Sleuth Kings – Case 029: Love Hurts (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

…but hear me out, maybe we just let her kill our main competitor?

Theme:

From the Sleuth Kings website:

John Malvone broke his ex-girlfriend’s heart, and now she intends to break him. The problem is, he’s not sure which ex is coming after him. John has survived three attempts on his life so far, but his luck won’t hold out forever. If he doesn’t figure out who wants him dead – and soon – he won’t survive his spiteful lover’s next attack. Can you help John stop his ex before she decides he can’t live without her?

First Impressions:

Last year’s Valentine’s case, The Cupid Killer, was one of the most exciting games of the year, and finally gave us some long desired movement on the Sullest St. King relationship front! This year, we’re travelling a parallel and reversed road as we try to determine which of John Malvone’s many, many, (many, many, many, etc.,) exes is trying to kill him. Sounds fun, and if it’s as quirky as the usual Sleuth King’s case, I’m absolutely here for it.

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High Points:

As I suspected, Love Hurts is a funny and immediately engaging case to solve. All the tidbits about John Malvone’s tumultuous love life and weird reasons for breaking up with the poor women unlucky enough to date him keep things light hearted and fun. I swear, Sleuth Kings is great at ensuring even attempted murder can stay light and hilarious while still delivering a great story and fully realized characters. Speaking of characters, the return of the gruff, rough edged John Malvone is excellent, and his character is somehow both endearing and annoyingly unaware of his own faults, making for some great interactions. I love how this character, who was originally our nemesis in Fashionably Late, has grown (a little, let’s not give him too much credit,) and become a some time collaborator with us and (begrudgingly,) Sullivan. The whole theme ties well into Valentine’s and the climax of the story is fantastic, with an appropriate epilogue to tie all the loose ends together.

On the puzzle front, things are very tightly woven together, placed into a game flow that works smoothly over several layers of puzzling, and brings the threads together into a fantastic meta puzzle or two that we really enjoyed. The method for use of the initial meta puzzle provides extremely good feedback on whether the answer is correct, and is a great way to mark progress within the mystery. Once solved, it becomes part of the even larger meta, tying all the puzzling threads together in an extremely satisfying way. Though the game mostly consists of code breaking, it never becomes tiresome, as there are no endless lines of codes to decipher, and things remain varied enough to keep the focus on the fast paced flow of puzzling. The adventure is incredibly intuitive, with subtle sign posting that ensures that players remain on the right track as long as they are aware of where to look. This consistency coupled with the quality clues delivers one of the best Sleuth Kings experiences to date!

Low Points:

The only thing I’d say is a low point for this box is that it was an easy, very quick solve for us, taking about an hour total for an experienced couple. However, the story is a lot of fun, and even experienced players are going to enjoy the storyline.

Verdict:

Love Hurts is a fantastic case, and though it is a little on the easier side, it was a blast to work through, and an awesome introduction to the Sleuth Kings universe for new detectives! Veteran players may speed through the experience, but the clever puzzling and story are absolutely worth it! I whole heartedly recommend checking this Valentine’s themed case out with your loved one as soon as possible. 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 028: Year of the Cat (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

I believe my cat Athena said it best when she said, “mmmrrrap.”

Theme:

From the Sleuth Kings website:

Spencer Dye is being targeted by the serial arsonist known only as “The Cat,” which means one thing – her life could go up in flames at any moment. To save herself, Spencer has only one option: find the connection she shares with The Cat. Then – and only then – will she stand a chance of stopping them. Can you help Sullivan and Spencer extinguish a burning grudge that spans decades?

First Impressions:

Rather than a first impressions, I’m going to give you a “spoilers without context” for this box:

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That should tell you everything you need to know, you can probably skip to the end now, right? Seriously, though, I love that cat.

High Points:

One of our favorite things about Sleuth Kings is the cute art style that’s frequently included as part of most cases. We especially loved the set of zodiac cards that played a part in a few of the interactions, as the illustrations were adorable. All the main props included in this adventure are extremely well designed and deliver an immersive and tactile experience, which is always appreciated in any subscription box. This, along with the superbly exciting storyline, create a immersively themed experience we enjoyed puzzling through. The story is delivered well through the puzzles and emails from Sullivan, culminating in an exciting climax that fits with the high stakes of the investigation well. Characters are properly nuanced, and this box avoids the black and white of many mysteries by including some very gray area that provides the experience with fantastic depth.

