Sleuth Kings – Rookie Detective Case 101: The Wolf Among Us (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $15 per box

Alright rookie, I’m putting you on the case!

Theme:

From the Sleuth Kings website:

Dave Talbot’s life took an unexpected turn when he woke up with a strange bite mark and no memory of the night before. A mysterious note claiming that Dave has been turned into a werewolf is his only clue about what happened. Luckily, the note claims that there is a cure for Dave’s new condition, but there’s a catch – it’s $30,000. Can you help Sullivan uncover the truth about the curse and find the cure before Dave is howling at the moon?

First Impressions:

Sleuth Kings will soon be releasing their newest subscription box offering, Sleuth Kings: Rookie Detective. Promising to be a more streamlined and simpler experience for those that would like a quicker mystery at a reduced price, it promises to be a great game for new sleuths, families, and those on a budget. This particular mystery was loosely based on one of my favorite Master Detective cases, Case 013: The Beast Within, a spooky yet silly mystery from last year that we really enjoyed, so we couldn’t wait to dive in!

With that in mind, this review has been written strictly keeping in mind that this is a specifically targeted experience that may not appeal strongly to those seeking a challenge and the rating has been set accordingly.

High Points:

What has been promised as a streamlined experience has absolutely been delivered on. As an experienced Sleuth Kings player, it’s actually a lot of fun to see how puzzles have been adjusted to clue newer solvers in to how certain codes and solutions work. A lot of old school decoding methods that most enthusiasts have learned to spot immediately are tuned to keep a beginner experience level in mind, and really delivers an intuitive game that leads beginning players towards satisfying solves without holding their hand completely. I feel like Rookie Detective is an awesome way to introduce players to the complicated world of puzzle hunts and more complex subscription boxes, something the market really doesn’t have. This box really is a great stepping stone, and something I wish had been around when I was a baby puzzler! The whole experience still retains that great Sleuth Kings polish, and introduces players to the world without being overwhelming.

The props and printed items are just as awesome as those within the usual subscription, now called “Master Detective,” and though there are fewer items, they still look great as ever. Interactions with Sullivan have remained unchanged, and while there are obviously fewer of them due to the shorter nature of these cases, they are just as well implemented and deliver the story excellently. The whole narrative is light hearted, and very humorous in spots, so it makes for a perfect game for families who want to share their puzzling obsession with kids who may not yet be old enough for the Master boxes, but are old enough to be interested in solving alongside their parents.

Overall, even though we are very experienced with Sleuth Kings and puzzles in general, we found ourselves having a lot of fun solving this box. It was just plain fun to work through, and presents a fun, streamlined twist on the formula that I’m sure the target audience for Rookie Detective will absolutely love as well.

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Return to Club Mannaro, where rubes are tricked into thinking they’re turning into Werewolves!

Low Points:

One particular clue makes reference to a number that doesn’t appear, which becomes a confusing typo to start with. Veteran sleuths who may be looking for more Sleuth Kings in their life will probably blow right through these cases, so master detectives will still have to wait for their once a month boxes to come in. However, this box is squarely aimed at those looking for a streamlined game, so in that regard, there’s very little not to like here.

Verdict:

For brand new puzzle detectives, Sleuth King’s Rookie Detective series promises to be a great time! With that in mind, veterans will want to keep their Master Detective subscriptions in place, but may enjoy this box if they have kids or less puzzle inclined friends who would like to join in! I recommend giving this a shot if most puzzle boxes feel too intimidating or if you’re looking to ease yourself into the world of subscription mysteries! Though this is only the first box in the Rookie Detective line, I absolutely think this is a great stepping stone towards becoming a better puzzle solver overall. You can purchase 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!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

Sleuth Kings – Case 024: Framed (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

I wasn’t me, I swear!

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From the Sleuth Kings website:

Sullivan King has found himself in the middle of a murder investigation – only he’s the prime suspect. Framed for a crime he didn’t commit, Sullivan is on the run from police with only one option: find the real murderer. Can you help Sullivan catch a killer and clear his name before he winds up in prison?

