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A stroll through Shakespeare's London. (oh, and unspeakable horror), April 24, 2020
It had been a long time since I seriously played IF. The King of Shreds and Patches pulled me back in.
Right from the back cover description, I got a tingling feeling in my brain about this game. A Lovecraftian horror set in the historical London of Shakespeare. Uhm,... Yes please.
The player is invited to empathize with the protagonist in a simple but very effective way: neither has the abilities needed to bring the story to a good end. So they have to be learned and practiced. The first few times you try a certain action, you have a rather high chance of failure. The more you perform it, the more proficient you get at it. Nice.
This learning curve also shows in the guidance of the player in solving puzzles: use a certain simple way to get an object in the intro, then complicate things in the middle game.
Two other puzzles are long but completely logical mechanical puzzles. These were great, as puzzles. I loved tinkering and fiddling with the objects needed. However, one of them in particular completely breaks the immersion in the character. (Spoiler - click to show)You are a printer of pamphlets, yet you somehow have to learn how to operate your own press...
One puzzle is frustrating as heck. I could not get my visual cortex to envisage the situation. I even thought it might have been better to implement this puzzle or sequence as a graphic mini-game. ((Spoiler - click to show)yes, the rowing boat)
Storywise, TKoSaP is very engaging. It's long and sprawling, with a good division into chapters that have to be handled in order. Two seemingly separate story-arcs meet eventually. Allthough you can see this coming, it is still very satisfying. That means good writing.
The adventure takes place in historical London, and the author has gone all out with this. There is an illustrated map of the city, the descriptions of background noise and activity puts you right in that time, and of course there are the characters you meet.
All of the NPCs that are of any importance are extremely well fleshed out, with many topics to discuss. Some have different opinions or viewpoints on one topic, filling in the backstory tremendously.
One of the non-player-characters is William Shakespeare. Nuff said.
The suspense leading up to the finale is long drawn out, as it should in a Lovecraftian tale. Books of lore, tales of myth, whispers and rumours,... it's all there, getting you to the very edge of your chair.
And then there is a very good and also very Lovecraftian finale.
(Spoiler - click to show)Of course, the story ends up shooting itself in the foot with a classic Lovecraftian backfire. Showing the tentacled monstrosity from the deep makes it laughable. But that's also part of the genre.