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.)

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.

Sleuth Kings – Case 013: The Beast Within (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Wolf Kings

Theme:

Detective Cam Jones woke up to a bloody letter and some wolfish hair clippings the other night, and he’s convinced he’s hurt his girlfriend. Why? Because he’s definitely a werewolf! It’s a problem that plagues us all, really. Cam has contacted Sullivan to figure out what’s going on, but will turn himself in to the police before the next full moon if Sullivan cannot convince him he isn’t a creature of the night! Convinced Cam is absolutely not a werewolf, as any sane person should be, he enlists your help to solve the case and find out why someone wants to make Cam think he’s a raging best and for what possible purpose! It’s wild, it’s silly, it’s Halloween themed, and I love it!

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This is Cam. Cam thinks he’s a werewolf. Cam’s a moron. Don’t be like Cam.

First Impressions:

October truly is the greatest month of them all for subscription boxes! With so many jumping on the Spooky Train, the horror aficionado in me is on cloud nine! I figured that Sleuth Kings might come out with a haunted mansion case, Scooby Doo style, or perhaps a creepy serial killer, but what arrived on my doorstep was even better than I imagined it could be! Only Sleuth Kings could take such a ridiculous premise and really knock it out of the park!

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Werewolf Bar Mitzvah, spooky scary! (I know it makes no sense, but I needed to make the 30 Rock reference.)

High Points:

Most Sleuth Kings boxes contain a little bit of humor to either lighten the mood or just keep the fun going, but this one is the most absurd and humorous overall. I can’t say I was expecting it from the Halloween themed box, but I certainly didn’t mind it! The surface story itself is fairly predictable, but the underlying mystery of why all this is happening is actually pretty intense and engaging! The props included all tie in well with the spooky case, and are great fun to interact with, with each main item containing a great, multilayered puzzle. The game flow works excellently, per usual, but the layers and tie ins to other props feels more smooth and natural than usual. There are so many moments in which we were stuck thinking about the puzzle when we’d hit on that one intuitive line of logic and begin tearing through the clue, satisfied with our puzzler’s high.

One of my favorite puzzles from this box took a basic code breaking interaction that we’ve seen several million times at this point, mixed it up, threw a few challenging bread crumbs along the path, and created an elegant puzzle that takes some real thought to solve. It’s this sort of thing, taking a puzzle style that has become completely run into the ground and turning it on its head to make a really satisfying puzzle that separates Sleuth Kings from other boxes that prefer quantity over quality. As we progressed through this adventure, this quality held, with devious puzzles just pouring forth from the box!

Last but not least, the new hint system is awesome, allowing hints to become on demand without the pesky wait that depends on your email server! Not only does the hint delivery system improve, it’s done in a perfectly thematic way. It’s great to see this character still hanging out in the Sleuth Kings universe, and I’m glad that there was a way to continue to include her in future cases. For purists, the option to email Sullivan for hints is still available, so it’s a win all around.

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Oh Sullivan, you are just getting so sneaky, huh?

Low Points:

One puzzle involves sound which gets a little too obnoxious. Luckily, there’s a mute button that doesn’t affect how you determine the solution in the slightest.

Halloween boxes are apparently spot on the best! I don’t have anything else to say here!

Verdict:

Case 013, The Beast Within is such a great puzzling adventure! I absolutely recommend checking it out, as though the premise is completely ridiculous, it’s also completely compelling due to the narrative genius of the writers. You can get it from the Sleuth Kings archives, and should you decide to subscribe monthly, 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!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

Sleuth Kings – Case 005: The Curse (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

A pox on you!

Theme:

Ken Suzuki and his wife live a carefree life of travel and leisure, recording their experiences for their popular travel blog, but Ken’s life is turned on its head when a homeless woman approaches and curses him! Since then, his health has quickly deteriorated. He’s come to Sullivan, hoping that the PI can make some sense of the cryptic note that he found in his pocket after the encounter, and it’s up to you to figure out who’s really behind this curse before Ken gets any worse!

First Impressions:

We can never get enough Sleuth Kings, so what better way to pass the time between monthly cases than to order a previous mystery from the archives? Case 004 proved to be an excellent adventure, so when digging in to The Curse, we knew it would be a good time!

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Elements of the Curse!

High Points:

In lieu of an interview, Ken provided us with his “Curse Log,” which was an excellent read and conveyed the needed information in a fresh and clever way. This, along with the bits and pieces of the mystery that he and Sullivan had collected provided an authentic feel to the mystery that we really enjoyed. Clues lead into each other intuitively, and each puzzle is well layered and contributes to the story in an interesting way. The difficulty of the experience increases gradually, providing a fantastic learning curve for newer players, making this a great entry point to the Sleuth Kings Universe. A late game puzzle provides an awesome interaction that I’ve rarely seen duplicated in subscription box form, and would love to see more of in the future! The story itself is a well crafted and sometimes humorous tale, and provides an awesome climax and denouement via the post-mystery epilogue we received a few days later in the mail.

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Travel in style with your new Sleuth Kings luggage tag!

Low Points:

One late game puzzle presented a fairly vague guess and check puzzle which we were hung up on after it had already been solved due to our interpretation of the clues leading us to believe there was more to the story. The climax of the mystery was telegraphed more than usual, and we had solved the case, but required a very specific phrase in order to get this across to Sullivan, which resulted in a few somewhat jumbled auto-responses from our detective pal, which broke the usual immersive atmosphere of a Sleuth Kings experience.

Verdict:

Case 005 is an archived case, and though it may be an older experience, it still shows off that excellent Sleuth Kings quality that we’ve come to expect, packing mind-bending puzzles, amazing props, and a fantastic story within it’s box! I definitely recommend giving it a shot, and you can order it via the Sleuth Kings Archives. If you’re interested in joining Sullivan on his adventures on an ongoing basis, you can also use the promo code ESCAPEADVENTURE to get $5 off your subscription here! The rest of our Sleuth Kings reviews are here for your perusal!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.