Sleuth Kings – Monster Madness: Case 204 – Monster Madness (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

The Monster Mash

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From the Sleuth Kings website:

Sullivan King had only heard whispers about a new criminal group – until their reign of terror made things personal for him.

The group – filled with self-proclaimed zombies, vampires, and other monsters – has its hand in everything from selling drugs to abducting people. Although they have police baffled, Sullivan is sure of one thing: he’s going to do whatever it takes to stop them.

First Impressions:

It’s finally here! The conclusion to Sleuth King’s first main-line multi-case story line comes to a close with case 204, and we were excited to see how it would end! The stakes were high coming into this case, so I was excited to see how things would play out.

High Points:

I’ve really enjoyed how the story of Monster Madness has developed over the course of the last few months. It reminded me of the Isaac Cases from years past, except instead of one every quarterly, we’d get the next part of the story every single month. This allowed for fantastic cliff hangers, slowly raising stakes, and more immersion into the narrative, and I think it has paid off well. Sleuth Kings as a subscription really fits into this mold nicely, and I’m looking forward to the next run of cases to see how the designers continue to evolve the formula. We really enjoyed the ride, and the climax and ending were spectacular; exactly what we were hoping to see from this final case of the series. The props provided were excellent, and during the epilogue, we were provided with some awesome extras that truly went the extra mile in putting a bow on things.

Puzzle wise, I think that the best has definitely been saved for last, and while we’ve enjoyed the previous three cases, case 204 knocks it out of the park. The flow is excellent, and right up to the end we were chugging along nicely, solving without artificial choke points or red herrings to stop things up. The whole experience was really intricately designed, and I loved how everything tied together well, providing a beautiful variety of conundrums to ride along with the story. The theming of the experience was woven excellently into the mystery, and I never felt as if we were jumping between story and puzzle and back to story. Rather, the experience was designed with smooth transitions and nicely blended narrative and puzzles to ensure that the game felt more like an immersive experience. I loved the inclusion of a website that confirmed answers, as it not only gave us said confirmation, but was key in furthering the story in a blended way. Everything we needed to solve the box was provided, and I greatly appreciated the inclusion of one particular item that puzzle boxes tend to reference frequently, but usually have never provided. It’s always great to have everything on hand rather than have to jump on Google, especially for things like this.

Low Points:

One particular puzzle involved a task we’re none too fond of overall, and unfortunately, this type of puzzle relies on specificity. This one in particular needed somewhat more cluing in order to really ensure the answer is intuitive, and in it’s current form was rather too vague to make complete sense in the end. Though we did enjoy the puzzles in this box the best for the series, the overall difficulty was somewhat lower. Not really a low point, generally, but we had expected the challenge to rise for the finale.

Verdict:

The ultimate case of Monster Madness provided intuitive, well thought out puzzling, as well as an excellent capstone to the story that we’ve been following for the past few months. I absolutely love how Sleuth Kings has changed things up with this four month saga, and can definitely say that I recommend checking this set of cases out as soon as you can! 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!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Museum Nocturnus (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

I don’t remember Night at the Museum being this creepy…

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From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

Museum Nocturnus is a paranormal museum dedicated to cursed objects, items taken from haunted locations, serial killer artifacts, and anything else weird that wouldn’t stand a chance of being curated for any other museum. Valley Falls’ resident group of ghost hunters, S.T.A.L.K., purchased the museum in hopes of turning a profit and boosting their profile within the paranormal community. Father Richter Casey agrees to spend the night inside the museum and perform a series of blessings on the place before it reopens. Things go awry, however, when the priest is found dead the following morning. Given the frightful nature of the place, the list of potential culprits includes both human and supernatural suspects. Your job is to investigate The Hall of Murderers, The Hall of Cursed Toys, and The Hall of Haunted Items in order to determine what really happened to Father Casey.

First Impressions:

Museum Nocturnus is a location that has been mentioned once before in Deadbolt’s previous adventure, The Body Farm. When I saw that a mystery would be taking place in this eerie establishment, I was very excited to see what would await us inside! I’ve really loved this run of creepy, paranormal style mysteries that have come out lately from Deadbolt, and this seemed like it would be a great capstone for spooky season!

