Sleuth Kings – Monster Madness: Case 204 – Monster Madness (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

The Monster Mash

Theme:

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.

First Impressions:

It’s finally here! The conclusion to Sleuth King’s first main-line multi-case story line comes to a close with case 204, and we were excited to see how it would end! The stakes were high coming into this case, so I was excited to see how things would play out.

High Points:

I’ve really enjoyed how the story of Monster Madness has developed over the course of the last few months. It reminded me of the Isaac Cases from years past, except instead of one every quarterly, we’d get the next part of the story every single month. This allowed for fantastic cliff hangers, slowly raising stakes, and more immersion into the narrative, and I think it has paid off well. Sleuth Kings as a subscription really fits into this mold nicely, and I’m looking forward to the next run of cases to see how the designers continue to evolve the formula. We really enjoyed the ride, and the climax and ending were spectacular; exactly what we were hoping to see from this final case of the series. The props provided were excellent, and during the epilogue, we were provided with some awesome extras that truly went the extra mile in putting a bow on things.

Puzzle wise, I think that the best has definitely been saved for last, and while we’ve enjoyed the previous three cases, case 204 knocks it out of the park. The flow is excellent, and right up to the end we were chugging along nicely, solving without artificial choke points or red herrings to stop things up. The whole experience was really intricately designed, and I loved how everything tied together well, providing a beautiful variety of conundrums to ride along with the story. The theming of the experience was woven excellently into the mystery, and I never felt as if we were jumping between story and puzzle and back to story. Rather, the experience was designed with smooth transitions and nicely blended narrative and puzzles to ensure that the game felt more like an immersive experience. I loved the inclusion of a website that confirmed answers, as it not only gave us said confirmation, but was key in furthering the story in a blended way. Everything we needed to solve the box was provided, and I greatly appreciated the inclusion of one particular item that puzzle boxes tend to reference frequently, but usually have never provided. It’s always great to have everything on hand rather than have to jump on Google, especially for things like this.

Low Points:

One particular puzzle involved a task we’re none too fond of overall, and unfortunately, this type of puzzle relies on specificity. This one in particular needed somewhat more cluing in order to really ensure the answer is intuitive, and in it’s current form was rather too vague to make complete sense in the end. Though we did enjoy the puzzles in this box the best for the series, the overall difficulty was somewhat lower. Not really a low point, generally, but we had expected the challenge to rise for the finale.

Verdict:

The ultimate case of Monster Madness provided intuitive, well thought out puzzling, as well as an excellent capstone to the story that we’ve been following for the past few months. I absolutely love how Sleuth Kings has changed things up with this four month saga, and can definitely say that I recommend checking this set of cases out as soon as you can! 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 203: Monster Madness Pt. 3 – The Cure (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

The Monster Mash

Theme:

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.

First Impressions:

The third installment in Sleuth King’s first long form series has arrived, and it’s time for zombies to take the spotlight! I have really enjoyed this wild and weird theme, and couldn’t wait to see where last month’s cliffhanger picked up! With Sullest hanging in the balance, the stakes were high!

High Points:

Sleuth Kings has done a brilliant job of tying together a longer term story rather than the usual one shots, and I’m very glad to say that their excellent characterization and world building fits perfectly within this new style of case. While overall the experience stays mostly the same, mechanically, having a longer term story allows us to get more invested with the narrative, and has us looking forward to what comes next even more than usual. It reminds me of the special series in which Sullivan was searching for his father, a group of cases that had us itching for the next part of the story every three months. I definitely think this method of case delivery has been a success, and look forward to future multi month cases. Case 203 in particular ties up the cliffhanger from last month excellently, which is good, because my wife was starting to get worried about her ongoing Sullest shipping, but doesn’t let us off the hook too easily, as there’s quite a bit of puzzling to be done before we can breathe a sigh of relief! The climax caps things off well, and not only sets up the finale, but delivers a bonus puzzle to keep things rolling along. I always love getting an unexpected puzzle, and this one is no pushover.

