Sleuth Kings: Case 020 – Blood PI (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Crime and Crucifixes

Theme:

Rosalyn Neal, star of the hit vampire detective show, Blood PI, is being hounded by a mysterious and sinister stalker, and she’s reached out to Sullivan King to help discover who is behind the increasingly threatening letters she’s been receiving. Before Sullivan can make much headway, Rosalyn is shot during the filming of a new episode and police are working to keep him away from the crime scene! Sure that their prime suspect is being set up, Sullivan enlists the help of Celest St. Clair in order to gain access to the scene and the evidence within. Use the scattered clues to piece together who is behind the shooting before they can strike again!

First Impressions:

Sleuth Kings is always at it’s best when exploring more outlandish themes, and an obsessed fan/wannabe vampire and a vampire detective show, (that I desperately want Netflix to pick up,) are excellent ideas for this case. I absolutely could not wait to see how everything unraveled, so as soon as we had a chance, we jumped on the case!

High Points:

I feel like it isn’t just a coincidence that this case has a fun call back to a previous favorite, Case 013: The Beast Within. Not only does this mystery feel like a spiritual sequel to that case, it is just as extremely well put together and fun to complete! The story is as out of the box and engaging as the blurb promised, and weaves spectacularly through the game flow, with new narrative threads popping up throughout to keep things exciting. Though the case could end up being rather dark based on the theme, the subject matter is handled excellently, keeping things light hearted enough while still presenting the urgency of the matter as you make your way through the clues. The included props are great, and the Blood PI promotional material feels just camp enough to make me wish this show actually existed. The ending was delivered via a nail biter of a climax, and I could not wait to see how things resolved via the epilogue letter.

The game flow itself is superb, with several interlocking puzzles winding through the experience. The difficulty curve works well, building from more up front enigmas and towards more layered and involved interactions as the case evolves. Each step of the way feels significant, and the myriad moments of revelation and clever solutions rewarded our engagement throughout. The way each clue builds upon one another is a hallmark of Sleuth Kings cases, but this one in particular feels especially natural to me, as this adventure felt extra rewarding! My favorite puzzle was a joy to solve, combining tactile interaction with another clue we had uncovered to deliver the reveal of yet another hidden piece of evidence. Overall, this case is really something special.

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Low Points:

Unfortunately, there aren’t any actual vampires in the Sleuth Kings Universe and Blood PI isn’t a real show. Woe!

Verdict:

Blood PI is easily the best case Sleuth Kings has created yet! Once again taking a fantastically original premise and melding it with an astoundingly great game flow and colorful cast of characters, this mystery absolutely knocks it out of the park! We recommend this adventure one hundred percent. You can purchase it when it arrives on 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!

10/10 (Phenomenal)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

Sleuth Kings – Case 019: My Brother’s Reaper (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Always bet on King.

Theme:

Rival Private Investigator John Malvone returns, but this time, instead of seeking to beat Sullivan to the punch, he’s asking for our help. Well, perhaps not “asking” as much as “breaking and entering” and “telling,” but being the altruistic and ultimately curious PI he is, Sullivan is willing to assist. Malvone’s brother was killed in the line of duty during his work as a cop, but he suspects it wasn’t the accident the police department has chalked it up to be. He suspects this goes all the way to the local Moretti Crime Family, and he’s determined to take them down in retribution. There’s a small window to do so, however, as the Morettis aren’t known for their inattention to detail or gentle hand when it comes to outsiders meddling in their business!

First Impressions:

After our latest showdown with the mysterious organization responsible for Sullivan’s father’s disappearance, it was time to get back to the day to day business of Sleuth Kings. Only this time, we were greeted with a letter from one of our known rivals, John Malvone! An excellent twist to get things going, the adventure only becomes more exciting from there!

