Problem Sleuth

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"You answer the phone in a hard boiled manner. You explain to the woman gruffly that you'd love to help her out, sweetheart, but you're up to your neck in all this weird puzzle shit. You hang up."

Problem Sleuth is the third webcomic under the MS Paint Adventures banner, written by Andrew Hussie, and was arguably the one which first brought Hussie and his work into the limelight. Written and presented in the style of an ersatz text/point-and-click adventure game, it details the antics of three especially hardboiled detectives -- Problem Sleuth, Ace Dick, and Pickle Inspector -- in their attempts to get out of their offices, all the while working to aid the turmoil-stricken Kingdoms of the Weasels, Clowns, Hogs and Elves, and to foil the dastardly plots of Mobster Kingpin.

While initially presented as a take on the Film Noir genre, its strength is in how it parodies numerous point-and-click adventure and JRPG mechanics and tropes, and in its ever-increasingly complicated story which still neatly ties up all loose ends. Much like its successor Homestuck, it also demonstrated a very steady level of Art Evolution up until the end, evolving from relatively crude static panels to featuring increasingly complex Animation Bump panels depicting Super Move Portrait Attacks, Summon Magic and Wave Motion Guns galore.


Warning: High chance of spoilers. Proceed with caution.


Pose as a team, because tropes just got real:

Hate to cut and run...

For instance, the seemingly idiotic and highly ignorable command "Build fort out of desk" lead not only to a short-term humorous payoff, but to an entire imaginary universe paradigm, and in a way, a whole gaming system which appeared to exist from the beginning, but only became manifest through the command.

You desperately bargain with Death, challenging him to any game you can think of for the fair damsel's life. CLUE, CONNECT FOUR, UNO, BATTLESHIP, SUDOKU, well ok not SUDOKU, but how about SNAKES AND LADDERS, that's fun, or what about HUNGRY HUNGRY HIPPOS god you LOVE HUNGRY HUNGRY HIPPOS.

You're here for two things: to fucking ruin someone's shit, and to play a friendly game of make-believe.
AND YOU'RE ALL OUT OF IMAGINATION.

    • Also, in an extra:

You're here for two things: to rain unspeakable devastation down on the forces of evil, and to flail your limbs about in a playful manner.
AND YOU HAVE NO ROOM IN YOUR FORT TO FLAIL ABOUT WHATSOEVER.

PS, AD and PI each have a lady counterpart, in accordance with deep seated mythology that dictates that any man secretly wishes to have sex with a female version of himself (re: Alvin and the Chipmunks, Mickey/Minnie, etc.) HD is PS's counterpart, NB is PI's, while AD is his own counterpart because he has a very poor imagination. So that's one duplicate AD, the one with the wig/helmet.

PS: Quit falling and land already!

Very well, bee that way!


Asshole!

      • And then he gets right back at it once he gets unmuted.

Once we have completed building your Impetus Comb, and all of its Jocose Honey has ripened and is sweet as can bee, that is when the fun beegins!!!

This is what being a hard boiled problem sleuth is all about. It's about being a strong, silent type, oozing with confidence, charisma, and other fine qualities such as not being trapped in your own office. It's about having a working phone. A real desk. Not one, but two steak dinners. And some hysterical broad on the line, yackin' about some fella she's got troubles with. It's always the same thing with dames. You comfort yourself in your sublime fantasy by now and then saying things into the phone such as, "Now calm down a second, toots..." and "Hey, take it easy, sweetheart. I can barely understand a word you're sayin'..."

  • Pungeon Master: Honeybee Professor
  • Puppet Gun: Pickle Inspector aims the CLOCK TOWER SNIPER CANNON via the SNIPER RIFLE.
  • Reality Warper: Pickle Inspector, in the Imagination realm
  • Recap Episode: Two of them (the first one by Death, The second one by the Devil), and a third one on the wiki.
  • Red Herring: Several items are presented to the reader as possible scopes for the SNIPER RIFLE before Pickle Inspector finally gets one.

The Swain makes a valiant play for his eyepiece, which in no way shape or form could ever be used in conjunction with a sniper rifle, and possibly could serve as one of numerous red herrings to this effect.

  • Reveal Shot: Technically a Closeup on Head, at least by name.
  • Role Playing Game Verse: All of the detectives and the Mobster Kingpin have (weirdly named) stats and hitpoints -- towards the end more and more bizarre bonus powers also appear.
    • Imagination: Magic, intelligence, and bonus to power in Imaginary areas.
    • Pulchritude: Evasion and Diplomacy/Charisma.
    • Vim: Strength and Health.
      • Each also has a expendable item that temporarily boosts it much in the manner of potions. Imagination is boosted by alcohol, Pulchritude is boosted by candy, and Vim is boosted by hotsauce.
      • Early in the game Vim is boosted by coffee, so really any hot drink will do.
  • Rube Goldberg Device: A puzzle so particularly difficult that it's solved by loading a save state from a point after the puzzle is solved. It is later revealed that a time traveling Pickle Inspector did it.)
  • Running Gag: Items switching back and forth between weapons and completely unrelated objects (e.g. a revolver becoming keys or a chainsaw becoming lipstick), responding to characters attempting to ride something like a mechanical bull (at times something about to explode) with "Wow, what a fucking waste of time!" and weasels "flipping the fuck out".
    • Business cards loaded with Double Entendre.
    • Ace Dick punches X in the snout to establish superiority. Xhearst is particularly enamored by your rowdy, no-nonsense brand of ruffianism.
    • And of course: "Quickly retrieve arms from [X]." "You've already got arms, [another word for idiot]!"
    • "Throw hat down in disgust."
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: "Complain that the MASS of the OBSERVABLE UNIVERSE is only thought to be 3x10^52kg. DMMK, at 100x10^100kg, weighs about thirty trillion trillion trillion trillion times MORE than the MASS of the OBSERVABLE UNIVERSE."

Actually this sort of bothers me too.
The bottom line is I just started rattling off numbers without even realizing how big I was making them.
A while ago I went back and changed the volume exponent, just so the number wouldn't indicate that he was almost infinitely tiny. I left the mass as it was, because I didn't think it mattered too much if it was just indicated as "VERY BIG".
But I might go back and just delete the exponents altogether, and just string more zeros after base of "10".
It's safe to say that with the numbers as they are now, MK would be the biggest black hole in the universe.

What pumpkin?

I beg your pardon? I'm fairly sure that there's nothing resembling a thick-skinned, orange, and woody-stemmed gourd here. The very idea is as incredulous as it is silly.

    • Incidentally, Word of God has stated in the published edition that he had no idea "get ye flask" was a reference to Homestar Runner.

03/10/08 - 03/10/09
3 detectives
365 days
1621 pages
1915 images
142 megabytes
45,000 words
0 sacred urns toppled
0 mystic ruins desecrated

0 hallowed tombs defiled

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Notes

  1. and the imaginary world, which together form a very large Closed Circle
  2. Despite being trapped in his own office, Problem Sleuth knows remarkably little about it.