Sleuth Kings – Case 201: Monster Madness Pt. 1 – Abduction (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

They did the Mash. They did the Monster Mash!

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From the Sleuth Kings website:

Sullivan King had only heard whispers about a new criminal group – until their reign of terror made things personal for him.

The group – filled with self-proclaimed zombies, vampires, and other monsters – has its hand in everything from selling drugs to abducting people. Although they have police baffled, Sullivan is sure of one thing: he’s going to do whatever it takes to stop them.

Can you help Sullivan uncover the group’s monstrous secret and bring them to justice before they hurt someone else?

First Impressions:

Sleuth Kings has made a slight adjustment to their subscription model, starting with this case. Abduction starts off a new set of four cases that will tie into an over arching mystery, while still remaining a stand alone mystery itself. I’m always interested in longer term mysteries and meta-narratives, so I was excited to see what was new with this case!

High Points:

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Sleuth Kings may have changed up the subscription model, but the general set up of the box itself has largely remained the same subscription we’ve gotten to know and have loved for the past few years. That being said, while this box works excellently as a stand alone mystery, there are still a few good cliff hangers left over by the time the current mystery is solved, and I can’t wait to see what sort of crazy high jinks initiate the proceedings of the next case in the series. I’m voting for Zombie Ghost Vampires… from space! The story line for this mystery is well written, and I love that Sleuth Kings continues to come up with light hearted, yet completely wild story lines for us to investigate. The fact that the kidnappers are part of this weird alien conspiracy theory network, (not a spoiler, it’s pretty clear from the start,) makes me immediately want to know more about them and their motivations, and the tidbits that are shared through the clues provided are fantastic. Especially their super handy, 90s teen magazine quiz! (I’m not even kidding. There is a quiz, it is hilariously written, and we took a break in the middle of the game to take it. Totally worth it.)

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The puzzles for this box start out really strong, and we really enjoyed how well they fit together with each other. Though we did run into somewhat of a road block about halfway through, once we had overcome it, the game settled back into the usual, fantastic flow. All the puzzles integrate excellently into the story, and each new item is more excellent than the last! Especially, as can be seen above, the bumper sticker included. I kind of wish it came with two so I could put one on my review journal and keep the other one with the box! Abduction, more than other cases, has several clues that are just plain fun to read, and some of my favorite puzzles have some truly hilarious writing included. The design of each clue and prop is superb, and, as always, I love how they layer atop one another to create some really satisfying solves. To top everything off, the epilogue is great, and provides a tidy ending to the story, while keeping the door open for more monstrous investigations! It also includes my favorite ending gift of any case thus far.

Low Points:

While the mystery starts out really strong, things get very muddled around the halfway point. There was somewhat of a dearth of cluing during a particular puzzle which had us casting about, trying to find a foothold in one of the clues, but having quite a bit of trouble due to the ambiguity of the wordings. Once we had it solved, it made a lot more sense, but we really had to work for it as the hints provided weren’t quite as directed as we had hoped they would be. While we eventually got there, some tighter cluing and more direct hints would have taken a fair bit of the frustration out of the process. One puzzle in particular will be familiar to long term players, and those veterans will know immediately what to do, taking a little bit of the challenge out, but we haven’t seen this sort of puzzle in a long while, so it isn’t that low of a point for us, more of a heads up for veteran sleuths. (I myself was actually really excited when I saw the telltale prop!)

Verdict:

Abduction starts off strong, but can be a bit difficult to parse before finishing up with an interesting climax. We did enjoy the case overall, however, and are interested to see where the Monster Madness saga takes us next! It’s no secret that I loved Blood P.I. and The Haunting, so I’m hoping for Vampires and Ghosts next! 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!

7.5/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

Sleuth Kings – Case 033: Death of a Stuntman (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Sullest just can’t catch a break…

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From the Sleuth Kings website:

John Malvone is dead and his killer is ready to strike again. What was supposed to be a harmless murder mystery dinner has turned into a deadly party. Nobody knows what the killer wants, but one thing is clear: if they don’t play his game, Sullivan and Celest are next. Can you help Sullivan and Celest put a stop to the twisted party before they end up dead?

First Impressions:

Though this is a Sullest case, furthering the whirlwind romance of Sullivan and Celest that began with Case 011: Midnight Secrets, I’m taking back over the reigns for reviewing this one from Kara, which is a shock I’m sure! I’ve enjoyed the evolving meta story between these two, and am glad to see that they still can’t manage to stay out of trouble, even during their pending nuptials!

