Sleuth Kings: Case 012 – Dark Secrets (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Mini-golf Mobsters!

Theme:

Picking up right where Case 011 left off, Celeste St. Claire owes some dangerous folks a lot of money. She also owes the Dayton Art Museum no less than three paintings she stole. It’s a pickle that Sullivan King has graciously agreed to help extract her from, but it isn’t going to be an easy task. The mob boss Giovanni Moretti is her main debtor, and he’s not known for his patience or even-keeled handling of those who cross him! Celeste has a plan to bring this mobster to his knees, however, if you can figure out how to find his little black(mail) book!

First Impressions:

Sequels are always a good time; the last time a sequel was produced, Case 008, it became one of my favorite Sleuth Kings boxes! This time, we were going against the mob boss that was coercing Celeste into stealing fine art for him on his own (astro)turf at The Playground’s mini golf course! Oh Sullivan, you bring us into the most insane circumstances.

High Points:

Per usual, each clue we received along the way ranged from clear cut decoding to delightfully devious metapuzzling, offering a full range of interactions and enigmas to keep us fully entertained. Setting a mafia mystery within a putt putt course is a stroke of hilarious genius, keeping the tone lighthearted and fun. The banter between Sullivan and Celeste is great, and continues to prove that Sullivan is at his best when working with an on site partner. I’d definitely like to see more from this reformed art thief in the future! Props are snazzy and most are much deeper than originally thought, leading to great ah ha moments. Almost every puzzle included still contain another layer of puzzling hidden within later clues that work towards the metapuzzle, and every prop opens up new avenues of investigation. One piece of the puzzle in particular has an astounding amount of clues included, which lead to so many satisfying conclusions!

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Case 012 Alternate title: Putt Putt and Mob Bosses.

Low Points:

Unlike the previous sequel in the Sleuth Kings universe, I think it is more required to experience Case 011 beforehand. Though this one can technically be played stand alone, the story would suffer more due to not having quite the investment in the art thief’s plight. The main puzzle of this case also comes across as vague, as two key parts of the puzzle itself aren’t quite clear. It took us several readings to determine a particular key piece of information that is given a bit later in the game flow, and as a result, the clues themselves didn’t make sense initially. It would’ve helped immensely had this information been presented earlier, as for the initial parts of the experience, we were under the impression that there were fewer moving parts than there really were.

Verdict:

Dark Secrets is another excellent addition to the Sleuth Kings universe, adding compelling characters, layered and challenging, but ultimately satisfying puzzling, and another fantastic story line. I highly recommend checking it out, and ordering Case 011 as well in order to get the full experience. You should also subscribe so that you don’t miss out on any of the fun! Use the promo code ESCAPEADVENTURE to get $5 off your subscription here! You can also read the rest of our Sleuth Kings reviews here!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

Finders Seekers – Mexico City, Mexico (September Box Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players: We recommend 1-4

Price: $30 per box

This one made me want to watch Coco again.

Theme:

Each month, Finders Seekers invites you to accept a mysterious mission from the head seer. These “finds” are located in cities around the world and involve high stakes, cryptic puzzling, and shadowy societies! You’ll need a clever mind and some google-fu in order to piece together the puzzles and complete the find! And when you do, you might even receive a reward!

First Impressions:

Each month we’ve noticed that Finders Seekers has upped their game, and this month is no exception! Even more items were delivered this go, and the quality of the props continue to improve. I was also very excited to see an Aztec calendar included as I have my own sitting in my living room!

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The props just keep getting better and better!

High Points:

The vast majority of this box is extremely hands on, and the tactile nature of many of the puzzles really allow this adventure to Mexico City to shine! Some of my favorite puzzles ever for this subscription are inside this box, and range from folding and crafting to painting, to using an Aztec calendar to deciper codes! Many of the interactions involved are also brilliant in their design, offering elegant solutions and intuitive ah ha moments, something we felt was sometimes lacking in other finds provided by Finders Seekers. The dreaded boring process puzzle that we’ve come to expect in every box has finally been eradicated from this one, and it’s a trend that I hope continues to hold, as the game flow doesn’t break down severely during this experience, and held up for a good three hours for us! The online component is, as always, an excellent supplement to what is provided in the box, and includes a bevy of excellent facts about the history and culture of Mexico City. It’s always a lot of fun to learn about the exotic locales that Finders Seekers helps us visit from the comfort of our own homes!

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Spoiler Alert: You get to paint!

Low Points:

One of the most fun puzzles in the box, (the painting puzzle seen above,) only provides enough tools to allow for one person to interact with it. I’m sure a good many people could scrounge up another paintbrush, but for those that don’t have one handy, it might be much less fun just watching as the other player paints. This puzzle also has a fairly ambiguous answer, as the answer required leaves out one of the words commonly associated with the phrase. There is also a typo in another of the puzzles, which tripped us up, but since the overall solution was fairly long, we were able to manually correct it. The hint system for Finders Seekers leaves much to be desired still, as a fairly simple puzzle tripped us up pretty massively, and the hints were too vague to provide any direction. Though it was the only hints we used, we’ve run into poor hinting in the past, and have noticed that many of the puzzles provide none at all, to the frustration of some of our compatriots in the Finders Seekers Facebook group.

