzles or overly harsh penalty-giving. In The Clutches Of Hades doesn’t particularly suffer from either of those problems, but managed to put me off it through the two gimmicks that are unique to this episode.
The first of these is a feature in the app where you can draw objects to ‘create’ them and make them available to you in the game. This is because your character is a carpenter and able to make wooden tools. This is a cute idea which allowed some good out of the box thinking; but in practice it felt like a lot of mind reading. We not only had to guess when we were intended to use this mechanism and what object we were trying to make, we also had to work out how to make a crude outline of the object on the schematic provided. After three or four wrong attempts the app prompts you with the right answer, which keeps it from being too much of a blocker but also punts you straight from frustration to a spoon-fed solution with no satisfying eureka moment in between.
The game’s other unique feature is a special transparent plastic card showing a pattern of black lines. By overlaying this on particular other cards, you can make them ‘animate’ and show otherwise hidden information. At least, that’s the idea. It sort of worked, but more often we squinted at it for a while, eventually gave up and looked at the solution, then agreed that if you knew what it was supposed to show you could more or less see it.
Having got that off my chest, the rest of the game is perfectly pleasant. It’s a story about travelling to the Greek underworld to rescue – your beloved? your good friend? no, your slave owner. It’s clearly inspired by the tale of Orpheus, without the built-in unhappy ending. I liked the way it has you travel around between islands, and the various deity cameos. It’s just that once you take out the two gimmicks (oh, and that slightly tenuous river puzzle), there’s not all that much game left to enjoy. Unlock’s creativity is admirable; that sometimes produces very good games, and sometimes produces misfires, and I’d count this as one of the latter.