First Impressions:

After the lighter adventure that was Case 023, Framed promised a much more intense mystery, as the client this time was Sullivan King himself! Framed for a murder he did not commit, and on the run from police, he has reached out to us for help clearing his name! I’m sure this wasn’t the excitement he was hoping for after the recent slow days at Sleuth Kings!

High Points:

The clues involved with this case are great, and fit well with the movie theater aesthetic that the box is going for. The puzzles are loaded with hints, and layer upon each other in great fashion. The initial solve is devious, but highly intuitive, and unfolded in stages to develop into a wonderful moment of revelation as we solved. The challenge for the box remains steady throughout, and build towards a fun meta puzzle that caps off the climax in an appropriately exciting fashion. As players solve, new interactions reveal themselves, and there is much more to the box than initially meets the eye, and each new step in the investigation adds another level to the mystery. Props are fantastic and highly tactile, incorporating into their respective puzzles excellently, and giving us some cool interactions to work through. The design of the evidence included is fantastic as well, and the movie poster for the (sadly fake,) upcoming Head Hunter III has a perfect B-movie horror vibe that I really love.

Sullivan’s time spent on the run is well told, and there is a good bit more interaction with him during this case, which brings back some of the fun story tidbits we missed from some recent cases. The hunt is believable, and ties into the overall universe of Sleuth Kings while remaining accessible to new players. The epilogue is a great denouement to the story, and includes a great little bonus in the form of an extra optional puzzle. It’s a great, small addition that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, and allows players to help in the investigation just a little bit more.

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Lights, camera, action!

Low Points:

One specific clue uses a cipher that we are familiar with, having done a lot of subscription boxes in the past, but may be very unfamiliar for newer players. The hint section is helpful, but if players are reticent to take a hint, they may be stuck for a while. The in game clue is good, but does require a passing familiarity with codes to decipher at first blush. There is a point at which there is a lot of deciphering to be done, which becomes a choke point if playing with more than one person, as only one can comfortably solve the code while the other is relegated to waiting, or busy work if you make some adjustments to involve them. More than two players is right out for this particular point in the game.

Verdict:

Framed is a great new addition to Sullivan King’s continuing adventures, blending an intense story and great puzzling together into an awesome investigation! I recommend trying it out, especially if you’re a long time sleuth, as this one adds some great story beats for loyal fans. You can purchase 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!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

Sleuth Kings – Isaac Case 005 (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Homecoming

Theme:

Sullivan’s investigation into his father has cost a life, and the evidence this person was able to dig up for him disappeared with them. Resolved to make sure they didn’t die in vain, Sullivan calls in a few favors to attempt to figure out where the evidence could have possibly ended up, as well as bring the murderer to justice. In a break no one could have predicted, Sullivan receives a package from the recently departed, promising to lead him to the answers he desperately seeks!

First Impressions:

Isaac Case 005 is the latest in a meta-case that we have been working on for over a year now, and each subsequent case solved tends to leave off on a cliff hanger that we cannot wait to see resolved, so once we’d finished our fourth case following Case 004, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on the next chapter of Sullivan’s investigation into his father’s disappearance!

High Points:

As the story of this meta-case becomes more twisty and the cast of characters grows over the course of a year, it’s great that Sleuth Kings provides a story so far update for players. In a “Previously on Sleuth Kings…” style, everything up to this point is succinctly summarized so that the story is fresh in player’s minds before beginning the next leg of the adventure. Puzzles are enjoyable, and a couple are highly satisfying perception based challenges that clicked into place as we ruminated on what the clue itself could possibly mean. As usual, it is fun to see some excellent easter eggs dropped into one of the clues, (I see you Pugicorn!) which seems nonsensical at first, but becomes a fun interaction once we determined it’s use within the investigation. The connections between the puzzling and the layers to dig through are excellent, and ensure that this case remains challenging from start to finish. Though we had a good time with the clues, I think the main star of this case is the story developments that come as a consequence of solving the case!

