Sleuth Kings – Isaac Case 003 (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

The hunt continues!

Theme:

Sullivan King’s hunt for his father continues! After the events of Isaac Cases 001 and 002, we’ve discovered that his disappearance might not be all that it seems, and the intrigue just keeps building and building. Sullivan has become suspicious of his shadowy informant, wondering if they’re truly trying to help find his father or if they might be one of his enemies, attempting to track him down for more nefarious purposes. Help Sullivan find out who’s really behind the letters he’s been receiving for the better part of a year and further the search for Isaac King!

First Impressions:

It’s no secret we love Sleuth Kings, and getting an extra case every few months is always awesome! Just before the holidays, we carved out some time to help out our detective pal, and I can definitely say we have no regrets we did! Especially since he’d gone through all the trouble of digging around in the trash for some guy’s old coffee cup. Sleuthing is glamorous work.

High Points:

I am always astounded with the quality of the Isaac cases, and this one is no exception! In fact, while we have received cases in which a list of suspects is provided before, this one evolves that mechanic by including a suspect list that contains pictures and personal biographies! This allows for a slowly evolving and immensely satisfying meta-puzzle that builds towards a climactic final reveal. The game flow that leads towards that revelation is perfect as well, with clues that initially seem cryptic, but reveal their secrets through intuitive puzzling. Each step of the way feels important, serving up substantial clues and bread crumbs to further the story, and the trademark layered puzzling that Sleuth Kings provides is excellent as always.

Every time Sleuth Kings introduces a long term character to the ongoing narrative, they feel fully fleshed out and intriguing. The way that their dialogue and backstories are written really help to make sure we are engaged and fully immersed in the cases they appear in. Asuna from Case 009 and Celeste St. Clair, who was introduced via Case 012, come to mind as excellent examples of characters who not only help out Sullivan during the storylines they’re involved in, but serve to expand the Sleuth Kings Universe itself through superb characterization. The small interaction we have with the informant during the epilogue is great, and seems to be the beginnings of another awesome character’s storyline! Not only that, but even though we’ve satisfyingly tied up some loose ends during this case, a few more intriguing mysteries and possible plot lines presented themselves, keeping us hungry for more!

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Some cryptic clues, a run of suspects, and a used cup of joe. Inauspicious beginnings for further intrigue!

Low Points:

We’ve gotten very used to our little hidden notes from Celeste St. Clair, Sullivan’s definite love interest, (no matter how much he denies it,) so it was a little disappointing that this case didn’t have her sneaky little hint pages. Of course, part of the story is that Sullivan doesn’t know who he can trust in this matter, but at the same time, I’ve never seen her back down from sneaking into his case files before! Honestly, though, that was my only quibble, and it’s understandable why it was omitted.

Verdict:

Though this case isn’t immediately available, the continuing meta-narrative evolves further through this case, as adds even more intrigue to the story. While still keeping to the usual Sleuth Kings format, the additions to this investigation as well as the excellent value this free case adds to your subscription make it yet another exciting entry for any mystery lover’s collection! It may take a while to get there, but I highly recommend subscribing so that you too can experience this fantastic story. You can use the promo code ESCAPEADVENTURE to get $5 off your subscription here! And if you’re really wanting to get to a bonus case quickly, you can order and solve past cases from the Sleuth Kings archive! You can also read the rest of our Sleuth Kings reviews here!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box. (Duh.)

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Carnival of Chaos (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

Step right up!

Theme:

From the Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

The Shadow Brothers’ Carnival of Chaos had only been setup in Valley Falls for a little more than a day when Madame Ruby was found murdered in her fortune teller’s wagon, bludgeoned to death with her own crystal ball.  Although the killer was efficient in their killing, they left Madame Ruby before they were certain she was dead.  In a last ditch effort to provide information about the one who murdered her, Madame Ruby managed to scrawl this note before passing over into the Great Beyond:  “The spirits will tell you who did this to me.” The prime suspects for the murder come from the freak show.  Those are the people you need to focus on.  However, if they won’t talk, maybe the spirits will.  There have been reports of some strange occurrences going on at night after the midway shuts down.  The carnies are claiming that something is using the midway games to leave cryptic messages.  So you have a murder investigation, a creepy carnival, and a midway that may or may not be haunted by ghosts who are seeking to shed some light on Madame Ruby’s murder by leaving messages amongst the test-your-luck games.

