Asmodee – Unlock! Kids: Detective Stories [Kids’ Product Review]

Chickens, ghosts, zombies, and more…

Location:  at home

Date Played: May 2023

Team size: 1-4; we recommend 1-2 kids + 1 adult

Duration: 20 minutes x 6

Age range: 6+; we recommend 6-12

Price: about $30

REA Reaction

As a fan of the Unlock! series, I was impressed not only with how this kids-focused redesign made the game vastly more approachable for a young audience but also allowed the core of Unlock! to shine through, even to me. This trio of games offered kids the best of what Unlock! has to offer, and I thoroughly enjoyed accompanying my children (ages 7 and 10) on their quests.

UNLOCK! KIDS Detective Stories box art.

This kids’ game narrowed down all of Unlock!’s mechanisms to three core interactions: combining cards to make scenes, placing cardboard objects on the scenes to simulate interactions, and searching for hidden numbers for bonus points. This removed all math, reading, and app interactions from the experience, allowing players to focus entirely on their purpose, the objects at hand, and the scenes in front of them. Indeed, more than any other Unlock! game, this felt like a point-and-click adventure, primarily because we actually placed physical objects on the cards to progress through the game. The logic was generally tight and focused, leading to many kid-level ahas.

In addition to the stellar execution of simple mechanics, the scenarios and artwork also contributed to the success of the game. Even though the stories were not noteworthy to my particular adult mind, their straightforward purpose lodged itself in my kids’ brains and set them on a clear mission that informed their actions throughout the game. The artwork was uncluttered and interesting, maintaining an impressive cohesion across the cards and other game pieces. My kids noticed how various cards interfaced with each other, how other cards zoomed in on previous settings, and how our efforts were reflected in the images over time. So, both the puzzles and the overall ambiance were quite on my kids’ wavelength.

The hidden numbers perhaps deserve their own commentary as a long-tedious trope in the Unlock! world. As much as I loathe them myself, my kids quite enjoyed the challenge and various ways they appeared. To each their own I guess. My more objective quibble here was that the instructions presented hidden numbers as a direct way to get bonus stars, but most instances required additional deduction before the hidden number translated into a bonus. As a resilient adult well-versed in Unlock!’s tendencies to deviate from its tutorials, I was unfazed and even appreciative of these variations on a theme. However, my kids had more anxiety about this kind of trickery. Abstract extensions of game mechanics play less well with more concrete minds.

Overall, though, my kids begged to play these missions, and we finished all six within 24 hours. They’ve played a lot of tabletop games recently, and this has been their clear favorite.

Who is this for?

  • Adventure seekers
  • Point-and-click fans
  • Kids 6-12 and their adults

Why play?

  • To entrance a child with the foundations of point-and-click adventuring


This product offered three different scenarios with two separate missions apiece.

Feather Balls and Mysteries: Wander around a barnyard to deliver invitations to a duck’s friends or to figure out what happened to Mrs. Hen.

Mac Unlock’s Castle: Infiltrate Mac’s castle to prove that Mac’s ghost still lives there or to find his treasure.

Fuss at the Park: Explore a carnival to find a treasure or to stop a bunch of evil-doings!


These Unlock! games were primarily card-based with an added dollop of symbol creation.

We began each adventure by dividing a numbered card deck into sets of ten and then laying out a related set of numbered cardboard items. We proceeded by reading a short explanation of our goal and then revealing a couple of cards and objects. The rest of the game progressed by identifying card numbers within the artwork of the revealed scenes or creating symbols by matching objects to usage points within the scene. We used logic to match objects with the points in the scene, which gave the game a strong sense of purpose and direction. Each mission provided a symbol look-up table that translated symbols to card numbers, allowing us to reveal new cards and progress in our exploration.

Meanwhile, some cards had numbers hidden in the artwork. The cards associated with these numbers led to achievements but had no effect on the outcome of the game.

Each mission took about 20 minutes, and resetting a card deck only involved re-sorting the used cards back into the numbered deck.

An assortment of paper-based game components.


Asmodee’s Unlock! Kids: Detective Stories was a tabletop escape room for kids with a moderate level of difficulty for that audience.

Puzzling involved scenario-based deductions and observation skills.

Although the game was designed for kids, the adult bystanders on our team enjoyed guiding the experience.


➕ The tutorial was unexpectedly delightful and surprised even me, an Unlock! veteran. As the instructions implore, you MUST do it.

➖ The tutorial and instructions did not adequately set our expectations for how the hidden number mechanic would work. Simply explaining that more actions would be necessary beyond number identification would have clarified much.

➖ There were two different ways to combine cards into scenes, one described in the tutorial and one to be inferred throughout gameplay. The latter happened frequently, and my kids would have benefited from explicit instruction in this area.

➕ Searching for hidden numbers was much more entertaining to my children than to any adult I’ve ever met. Kids’ games are probably the right use of this mechanism.

➕ Unlike typical Unlock! games, these advise you to sort the cards into groups of ten as an organizational strategy (shhh, we do that anyway to avoid frivolous frustration). It was nice to see this acknowledged as a valid approach to gameplay. I wish all Unlock! games would follow suit.

➕ The 20-minute timeframe was pretty accurate for my kids and a good length for their attention span. It gave us the flexibility to keep playing more missions or to stagger our efforts.

➕ Placing objects on the cards to complete symbols and progress through the missions gave a whimsical point-and-click feel to the game. This was my favorite part of the experience, nostalgia acknowledged.

3 cards laying side by side, two have illustrations of a room with a table that fit together. The third has puzzle instructions.

➕ Using the same deck of cards for two different missions worked surprisingly well. The kids kept a mental model of the world they were exploring and recognized how they were engaging it in new ways. One location in particular forced my kids to think beyond their default expectations.

➕ The cardboard objects were hefty and durable. Nothing got destroyed.

➖ The carnival setting for the “Fuss at the Park” missions failed to connect with the storylines therein. Why was there a treasure? Why were there zombies? Who was Calamity Jones, and why did she shrink a voodoo witch, and why was it necessary to incorporate voodoo at all in a carnival setting? Compared to the other scenarios, this felt haphazard and disappointing, especially for the culminating experience of the game.

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: A large tabletop or floor space
  • Required Gear: Nothing. This was a self-contained experience, and we appreciated that.
  • For the “Fuss at the Park” missions, be aware that item 42 is a large piece of paper, not one of the cardboard punchouts. We had to consult the solution manual to figure this out.

Buy your copy of Asmodee’s Unlock! Kids: Detective Stories, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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