High Points:

After an receiving our briefing from Malvone, we began to unravel the meaning of the many excellent Moretti Gaming props that were the centerpiece of this experience. From the start, the mystery really fires on all cylinders, and doesn’t let up until the conclusion. The initial puzzle is ingenious in it’s elegance, and I really enjoyed the hugely satisfying ah ha moment it delivered. This led smoothly in to the next clue, and each subsequent puzzle built upon the next with a extremely rewarding difficulty curve that kept things challenging without becoming vague or poorly clued. The layouts of each prop and puzzle present themselves superbly, and look convincing without giving away their secrets willingly. The layers of puzzling packed into each bit is amazing, and I really think this is one of the most tightly layered experiences that Sleuth Kings has come up with yet!

The story is fantastic, and the mystery is full of easter eggs and callbacks to previous cases, tying in to the overall universe nicely. Veterans of the series will love how this case pulls from older capers, bringing back interesting characters and delivering an experience that is wholly grounded in the Sleuth Kings Universe, while still being a fresh adventure to engage with. Everything is still accessible, however, so new players need not worry about getting their hands on older boxes before they can fully enjoy this one. Sullivan’s interactions with Malvone are humorously written, and provide great levity to the overarching revenge story being told. By the end, the sometimes rival becomes yet another great, and multifaceted character that we look forward to seeing more from in future Sleuth Kings cases!

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All the glitz and glamour of a Mafioso casino!

Low Points:

My only real issue with this box was the strange red herring we came across during the latter part our investigation. Usually, everything within a Sleuth Kings box is important, especially those pieces that stand out, but there was one specific item that seemed like a fairly obvious clue, but didn’t bear fruit. It was a weird side trail we got caught up in that we couldn’t muster any meaning from. Otherwise, the whole case was tightly plotted and amazing!

Verdict:

My Brother’s Reaper is one of the best cases Sleuth Kings has put out yet, and a prime example of how their product has continued to improve every month! We loved this case, and absolutely think detectives new and old will too. Absolutely give this one a try when it is added to 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 – Isaac Case 004 (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Searching through the ashes

Theme:

After figuring out the identity of the mysterious informant Sullivan has been working with for almost a year, it’s time to return to the mystery of the gang known only as Cinder. Sullivan has enlisted your help in breaking into a laptop stolen from the gang’s hideout, but you’ll need to break several codes in order to figure out how to access the information hidden on it, which will hopefully reveal something about where Isaac has gone. Work quick, though, since the gang knows their property has gone missing, and they don’t exactly take kindly to people who steal from them!

First Impressions:

It’s time for another meta-case from Sleuth Kings! Every four cases, we’ve received a bonus case that ties into the disappearance of Sullivan’s dad, Isaac, which is always exciting! We love getting another case to solve in between the standard monthly cases, and the value this adds to the subscription cannot be ignored. Either way, we were absolutely ready to find out what new mysteries were in store with this next installment to the meta-story!

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I would highly recommend that Sleuth Kings’ open a Chik N’ Pete. They have the best mascot ever.

High Points:

This is definitely the most dense and challenging bonus case we’ve received yet! The multiple levels between code cracking and various puzzles was great, and we really enjoyed peeling back the layers of each individual clue in order to progress further into the story. Though this case mostly consisted of breaking one particular code, the code itself is actually quite fascinating, and each puzzle that leads towards it’s eventual solving is satisfying, though it does absolutely make you work for it! The difficulty isn’t strained or frustrating however, and it allows for even veteran solvers to feel a major sense of accomplishment when the final conundrum is completed! The game flows well, and each clue follows into the next well, with some of the most engaging codes we’ve come across yet, which kept us sleuthing well into the night.

After three previous cases, we are definitely engaged with this ongoing mystery, and look forward to seeing it through quarterly, and this case absolutely continues to deliver story wise. The climax truly raises the stakes, ending on the usual cliffhanger, but with a sense of urgency that will keep us on our toes until the next bonus case arrives! Sleuth Kings is nothing if not a master at making you care for the characters they’ve created, and it’s no mistake since they’ve got the most compelling cast of any subscription box. Like any good mystery, I absolutely can’t help but want to know what happens next, but for now, we’ll have to wait and see!