High Points:

Museum Nocturnus focuses even more on story, which is a new, and welcome update I’ve noticed in newer Deadbolt boxes. The narrative is fantastic, and hides its secrets well, revealing revelations at just the right time to surprise and lead detectives down new avenues of investigation. I really loved the characterization of each suspect, as well as the myriad killers and haunted items housed within the museum’s walls. Each new killer and item had its own lore and teased us just enough to want more! I’m really hoping that, like Asylum and Sanitarium before, we will one day return to the Museum Nocturnus to delve deeper into the freaky exhibits we discovered. The presentation of the puzzles and clues is fantastic as ever, and each new wing of the museum that we opened provided us with thematic new props. The story is filled with foreshadowing, and unraveling each investigative thread was immensely satisfying, right up to the exciting conclusion!

Puzzles are great, and very intuitive, with each level of the game tying together with the story believably, allowing for the narrative to play out as we solved. Interactions were more linear overall, but there weren’t any specific choke points that stopped progress, and each batch of conundrums that released in each wing provided enough to do that our team of two remained completely engaged with the game for the full experience. This experience reminds me a lot of early days PC adventure games, dropping you into a location and letting you explore all the cool bits and bobs, while still giving you challenges to solve in order to progress, and find more fantastic items! One of my favorite puzzles presented us with an innocuous couple of items that colorfully revealed a secret message once we had deduced what was important. I always love messages that are hidden in plain sight, and this solve was immediately satisfying once we had it figured.

Low Points:

For enthusiasts, this box will probably come in as an easier experience. Though there is a lot to do, the puzzles feel shorter, and less layered than usual. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially for beginners looking for a more straightforward game, I drop this here for veteran sleuths mostly as an FYI. While the puzzles included within this box are all very intuitive, some are a bit too direct. Some directions are very immediately spelled out; telling us exactly what to do, rather than presenting a conundrum to figure out.

Verdict:

Museum Nocturnus presented us with an interesting setting, strange paranormal goings on, and a fantastic mystery to solve. I’d definitely recommend this box, especially to new players looking for a good jumping in point. The story and great game flow is more than enough to entertain enthusiasts, however, and I think anyone will have a great time uncovering the secrets of this spooky museum. Join the Deadbolt Mystery Society here! Right now, you can get 30% off your first box with the Promo Code ESCAPE30! You can also see the rest of our Deadbolt Mystery Society reviews here!

8/10 (Great)

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

The Conundrum Box – The Artemis Rescue (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $30 per box

Houston, we have a puzzle.

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From The Conundrum Box website:

BLAST OFF TO FUN!

The year is 2250 and you are stranded on a distant moon. You have limited time to reactivate an ancient alien ship and set a course to space before an impending meteor strike pulverizes the planet. Strap in and prepare to lift off on an intergalactic adventure! Puzzles revolve around spaceships, aliens, and exploration. A real choose-your-own-path type game with hard and easy mode. Suitable for all ages, the difficulty is set for new to intermediate players.

First Impressions:

I was excited to see that the newest Conundrum Box had a scoring system! I enjoyed the implementation of scoring systems from previous boxes, and really like that, for the most part, the time pressure isn’t the main part of the scoring. This also integrated into the story, which added to the fun! Of course, it was optional, so even better for puzzlers who just want to take it easy.

High Points:

I really loved the theme and story of this box, and thought that it elevated the puzzling well, without overwhelming it or drawing things out with too much reading. I loved the companion you’re partnered up with, and really enjoyed how this box sort of expanded beyond more historically based themes. While I don’t dislike those, I always love when a subscription tries out themes beyond their norm. (And the fact that, this year, I’ve pretty much only read books belonging to the Urban Fantasy and Horror genres helps.) The story is bolstered by the colorful, fun designs, and there are a few fantastic props that are simultaneously mysterious and functional. As previously mentioned, the scoring and, at some points, timing system works very well, and those points that are expressly timed are well implemented into puzzles that aren’t overly difficult to get the hang of, so it doesn’t feel needlessly punitive. In fact, with the timing bits and scoring parts tied so well into the story, I felt motivated by the system more than any other system like this for a subscription box!

