Time Stories creator announces ‘escape the room’ card game Unlock


Title planned for January release combines a 60-card scenario deck with a free companion app

The next big release from Time Stories publisher Space Cowboys will be an ‘escape the room’ card puzzle game, Tabletop Gaming can reveal.

Unlock: The Escape Room Adventure Game uses a mechanic similar to the item card deck seen in Time Stories, where players will be able to combine numbered and colour-coded cards in order to solve riddles and discover new objects.

Each scenario – of which three will be included in the base game – will consist of 60 cards illustrated by different artists, with a 20 card tutorial deck available to get to grips with the basics.

The cards will be used in conjunction with a free companion app, which serves as a timer and hint giver, among other utilities.

In one demonstration scenario, players were tasked with beating a 10-minute challenge by inputting a correct door code found by combining physical cards into the app, with 10 hints offered. The more hints that are used, the lower the players’ final score – with time taken also playing a role.

“The idea came from the escape room,” Space Cowboys’ François Doucet explained at this year's Essen Spiel. “We were very pleased and we liked it. So one of us – Cyril [Demaegd] – came up with a cool little system. We wanted to capture the experience of an escape room. He wanted to make a very, very simple system because we want people to be concentrated on the riddle and the enigma and not on the rules. So he kept it very, very simple.

“We started to use an app in order to help the game move along, but it's not a game you play with the app, it's a game you play with the cards. The app is kind of a stopwatch, hint machine, code machine and whatever. So we're going to be releasing it probably in a little box. Each case – each room – is made of 60 cards. You've got the rulebook, of course, but you don't need to read it. The app is free, and then you do your tutorial and you play it.

“This is a card game but the app gives us music, mood. We can do events; we can have something happen at 10 minutes, 15 minutes and so on. In one game, for instance, you have a bomb and an alarm clock and stuff like that. So it can help enhance the game, just like a game master can in an escape room. But it's not an actual person and it won't tell you what to do – maybe help you along the way, but nothing more, because we didn't want to have more interaction than that with the application.”

Doucet added that much like the ‘console’ included in the core Time Stories’ set, which can be used to support new gameplay mechanics in the title’s expansions, Unlock would be expanded beyond the trappings (no pun intended) of the escape the room genre.

“It started as an escape room game, but we think this system is too good to keep just on the escape room level,” he said. “That's why we're going to make another box and this box will have themes much broader than just escape rooms. Even there, there's a tutorial, which is 20 cards, about half an hour.”

Doucet went on to reveal that Unlock is currently planned for a January release date, but that the final date and format of the game could change “depending on feedback” from distributors. A second expansion set, including three new scenarios, is slated for launch in June 2017.

"Our first scenario will be a look for a serum formula in a laboratory,” he said of the initial release. “[One] is an homage to [computer] games like Day of the Tentacle and point-and-click games. That's something you can't do in a real escape room, by the way. [Another] is like an Indiana Jones story with traps and adventure.

“The next box in June is going to be about a haunted manor and some kind of pirate story and the Nautilus."