Low Points:

Some of the code breaking included can begin to feel like a solo job, with not much to do once the busy work of filling in the letters begins. Though the presentation of this new cipher is excellent, it may present a short bottleneck where any additional players might want to refresh their beverages. Obviously, this isn’t an issue if you prefer to take on this mystery as a lone wolf. There was also a reference to something being on the epilogue letter that wasn’t actually there, which caused us some slight confusion. One prop was really cool, but it felt like a missed opportunity due to the majority of its contents having little relevance to the case.

Verdict:

While you can’t purchase this case outright, I absolutely recommend subscribing to Sleuth Kings so that you (eventually) will receive this one! The whole run of bonus cases is an amazing value added to your subscription, and isn’t just a throwaway benefit, these stories are truly compelling! 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!

8/10 (Great)

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

Sleuth Kings – Case 018: The Stolen Scroll (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Fight for Justice!

Theme:

Sullivan King’s newest case is a doozy! Martial Arts Instructor Travis Burnett has retained the services of our favorite Private Detective in order to clear his name of a crime committed 6,500 miles away! Accused of stealing a sacred scroll during his dojo’s trip to Japan, he has been kicked out of the dojo, and become persona non grata to all his friends. He’s spent twenty years forming relationships and teaching martial arts at the Dragon Dojo, so he’s understandably desperate to clear his name. The only problem is, most of this evidence is in Japanese! Sullivan needs your help to crack the case, or Travis will remain disgraced and friendless!

First Impressions:

Dear subscription box companies, if you all start adding small desserts to your boxes, I will love you forever. It’s almost embarrassing how delighted I was that when I opened up this box, a fortune cookie dropped out. I guess all the puzzles were interesting too, but we’re here for the cookies. Send more.

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A mystery that starts thousands of miles away and… A FREE FORTUNE COOKIE??? SOLD.

High Points:

Beyond the nice inclusion of the fortune cookie, there’s a lot to like about this box. As usual, Sleuth Kings packs their box with some really creative stuff, and this mystery is no different. Containing several interconnected clues, and a few standard puzzles tweaked to hold more secrets than usual, there is truly a lot to work through with this box. In fact, it took us a good hour or so longer than usual to work through this one, which is a testament to it’s density and challenge level. Many puzzles require looking at the props and clues in an out of the box way, presenting some excellent ah ha moments. The props are well integrated into the theme, and there are some fun easter eggs to hunt down for long time sleuths. There is a particularly fun moment where a pretty standard puzzle is used in a creative way, providing the satisfaction of solving the base problem, (which I’m actually a pretty big fan of,) and then the layer underneath. The game flow works well to reveal further mysteries as you progress, and the connections between stages of the game keep everything rolling in a satisfying way.

The story itself is more of a one off, with less tie in to the overall Sleuth Kings universe, but it’s still an engaging adventure that presents a few twists and turns as we solved. The idea of solving a crime committed so far away from home is an amazing idea, and we enjoyed going back through Travis’ trip to Japan, as well as trying to find more current clues using Sullivan’s tried and true method of breaking and entering for the greater good.

Low Points:

This mystery started out a little rough for us, as the first clue was a chore to work through. We liked the idea of this puzzle in theory, but felt it didn’t quite translate well in practice. Some of the elements that tripped us up involved language translation, and while we were given a hint sheet to help with this, overall, the sheet had too much on it and was somewhat small, making it hard to compare the writing to the characters. Further, the handwriting had a few distinct differences, making it more difficult to determine what was what. I am glad, however, that everything we needed to translate the puzzle’s text was included within the box, as we’ve seen others that just throw foreign languages in for “difficulty.” (Looking at you, Blowback.) Two specific puzzles will feel familiar, as these types have been used previously, however, they’ve been updated, and still manage to feel fresh, as a new twist has been added to each.

Verdict:

The Stolen Scroll is definitely a good mystery, outside of the tedious start. People who are interested in Japan and the Japanese language will definitely get a kick out of the very well themed puzzles, and though that isn’t quite our niche, we still appreciated the highly interesting theme presented in this box. I recommend giving it a go, especially if the theme seems like it would be up your alley! 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!

