The year is 1603, and you are in Elizabethan London. When you receive an invitation from an old acquaintance, you expect nothing but an entertaining evening with good food and drink. Instead, you find yourself plunged into a conspiracy of black magic involving some of the most powerful and important men in London. Will you thwart this conspiracy before it brings down the entire city? That’s up to you in “The King of Shreds and Patches,” a new interactive fiction game for Kindle. Rather, the game is new for Kindle but its concept dates back to the 1980s.
“The King of Shreds and Patches” was originally available as a desktop PC game, the creation of Jimmy Maher, an expert in interactive fiction. He defines the concept of interactive fiction in more detail here, but here’s the basic definition:
[Interactive fiction is] a unique form of computer-based storytelling which places the player in the role of a character in a simulated world, and which is characterized by its reliance upon text as its primary means of output and by its use of a flexible natural-language parser for input. The term originated, many years after the birth of the genre it describes, in the early 1980s with a company called Infocom. At that time, games of this sort were commonly known as “adventure games” or “text adventures,” the latter to distinguish them from the graphical brand of story-based games which were just beginning to compete with text-based titles in the marketplac
In other words, this is a retro form of gaming that happens to work well on the Kindle–which, as MIT’s Technology Review blog points out, is “pretty much just a PC from a previous era shrunk into a tiny package, and it even comes with its own monochrome screen….[Interactive fiction] is a medium that — to a mass audience, at least — died an early death owing to the advancement of graphics and sound technology, and that’s a shame.”
Well, now you can get the game on Kindle for $3.99. The two reviews so far are raves; here’s one of them:
Jimmy Maher’s “King of Shreds & Patches” is a breakthrough in interactive story telling for the Kindle. It’s the first novel-length story of interactive fiction available for the #1 eBook reader on the market. If you’re unfamiliar with interactive fiction, here’s a chance to try it out with a very well-designed Kindle user interface. Maher has really tailored his work to the Kindle, using the unique menus, fonts and graphics to present an immersive story where you are the protaganist left to solve an Elizabethan-era Lovecraft type of mystery.
For those already familiar with Interactive Fiction (IF) from Infocom in the 1980s (Zork anyone?) this is a chance to try out a more recent story written using a much larger vocabulary and expanded memory than was available in old-school works. For those who have tried tried the “create your own adventure” games such as “Choice of Broadsides” or “Choice of Romance” on the Kindle, you may enjoy the broader narrative and greater freedom that a full-blown parser-based interactive fiction story provides.
For the cost of a large mocha grande, you’ll have an interactive story that will give you hours interesting exploration and story telling. And if you get stuck, there’s always the built-in hint system! I hope we’ll see more examples of modern interactive fiction available on the Kindle.