High Points:

We always enjoy Sullest cases, and Death of a Stuntman is no exception. While a self contained mystery on its own, it furthers the interweaving story line, and gives some interesting updates on the characters; one especially shocking! The story was great, including some fantastic characterization, as well as some new revelations on a particular, sometimes contentious relationship, and the ending presents a great twist! In fact, some veteran players will no doubt enjoy some of the subtle foreshadowing that precedes the ultimate climax. This case does a great job of “inviting” players to the murder mystery/engagement party while still presenting an interesting, high stakes case to solve. The props are great, and fit in with the theme of a murder mystery dinner party well, and the tactile nature helps players feel more involved with the story. Certain bits of the game that generally remain constant from case to case are excellently changed up in order to fit this game’s more personal theme, and touches like these are always exciting to see.

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The puzzles are fantastic, and I really enjoyed how the game started off with a somewhat easy, but supremely creative, win. The solution was elegant, and involved a little bit of thinking outside the box to determine the correct way of looking at things, leading to a great ah ha moment to get the ball rolling, from there, the game flow is mostly smooth, with one speed bump that was compounded by our overthinking, which I’ll talk about more in a minute. As we worked through the clues and uncovered new bits of information, we were able to intuitively put together the pieces as we moved through the linear game flow, and though we short circuited one part, we do see what that particular part of the game was going for. The difficulty curve is good, and directs into some really interesting challenges towards the end, and I think even the most hardened Sleuth Kings veterans will find an excellent challenge within this case.

Low Points:

One clue is a bit unclear, leading us to jump directly over a specific step. This led to us solving one of the final puzzles the hardest way possible, and while we were able to crack that particular nut, it would’ve been somewhat easier had the cluing been clearer, directing us along the game path. This is partially our fault, as we probably should’ve realized that this particular level of difficulty probably wasn’t intended, but it does give us dubious bragging rights for solving this one on an unintended hardcore mode! We went back to the puzzle we skipped in order to see what we had missed, and the set up for this logic based puzzle was somewhat confusing, which may have exacerbated things somewhat. One particular puzzle will look familiar to veteran Sleuth Kings detectives, but we haven’t seen this one in a while, and it is tweaked slightly to keep things relatively fresh, so it is a minor point.

Verdict:

The wedding bells for Sullivan and Celest are ringing louder and louder, but the mysteries don’t let up! We loved working through this case’s creative puzzles and uncovering the excellent story within. Though long time sleuths will get the most out of the meta story, this is still a great mystery for newcomers, and I recommend it fully. 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!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

Sleuth Kings – Case 032: Two Ring Circus (Review)

Kara’s Note: This review was brought to you by me! 🙂

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Are those… bells?

Theme:

From the Sleuth Kings website:

Sullivan’s office has been ransacked and one thing is clear – the Moretti crime family is behind the break-in. The thieves were after a diamond and found one – just not the one they wanted. Instead, they stole a wedding ring that once belonged to Sullivan’s late mother. Worse, before they could sell the ring, they managed to lose it. Can you help Sullivan race against the Moretti family to get his mother’s ring back?

First Impressions:

FYI, Though I’ve attempted to be vague, there may be some potential, unintended (but hopefully harmless) meta-spoilers. Read at your own risk. 🙂

While waiting for Brandon to set up the box and email Sullivan, I decided to take a quick skim of the “Investigation Report”. I immediately noticed “ring” and “keep this from Celeste” and became SUPER excited about the not-so-subtle implications! I’ll let you draw your own conclusions, but do humbly propose to all Sullest fans: do this box ASAP as this is an ultra-important case! 😊

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Brace yourselves, this is the most important case you’ll have solved to date!

High Points:

This was such a fun and light-hearted story! It’s pretty obvious that I particularly enjoy the Sullest boxes and am (perhaps unusually) very invested in their relationship, so it’s no surprise that this is one of my favorite boxes of late.

Sleuth Kings is fantastic at story continuity as well as character consistency. It always gives us some chuckles to see Sullivan’s consistent character among the cases – in this case, his hilarious attempt at being mysterious, (for a detective, he’s not the best at keeping secrets – at least from us.) A seemingly small thing, but I was also happy to see that Celeste’s contribution to the case, (via her hint system,) was updated to reflect how she can still be involved while still being kept in the dark. I was also delighted to be instantly gratified with the epilogue for this case – and that’s all I’m going to say about that. ^_^

Also, it’s very amusing to me to think of the big bad crime family of the case figuring out how to code their secret messages into such family friendly material. We inadvertently guessed what the answer to the final solution of the case would be as a joke, and were pleased when that turned out to be right!

