Shuffling Around

Author: Andrew Schultz
Year: 2012
Development System: Inform
Cruelty Rating: Merciful
Length of Play: 3-4 Hours

My Rating: 9

If you enjoyed Nord and Bert Couldn’t Make Head or Tail Of It–specifically the Shopping Bizarre–then Shuffling Around is an absolute must play.

I’ve always been fairly good at anagramming but found it mostly dull. But Schultz did just such an impressive job at turning it into a funny, engaging game with clever puzzles and endearing characters. And even if you’re not good at anagramming, there are an unbelievable amount of gadgets you can use to give yourself different types of hints depending on your weaknesses that allow you to play at the exact pace you want. On top of that, if you get truly stuck you can just ask the game for more direct hints if you want to avoid going to an anagram solver on-line.

Like the Shopping Bizarre in Nord & Bert, you must often solve random anagrams lying around to get objects for your inventory to use on puzzles later. And while some of the puzzles are really straightforward (e.g. anagramming a bunch of items in a kitchen to make yourself some food), there are some rather genius multi-step puzzles, my favorite being the one to defeat the archenemy in the sortie.

But beyond just the puzzles, Schultz spent on what I can only imagine was an ungodly amount of time writing copious descriptions of rooms and objects that use clever anagrams for no other reason than to show off, and it was wonderful. Admittedly some of the anagrams are forced and make the writing a bit stilted in places, but in this world it was welcome.

There’s not much of a story and it’s mostly a disjointed puzzlefest, but considering each anagram I solved was like pushing a dopamine button, I was glad to be a rat in this maze.

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