During Winter, parents need every tool in their arsenal to keep kids entertained — and sometimes a few short hours makes all the difference, especially if it doesn’t involve screens. Unlock! Kids: Stories from the Past may be relatively brief, but if you’re hoping to focus on two or three children between the ages of six and about ten or maybe eleven, it absolutely nails it.
With a tutorial that should last around ten to fifteen minutes and then three scenarios weighing in at anything from half an hour to an hour each (depending on whether you go all-out to collect gold stars, or just aim for basic completion) the experience of Unlock! Kids: Stories from the Past isn’t a lasting one, but it is memorable.
Before I go on, I should say that I will attempt to avoid spoilers throughout this review, although for the sake of visual appeal, I have taken a few photos of our first run-through of the very first scenario — which I don’t believe reveals much that will spoil the game for you, given that you have no context, but at least you’ve been forewarned,
Firstly, the tutorial does an excellent job of introducing the core mechanics of Unlock! Kids: Stories from the Past which essentially just boil down to “when you can see a number, you can take the component or card that matches it.” The plot for each scenario will unfold fairly naturally in this way from one clue to the next, but the additional bonus stars are much harder to spot.
As the name of the game suggests, Unlock! Kids: Stories from the Past is all about history, and the three main scenarios focus on the Stone Age, the 1800s American West and the mysteries of Hatshepsut’s Egypt. A huge part of the reason I play games with my kids is to spark their imaginations and to help them learn without realising it.
Unlock! Kids: Stories from the Past does this exceptionally well, immersing the players in whatever the story is, whilst also giving them tiny snippets into events from the past. How did our cave-dwelling ancestors make paint? How did the Ancient Egyptians view the afterlife? What was life really like during the American Gold Rush?
Unlock! Kids: Stories from the Past is also very approachable, to the extent that I was able to join the kids for the Tutorial and a small part of our first scenario, but later in the day, they managed to play the latter scenarios more or less on their own with me on hand for occasional support. It was a real joy to see two kids of different ages and prone to bickering work together to achieve an outcome, with both contributing more or less equally.
And so for about three brief hours just before Christmas, Unlock! Kids: Stories from the Past brought us peace, quiet and calm. It helped spark and develop an interest in history that led to many questions well beyond the end of the game, and I think we all had a lot of fun whilst we played. Whilst brief, Unlock! Kids: Stories from the Past is definitely worth it — assuming you had kids the right age, and perhaps if you can accept that it isn’t the most lasting experience out there.
You can purchase Unlock! Kids: Stories from the Past from Amazon.