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.

Sleuth Kings – Case 016: Flyer Fundraiser (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Eat your heart out Nancy Drew.

Theme:

Teenage crime solver Asuna Yukimura, inspired by the events of Case 009: Part-Time Thieves, has started the Flyer High Young Detective’s Club! She and her friends have solved a few small cases so far, but a recent theft of $40,000 from the school’s fundraiser inspires the Club to take on their biggest caper yet. Johnny Cavallo, Flyer High history teacher, currently stands accused of the crime, but the evidence against him seems just a little too convenient, so Asuna has asked Sleuth Kings to help her crack the case once again!

First Impressions:

Sleuth Kings is fantastic at developing fully realized characters, and Asuna is one of the most fun assistants Sullivan has ever worked with. Full of teenage bravado and witty quips, I was excited we would get to hear more from her during this case! As it is also a sequel of sorts to one of our favorite cases, Part-Time Thieves, we knew we were in for an excellent adventure once we cracked open the box!

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Join the Young Detective’s Club and solve the case!

High Points:

The puzzles within this case are phenomenal! Multi-layered, but approachable, with intuitive solutions and so many ah ha moments, they deliver a game flow that is incredible fun to work through. As always the puzzles are perfectly integrated into the theme, and wouldn’t feel out of place in any high school, with clever and sometimes devious little clues that are extraordinarily satisfying to solve. Though the case, we felt, was a little on the easier side, it never felt like a chore or dipped in quality at any point. We’ll take a shorter adventure of amazing quality over a three and a half hour slog any day! Still, there’s quite a bit to do, and the layers and connections between the clues and extra information will have you bouncing between each one in a flurry of excellent mystery solving!

Cracking codes at Flyer High is always a lot of fun, as the world-building that Sleuth Kings has done to bring the school to life is impressive! The nostalgia, frustrations, and teenage optimism that is conveyed throughout the case makes it so immersive, and it is woven expertly throughout the experience. The characters are brought to vivid life by dialogue so keenly on point you feel as though a teenager must’ve written it. Very rarely has a subscription box felt so realistic as this one, so I absolutely must commend everyone involved with writing this case! Beyond this, the case is chock full of fun easter eggs from past cases, and every time a new one popped up, it brought a smile to my face, so veteran Sleuths will definitely not want to miss this one! As a related side note, if you are interested in reading some of my life-changing poetry, this case is absolutely for you.

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Ah, my old Alma Mater is still printing my most popular poem to date on their lunch menus. Kinda miffed they’re calling me a senior… I’m only 29!

Low Points:

We were able to jump around in the story at the end by accident, which had us scratching our heads for a minute since we did things out of order, so some information was revealed early, but there was just one step we missed. We went back and solved the other part, and it was entertaining, though it was less surprising since the ultimate solution to that part had already been revealed. That’s mostly on us though, so it’s a very small complaint.

Verdict:

I am glad to say that Case 016: Flyer Fundraiser is a more than worthy sequel to Part-Time Thieves! Expanding on the setting and puzzling of the previous case while still filled to the brim with all the high school charm we loved so much, I absolutely recommend picking this one up, and snagging Case 009 as well for the full experience! This case can be purchased from the Sleuth King’s archives here, and if you’d like to subscribe to upcoming adventures, (which you absolutely should because Case 017 looks astounding,) 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 015: Fashionably Late (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

It’s called fashion, honey. Look it up.

Theme:

The great fashion designer Stella Stone was working feverishly on her masterpiece, a dress design that was sure to stun the world with it’s elegance! Unfortunately, she passed away tragically young, but not before she could secret the design away from her most bitter rival. Fast forward almost one hundred years later, where Sullivan King has been hired to find the design by a descendant of Stella’s, Poppy Farthing. The more things change, the more they stay the same, however, as Poppy has a rival searching for the designs as well, and the race is on between Sleuth Kings and Hard Boiled Investigations! Luckily, Sullivan has an ace up his sleeve to help with this case… you!

First Impressions:

As much as I love taking down serial killers and mad kidnappers during Sleuth Kings cases, the lighter cases always have an irresistible charm about them. This almost one hundred year old mystery dating back to the roaring twenties was definitely something new and exciting, and knowing Sleuth Kings, it would be a highly immersive case!

High Points:

Sleuth Kings cases are always very carefully layered, with puzzles that build upon each other almost as elegantly as Stella Stone’s designs, and this case is no exception. In fact, Case 015 felt like one of the most challenging, yet satisfyingly complex cases to date. The interconnectedness of this case delivered some highly original puzzling, and made sure that every bit of the game felt important and well clued. Props included within are even more well done than usual, with excellent hand-crafted aging and twenties inspired designs that stay true to the mystery’s theme. I especially loved the buttons included with this case, as they gave me something to fiddle with while we solved, and were absolutely something we expected to find in a dressmaker’s shop! Honestly, Sleuth Kings’ world building skills are second to none, and it’s a joy to have a glimpse into their version of the prohibition era.

The game flow is silky smooth, and the puzzles lead into one another perfectly, yet still maintain a level of challenge that veteran sleuths will adore. The game remains accessible, however, and never reaches the point of being obtuse. Sleuth Kings has perfected the art of putting together a case worthy of Sherlock by including hints within clever details, and encouraging detectives to pay close attention to all the clues. This case really shows off how satisfying it is to notice the little things and strikes a perfect balance of hidden clues, fiendishly cunning puzzling, and a well told story.

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Case 015 has it all! Puzzles, mystery, and buttons!

Low Points:

There were several points within one puzzle where additional information was included that seemed to serve no real purpose. It was a small red herring, (unless of course, it was a side puzzle we never figured out,) but led us down a side trail that we were fortunately able to quickly rule out. Other than that, we loved this one!

Verdict:

Case 015 continues Sleuth King’s run of brilliance, and delivers an enticing mystery filled with original puzzles wrapped within an unexpected, but wholly immersive, theme. This one is truly a favorite, and it is always a thrill to see how this subscription continues to evolve! Even though this is probably one of the more complex cases on offer, I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for an enjoyable mystery to solve at home! 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!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.