The Artemis Rescue is absolutely packed to the brim with puzzles, with loads of different items to play around with, many of which are intuitively implemented on multiple occasions. While the game is overall very linear, there don’t seem to be any particular choke points, and the hints are layered in such a way that you never feel like you’re getting too much or too little to help bolster you forward when you need it. In fact, the linearity helps the story shine a bit more, and I always love it when things work out that way. Some of the puzzles in this box get really creative, and honestly, I think the Artemis Rescue might contain some of the best puzzles I’ve seen from The Conundrum Box yet! There were quite a few points where I was dazzled by the ah ha moments, and I especially loved how there are a few points where puzzles come together for a meta-puzzle surprise! The finale was exciting narratively and puzzle wise, and it absolutely capped things off on a high note.

Low Points:

I find that for most Conundrum Boxes with “movement” or “mapping out” puzzles, I’m just going to have to come to terms with the fact that I do not like these puzzles on the whole. They feel too process-y, and aren’t generally fun for us to figure out. Luckily, this box comes with a normal and hard version of the puzzle, so it was somewhat more palatable to us. The hard version, (which I tried out for review purposes,) was definitely not our cup of tea, with a very, very complicated set of rules for movement that we instantly noped out on. The normal version is much simpler, and though I am not 100% sure how I came to the correct answer, I did. A lot of the “choose your own adventure-ness” of the box is based off plotting this course correctly, so if you don’t like this type of puzzle, it may tank your experience. There was a LOT of translating in this box, especially to start, but overall, it wasn’t too bad, and I did like the cluing for this puzzle. One particular puzzle was very simplistic, to the point I kept second guessing if there was more to it. (As an enthusiast, the answer is almost always, “no, you’re overthinking.” So I don’t hold this against the box, just mention it for veteran players who will 100% overthink.)

Verdict:

The Artemis Rescue is easily one of my favorite Conundrum Boxes to date, and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a couple hours of puzzling! While new players will love the level of challenge, I think there is still more than enough meaty puzzling for enthusiasts to enjoy as well. Subscribe to The Conundrum Box here! You can get $5 off your first box with our Promo Code ERA5OFF!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: The Conundrum Box provided a complementary review copy.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Lair (Review)

Kara’s Note: This review was brought to you by me! J

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

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From The Deadbolt Mystery Society website:

Nightingale Lane is set off the main road and difficult to see from the highway. In other words, it’s a perfect spot for secrets. When a courier for Coyote Parcel Service needs a signature for the envelope he is supposed to deliver to 148 Nightingale Lane, he peeks through the window in hopes of getting the owner’s attention. What he sees is a room covered in blood-soaked plastic. Could there be a logical explanation for such a sinister sight? Is it possible that this isn’t what it looks like? Or has he stumbled upon the lair of a madman who has managed to keep to the shadows and out of the public eye? Explore the house on Nightingale Lane and find out what’s really been going on there.

First Impressions

I’m not sure why but I kept reading this box’s title as “Liar” instead of “Lair”. To be fair, “Liar” could be at least some sort of adjacent, related title for this box (as well as just many other boxes) so I feel like technically I wasn’t super off. Anyways! On a super, totally un-related note, what’s up with horror themes and teeth?

Yay Points

As can often be expected from the creative team at Deadbolt, Lair contained a cool and creepy story with interesting plot surprises. I really enjoyed the story-related a-ha realizations we experienced, hinted at by various clues on the way. In particular, it was a clever touch the way we were given the key to solving the final mystery and how it fit (or didn’t fit) in with the killer’s plan.

As always, the box contained a huge assortment of puzzles for us to play through. We really enjoyed how story elements emerge as various answers are unlocked, as well as how this contributed to the smooth flow of the game. There were some cool props and story facets in particular that not only made the experience more directed, but also created a more thrilling impetus behind working towards and getting through the next step. 