Puzzles are good, and the beginning starts off well with an easy victory, smoothly transitioning towards more complex conundrums as the difficulty curve steepens. The structure of the game also breaks a bit with tradition, throwing a curve ball or two into the game, which can be good or bad, depending on your level of experience with Sleuth Kings mysteries. (It definitely confuddled us, but experimenting with the formula and changing things up definitely keeps things fresh.) One particular logic puzzle we loved came later in the game, and allowed us to continue to use the cute zodiac cards to organize our thoughts. I’m really not a huge fan of logic puzzles at their base level, but Sleuth Kings really spices this one up with some great clues and a tactile way of putting all of them together! All the interactions were beautifully integrated into the Chinese New Year theme, and we also learned a little bit about the Chinese zodiac without realizing it; the best way to learn!

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Low Points:

While the first half or so of the game is fairly intuitive, there is one point at which there is a big leap of logic we felt wasn’t quite clued well enough to prevent confusion. After going back over things a couple times, we were still confused as to how we were meant to ultimately bridge the gap between a certain puzzle and the identity it was trying to convey. During that time, we used these same clues to come to what seemed like perfectly valid solutions, so a bit of tightening of the connective tissue would help a lot here. We noticed that a couple other puzzles included some assumptions here and there that would have benefitted from a general clue or nudge to close some of the leaps. One is very small, in fact, and might’ve been slightly less frustrating with a small notation on how this solution should be organized. A particular puzzle was very similar to ones we’ve seen in previous boxes, and while we do enjoy it, it may be overly familiar for some sleuthing veterans.

Verdict:

Year of the Cat has a cute set up, fun puzzles, and an immersive story, but could benefit from stronger connective tissue and a mite bit more cluing. That’s not to say this is a bad box, we certainly had a lot of fun with it, and appreciated Sleuth King’s usual strong characterization, well paced storytelling, and wonderful art style along with the quirky puzzling, and I think players new and old will have a good time working through the Year of the Cat! 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 027: Krampus Kidnappings (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Don’t Kramp my style!

Theme:

From the Sleuth Kings website:

Asuna Yukimura has been kidnapped by Krampus the Christmas Devil. Now, being held for ransom, Asuna intends to make Krampus regret ever targeting her. She has only one option – create as much trouble as she can. Luckily, she still has her cell phone, and Sullivan is only an email away. Can you work with Sullivan to help Asuna beat Krampus at his own game and escape?

First Impressions:

I’m a big fan of everyone’s favorite Christmas demon, Krampus, so it was great to see that Sullivan would be taking on a case themed after this holiday hoodlum! Even better, one of our favorite supporting characters, Asuna, would be joining the cast for this particular mystery. We couldn’t wait to dig into this holiday themed mystery and got cracking as soon as we had a free night!

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You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why, Krampus will throw you in a sack and drag you away.

High Points:

I said it while we were solving the case, and we immediately thought it was an appropriate quote to sum up a lot of the Sleuth Kings experience, so I share it here. If any subscription box can make a story that centers around child abduction light-hearted, it is Sleuth Kings. I mean this in the absolute best possible way. In almost any other light, the kidnapping of high schoolers by Krampus would likely be horrifying, but in this case, Asuna’s empowerment and the excellent writing and tone employed keep spirits light. The props and clues included are appropriately mysterious and sinister, and absolutely layered to the brim with puzzles, including a few points of meta-puzzling that really tie things together well. All tie excellently into the theme as well, and bring a Christmassy vibe to the proceedings that we enjoyed.

The game flow for Krampus Kidnappings is pretty great, providing an excellent flow and providing intuitive, yet subtle hints. There is a very specific point at which things become somewhat non-linear, allowing us to pick our favorite puzzle types and work on them in tandem. The puzzles build on one another even more than usual, and we loved the twisted web of clues that we had to unravel in order to uncover the secret behind Krampus and his motivations, and as the puzzles were solved, the narrative evolved nicely as well. There was a particular side story that lent some fantastic comic relief to the experience, and working with Asuna, even when she has been kidnapped, is always a joy. The climax was excellent, and the twist and epilogue deliver a satisfying end to the machinations of the kidnapper.

There were a couple moments in which some of the puzzles were fairly familiar through having been a long time Sleuth Kings subscriber, but luckily, these puzzles had evolved from their basic forms, and were utilized in a way that allowed us to discover the deeper meanings and hidden additions through some superb sleuthing. This was definitely a great box to close out the year and enjoy some great holiday themed puzzling.