There are a few small story advancements while we solved, and what happened to the person that left this package for us becomes clearer as we put together the pieces, but the story kicks into high gear by the end of the case! What we originally thought would be a milder case that involves looking into some evidence and hopefully catching a killer becomes a huge milestone in the series. I wouldn’t want to spoil what happens, but we definitely did not see that twist coming. (Spoiler Alert: Nick Fury shows up and invites Sullivan to join the Avengers. Really. Not really.) In true Sleuth Kings fashion, a moment in which I’m wondering “How could they possibly follow that revelation up?” is immediately followed up on in a highly satisfying way, and yet again we’re left with a cliff hanger that whets the appetite for another entry into the King family drama!

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We found Walter right away, but finding the evidence was a bit more complicated.

Low Points:

There was a typo that threw off the first puzzle for us, but we were able to get in touch with Sleuth Kings and get everything sorted out allowing us to solve the puzzle properly and continue the investigation. Sleuth Kings was very quick to respond to our questions about the first puzzle, and were extremely diligent in ensuring that we could solve the puzzle with as few spoilers as possible. The difficulty curve of this particular box seemed somewhat parabolic, packing a lot of the challenge into a couple bookended puzzles, so the experience ended up feeling somewhat uneven overall. Some familiar codebreaking may be old hat for experienced players, but it is still enjoyable to work through, and delivers the story well.

Verdict:

Though you’ll need to do quite a bit of sleuthing in order to receive this case, it is certainly worth it, especially for the great adventure this ongoing story will take you on! A free case every four cases is, as always, one of the best values added to any subscription box available, and I highly recommend checking out Sleuth Kings! You can purchase 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!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

Sleuth Kings – Case 023: Search for the Hidden Treasure (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

The real treasure is the friends you make along the way.

Theme:

It’s a slow day at the Sleuth Kings offices, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a mystery afoot! Asuna Yukimura, president of the Young Detectives Club at Flyer High, recently uncovered a map that promises to lead to hidden treasure somewhere around Dayton! Unfortunately, some of her bullies have stolen the map, and are on the hunt as well. Using Asuna’s notes and copies of the clues, it is up to you to decipher the cryptic treasure map and claim the booty before the bullies!

First Impressions:

Another case starring one of our favorite supporting characters, Asuna, is always welcome! Her previous two adventures have been some of our favorites, so we were excited to get started on this newest caper! The light hearted nature of this new case is a great moment of levity before next month’s much more intense Framed as well.

High Points:

Asuna’s treasure hunt is set up in an engaging way, with vibrant clues, an intriguing mystery, and an impetus to work quickly. Though it certainly is a much lighter theme, don’t expect to get too comfortable, as Asuna’s bullies are no slouches when it comes to solving mysteries as well. Each puzzle has multiple levels to solve through, so even those which look basic on the surface have another layer to peel back, and a couple of them provide truly great moments of revelation. One clue in particular is very clever, and provides a great tactile experience during the solve, providing two different clues, and using an innocuous item in an interesting way. This particular case is much more destructible than others, and while it may not be playable again straight out of the box, it creates a highly interactive, Exit The Game type experience that we greatly enjoy.

The world building of the case is great, as players are introduced to several new and old locations throughout the Sleuth Kings Universe, some of which contain fantastic call backs to previous cases for long time players. This case is definitely a highly original idea, taking the theme of a treasure hunt, and mixing in a compelling addition to the story that heightens the engagement. There are also some really dad-joke level riddles on one of the clues that I enjoyed annoying my wife with. Those little details are always excellent to uncover during all the Sleuth Kings cases. The climax is fantastic, and the epilogue letter adds in a great ending and souvenir for completing the treasure hunt that I thought was a fantastic touch.

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Time to join the hunt for the treasure! You’re sure to be richer by the end!

Low Points:

Asuna is definitely one of our favorite characters, but we didn’t get to interact quite as much with her during this case as earlier cases. Her dialogue is easily the best of the series in our opinion, so we missed the mid case interactions that usually come up. Like Case 022, we emailed Sullivan fewer times as well, so most of the story was loaded into the beginning and end of the mystery. We generally enjoy the interactions peppered in between clues, as it makes it feel more like the case is moving forward in real time as we solve, as well as providing a break from the action. This case is also a bit more simpler than usual for the most part, with a lot of the clues being variations of some of the more prevalent puzzle and code breaking types. Most times, there are good twists that go along with these however, so they don’t feel too basic. A late game clue began to feel a bit tedious due to the process of solving, but didn’t go overlong into frustration. The meta puzzle is a fun idea, but the directions felt somewhat vague to us, and we felt as though the cluing could have been a bit tighter there to keep us from going too off rails.