First Impressions:

I’ve found that The Deadbolt Mystery Society is at it’s best when delving into the supernatural and spooky, and though their murder mysteries tend to be excellent as well, in my opinion when things get creepy, the fun factor ramps up! When I found out that our friends from S.T.A.L.K., who previously assisted on The Haunting of Indigo House, were returning to investigate the haunted midway of the Shadow Brother’s Carnival of Chaos, I was immediately excited to delve into the mystery!

High Points:

It was time to solve our first mystery at our new house! Obviously, we wanted to make sure it was great, so we grabbed the newest Deadbolt box and got to sleuthing!Continuing to innovate with some of the usual parts of a Deadbolt box, the suspects have been complied within a snazzy booklet advertising the Carnival! The haunted midway is presented excellently, and a map of the carnival itself is helpful in portraying the area. S.T.A.L.K.’s new website is excellent, and I’m really enjoying the expansion of the most recent Deadbolt boxes via substantial websites and social media pages.

The game flow is really engaging, and though there is no set path through the puzzles, it feels like everything leads into each separate piece smoothly. The tidbits of information that are hidden throughout the experiencer really help tie everything together as you solve your way through, and there are some truly clever intuitive deductions to make between pieces of evidence that we really enjoyed. The satisfaction of solving this box is real. To help new players along, a tips page has been included with this box, and those who don’t quite know where to start or are new to the whole experience will definitely benefit from giving it a once over. We’ve become experts at this, and there was still some good information included for us to keep in mind as well! A link to the finale has been included as well, circumventing the break of immersion that seeking out the Deadbolt website generally entails, and allows the box to keep the experience whole for the full game.

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Try your luck, and don’t mind the ghosts! These games are scary good! (I’m sorry, I’ll see myself out.)

Low Points:

After The Cabin’s astounding leap forward in storytelling, it was just slightly disappointing to return to the previous formula. It’s a very small change, but it was a lot of fun to solve the mystery in the moment, so we hope that returns one day! One particular puzzle shows up twice with slightly different coding, but with the exact same solving method. This type of puzzle also showed up in a previous recent box, which causes these to feel even more redundant overall. One of these in particular is very hard to differentiate between, which is much more frustrating than it needs to be. A bit clearer of a printout would help immensely in this situation. One particular elimination is circumstantial at best, and though we reasoned out the solution without help, we required the solution page in order to figure out why a certain suspect was innocent. The evidence was very light, to say the least, so an extra puzzle or story note would’ve helped clear this one up significantly.

Verdict:

Though not quite on the level of The Cabin’s masterful storytelling, the mystery conveyed within Carnival of Chaos is excellent, providing hours of supernatural puzzling and sleuthing to enjoy. I love that the most recent boxes have delved into the realm of the spooky, and am excited to see that continue with December’s The Toymaker! 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!

8.5/10 (Great)

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

Sleuth Kings – Case 001: The Guilty (Review)

Editor’s Note: The following review is for the updated and “remastered” version of Case 001 that was released in August 2018.

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Going back to the case that started it all.

Theme:

Dictator Sin is coming… again! In this remastered version of the classic first Sleuth Kings case, a mysterious terrorist who goes by the name of Dictator Sin has been threatening to punish the guilty souls of Dayton, Ohio! With police baffled by the cryptic messages that have been posted all around town, Sullivan King has taken up the case. However, he’s having some trouble figuring out the clues, and has enlisted your help to stop the madman before he hurts anyone!

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Dictator Sin is here, and he loves dog poetry!

First Impressions:

When I heard that Sleuth Kings’ first case was being redone in order to fit the current case structure, I was definitely excited to get to investigate one of the cases we had initially missed! I was further thrilled when the Sleuth Kings Facebook page put out a call for dog poems to be included in the special book/clue “My Dog, the Man-Beast,” and my masterpiece poem entitled “Pugicorn” was accepted to be published in this esteemed compilation!

