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Trail Stash

by Andrew Schultz profile

Episode 1 of I Heart High Art
Comedy, surreal

(based on 12 ratings)
7 reviews

About the Story

A surreal, small treasure hunt with bumpers. Lots of them.

Game Details


46th Place - tie - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)


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Number of Reviews: 7
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Fight & Lun, February 18, 2024
by Max Fog
Related reviews: IFComp 2023

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.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Trash and error..., November 22, 2023
by manonamora
Related reviews: ifcomp

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.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
There's no Spoonerism for "Spoonerism", December 7, 2023
by Mike Russo (Los Angeles)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2023

(This is a lightly-edited version of a review I posted to the IntFiction forums during 2023's IFComp).

I've played a lot of Andrew Schultz games, and while there are definite themes and sub-series, he’s a wide-ranging author and about the only thing that applies across the board to his work is that he’s always doing something other than regular parser stuff, be it anthropomorphized chess puzzles, an inverted tic-tac-toe game where losing is winning (and vice versa), or the extended wordplay riffs of Bright Brave Knight Knave, which I already played in this Comp. To my knowledge, though, outside of a few short jam entries, he’s typically stuck to parser engines for his more robust games, so I was curious to see what he’d gotten up to with Twine.

Trail Stash is actually not that far off from Schultz's other entry in the '23 Comp, Bright Brave Knight Knave, in that it hinges on Spoonerisms, a kind of wordplay the initial sounds of two words swap – like, you’ll win twaddle if you make a twin waddle (I don’t even know what the term is, if there is one, for the more complex stuff in BBKK and its ilk). The game’s replete with them – every location is a Spoonerism, and so are all the items you pick up along the way, because yes, this is a parser-like choice game with a persistent inventory and a navigation system that enables you to revisit places you’ve already been. And in fact you’ll have to, because each location contains one, and only one, item, and requires you to use one, and only one, other item to solve it (and thereby obtain one of a dozen pieces of a treasure map).

There is a story here, but it’s pretty vestigial even compared to the sometimes-sketchier frames for Schultz’s other wordplay games; it basically reduces to “you’re a guy who likes treasure, go find the map.” Likewise, if there’s any theme that unites the various situations and problems you face, it felt pretty light to me. Nothing wrong with that since it lets the player concentrate on the gameplay, and that suited me just fine. I often find the wordplay games a bit tricky, but shifting to a choice-based engine makes proceedings much simpler, since you just need to click the item you want to use; no need to sound things out and decide whether you want to write a word with an f vs. a ph, for example. Of course, that risks making things too simple and turning the game into a lawnmowering exercise, but I thought the game mostly managed to hit the sweet spot in between; with 16 total locations, comprising a training-wheel set of four and the meat of the game in four additional sets of three, the set of possibilities is manageable while still making trial-and-error unrewarding unless you’re really feeling stuck.

I also thought the hit rate for the jokes was pretty good. Plaid base is a good gag, as is funk pail. And I had to stop and think for a second when I found the one-word item to figure out how that one could work. And Trail Stash trusts the player enough not to belabor its point – it usually avoids spelling out the Spoonerism so that you can get the pleasure of feeling the click in your brain. I liked this description that came after figuring out how to solve the “weedy nerds” area:

"The weedy nerds are quickly very interested in the wee freights, be they ships or trains. The process of moving and organizing said freights gets longer. They analyze the structure of the freights and build bigger ones. All this is a good workout—something the weedy nerds once avoided."

Sure, not all of the puzzles are so clean, and I was definitely reduced to mechanically clicking through my options a few times, or left scratching my head after somehow landing on the right answer. But for the most part, I felt like I got the logic of which object I should use when. I’m sure this is partially because of the shorter running time of Trail Stash, so despite its name, it’s able to stick to the cream of possible Spoonerisms rather than scraping the bottom of the barrel. Likewise, this fresh twist on the Schultz wordplay formula would probably feel restrictive if it went on too long. But as an experiment in taking a tried and tested parser approach into new, choice-based territory, I’d rate the game a solid success.

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Trail Stash on IFDB


The following polls include votes for Trail Stash:

Outstanding Underappreciated Game of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2022 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the most underappreciated game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members....

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