Storyline aside, the box itself was a fun and smooth experience. It was probably one of the fastest boxes we’ve solved. Overall, I really appreciated how the puzzles were set up. One puzzle in particular was structured in an extremely helpful way. When we first started solving it, I was concerned that there would be multiple possible answers, leading to a guess and check situation. However, I was happy to have worried for nothing!

The box was enhanced by its cute and well-designed props. In addition to being visually exciting, it also made it easy to find and link together props and clues. Even though some clues and solutions were exclusive to a single prop, they inter-wove with the other material as the puzzles built upon each other in pretty straightforward and linear fashion. It’s amazing how multi-purposeful everything can be.

Pondering Points:

We did end up bypassing one of the puzzle interactions by accident, and it was very clear to us that we missed something. After we solved the case, we used Celeste’s hint system to help us backtrack and figure out what was supposed to happen. It was certainly an interesting puzzle and subtle by nature. I’m not sure if this means the puzzle was hackable and/or the clues weren’t strong enough for us, (though honestly, we could’ve misinterpreted the puzzle/clues completely.) However, I suppose this can also be a good sign, (in a way,) in that clearly the solution makes sense! In retrospect, I do think we would have easily solved it the right way had we looked at the Clue Analysis or Celeste’s website though, and would highly recommend them if you’re stuck.

While we found the puzzles to be overall fairly easy, it’s very possible the clues to the final puzzle need to be stronger or contain more direct hints for newer players who don’t have a puzzling background, (I certainly would’ve never thought of it before playing these boxes with Brandon.) The method of solving this puzzle is likely either to be something you know or don’t know. Seasoned players may find the in-puzzle hints to be enough, but newer players may need to utilize the hint system more or possibly do some internet searching.

Verdict:

This box is one of my personal Sleuth Kings favorites, and I would highly recommend it. I think it’s a great introduction to puzzling for newer players, and would also be a fun adventure for veteran sleuths. I’m also super stoked to see what’s next for Sullest! 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!

8/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

Sleuth Kings – Case 031: Dark World

Kara’s Note: This review was brought to you by me! 😀

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Someone will die… of fun!

Theme:

From the Sleuth Kings website:

Jack Hill, the owner of Dark World – an interactive sci-fi museum – has gone missing. Sullivan is afraid he’s been murdered, but Jack’s wife believes that the museum holds the key to bringing her husband back. With no other leads, Sullivan’s last hope is to search Dark World for any trace of Jack’s whereabouts. If Jack really is still alive, Sullivan is afraid he’s running out of time. Can you help Sullivan navigate Dark World’s six kingdoms and bring Jack home?

First Impressions:

Potential murder? Bringing Jack back at the museum? I did not know what to expect with this box, but I was excited to dive right in and find out!

Also, are interactive sci-fi museums actually a thing? Because that. Sounds. Awesome! 😀

High Points:

As can always be expected with Sleuth King boxes, this one included great puzzles with props that were multifunctional, layered, and well themed. For the most part, all the pieces of the box really worked well together and built on each other effectively to create good suspense for the final puzzle.

There were a couple of moments that made us appreciate how well thought out and intentioned the design was. We initially got concerned with one of the puzzles when we noticed that it did not follow the traditional way of being solved. However, we soon became impressed with how seamless the answer appeared by using the small, but highly effective, clue we were given. Additionally, I appreciated how clear it always is to figure out which clues go together, as the props tend to serve multiple purposes.

We also had some good a-ha moments brought on by the creativity of the puzzles. It is not the first time that we have appreciated their meaningful use of space. In instances like these, I find myself having fleeting thoughts of – hey, that seems weird – and then finally having that lightbulb moment. Some moments come more quickly than others. J

I usually find that the Sleuth King Boxes have their own character to them, which is in large part due to the great theming and creative prop/design choices. It is always fun to be in the Sleuth Kings universe, and we certainly appreciated the apt references to someone whose name may or may not rhyme with Mowie.