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I don’t mean to imply that the best part of this box is the inclusion of my impeccable verse, but it totally is. Feel free to hang this poem on your wall to get you through hard times.

High Points:

My glorious haiku aside, this case is filled to the brim with awesome puzzles and props, as well as a few excellent surprises! Per usual, Sleuth Kings delivers a well oiled flow of layered puzzles that build upon one another towards the intense finale! The stakes are high with this story, and the ending is appropriately climactic and satisfying. One of my favorite puzzles combined tactility and perspective in order to clue us into a solution that I initially did not see coming. The props included are a lot of fun, and the book in particular was enjoyable to read through even after the case was over due to the inclusion of so many fan poems and cute dog pictures!

It is clear from this first case that the story and world building of Sleuth Kings has always been a carefully crafted and integral part of the experience, which is further bolstered by the puzzling. The engaging and sometimes wild plots, the excellently fleshed out characters, and the enjoyable interaction with Sullivan can be traced back to this first entry, and while it has been remastered, all the signposts of the great storytelling to come are evident here. The taunting nature of Dictator Sin’s clues is excellent, and throughout the story, he plays a interesting Moriarty to Sullivan’s Holmes! With his reappearance in Case 014, the Sleuth Kings world becomes ever more complex and engaging! I hope to see more of their mental battles, and perhaps a thrilling final showdown in the future.

Low Points:

This being the first case, there are some references made that seem to denote that Sullivan has never worked with you, so it can be ever so slightly jarring if you’ve been part of the Sleuth Kings universe for a while, but it’s not that big a deal. Some clues are very slight, and could benefit from a smidge more direction overall to tighten up the connective tissue of the investigation.

There is a particular point in the game that veteran puzzlers and escapists might skip a huge portion of the game by virtue of spotting something a little out of the ordinary, but we held ourselves back for the sake of the game flow. I only mention it here in case you’re tempted to skip ahead, don’t! You’ll miss out on some great puzzling.

Verdict:

Case 001 is and excellent case, and can serve as an explosive introduction to Sullivan’s world or a fantastic entry into his continuing adventures! I highly recommend checking it out even if you’ve previously solved the case, due to the high quality update that has been executed here, as well as the inclusion of some really fun props! This case can be purchased 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!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

Sleuth Kings – Case 014: The Great Escape (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Escape Rooms and Subscription Boxes collide!

Theme:

Erin Fyre has been expecting a life saving kidney transplant for a while now, and the day has finally come for her surgery! Unfortunately, when the donor organ arrives, it’s missing, and a note from a familiar foe of Sullivan’s is tucked inside, taunting the detective and demanding he play a demented game in order to retrieve the kidney, or die trying.

First Impressions:

For full disclosure, I was extremely excited about this case due to the use of my suggestion to use the theme of an escape room as the backdrop! I was thrilled to hear that Sullivan would be taking on an old adversary in Dictator Sin from Case 001, and love that the Sleuth Kings universe continues to expand upon past criminals and cases. Also, this was the last box my fiancée and I completed at my old townhome before moving, so it was a little bittersweet as well. (Which is also why this review was delayed for a week, apologies for that!)

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Well that fellow looks familiar…

High Points:

Honestly, I think Sullivan should go ahead and repurpose Sleuth Escape into an actual escape room. I didn’t realize that I want a live action Sleuth Kings until this case started to get me thinking about it! The storyline is a lot of fun, especially for myself, a huge escape room enthusiast, and helping lead Sullivan through the escape trap set up for him is a fun time. The inclusion of Sullivan’s “good friend” (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) Celeste St. Clair continues to be a welcome addition, and helps to characterize Sullivan as more than an island unto himself while on these cases. I think it would be interesting to hear more from Celeste during cases, but her help with hints is still such a wonderful addition.

