Location: Your Home!
Players: We recommend 1-4
Price: $29.95 per box
I believe my cat Athena said it best when she said, “mmmrrrap.”
From the Sleuth Kings website:
Spencer Dye is being targeted by the serial arsonist known only as “The Cat,” which means one thing – her life could go up in flames at any moment. To save herself, Spencer has only one option: find the connection she shares with The Cat. Then – and only then – will she stand a chance of stopping them. Can you help Sullivan and Spencer extinguish a burning grudge that spans decades?
Rather than a first impressions, I’m going to give you a “spoilers without context” for this box:
That should tell you everything you need to know, you can probably skip to the end now, right? Seriously, though, I love that cat.
One of our favorite things about Sleuth Kings is the cute art style that’s frequently included as part of most cases. We especially loved the set of zodiac cards that played a part in a few of the interactions, as the illustrations were adorable. All the main props included in this adventure are extremely well designed and deliver an immersive and tactile experience, which is always appreciated in any subscription box. This, along with the superbly exciting storyline, create a immersively themed experience we enjoyed puzzling through. The story is delivered well through the puzzles and emails from Sullivan, culminating in an exciting climax that fits with the high stakes of the investigation well. Characters are properly nuanced, and this box avoids the black and white of many mysteries by including some very gray area that provides the experience with fantastic depth.
Puzzles are good, and the beginning starts off well with an easy victory, smoothly transitioning towards more complex conundrums as the difficulty curve steepens. The structure of the game also breaks a bit with tradition, throwing a curve ball or two into the game, which can be good or bad, depending on your level of experience with Sleuth Kings mysteries. (It definitely confuddled us, but experimenting with the formula and changing things up definitely keeps things fresh.) One particular logic puzzle we loved came later in the game, and allowed us to continue to use the cute zodiac cards to organize our thoughts. I’m really not a huge fan of logic puzzles at their base level, but Sleuth Kings really spices this one up with some great clues and a tactile way of putting all of them together! All the interactions were beautifully integrated into the Chinese New Year theme, and we also learned a little bit about the Chinese zodiac without realizing it; the best way to learn!
While the first half or so of the game is fairly intuitive, there is one point at which there is a big leap of logic we felt wasn’t quite clued well enough to prevent confusion. After going back over things a couple times, we were still confused as to how we were meant to ultimately bridge the gap between a certain puzzle and the identity it was trying to convey. During that time, we used these same clues to come to what seemed like perfectly valid solutions, so a bit of tightening of the connective tissue would help a lot here. We noticed that a couple other puzzles included some assumptions here and there that would have benefitted from a general clue or nudge to close some of the leaps. One is very small, in fact, and might’ve been slightly less frustrating with a small notation on how this solution should be organized. A particular puzzle was very similar to ones we’ve seen in previous boxes, and while we do enjoy it, it may be overly familiar for some sleuthing veterans.
Year of the Cat has a cute set up, fun puzzles, and an immersive story, but could benefit from stronger connective tissue and a mite bit more cluing. That’s not to say this is a bad box, we certainly had a lot of fun with it, and appreciated Sleuth King’s usual strong characterization, well paced storytelling, and wonderful art style along with the quirky puzzling, and I think players new and old will have a good time working through the Year of the Cat! You can purchase this and other previous cases from the Sleuth King’s archives here, and if you’d like to subscribe to upcoming adventures, you can use the promo code ESCAPEADVENTURE to get $5 off your subscription here! You can also read the rest of our Sleuth Kings reviews here!
Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.