Low Points:

This one was somewhat of a lighter mystery overall; once we overcame the first hurdle, we were surprised to see that we blew through it pretty quickly, so veteran solvers might find it somewhat easier than usual. The hurdle in question had to do with a couple interactions that provided less clear solutions than usual, but as we moved on, we were able to solve certain clues in an unintended way. The logic still makes sense once we reverse engineered everything, but one particular layer of this mystery isn’t quite as well signposted as we are used to. We were slightly disappointed that we only got to interact directly with Asuna once during the experience, we love how she’s written and always look forward to those interactions.

Verdict:

Krampus Kidnappings was a lot of fun to work through, and once we were able to untangle some initial hiccups, the game flow worked smoothly and revealed an awesome holiday mystery! Though it may be a quicker solve for veterans, I still recommend trying it out, as it provides many great moments of revelation, and newcomers will find this one accessible yet challenging. 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 – Isaac Case 006 (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

It all ends here.

Theme:

The Isaac King Mystery/Conspiracy comes to an exciting climax! In this double sized case, Sullivan seeks to finally put to rest the years long investigation into his father’s disappearance, and bring those responsible to justice before they can slip away forever! We were thrilled to hear that the story would soon get some closure when Sullivan emailed us after Case 026, and were even more excited that there would be two cases to puzzle through!

First Impressions:

Athena the Crime Solving Cat was very excited to give it a whirl, as can be seen below:

It’s a well known fact that cats are very, very good at solving puzzles. Mostly the puzzle of “Why are you asleep? It’s 2 am and I’m hungry.”

High Points:

First and foremost, it is always difficult to bring a long term story to a close, and we’ve been working through Sleuth King’s Meta-Case for a good while, (since around June 2018 in my estimation,) and I was curious to see how the ending would pan out. I’m happy to say that it works very well within the universe of Sleuth Kings, and ties up all the loose ends in an appropriately satisfying way. Two big cliff-hangers were left at the end of Isaac Case 005, and splitting the endings of both of those stories into two separate cases was an excellent idea. Especially toward the back end of the case, communications with Sullivan were frequent and full of story tidbits, keeping us on the edge of our seats, and furiously puzzling! A new character that appeared to help us work out the final case was an excellent addition, and players who have stuck with this case for so long are really going to enjoy this particular plot point. The epilogue was great, and the addition of a letter from the creators of Sleuth Kings was awesome to see. One particular addition to the epilogue was fantastic, and left a few more clues for us to look into at our leisure.

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This being a double header of sorts, there were a lot more puzzles than usual for a Sleuth Kings case, but being arguably the most important case of Sullivan’s life, this was certainly fitting. The first case flew by for us, and while we felt the puzzles here were the easier of the bunch, they were still a lot of fun to work through. I do feel that the pace of the story is suited for these sorts of puzzles, which ensure players don’t get off track for too long, and keep with the break-neck speed at which the mystery suggests you’ll need to work, (but not to worry, there’s no real time crunch.) The culminating puzzle for this one was pretty straight forward and, like the conclusion of this first half of the adventure, left us eager for more. The second half of the game did ratchet the difficulty up to a more normal level for a Sleuth Kings case, and presented us with one of the most intensely satisfying meta-puzzles I’ve ever completed for a subscription box. It wasn’t the most flashy, but putting together the pieces was one of those moments of revelation that really sticks with you. The props for this part of the game were also the most exciting, and once again, Sleuth Kings has provided me with a clue that has become very useful in our day to day lives. This part of the mystery was also much more tactile, and provided us with a couple of nicely layered solves.

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Low Points:

Though there are two cases, they are a pretty quick solve for veterans, and by this point players are certainly veterans of at least 29 cases, so though there are more puzzles, they are easier on the whole. This is not to say there aren’t a few good challenges, but on the whole, players should expect this one to take the normal amount of time to complete. Beyond that, one of the puzzles was clued, but just a bit too vague to allow us to naturally make any connections. Luckily, a quick clue got us back on track.

Verdict:

Isaasc Case 006 is an awesome capstone to the meta-cases for Sleuth Kings, and showcases the strengths of the subscription beautifully. With excellent story telling, world building, layered puzzles, and an exciting conclusion, it’s definitely worth the wait! Though you’ll have to work through the normal cases for a while before receiving this one, other cases can be purchased from the Sleuth King’s archives here. 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 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.