Review of King of Shreds and Patches: Wake up, get infodump, sleep, repeat

(Note from Alexis: This is a review written by both me, Alexis, and Haley, my gf, although since Haley originally transcribed it, it’s from her perspective. Please note that none of this is meant to be an attack on the work’s author or his writing prowess, and I deeply admire and appreciate the work and dedication that goes into a game like this, whether I ended up liking it or not.)

Over the last two weeks (though its felt more like a month) my partner and I have been playing this game together. We’re casual IF players so perhaps our little experience with these types of puzzles has something to do with our negative experiences, but besides that we’ve found finishing the story difficult due to flaws in the writing and game design.

Our first issue is with the bluntness and amount of exposition. John Croft’s house was the first investigation of the game, but the papers in his house explained so much backstory and implied events so clearly that the mystery was dashed from the first scene of the game. Had the notes been more cryptic or sparse, we could have formed theories and made predictions. George, the pub guy, has a memory so good it eliminates intrigue by dumping so much exposition. It robs the player of the chance to investigate Barker ourselves by, for example, noticing him in the pub when we visit and then asking George about him, and perhaps trying to talk to Barker. Even better, had Moore not been in the asylum yet we could have listened to the two interact, but instead much of the story seems to have already happened. The investigations are fun when the information is garnered from a number of sources, but when it isn’t worked for the gameplay is unsatisfactory.

The knowledge system also discourages exploration and validation of hunches. Rather than being free to explore the city and conclude for ourselves after firsthand examination which areas aren’t relevant to the task at hand and which are, getting to discover locations that make us wonder what will happen there when they do become relevant, we are simply told up front by the game (in a meta narrative way that breaks immersion) what places are relevant. Moreover, through these knowledge flags we are forced to go through every motion the author planned in the order that he planned them. Again, when that linearity is unavoidable, without even getting to discover for ourselves that’s the order they have to happen in. An example of where such linearity is purely unnecessary would be when we find out that Lucy has left her house. We left the Henry’s and went to Barker’s, and we were unable to enter, we instinctively tried to go to St. James Palace because it was nearby. The game prevented this because we had not found Lucy’s burned note in the fireplace, so our instinct was worthless given the way the game was programmed.

The sleep system is egregious and heavily restricts freedom in a number of ways, including by even more rigidly forcing us to do things in certain orders via the time of day mechanism even when they don’t have to be done in that order necessarily, and also limiting what we can do. Its worst use is after Barker tries to kill us and kidnaps Lucy. Being forced to go directly to sleep after her abduction and being frozen as Barker absconds with her is patently absurd storytelling. If we weren’t supposed to find her yet, we could have tried to give chase, gotten lost in the city, and then decided with a heavy heart to go home /for ourselves/. Instead the game forces us go home, which since that we believe she’s going to be tortured to death, is infuriating.

The writing itself brought particular irritation to my partner. Besides the historical fiction kitsch of interacting with famous people from the past, the use of cliches and poor imagery became annoying and made immersion difficult. Maher only describes the main character’s feelings explicitly and directly, telling you how to feel, or gives objective descriptions of locations, never anything in the middle. He prefers to tell everything rather than using atmospheric description to convey emotion indirectly through superfluous set dressing, metaphors, similes, and deft emphasis.

The topics list hurt immersion as well as making conversation feel boring. If you are told explicitly what a character knows, all the player must do is loop through that list rather than think about what information you might be able to collect from them. This gives a lawnmowering effect to the conversations and feels less like a game. The conversation system also makes you repeat ‘ask ___ about ___’ until you’ve exhausted the character’s knowledge and returns a summary, which is again a meta narrative break in immersion.

In sum, the game feels railroaded even though a lot of IF is linear, because it is constricting to play. It doesn’t let you find things out first hand, directly experiencing the story; instead, it tells you about things that have already happened. Similarly, it gives too many answers and too little choice. Goals and their means are given cheaply. There should have been some balance between knowing exactly what to do next and having no idea, but this balance is only rarely struck (the very clever gun puzzle, for example). It was a fascinating and large game made with obvious dedication, but it felt like wake up, get infodump, sleep, repeat.


I forgot to add, another issue we had was with the protagonist’s lack of connection to the story.

I still feel that if it had had more compelling writing, atmosphere, and stakes for the protagonist, we would have been able to suspend disbelief and forgive all these other flaws.


Thanks for writing this review – I remember playing and enjoying this one when it came out, but recall it being a pretty linear fun-ride; these critiques seem right to me.

It’s maybe worth flagging that this is an adaptation of a Call of Cthulhu scenario, which is responsible for at least some of the tropes you note; like, the idea that most of the exciting stuff has already happened and you need to read a lot of documents to piece it together is often a core element of the CoC experience. And from glancing over my copy of the scenario, a lot of the railroading is straight out of there too - you’d think, being an RPG scenario meant to be run by a living GM, there’d be more scope for freeform player action, but no, it’s resolutely linear.

Ultimately as the author of the adaption, it was up to Maher to decide what incorporate, so I think the critiques are entirely fair – and of course the player experience is the most important lodestar for a review – so mostly pointing this out as a potentially-interesting lens to view some of the stuff that didn’t work for y’all!


Thank you so much for this input!! This really helps contextualize why Maher made the decisions he did, which were completely baffling to us before.


I loved this game. Exploring London while uncovering the secrets of a sinister cult is one of the things I’d love to do in real life…

I remember my biggest naggle about the game was the printing press puzzle. I really enjoyed the puzzle in itself, but it does feel like a ridiculous mismatch between player and PC when viewed in-context. The player has to painstakingly figure out the workings of this contraption by trial and error and examining every small bit, while it should have been obvious to a character with the PC’s background.

I do recognise and acknowledge the points you bring up as criticisms, especially the strict limits on what the player can do at certain points. But while playing, these things never flashed “bad” in my consciousness. I gladly followed the story where it took me, mesmerised by the atmosphere of the game.


Fair enough! These criticisms are very subjective qua criticism, so they may not bother anyone else the same way. But just to clarify, it’s not like we were even remotely trying to break the game or disobey what it was telling us to do each day. All of this got annoying purely from tge natural times the issues arose while we were trying to play the story.