Room-in-a-box, Jun 2019
Unlock! are nothing if not experimental. I imagine it’s due to the variety of designers involved, typically a different designer for each game, but the way each game is distinctive not just in presentation but in gameplay is one of the series’s particular strengths – although that comes with the drawback of inconsistent style of play.
Each set of three games tends to come with a spread of difficulties, and Boogeymen is the game rated ‘easy’ in the Exotic Adventures set. (Yes, they’re clearly running short of good adjectives to use for their naming scheme.) While the lower difficulty rating means somewhat fewer puzzles and a more kid-friendly style, there’s no guarantee you’ll actually find it easier to solve than their others – if anything, the puzzle style of their ‘easy’ games can translate to more unexpected logical leaps required.
Your mission is to battle the Boogeymen on behalf of a sleeping child. Unusually, the game starts by going through a sequence of instructions and information about the Boogeymen rather than plunging you straight into some exploration cards; but it needs to do that to establish some special rules for this game, regarding what to do when one of the Boogeymen cards emerges. (A minor gripe: if you’re going to start the game with a fixed sequence of instruction cards, why not put them all at the top of the deck instead of making the players laboriously search through for each one in turn?)
These special rules will be make-or-break for your experience of the game. Without giving details, they’re somewhere between silly, annoying and fun, according to your tastes. I quite liked them, though they outstayed their welcome a little – though that is dependent on how quickly you solve the puzzles, and in what order.
As usual with Unlock!, Boogeymen is too free with penalty cards, although this game gets credit for experimenting with a much more creative and entertaining way to apply a penalty (and in that instance it even gives clear warning not to do the action that incurs the penalty!). The puzzles, the actual meat of the game, are fairly slight, and two of the key steps struck me as weak. On the other hand, given the low difficulty rating, this isn’t a game designed to give your brain cells a serious workout.
It’s cute. It’s fun, moreso if you don’t take it seriously. As a puzzle game, it’s one of Unlock!’s weaker titles; but it’s enjoyable on its own merits. Best played with children – or perhaps while tipsy.