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About the Story
Nominee, Best Story; Winner, Best Setting - 2009 XYZZY Awards
The game is long and very entertaining, keeping the player on edge all the time. Perhaps a little cheesy and frustrating at times, but a real page turner nonetheless.
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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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Play This Thing!
(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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SPAG Specifics: The King of Shreds and Patches
Here we have a true page turner, a well-told horror story of considerable length that we are eager to explore; and we get puzzles thrown in our way that we will always solve within minutes and that create exactly the sense of being involved in the action that they are meant to. King is not supposed to be a tough puzzle game where we stare at the screen for hours as we attempt to get into Joseph's house; indeed, it would be fatal to the tension created by the quickly unfolding narrative if we did.
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Number of Reviews: 9
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
King of Shreds and Patches appears in a genre, Lovecraftian horror, that already contains some of the best IF out there -- perhaps because IF is such a good medium for telling a story of exploration, hidden rooms, and dark secrets. What sets this particular game apart is its setting, Elizabethan London in 1603, which is vividly researched.
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.
In one memorable scene (though the associated puzzle is somewhat irritating) of The King of Shreds and Patches, the protagonist is rowing on the Thames, attempting to make headway against the stream. Playing Maher's game is nothing like that. It is, in fact, the exact opposite, a smooth ride along with the flow.
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.
For those of us who cherish the great city of London, and have always wanted to experience it in all its 17th century glory (or filth), this game will satisfy the craving.
Massive, suspenseful, detailed game. Wonderfully thorough NPC conversations. Historical and geographical gems. Built-in hints range from gentle prods to downright spoilers, but very useful for beginners or the occaisional stumpers. Puzzles almost always are intuitive and logically make use of game’s plot and surroundings. Learning how to operate a 400-year-old printing press is priceless.
My one frustration was missing an important clue/item mid-way and figuring out at the very end of the game that I’d have to replay a large portion. Granted, I prefer games that make it clear when there is no way for you to finish at least after some reasonable length of time, not after many hours.
Ending seemed a bit cliched after such beautiful buildup and intricately detailed beginnings, which is my only reason for not giving 5 stars.
Take aways: great for beginners and history lovers. Suspenseful enough to make up for minor plot and puzzle issues.
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