Verdict:

This was easily the best Finders Seekers box we’d done yet! It seems they’ve been improving each month, and I am now more an more excited to see that a new adventure has arrived from these guys! At this point, I’d definitely recommend subscribing if you love a good puzzle hunt. Order your next adventure here! If you sign up through our link, we’ll earn credits towards a free box, and can bring you more content! They also provide a fun free Chicago mini hunt if you’d like to get a feel for their style of puzzles. You can read the rest of our Finders Seekers reviews here!

8.5/10 (Great)

Time’s Up Escape Rooms – Room 555 (Review)

Location: Cary, NC

Players: 2-6 (We recommend 2-4)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 minutes

You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave!

Theme:

Your most recent vacation has brought you to the Jonesboro Grand Hotel, a home away from home with all the most modern amenities! Amongst all the glitz and glamour there also hides a dark secret, Room 555. Hotel management has stressed that no guest is to enter this mysterious room, but won’t explain why! Your group of friends decide to find out what’s up with the seemingly banal room and have just broken in when the door slams shut behind you and locks tight! With seemingly no way out, you explore your surroundings to attempt to escape before you become part of the mystery yourself!

First Impressions:

During our previous trips to Time’s Up for The Millionaire Murder Escape and The Bank Vault Escape we were left somewhat underwhelmed with the experience. We’d heard, however, that after relocating and developing some new rooms, Time’s Up had created much better experiences. We were glad to hear it since the staff and owner seemed to really want to create top notch adventures, and it just so happened that I had a few free tickets lying around for a risk free look at one of their newest games! The new space is well laid out and includes a photo booth for after game pictures. After an enthusiastic greeting from Time’s Up’s owner and her staff we were ready to begin our game!

High Points:

After entering the room, it was obvious that a lot of care had been taken to make the set really immersive! The hotel room was excellently laid out with spooky dressings and several accouterments one would expect to see in an abandoned old room. The lighting was just dim enough to set the mood while still allowing for everyone to see properly.  There was indeed a black light but it was luckily not abused, and a quick sweep allowed us to find the clues we needed to in a non-frustrating manner. The room was set up in such a way as to provide a linear game flow but still entertain the whole group, keeping us puzzling for a full round of enigmas. Some late game surprises were simple yet extremely well hidden and kept our group of seasoned veterans on our toes! It’s always an awesome experience when a room is able to keep a secret or two hidden from us until the exact right moment.

Though there were several basic locks around the room, there were quite a few technological interactions that we really enjoyed. Tech was seamlessly integrated into the room and furthered the story with small clues and bits of info that added to the experience well. The escape itself felt climactic and we enjoyed talking to the staff afterwards about our experience and their newest room, The Jungle!

Low Points:

The opening rules rundown is fairly long, and could use some tightening, as it was really hard for me to stay focused on it instead of beginning to wander around the room. At one point we needed a clue, but due to a freak technical problem the camera had unfortunately gone out in our room. This led to the Game Master entering, breaking the immersion somewhat, and since she wasn’t able to see where we were in the game it took her a little more time than usual to formulate a hint for us. This was handled as well as possible for the situation however, and wasn’t that big a deal. One particular puzzle involves a pretty large leap of logic and though we were able to figure it out quickly, the connective tissue is very light and could benefit from some bolstering to keep it from feeling so random. Some of the props within the room still have price marks or barcodes stuck to them, which feel highly off theme within this rundown old hotel room.

Verdict:

We’re really excited to see that Time’s Up have upped their game, puzzle and technology wise, and thought that Room 555 was a lot of fun. We’re glad to see that their determination to improve has paid off and can’t wait to see what’s in store with their new Jungle room. You can check in to Room 555 here!

7/10 (Good)

Cryptic Quest – Fly The Unfriendly Skies (Review)

Location: Fayetteville, NC

Players: 2-8 (We recommend 2-4)

Price: $25 per person

Time to Escape: 60 Minutes

Prepare for a bumpy ride!

Theme:

It’s time to travel from Fayetteville, NC to Washington DC! It’s a short flight, so you’ve opted to fly via Paradise Airlines, a cheap, no-frills airline that promises to get you there cheaply and comfortably. That is, until an alarm goes off in the main cabin and you have to figure out how to get the plane safely landed and escape!

First Impressions:

Time Warp was a competent, if somewhat dated, experience, and the staff at Cryptic Quest definitely seemed to put a lot of heart into their adventures, so we were optimistic about our next adventure flying the unfriendly skies! After a short rundown of some new rules exclusive to this adventure, we were let loose on the airplane!

