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About the Story
A surreal, small treasure hunt with bumpers. Lots of them.
46th Place - tie - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)
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Number of Reviews: 4
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Trail Stash is a short-ish puzzle, where you must go through trash to find treasures. Along the way, you pick up items you can use to unlock new locations. As the story is rather not deep and quite nonsensical, the focus of the entry is meant to be on the gameplay. I could not solve the puzzle without the external map.
Trail Stash is the latest entry of Andrew’s experiments in SugarCube, which I got into with his Neo Twiny entries last June, where the focus is less on the story itself but what the code can do or what gameplay could be added to a Twine game. In this entry, it is all about a puzzle map, where you can pick up items, use those items, unlock rooms, and collect all map pieces to get to the ending.
Though it is humorous and you should take the story at the first degree, the puzzle itself is a struggle. There is no indication on what you are supposed to do, or even hints. When you finally manage to understand what’s going on after clicking on everything, solving the puzzle itself comes down to a trial and error, and error, and maybe a win, but mostly error, and an error again. If there was a certain logic in where to use which item, I did not find it…
Even while using the map, I’ve made many errors because I could not differentiate the colours.
Honestly, this felt a bit like one of those old school parser puzzle transplanted into a choice-based engine. Which is neat in and of itself, but didn’t really work… I found quite a bit of friction, with how the pages were formatted: with the locations being in a line, whole pages refreshing instead of a single line, or the inventory hidden*. That made, to me, the entry feel more like a proptotype.
*I think it could have worked better tagged at the end of the passage, with a popup on whether the combo worked or not…
Still, I’ve always found something interesting with these experiments, as it’s made me think of new ways to approach SugarCube or gameplay in general. There’s always something intriguing, making me wonder how things work under the hood. And this one is no different.
I enjoyed the idea of this game, but I didn’t feel it fully lived up to its expectations. Although the puzzles were definitely good and worked, I think it soon exhausted me. But very fun, maybe try and mix things up a little more, also maybe a little bit longer, but I thoroughly enjoyed what was there very much!
Song: I couldn’t find something that fully fits (also since not many of Radiohead’s songs are very goofy and lighthearted in the way this one is), but I found Permanent Daylight. Not my favourite song by far, unfortunately, and this game is very good, but the line “With your head on backwards” gave me the flipping-letters vibe.
This is a game by Andrew Schultz, an author who excels at wordplay-based games.
But, instead of a parser game, it’s twine!
The conceit of this one is taking pairs of words in pairs (so 4 words total) so that if you switch the first letters or (or chunk of letters) of the first pair, you get the second pair. Just like the name: ‘Trail Stash’, if you switch the TR and ST, becomes 'Stale Trash".
I wondered how effective Twine could be in this format. After all, this is a similar concept to the parser games; would it be less effective here?
But as I played, I thought, ‘hmm, this is great!’. One of the difficulties I often have with the parser games by Andrew Schultz is that it is often uncertain how to interact when you have an item in a location; do you type the solution of the wordplay puzzle, or use a verb with the object?
Twine solves this problem by limiting possible interactions.
This doesn’t make things easy, though! I had difficulty near the end game where just nothing seemed to work. Then I realized that I had missed an important solution early on and missed out on three locations!
So overall, this worked well. The only caveats I had are below:
My one caveat is that there was no apparent connection between some of the items and the solutions. For instance, you have to detect losers, but the object is . Although, now that I think of it, I guess ’ has multiple meanings. So maybe it’s just my lack of imagination.
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