Room-in-a-box, Mar 2021
Once every seven years the famous Master Li accepts new disciples to the Temple of the Gold Dragons – and that premise should give you an idea of this game’s theming, layered with absolutely every oriental stereotype you can think of, where inscrutable old men speak cryptic epigrams containing hidden wisdom and the cards jump from Mahjong to chopsticks to koi carp to paper fans to…
Rampant Orientalism aside, it’s attractively illustrated, and is one of Unlock’s more distinctive games in terms of game style. This game mostly abandons the classic Unlock style of ‘combine the right items’ for a succession of puzzles involving lateral thinking, visual insight, and spotting hidden significance (plus a side game in the app that doesn’t particularly fit with the rest, but is an entertaining diversion). Many of these involve the game’s special rule, which is that any time you can find or derive a set of six lines, solid or broken, you can enter these into the app as a Yi King (I Ching) hexagram, for a piece of timeless insight and more importantly a new card or two.
In this sort of Eastern wisdom training cliché, the master tends to whack the student on the knuckles at the slightest provocation; and this game has a bit of a tendency to do the same with its time penalties. You may also find frequently yourself with no obvious way to proceed. However, in such cases it’s usually clear which card or card you need to focus on, and each such apparent dead end tends to resolve with a satisfying a-ha of insight. You also have 77 minutes to complete it in instead of the normal 60.
Depending on the players, this could be a frustratingly stop-start game; or a satisfying series of challenging but fair puzzles. My experience was mostly the latter; the final step suffered from misleading wording in the instructions, but the strongest puzzles are as creative and clever as anything in the Unlock series.