High Points:

Again, we were greeted by a countdown along with a nifty percentage tracker that helped denote how far along we were in the experience, which is an excellent touch for new players or those that like to know how to space out their clues. One early game interaction is pretty hilarious, and we had mostly completed it before the realization as to what we were actually doing dawned on us during a particularly funny moment. The linear nature of the room is well focused and each puzzle leads to the next seamlessly, making for a fantastic game flow. For a smaller, linear affair, the game did keep our group of two enthusiasts puzzling for the full experience, though I can imagine things would get pretty tight with many more than three or four players.

Low Points:

One particular puzzle noted that we had to guess at the solution, and from the nature of the puzzle, that really irked us. It wasn’t really something that was easily guessed at, and would require a fairly vast amount of outside knowledge. Luckily, it didn’t seem like there was any guessing involved once we sorted through the information we had, but the guessing remark caused us to think there would be no other way, stalling us for a while. It should probably be removed entirely to prevent confusion. This room really doesn’t follow much of a storyline, so it was essentially an airplane themed puzzle room, which isn’t the worst thing, but those who expect a little more than just puzzles will definitely be disappointed. Several props feel off-theme, and receiving a random code sheet just feels a bit lazy at this point, but the inclusion is appreciated, at the least. One particular interaction leads to a reveal that doesn’t quite work, so it is displayed on the screen by the GM once it has been successfully completed, which is a little disappointing. The set is also competent, but doesn’t really feel like an airplane, and with random memes posted around, the immersion tends to suffer.

Verdict:

Fly the Unfriendly Skies is a solid game for a very small group of enthusiasts or a slightly larger set of newbies, though it isn’t without a few flaws. The maximum of eight is definitely too many for this room, but if you’re interested in a classic escape room experience and don’t mind the lack of a deep storyline, you’ll have fun here. Don’t forget to put your tray table up and your seat back in a full upright position if you do book with Paradise Airlines here!

6.5/10 (Alright)

Full Disclosure: Cryptic Quest provided Media Discounted tickets for our team.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Terminal (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Mile High Murder

Theme:

From the Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

A flight from Madrid to New York turns into an international incident after one of the first-class passengers is found dead while the plane is somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean.  The man seems to be in perfect health, and there are no obvious signs to point to cause of death.  The contents found in the man’s possession, however, suggest that there is more to him than meets the eye.  Only a limited number of passengers and flight crew had access to him.  Did he simply die of natural causes?  Or was his death the result of some sinister plot?  Unravel the story of the mysterious first-class passenger and discover what really happened on that flight to Madrid.

First Impressions:

The Deadbolt Mystery Society puts together some fantastic story based puzzling adventures, and I’m always excited when they post the synopsis of each upcoming box. Terminal didn’t initially catch my eye like other boxes did, seeming to be a more basic murder mystery than usual, but just like the victim, there was much more to this box than meets the eye, and I was pleasantly surprised by what is probably my favorite Deadbolt mystery to date!

High Points:

The game flow for Terminal was phenomenal, and all connections were intuitive and connected to the deductive process well. The story, which I thought was fairly plain at first blush, proved to be very entertaining and contained quite a few surprises to discover. The variety of puzzles was excellent, and kept us entertained without being overloaded with code breaking like some earlier boxes. While we enjoy the codes, the creative and varied interactions included with Terminal were a breath of fresh air. Online components work flawlessly and add an extra dimension to the game, standing in for various components convincingly. Some of the most mysterious puzzles in the Deadbolt line were included with this box, but careful investigation triggered several awesome ah ha moments. The relationships between the suspects and victim were well written, and piecing together their stories to create a timeline and coral the logic is a lot of fun. The multiple objectives add spectacularly to the game flow, and provide a good sense of progress to the experience itself.

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Deadbolt reaches new heights with these puzzles!

Low Points:

One part of the game itself is actually not included within the box, which is by design. Luckily, it is emailed, posted on their Facebook group, and mailed via US Mail. I didn’t receive the email, but luckily saw the post on Facebook, allowing me to soldier forth without confusion. The mailing arrived at my house a full day after I’d finished the box, so I’m glad I did see the post, otherwise, we’d have stalled out. Later, I did see that a few people were very confused about a part of the box that just didn’t seem to connect after everything else was solved. I think the idea itself is solid, but in order to ensure the box is playable on day one, it probably makes sense to include some sort of backup. The puzzles also do strain the suspension of disbelief sometimes, matching the theme but not making as much sense as clues, so if realism is important to you this could be a negative. We don’t really mind however, as we’re here for the puzzles!

Verdict:

Terminal is definitely our favorite of the seven Deadbolt boxes released so far! It’s been a lot of fun seeing how the subscription has grown and improved, and we absolutely cannot wait for their upcoming spooky October mystery, Cabin! Join the Deadbolt Mystery Society here! Right now, you can get 30% off your first box with the Promo Code TRYDMS! You can also see the rest of our Deadbolt Mystery Society reviews here!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: The Deadbolt Mystery Society provided a complementary box.