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.

Sleuth Kings – Isaac Case 003 (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

The hunt continues!

Theme:

Sullivan King’s hunt for his father continues! After the events of Isaac Cases 001 and 002, we’ve discovered that his disappearance might not be all that it seems, and the intrigue just keeps building and building. Sullivan has become suspicious of his shadowy informant, wondering if they’re truly trying to help find his father or if they might be one of his enemies, attempting to track him down for more nefarious purposes. Help Sullivan find out who’s really behind the letters he’s been receiving for the better part of a year and further the search for Isaac King!

First Impressions:

It’s no secret we love Sleuth Kings, and getting an extra case every few months is always awesome! Just before the holidays, we carved out some time to help out our detective pal, and I can definitely say we have no regrets we did! Especially since he’d gone through all the trouble of digging around in the trash for some guy’s old coffee cup. Sleuthing is glamorous work.

High Points:

I am always astounded with the quality of the Isaac cases, and this one is no exception! In fact, while we have received cases in which a list of suspects is provided before, this one evolves that mechanic by including a suspect list that contains pictures and personal biographies! This allows for a slowly evolving and immensely satisfying meta-puzzle that builds towards a climactic final reveal. The game flow that leads towards that revelation is perfect as well, with clues that initially seem cryptic, but reveal their secrets through intuitive puzzling. Each step of the way feels important, serving up substantial clues and bread crumbs to further the story, and the trademark layered puzzling that Sleuth Kings provides is excellent as always.

Every time Sleuth Kings introduces a long term character to the ongoing narrative, they feel fully fleshed out and intriguing. The way that their dialogue and backstories are written really help to make sure we are engaged and fully immersed in the cases they appear in. Asuna from Case 009 and Celeste St. Clair, who was introduced via Case 012, come to mind as excellent examples of characters who not only help out Sullivan during the storylines they’re involved in, but serve to expand the Sleuth Kings Universe itself through superb characterization. The small interaction we have with the informant during the epilogue is great, and seems to be the beginnings of another awesome character’s storyline! Not only that, but even though we’ve satisfyingly tied up some loose ends during this case, a few more intriguing mysteries and possible plot lines presented themselves, keeping us hungry for more!

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Some cryptic clues, a run of suspects, and a used cup of joe. Inauspicious beginnings for further intrigue!

Low Points:

We’ve gotten very used to our little hidden notes from Celeste St. Clair, Sullivan’s definite love interest, (no matter how much he denies it,) so it was a little disappointing that this case didn’t have her sneaky little hint pages. Of course, part of the story is that Sullivan doesn’t know who he can trust in this matter, but at the same time, I’ve never seen her back down from sneaking into his case files before! Honestly, though, that was my only quibble, and it’s understandable why it was omitted.

Verdict:

Though this case isn’t immediately available, the continuing meta-narrative evolves further through this case, as adds even more intrigue to the story. While still keeping to the usual Sleuth Kings format, the additions to this investigation as well as the excellent value this free case adds to your subscription make it yet another exciting entry for any mystery lover’s collection! It may take a while to get there, but I highly recommend subscribing so that you too can experience this fantastic story. 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!

9.5/10 (Excellent)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box. (Duh.)

Sleuth Kings – Case 001: The Guilty (Review)

Editor’s Note: The following review is for the updated and “remastered” version of Case 001 that was released in August 2018.

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

Going back to the case that started it all.

Theme:

Dictator Sin is coming… again! In this remastered version of the classic first Sleuth Kings case, a mysterious terrorist who goes by the name of Dictator Sin has been threatening to punish the guilty souls of Dayton, Ohio! With police baffled by the cryptic messages that have been posted all around town, Sullivan King has taken up the case. However, he’s having some trouble figuring out the clues, and has enlisted your help to stop the madman before he hurts anyone!

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Dictator Sin is here, and he loves dog poetry!

First Impressions:

When I heard that Sleuth Kings’ first case was being redone in order to fit the current case structure, I was definitely excited to get to investigate one of the cases we had initially missed! I was further thrilled when the Sleuth Kings Facebook page put out a call for dog poems to be included in the special book/clue “My Dog, the Man-Beast,” and my masterpiece poem entitled “Pugicorn” was accepted to be published in this esteemed compilation!

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I don’t mean to imply that the best part of this box is the inclusion of my impeccable verse, but it totally is. Feel free to hang this poem on your wall to get you through hard times.

High Points:

My glorious haiku aside, this case is filled to the brim with awesome puzzles and props, as well as a few excellent surprises! Per usual, Sleuth Kings delivers a well oiled flow of layered puzzles that build upon one another towards the intense finale! The stakes are high with this story, and the ending is appropriately climactic and satisfying. One of my favorite puzzles combined tactility and perspective in order to clue us into a solution that I initially did not see coming. The props included are a lot of fun, and the book in particular was enjoyable to read through even after the case was over due to the inclusion of so many fan poems and cute dog pictures!

It is clear from this first case that the story and world building of Sleuth Kings has always been a carefully crafted and integral part of the experience, which is further bolstered by the puzzling. The engaging and sometimes wild plots, the excellently fleshed out characters, and the enjoyable interaction with Sullivan can be traced back to this first entry, and while it has been remastered, all the signposts of the great storytelling to come are evident here. The taunting nature of Dictator Sin’s clues is excellent, and throughout the story, he plays a interesting Moriarty to Sullivan’s Holmes! With his reappearance in Case 014, the Sleuth Kings world becomes ever more complex and engaging! I hope to see more of their mental battles, and perhaps a thrilling final showdown in the future.

Low Points:

This being the first case, there are some references made that seem to denote that Sullivan has never worked with you, so it can be ever so slightly jarring if you’ve been part of the Sleuth Kings universe for a while, but it’s not that big a deal. Some clues are very slight, and could benefit from a smidge more direction overall to tighten up the connective tissue of the investigation.

There is a particular point in the game that veteran puzzlers and escapists might skip a huge portion of the game by virtue of spotting something a little out of the ordinary, but we held ourselves back for the sake of the game flow. I only mention it here in case you’re tempted to skip ahead, don’t! You’ll miss out on some great puzzling.

Verdict:

Case 001 is and excellent case, and can serve as an explosive introduction to Sullivan’s world or a fantastic entry into his continuing adventures! I highly recommend checking it out even if you’ve previously solved the case, due to the high quality update that has been executed here, as well as the inclusion of some really fun props! 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!

8.5/10 (Great)

Full Disclosure: Sleuth Kings provided a complementary box.