The puzzles themselves are overall very good, and generally intuitive, so don’t be like us and over think them. They’re not overly obvious, and do require some thinking, but if you’re starting to build a conspiracy theory board, you might be on the wrong track. The props are great, and continue to provide some fun items to keep as mementos, though if we ever play certain cases again, we’ll have to remember to scour our fridge or display shelves to make sure we have everything. I really loved the ideas behind the puzzles, as well as how they integrated into the story, and one particular character was a lot of fun to investigate. Sleuth Kings are masters at delivering a light hearted story along with a great puzzle flow full of logical, but mind bending enigmas!

Low Points:

One puzzle points towards a pattern, but it needs another hint to pinpoint exactly what pattern that is. We used some extra information to solve this one, and unfortunately, though we were able to deduce some sort of pattern, it wasn’t the most correct pattern. I could definitely understand the workings from the back end, but a mite bit more refinement will ensure this one only has a singular answer. A couple of puzzles within this case will feel a bit familiar to long term sleuths, so these interactions may be somewhat easier for the experienced.

Verdict:

Case 203 is a great continuation of the Monster Madness story line, and we are anxiously waiting for the epic conclusion this October! I highly recommend picking up this series, as it is a fun, multilayered run of puzzles and fun mystery, and you can never go wrong with Sleuth Kings. 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 202: Monster Madness Pt. 2 – DraculArt (Review)

Location: Your Home!

Players:  We recommend 1-4

Price: $29.95 per box

I will not apologize for Art.

Theme:

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’ new format started out with a strange and interesting foray into investigating a group of kidnappers who proclaimed themselves to be aliens, leaving off with a cliffhanger to keep things mysterious. This time, a group of art thieves has struck, but are strangely only interested in artifacts pertaining to “vampire culture.” Seems like an oddly similar string of thematic crimes has struck Dayton, and only Sullivan King can put a stop to it, with our help, of course!

High Points:

So far the themes of Monster Madness have been weird and wonderful, and I loved the vampire based art heist being carried out during this case. The DraculArt exhibits sounds like the absolute best sort of art exhibition, and the promotional materials included within our case not only integrate into the puzzles brilliantly, but do an excellent job of world building as well. After speaking with the designer, he noted that “the line between goth and cheesy” was thinner than he had guessed, but I think he struck just the right balance to make the art direction of the whole case dark and moody without crossing over into goofiness. The story itself is self contained, but ties into the previous case as some of the mysterious strands begin to tie themselves together through the narrative. Everything slowly built until we were hit by one of the most shocking plot twists we’ve come across in a Sleuth Kings case paying off all the set up from the first two cases in spades! Everything capped off well, and though we ended off with another cliff hanger, the case wrapped up satisfyingly.

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The game flows well, per usual, and despite a small logical speed bump we came across during the second half of the game, everything was immediately intuitive. We appreciated the difficulty curve, which started with some quick challenges, but ramped up into some difficult, but immediately engaging conundrums that were a pleasure to solve. The creativity and variety of the puzzles also ensured that the experience remained fresh for the entire play time. I especially enjoyed some tactile puzzling that was included at the end of the case, which utilized some pieces of evidence I had not expected to be used in quite the way they were! The meta puzzle for this case was well implemented, with a little bit of subtle cluing, and I really liked how it tied another of the long running Sleuth Kings characters into the mystery!

Low Points:

One particular clue is something that folks will either get right away because it is something they’ve done before, or will need a hint to get things going. There may be a few folks in between, but it is a very specific cipher. A few of the codebreaking points in this box lend themselves a little more towards solo play, and one of us had to wait after we figured out the method of solving while the other finished up the process of decoding. One of the clues in the later game is a bit of a logical leap, and needs just a bit more cluing to ensure it isn’t too vague.

Verdict:

After Case 201, we were interested to see what would happen next, but this case truly finished off with us completely invested in knowing how this story continues, and ultimately finishes up! I have a few theories about what’s going on, but knowing Sleuth Kings, when the big reveal comes, I’ll be thrown for a loop. I definitely recommend picking this one up after working through Case 201, as the blend of engaging story telling and clever puzzling is to die for! 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 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!

Theme:

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…

Theme:

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.