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.

The Conundrum Box – Anastasia: The Lost Princess (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $30 per box

Long Live the Romanovs!

Theme:

From the Conundrum Box website:

In 1918 the world believed that Czar Nicholas II and his whole family, including his youngest daughter Anastasia, were murdered by the Bolsheviks in Russia, but you have recently found that that isn’t the whole truth. Now you must race against the Soviets as they try to find the Grand Duchess Anastasia that got away! Find her first and save her from the same grisly fate that befell the rest of her family!

First Impressions:

A new escape room subscription box is always exciting to hear about, but when it comes from an experienced design team who previously ran an escape room business, it becomes a must play! The unique theme of Anastasia captured my attention, as did the promise of longer stories told over multiple boxes in future installments. The day the box hit our doorstep, we couldn’t wait to begin puzzling!

High Points:

One of the first things we noticed about The Conundrum Box is that they successfully portray a historical story through puzzles and an excellent online component that delivers a level of interactivity we really enjoyed. The historical basis for puzzling delivers an experience that we had hoped for from Finders Seekers, but was not found within that particular subscription, so it is awesome to see this gap in the market finally filled! The experience is presented in a non-intimidating fashion, with only a small amount of puzzles and evidence to work through, with several envelopes containing new interactions and props that are opened as the story progresses. This keeps the game well directed, as well as providing an excellent mechanic for traversal though the game’s world.

From start to finish, there is a dense amount of puzzles, and the game remains highly varied throughout, ensuring different puzzling styles are well represented. There is a point in the story where everything starts to kick off in earnest, and this stage of the game delivers some of the most exciting story beats, as well as some of the best, most tactile puzzles. Things become very non-linear at this point, and our team was incredibly engaged with the experience throughout this stage of the adventure. This isn’t to say that the initial stage of the game isn’t fun, but once the initial expository beats have been completed, the adventure becomes extremely immersive! For the most part the game flow is brilliantly smooth, delivering new story revelations, puzzles, and props at a good clip, ensuring the game has fresh new content at every turn. Cluing is extremely well done, especially with particular puzzles, some of which hide their secrets in plain sight, only becoming clear once certain pieces of evidence have fallen into place. This results in some really brilliant moments of revelation, and it is always satisfying.

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A selection of the many, many items to be found within this box!

Low Points:

There was an error in the initial “practice round” puzzle, which we found was a manufacturing problem, luckily this one is solvable otherwise. One particular puzzle caused some confusion as the solution bucked the trend of passwords generally being a word when they include letters, so we were unsure of our answer until we finally tried it. Usually, having an actual word to enter is a great way to ensure players have an immediate check against whether the code is valid, but it’s a small problem since passwords are entered online. Another puzzle requires a lot of guess and check to initially work out, but there is another work around we found that skipped most of this frustration. The adventure gets off to a somewhat slow start, picking up story and puzzle wise about a third of the way through. If you’re a player that doesn’t enjoy reading exposition, this will be a bit of a slog for you. We enjoyed the storyline for the most part, but were definitely more engaged when the non linear puzzling and really exciting moments started to kick off. Though the Adventure mode shows promise, we were somewhat disappointed in the lack of a payoff for the mode itself. A bit of expansion on this could add a whole new layer to the experience, affecting the story depending on how well players do.

Verdict:

Anastasia: The Lost Princess is an good start for The Conundrum Box. While there are a few kinks to work out, this is definitely a new escape room subscription box that I am excited for! With their new three box adventure, Escape from Sleepy Hollow kicking off soon, we cannot wait to see what comes next! I recommend giving this box a shot, as the games are developed by experienced puzzle developers, and The Conundrum Box shows great promise! Subscribe to The Conundrum Box here! You can get $5 off your first box with our Promo Code ERA5OFF!

7.5/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: The Conundrum Box 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!

Theme:

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.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society – Traitor (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $24.99 per box, plus $4.99 shipping

What do you do with a murdered pirate, early in the morning?

Theme:

The “Voyage on the Black Dagger” was meant to be a luxury cruise with a twist. All the passengers would be dressed as pirates, and a puzzle filled scavenger hunt would be hosted, boasting a $25,000 prize to the winner! As with most high stakes games however, conspiracies arise, and those hatched aboard the Black Dagger have resulted in murder! You’ll need to sift through the evidence, as well as the cruise ship’s ill fated scavenger hunt, and determine what went wrong before the case gets washed out to sea!

First Impressions:

Pirates are somewhat of a weakness of mine. Though a common escape room trope that is sometimes looked down upon by many, I nevertheless tend to get excited for swashbuckling experiences. Traitor promised to be an exciting twist on the pirate theme, by inserting the impetus for the piratical theme into a game within the game, and pitting us against our toughest opponent yet, university professors dressed as pirates!

High Points:

Traitor’s story definitely pays off well, delivering a great twist on the pirate genre while still delivering further excellent story twists consistently throughout the experience. Highly original themes are one thing, but without puzzles, they won’t hold up. Luckily, Traitor is densely packed with some great puzzling threads, and some of the most challenging deductions to date for a Deadbolt mystery. All of these deductions are well integrated into the game, and add a new element to the sleuthing. Witnesses are appropriately cryptic, setting up some fantastically devious cyphers that seem incredibly cryptic initially, but with a bit of out of the box thinking, resolve into enormously satisfying moments of revelation. There are several tactile and creative puzzles that have been included which add an excellent perspective element to the game. Several times, we would be mulling over a specific item, when it would suddenly click with another once we hit upon the visual clues within each piece of evidence. The puzzle threads are cleverly integrated into the story as well, delineating specific levels of the game, ensuring players are given intuitive hints as to what needs to be worked on at any given time without explicitly saying so. The on board scavenger hunt is well done, and it’s inclusion as part of the mystery creates a memorable run of puzzles that evoke the feeling of a mini escape room. One particular puzzle we solved in the early stages of the game got us better acquainted with the suspects and their personalities by giving us a tactile task that correlated with the suspect cards, and set up further clues for the remainder of the game.

The Deadbolt Mystery Society recently announced that in order to ensure their products are better protected from the elements, they would be paring down the dimensions of the boxes in order to fit within mailboxes. As such, the physical items within this game have been reduced in size, I assume, to test how the game would work within a smaller delivery system. In fact, I think it works better, packing just as much puzzling and mystery into reduced props, making much more room on our table to survey every clue included, and preventing larger pages from obscuring smaller items at inopportune times. I’m also looking forward to the smaller boxes, since they’ll definitely be easier to store.

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A mystery big enough for the High Seas!

Low Points:

A late game puzzle was worded in a way that caused it to become an unintentional red herring for us. It seemed to set up a second layer of puzzle to round out the box, but it was looking for something far more specific and less broad than we inferred. The suspect elimination was more challenging for this mystery, but there is one clue that allowed us a bit of a shortcut to our accusation. This came late in the game however, so it only allowed a small jump for us. I believe this clue is meant to confirm the accusation, but it is possible to reach this point without having properly combed through all the eliminations just yet, so it can circumvent some investigation.

Verdict:

Traitor is a great new adventure from The Deadbolt Mystery Society, including a phenomenal game flow wrapped within a hugely original theme and storyline. The intuitive nature of this game ensures it remains approachable for newer players, but there’s still plenty of challenge for Deadbolt veterans! I recommend picking it up as a one time box purchase if you get the chance. As always, I definitely recommend subscribing for future boxes as well, especially since October’s creepy clown box, The Last Laugh, is coming up! 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!

9/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: The Deadbolt Mystery Society 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.