Some interesting props accompany this case, and a certain puzzle that I’m not a huge fan of myself, is appropriated in a clever way that provided a very satisfying ah ha moment once we had it solved! The game flow is excellent, and there are a few side puzzles that you can solve afterwards that provide a funny easter egg or two. There are a good range of puzzles, allowing for different solving styles to shine, and making this a great group box as you’ll need a range of puzzling specialists to conquer this one! I especially enjoyed the perspective puzzle, as it added an immensely satisfying moment of revelation where everything clicked into place for me, and the below card featuring the world’s most sympathetic duck was a blast to look at from every angle.

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What a sweet card!

Low Points:

A puzzle that is included during the start and finish of this box can get a little vague with direction, with small clues that narrow down how to interact with the main prop, however, it was a little frustrating as a first puzzle since we got stonewalled with it after missing what we later understood to be a movement hint. It was highly satisfying, but stalled our momentum initially. The escape room theme is a lot of fun, but there wasn’t as much to Sullivan’s escape as I’d have hoped, as we didn’t get a whole lot of insight as to what the room itself looked like. It’s a small quibble, though, as the experience as a whole is great fun!

Verdict:

Sleuth Kings continues it’s standard of excellence with this box, further proving that you can’t go wrong with a subscription! This was also our 12th solved case, so another delve into Sullivan’s personal investigation into his father’s disappearance is on the way! I absolutely still recommend subscribing to what I believe to be the greatest value in the subscription box market, and 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!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

Finders Seekers – Mont Saint Clair (October Box Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players: We recommend 1-4

Price: $30 per box

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here

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! This month takes place on the island of Mont Saint Clair in Normandie, France! A site of great historical importance and geographical interest, it seemed like this would be a very interesting visit.

First Impressions:

I was a little disappointed to see that the props within this month’s box were quite a bit less involved and immediately engaging as those we received in last month’s superb Mexico City box, but since Finders Seekers had markedly improved from month to month recently, I wasn’t too worried. Then we started the first puzzle, and it all went mostly downhill from there.

High Points:

There’s one excellent and intuitive puzzle near the end that plays with perspective a bit, and is set up cleanly while still presenting a challenging interaction. Another puzzle dealing with perspective allows for a fun solve that also provides the only tactile prop within this month’s box.

Low Points:

Where to start with this? Of the usual eleven puzzles presented within this box, I enjoyed only 2. Usually, there’s a vague and/or frustrating puzzle within a Finders Seekers box, which is a symptom of having so many puzzles, but it’s easily overshadowed by the abundance of better puzzles and tactile interactions. Here, it seems like every other puzzle is built to frustrate through vagueness and artificial difficulty that is clearly the vast majority of the 4-5 hour recommended solve time. We took a little over 3 hours to solve this box, and unfortunately, most of that was wandering off to play with our cats because the hunt just could not hold our attention or interest for very long. By the end, I don’t think either of us cared any longer, because we left the last puzzle unsolved due to a combination of frustration and complete boredom with the whole thing. The hint system continues to prove subpar, and this boxes attempts at hints were a complete disaster when we needed them.

The initial puzzle I previously referred to is presented without any real context, and the solution is mind numbingly insipid. It’s a difficult one to figure out, but only because it breaks the usual conventions of a Finders Seekers Find, and gives you no reason to expect that it would. Further on, there’s an algebra puzzle of the type we’ve seen several times before and still groan upon uncovering, a maze filled with inexplicable red herrings, (and I actually like mazes,) a banal word puzzle of the sort one would find within a variety puzzle book for five bucks, and enough anagrams to fill an extremely boring lifetime. The box as a whole just feels like so much filler in order to pad the gameplay, and never really engages the player in any meaningful way. If anything, this experience is an exemplar of the fact that quality does in fact trump quantity.

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Longest advertised solve time, lamest puzzles.

Verdict:

Mont Saint Clair was bad enough that the poor quality of the game experience, coupled with the notice Finders Seekers put out stating that over the next two months, they would be rereleasing older boxes instead of new content, I cancelled our subscription. For 30 dollars, the experience just doesn’t hold up this month, and it’s bad enough to erase the good will built over the last few months. I don’t recommend this box, and would be wary going forward. If you want to subscribe regardless, you can 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! You can read the rest of our Finders Seekers reviews here!

3/10 (Poor)