7/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

Sleuth Kings – Case 017: The Cupid Killer (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

My Bloody Valentine

Theme:

After three years of serial murders, the Cupid Killer is on the hunt again, and this time, it’s personal for Sullivan King. The killer, who stalks, taunts, and finally murders couples on Valentine’s Day has been sending Sullivan and his definitely not girlfriend, Celest St. Clair,  increasingly threatening messages, which have culminated in the disappearance of Celest! With the police baffled, and time running out, Sullivan needs your help to find Celest and stop the Cupid Killer’s reign of terror once and for all.

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Even psychotic Valentine’s themed killers can see the attraction, Sullivan! Wise up!

First Impressions:

The romantic tension between Sullivan and Celest has been building for almost half a year now, and though Celest knows exactly what she’s about, Sullivan has been blindingly oblivious to everything. When this case’s theme hit the website, however, we were excited to see that the attraction between the two sleuths had to come to fruition soon!

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Dare to take on Cupid’s Challenge?

High Points:

After the last few, fairly light-hearted mysteries, The Cupid Killer is pretty dark, story wise. For the bright Valentine’s colors and props, there’s an excellent undercurrent of tension and threat that works as an impeccable foil to the explosion of pink and purple Cupid’s Challenge clues. This case definitely boasts the most tightly themed aesthetic to date for Sleuth Kings, and it really impresses. The progression of the clues is interesting also, as we observe the Cupid Killer’s messages and gifts become ever more threatening. These touches lend a sense of urgency to a game that is otherwise not under any sort of time pressure. The overarching plot line ties well into the meta-story without requiring knowledge of previous cases, remaining accessible while still including some great story rewards for the Sleuth Kings faithful. The look into the personal lives of Sullivan and Celest is very entertaining, and the way that Celest’s kidnapping is handled doesn’t fall into the trope of fridging important female characters; leading to an excellent climax we really enjoyed.

The game flow itself is just as tight as the aesthetic. The case itself is certainly not insubstantial, but there is always an excellent sense of progression throughout the adventure. The puzzles are fantastically themed and tie into the Cupid Killer’s strange machinations appropriately, with his taunts and games feeling almost Riddler-esque. One particular puzzle is one we’ve seen a few times before, but with an added twist that breathed new life into what could otherwise have become tiresome. The game itself is well layered as usual, but there are some great points at which the puzzle path takes a few twists back around cleverly, and opens up new riddles we hadn’t noticed before. There’s even a killer cookie recipe that can actually be made and, from what I hear, tastes delicious! Finally, as of this case, Sleuth Kings no longer sends out your epilogue letter for delivery a few days after you’ve solved the case. While this does hurt the immersion factor ever so slightly, it’s nice to have some closure immediately close at hand. Sullivan still sends a follow up email regarding the meta-case a few days later, ensuring that your Sleuth Kings Solving High (TM) lasts a few extra days.

One last note, even if you don’t need a hint, check out Celest’s hint files included online after you’ve closed the case. Even if you don’t usually prefer to use her hints, for this one, it adds a lot to the story and closes what otherwise could seem like a plot hole. I have never seen a hint system tied so excellently into the story before, and Celest’s observations were a fantastic way to flesh out some aspects of the story. I’m glad we ended up needing a hint, because it would’ve been a shame to miss out on the easter eggs hidden within her hint files.

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Instant Epilogue Gratification.

Low Points:

There is one odd red herring-ish prop that didn’t seem to have a specific purpose, which was a bit confusing. We’ve become rather used to everything tying into a puzzle or furthering the story in some way, so when an item wasn’t utilized, it took us off track while we tried to deduce its purpose. We also felt as though one puzzle could benefit from a slight bit more cluing, as it didn’t perfectly line up with everything available, leading to a bit of uncertainty as to its validity.

Verdict:

Boasting a Valentine’s themed serial killer, some awesome story based payoff for long time fans, and a dense amount of puzzling, Case 017: The Cupid Killer is one of my favorite cases Sleuth Kings has released so far! Though completing some key previous cases would help players catch all the references, it’s still a great jumping off point for newbies, and I highly recommend it! 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!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.