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Low Points:

The penultimate puzzle was a bit confusing for us. There were multiple parts to it, and while it was not hard to figure out what you needed, it was confusing how to intuitively put together what to do with them. While we were able to stumble into the answer after pushing through with a logical leap, a little more direction would have been helpful.

While the story had an interesting premise, we were left pondering about some of the plot aspects, which made it slightly harder than normal to become fully immersed. Of course, this was not enough to detract from our enjoyment of the puzzles and it certainly helped keep the theme family-friendly, as Sleuth King’s is so great at doing. Sometimes you’ve just got to go with it.

Verdict:

Despite its name, the Dark World was a fun and interactive box to solve. For the most part, we found it very fluid and it seems like we blew right through it. I think that this box would be good for beginner/intermediate puzzlers, but still enjoyable for more seasoned players as well. 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!

7.5/10 (Good)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.

 

 

 

At Home Games I’ve Loved Before – Recommendations for Sheltering in Place

Hi All!

In place of another review, I wanted to share some of my favorite at home experiences, and make a few recommendations should you be looking for something to do during the COVID-19 pandemic. I know I’m missing my escape room fix, but these are some great substitutes until we can get back in the swing of things! I’m starting with some of the best subscription boxes we’ve played, and intend to deliver some recommendations regarding other at home experiences in the coming days.

Subscription Boxes:

Our favorite Subscription boxes for a rainy day, (or sunny day, or any day really,) are The Deadbolt Mystery Society, Sleuth Kings, and The Conundrum Box. I’ve linked below a few reviews for their best games.

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Deadbolt:

Always great for a excitingly themed whodunnit (or who has done this, if you prefer,) Deadbolt has put out some amazing mysteries. My favorite adventures so far have blended some incredible puzzling with entertaining deductions, injecting exciting narrative twists as we eliminate suspects and expose the killer.

The Cabin – The OG 10/10 Halloween slasher box. If it’s available, you need to play it.

Infected – This is another 10/10 that I felt really elevated the whole subscription. The closest thing to an escape room I’ve played at home, this game was an absolute joy to work through.

The Dark and Stormy Night – My current reigning favorite, and a delight for any Agatha Christie fan. I cannot recommend this mystery enough.

Join the Deadbolt Mystery Society or pick up standalone adventures 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!

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Sleuth Kings:

Ever wanted to be a private detective, but just didn’t know where to start? Join Sullivan King as you assist him in solving the various and sundry exciting cases that come across his desk every month! Specializing in code-breaking, an overall light hearted tone, and great world building, we always look forward to seeing a new Sleuth Kings box hit our doorstep.

The Haunting – Sullivan’s newest client has bought a new home, but unfortunately, it may be haunted! Help solve the mystery of what’s going bump in the night, and try not to become a ghost yourself!

Blood P.I. – She plays a vampire detective on TV, and she’s your newest client. She’s also got a stalker who has bought into the whole vampire shtick a little to much. Slick and highly creative, this remains one of my favorite of the many quirky cases Sleuth Kings has to offer.

Sparky – If “Psychotic Killer in a Mascot Suit” isn’t an immediately engaging theme for you, we can’t be friends. This review, written by my lovely wife and escape partner in crime sums up this madcap experience beautifully.

You can purchase these and many 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!

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The Conundrum Box:

One of the newest subscription boxes we’ve had the pleasure of trying out, their most recent run of games has been fantastic! Delivering not only an Agatha Christie themed mystery, but a 1001 Arabian Nights tale, they’ve been on a roll with great puzzles and wonderful storytelling. I cannot wait for their newest box, The Emerald Isle, to hit or doorstep!

The Great Explorer’s Society and The Orient Express – Being someone who loves a good Agatha Christie novel, this box was an instant favorite for me! Full of fun twists and an exciting climax, this lead in to The Storyteller series really kicked it up a notch for The Conundrum Box as a whole.

The Storyteller Part 1 – Aladdin’s Lamp – After having my heart broken by Unlock’s terrible adaptation of the tales of Scheherazade, The Conundrum Box came to the rescue with this, the first of an amazing two part adventure! Containing some of their most clever puzzling to date, this remains my favorite box of theirs.

The Storyteller Part 2 – Scheherazade –  A worthy follow up to Aladdin’s Lamp, the second half of the Storyteller… er… story, contains another set of great puzzles, some twisty narrative, and great easter eggs and revelations for long time players!

You can subscribe to The Conundrum Box as well as order previous boxes here! Use our Promo Code ERA5OFF to recieve $5 off your first box!