Sleuth Kings – Case 026: Sparky (Review)

Editor’s Note: Today’s review comes from my wife Kara, who has been on a roll with reviews lately! Thank you, Kara!

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Mascots are creepy.

Theme:

From the Sleuth Kings website:

Celest St. Claire never expected that she’d be targeted by a dangerous stalker dressed as a giant mascot. Little is known about the stalker other than the fact that they’ve put multiple people in the hospital. With only three days to play their game and meet them face-to-face, Celest needs your help before she becomes their next victim. Can you help Celest and Sullivan find the stalker and put an end to their masked mayhem before it’s too late?

First Impressions:

Okay, so I have been low-key shipping Sullest St. King (Celevan St. Clair?!? Eh, I’m working on it!) since the beginning and ~spoiler alert~ WE FINALLY HAVE OFFICIAL CONCRETE EVIDENCE THAT THEY’RE ON THE SAME PAGE AND ARE AN OFFICIAL COUPLE. SULLIVAN HAS FINALLY CAUGHT UP WITH EVERYONE ELSE ON THIS: CELEST, PSYCHO KILLERS (remember the Cupid Killer?) – EVERYONE!

Needless to say, I was excited to do another box that involved the both of them. It’s been months! Unfortunately, Celest has once again become tangled up in some creepy guy’s sights. And stalkers are never something to be taken lightly. But, I have full confidence in the power of love! And our ability to solve puzzles. Love and puzzles!

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High Points:

One great effect of the Sleuth Kings’ design is that you are instantly immersed into the story. This box was no different, and the invitations from both Sullivan and Celest made me feel like I was a valuable member of the team.

In fact, Sleuth Kings always does a great job in building characters and giving them clear, consistent voices. Be it the main/reoccurring protagonists, such as Sullivan and Celest, the side characters that pop up every so often, or the antagonists that are only there for that one box. Here, Sleuth Kings builds a deluded and egotistical stalker who is definitely disconcerting. Without giving too much away, Sleuth Kings adds some nice touches to the story that keeps Sparky’s character consistent and believable. Additionally, I was very happy with the ending, which ends on a cliff hanger that’s (thankfully) readily resolved with the epilogue, which really captures the spirits of our favorite Sleuth couple and their partnership with one another.

I always enjoy the visual nature of the Sleuth Kings boxes and how well the details reflect the theme. I imagine that in Sparky’s mind, the messages he sends Celest are meant to be cute, but they, of course, end up being as twisted as the pictorial clues he chooses. Each interaction is meaningful, well-themed, and satisfying to solve. There was a lot of connectivity among the puzzles, which were pretty intuitive to figure out once you have the right pieces. Also, one type of process puzzle that I usually do not prefer was pretty seamless in this box, which was a relief to me!

Low Points:

I don’t have any clear cons for this box. We did put one of the end puzzles together successfully, and were surprised when we only were able to decode 60% of it. However, it wasn’t too long before we realized what we were (admittedly quite obviously) overlooking. This is definitely more on us, but – just putting it out there – perhaps there is a purrrfect clue at the beginning that could be used in a similar fashion here to help players like us. 😊

Verdict:

I am always excited to find out more about Sullest (and of course, do some puzzling!), and this box did not disappoint! It’s always a pleasure when Celest is a more active character, and I look forward to seeing her again! You can purchase this and other 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 025: The Haunting (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Not even a hard boiled private detective is safe from the things that go bump in the night!

Theme:

From the Sleuth Kings website:

Renea Evans’ dream home suddenly became a nightmare when she began seeing apparitions and receiving terrifying messages. Convinced that her new home is haunted, she’s asked Sullivan to investigate. If he can figure out the ghost’s identity, Renea hopes that she can make it move on before she loses everything she’s worked for. Can you help Sullivan get to the bottom of the ghost’s otherworldly messages before Renea is forced to abandon her home?

First Impressions:

It’s time again for another spooky Sleuth Kings case! Last year’s case, The Beast Within, was excellent, and this year’s case promised to be even creepier than the last! Joining Sullivan in investigating a haunted house sounded like the perfect case for October, and we were excited to get started!

High Points:

I really love the presentation for this mystery, as all the clues and items included are appropriately spooky, and tie into the Halloween theme extremely well. Even the codes give off an aura of supernatural mystery! The beginning of the game starts out very strong, with a deceptively challenging opening puzzle, which gives way to a few less devious enigmas before ramping back up again and into a fantastic and truly satisfying meta puzzle that was loads of fun to tackle. All layers of the game flow tie well into each other, joining together clues in an intuitive way, and ensuring that sign posts throughout the game are well positioned, but are subtle enough that they don’t make it too simple. The codes are varied, and are presented in such a way that multiple people can work on them together, preventing any choke points during the game that would prevent others from having something to do as well.

The best thing about The Haunting, however, is absolutely the story. Filled with spooky details, Sleuth Kings expertly turns up the tension as the haunt becomes more and more active within the house. Without giving anything away, I’m impressed with the direction the story takes, as it twists and turns towards it’s awesome conclusion. This is one of those cases that absolutely kept me guessing from start to finish, and it was great to see the box end on such a satisfying note. The epilogue helps fill in the gaps as well, and does a great job of wrapping the whole case up with a very neat bow. I’d love to see this side of the Sleuth Kings universe explored more in the future, as I think there are several interesting and mysterious paths that could be taken from here.

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Spooky Sleuthing for Sullivan and his Sidekicks!

Low Points:

The difficulty curve was definitely a little uneven, bookended by some serious challenges. Though they’re all really fun to solve, newer players might be somewhat discouraged by the initial roadblock. Once we were able to overcome that speedbump, (and it was eminently solvable, it just required a good bit of thinking,) the next few solves fell quickly into place, so it isn’t a huge problem, this case just tended to be a bit more difficult to start out, giving the easy wins later in the game rather than earlier.

Verdict:

The Haunting is definitely another of my most favorite Sleuth Kings mysteries so far. The bold direction of the story, the twists in the mystery, and of course, the astoundingly enjoyable and challenging puzzles included make this one an incredible adventure! I definitely recommend checking it out, especially if you’re in the mood for some spooky puzzling. You can purchase this and other 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 – 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!

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.

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.