Verdict:

Asuna’s treasure hunt is a somewhat easier mission for veteran sleuths, but is definitely worth checking out for novel puzzles and another great adventure with one of the best co-detectives Sullivan’s got! For new players, this is certainly a great jumping in point, as the case is exemplar of the sort of enigmas you can expect to find in tougher cases, and is really a lot of fun as a light hearted stand alone mystery. You can purchase it 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!

7.5/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

Sleuth Kings – Case 022: The Trouble With Wizards (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Alohomora!

Theme:

From the Sleuth King’s website:

Wizard Con is supposed to be one of the best conventions of the year, but Gordon Falco might disagree – someone used it to frame him for a crime he didn’t commit. A mysterious package that showed up on his doorstep is Gordon’s only hope. The sender is missing, but their offer is clear: they can give Gordon the evidence he needs to prove his innocence. The catch? Sullivan has to find and rescue them, first. Can you help Sullivan work a little magic and find the evidence he needs in order to save two men’s lives?

First Impressions:

Time to hit up a con with Sullivan King! Not the usual kind of con Sullivan deals with, but it’ll still be a lot of fun, and hey, you get a free wand out of the deal! Joking aside, this theme is ripe for interesting game play, and we were definitely enthralled by the colorful clues  included with this box! The art design of Sleuth Kings is so unique, and easily one of the things I absolutely love about each box.

High Points:

Sleuth Kings has been on a roll with the massively creative themes lately, and The Trouble With Wizards brings the crime solving to a local convention! The story is another cool set up, with an original setting coupled with a thrilling crime to create an extremely creative mystery.  The inclusion of a new character hinted at during the epilogue of Case 021, A Book A Day, helps expand the Sleuth Kings Universe further, and presents the opportunity to get to know Sullivan a little better. Wizard Con’s awesome spell book brochure, advertising posters and alcoholic potions set up a convincing group of items for this case, as well as bring a sense of whimsy to an otherwise tense life or death mystery. The clues are laid out in a convincing way, and the game flow is incredibly smooth. Each puzzle contributes part of a meta puzzle through a really excellent online interaction, and we very much enjoyed receiving new pieces of the mystery in this way. Even a certain interaction I usually find rather tedious isn’t too bad due to the way it is gradually presented.

The clues included with this mystery are especially layered, more so than usual, which is absolutely saying something! Everything seemed somewhat separate at the beginning, with only a single mysterious thing tying each one together, but as we solved, new and cleverly hidden connections began to emerge. Bringing all the clues together in this way is very satisfying, and the build towards the meta-puzzle was a fun puzzling mountain to climb. Once we had solved the case, there was a small easter egg that allowed us to continue the experience, utilizing some enigmas that we didn’t originally use during the case, which was a cool twist. This helped optionally fill in the back story, and provided a highly satisfying denouement to the experience.

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Yer a wizard, Sully!

Low Points:

We communicated with Sullivan very little during this case, and we really missed the little story breaks that usually accompany an email to Sullivan. They allow for a small respite from puzzling to deliver new story beats, which is a great feature of Sleuth Kings cases. This case felt as though it didn’t have as much build as other cases due to the absence of Sullivan’s jaunts around Dayton or spats with his grandfather when we fed him a new piece of information. This mystery also felt a little easier, and therefore quicker than usual, as one of the main puzzles that takes the most time to solve is a creative, but highly ubiquitous cipher. While it was broken up across the puzzles, keeping us from having to solve too much of it all at once, the cipher did come up a little too much for us at times.

Verdict:

Case 022: The Trouble With Wizards is a great new case that presents some interesting new characters to the meta-story. I’m very interested to see how Sullivan’s relationship with his brother will evolve, especially considering his current investigation into his father’s disappearance. This is definitely an easier case, so it’s a great jumping off point for new Sleuths, but veteran gumshoes will enjoy the story beats that are introduced during the course of this adventure. You can purchase it 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!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.