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About the StoryJanuary 14th
Dear friend. My sojourn in parts foreign is at an ende. I am at lodgings in Southwark not far from the bridge at Stoney Street, come dine with me two days hence to ring in the newe year. I have not enjoyed amiable English companie for some long time and it would be refreshing to hear my mother tongue used in its proper manner again.
When you receive this note from your old acquantence John Croft, you expect nothing but an evening of good food and drink and Croft's lecherous tales. Instead, you quickly find yourself plunged into a conspiracy of black magic that involves not only Croft but some of the most powerful and important men in London -- and possibly even someone else, someone much closer to your own heart.
The King of Shreds and Patches is a novel-length work of interactive fiction. In it you will explore an historically accurate recreation of Elizabethan London, circa 1603, interact with some fascinating characters both historical and fictional, and (if you are clever and lucky) thwart an occult conspiracy that threatens to bring down the entire city -- or worse.
Nominee, Best Story; Winner, Best Setting - 2009 XYZZY Awards
Jay Is Games
Adapted from a scenario written by Justin Tynes for the Call of Cthulhu tabletop RPG, The King of Shreds and patches looks and feels like the massive labour of love it is. It's huge and labyrinthian, packed with memorable characters who look, feel, and act distinct in ways that help engage you in the plot. Interactive fiction has always been better at this than other genres, but the cast here feels far less like actors and NPCs and more like allies and enemies than many other titles ever pull off. The amount of detail and freedom can be a little overwhelming at first. Fish markets! Jugglers! Street urchins! Unspeakable murders and ancient symbols! Ale!
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(Don't) Look Away
A characteristic it shares with some other very recent releases -- notably Aaron Reed's massive Blue Lacuna -- is its willingness to adopt gameplay conventions from other forms of gaming in order to make play more accessible to people who haven't spent their whole lives playing IF.
In other formal respects, The King of Shreds and Patches is notable not so much for any specific features as for its scope, solidity, and ability to pull together many already-known IF virtues. There's extensive conversation, and (more surprisingly) combat; not randomized fight scenes, but combat puzzles of the sort where there are multiple ways to block or disarm the opponent but you only have a few moves to think of one. The setting is Elizabethan London, just -- the Queen is dying -- and the geography and props give a sense of period, though the dialogue and conception of the universe sometimes seem a bit more modern; both of which elements are probably true to the original RPG module, though I imagine Jimmy must have done a fair amount of research to fill in such details as the correct working of a printing press ca. 1600.
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Number of Reviews: 4
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
As a game, King has some real strengths and some annoying weaknesses. Positives include the THINK command, which allows the player to review what quests he might work on next -- a valuable feature in a game with such a large map and so many characters to interrogate; the game map, which provides an overview of what London looks like, and expands with new locations whenever the player receives a commission to go to a new place, which conveys well the experience of moving around a city the protagonist already knows; and a number of puzzle solutions that build on previous solutions, giving the impression that the protagonist is gaining certain skills and habits as the story goes on.
Several of the puzzles, however, turn on precise, fiddly manipulation of what I assume are realistically implemented Elizabethan objects. On the one hand, this makes the player engage more completely with the period, which is not a bad thing; on the other, the experience could be frustrating, especially when the proper use was under-clued or a timed scene was in progress. (Spoiler - click to show)In one case, the object I was struggling to learn to use was the printing press the protagonist used for his livelihood -- surely something he would be able to manipulate with confidence.
Another issue is that the game relies heavily on knowledge flags to determine what the player is allowed to do, and sometimes these triggers are more finicky than I would like. On several occasions I found myself looking for a building I knew should be present in a location, but because the game didn't think I'd "learned" about its presence yet, the parser stubbornly disclaimed all knowledge.
As story, King of Shreds and Patches is again somewhat mixed.
There are some very memorable scenes, and (as often in horror IF) the first hints of the truth are genuinely creepy. It also uses very effectively the idea that the player constantly risks madness by too great a contact with the cult he's investigating. IF provides a great context for that, too -- every time the game hinted that I was on the verge of knowing Too Much, I'd go ahead and do the fatal action, and then UNDO: both succumbing to my own temptation and allowing the protagonist to remain innocent.
I was less satisfied with the ending, where unspeakable horrors become speakable and in the process turn out more banal than their earlier manifestations.
This said, King offers a rare depth of experience, with a long and eventful plot, detailed historical setting, and a large cast of characters. Conversation sometimes becomes a bit longwinded (characters have a lot of backstory to disclose, and you really need to ask about every topic that is listed as an option), but the extensive character interaction provides a feeling all too rare in IF, that of being in a heavily-populated area. Like Anchorhead, King also implements days and nights, giving the player a better sense of passing time than most IF offers. King of Shreds and Patches is a substantial work and well worth playing.
Maher has a satisfying tale of Lovecraftian horror to tell, and tell it he does. The player is along for the ride, although she encounters enough (generally easy) puzzles and has enough influence over the order in which the story unfolds to keep her from feeling powerless. The result is an enjoyable game that is the interactive fiction equivalent of a page turner: it may not always be of the highest literary qualities, but you want to keep on reading nonetheless.
Apart from the often excellent puzzle design, the main reasons that you can keep on turning the pages are the helpful map and "go to..." commands, and the self-updating list of goals. These together ensure that the player cannot get lost, either in space or in story-space.
In other words: this game is not incredible, it does not "advance the art of interactive storytelling", but it is very enjoyable and one can learn a lot of craft from it. I wouldn't be surprised if it gets one or more XYZZYs.
What got me to play this game was, the map¡ yeah, a piece of paper with names of places make me play this game until the end. For newbie players, sense of direction, is very important. Walking randomly just hoping to arrive where you want to, will lead to frustration, unless you got a very . memory (I¡¯m talking about new players, an expert of IF I suppose can get around without a map) or incredible luck. The story was very interesting, is about this man, Robert, trying to figure out what happen to his friend after finding him dead, any more info will spoil the fun of it. Its play kinda like a detective game, finding clues, talking to people to discover who or what did this to your friend. This games is not as graphic as I will like it to be, only one scene really surprises me, otherwise I will have love if the game would have gotten more mature and disgusting bloody scenes. The puzzles were very good, maybe one or two will lead to frustration, (especially new players like me) but there¡¯s a very good hint system, its follow your progress and give you the tiny bit of info to keep solving the puzzle on your own, or give you the full solution, I really love this system, and I think many IF uses this. The game uses very easy commands, you will never will find yourself typing random verbs just to ¡°cut the paper¡±. And in the conversations the game give you the topics beforehand, just in case you forgot what you have to ask to a certain person. The conversations feels lively, the writing is very good in my opinion.
I really recommend this game to newbie players. One of the first IF I played what this game that was supposed to ¡°teach me¡± how to play, and it did the opposite, its make me afraid of ¡°games without pictures¡±, its make me feel like ¡°if I can¡¯t resolve this puzzle in this game for ¡°new players¡± without typing hint, its mean I will never be able to beat any other IF on my own". All those IF expert players learned by trial and error, playing multiple games at first, without even beaten half of them. Also, play a game with a story you like with normal places. Houses, shops and a city, this is easy to imagine and to get into, not like a castle with a supernatural wardrobe that you have to use to light a candle in the first 10 minutes of the game. This game should be in the top list of games to play for people that think that IF is an error in writing and have to be in lower case¡ like I once did.
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