While all the props were neat, I hope it’s not too much of a spoiler to say that we were (finally?) provided a thorough map of Valley Falls (or at least a good portion of it). I kind of forget that this is a “normal”, functioning (fictional) town given the sheer number of serial killers, crime rings, and just pervasive issues they seem to have. The map itself was an interesting prop and veteran Deadbolt subscribers will definitely appreciate the callbacks to previous mysteries. There were also a couple of new interesting landmarks introduced in this game, at least one of which we wouldn’t be surprised if it were re-visited in future boxes.

The killer of this game definitely had an interesting personality, and we kind of got a Collector-like vibe. Could there be a sequel in the works? At the very least, I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if this box helped create a foundation for later mysteries!

Pondering Points

There was one puzzle in particular that was a bit ambiguous for us in figuring out how to apply the directions we were given. While we knew what we were supposed to do, we ended up spending a bit of time guessing and checking our solution for this puzzle.

Overall though, the puzzles themselves were good. Compared to other Deadbolt boxes, they seemed a little simpler overall, though this is not necessarily a bad thing. The box was still an enjoyable experience!

Final Verdict

The Lair provided a really suspenseful and intriguing mystery experience! I think this box would be friendly for more advanced beginning sleuths, but definitely check it out for yourself here! Right now, you can get 30% off your first box with the Promo Code ESCAPE30! You can also see the rest of our Deadbolt Mystery Society reviews here!

8/10 (Great)

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

Society of Curiosities – Ch.2: The Posey Ring (Review)

Kara’s Note: This review was brought to you by me! 😊

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $19.50/month OR $49/every 3 months OR $179/year

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From the Society of Curiosities Website:

A mysterious Posey Ring leads you to Victorian England in search of an ancient alchemical manuscript.

Study the artifacts, articles, and expert resources to discover the location the manuscript and dispatch your team to recover it.

First Impressions

I’m always amazed with how much content can be packed into the relatively small envelopes puzzle makers send us, and this game was no exception! If the Posey Ring is anything similar to the Society of Curiosities’ first chapter, I was excited to get lost in another mystery and see what was in store for us this time!

Yay Points

In addition to the multitude of puzzles provided, we were also struck by their variety. I don’t think we needed to repeat any of our solving methods! With so many types, it was impressive how unique and well-themed each one of them was. The props for each enigma were extremely fun to work with and were well-designed, with the game being pretty tactile-based overall. I appreciated many of the interactions and really enjoyed the effects that resulted (science rules! :D). There was even a neat destructible state puzzle, and, as a result of it, we were pleasantly surprised to be left with a pretty decent tasting drink.

The game flow of the Posey Ring was really smooth. For the most part, we were pretty clear on what items we needed to work with each step of the way, and didn’t have much aimless searching. It was very satisfying to see solutions start to reveal themselves as we figured out what props to put together (and how) and to see the puzzle put itself into place.   

Most all of the technical interactions were intuitively placed throughout, and really boosted our experience of the game. At one point, we were directed to an interesting website that provided some great interactions, and honestly, I just appreciated the puns. There were also multiple video clips that displayed different plot points, and featured our text-based bot friend performing the interactions we guided him to do and the results of those actions. These clips were really helpful in immersing us into the mystery and were just really fun to watch.

Our bot-friend was seamlessly integrated, and really enhanced both the direction and feel of the experience as well. The bot’s character had a fun personality, which came through not just with the video clips that depicted his actions, but also his responses to our messages. We were even able to goof around with him a bit, which was impressive!

Pondering Points

There was one point in the game where we were surprisingly lost. After a lot of hint taking, we realized we missed a puzzle by not telling our bot-friend something that we had actually already found earlier. It wasn’t intuitive to us that we would need to convey this particular finding, and we lost some time since we didn’t receive the clue directing us to and helping us figure out to solve a certain set of props.

Final Verdict

The Posey Ring was a really fun and immersive home game experience, and I would highly recommend this chapter, (as well as the first,) of the Society of Curiosities’ subscription mystery games. This one in particular had an added bonus of the second half feeling similar to an escape room, which my partner (of course,) appreciated. Check them out for yourselves here!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Society of Curiosities provided a complementary mailing.