Cookie Fonster’s Problem Sleuth Commentary Part 3: Imagination Cooperation Station


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Chapter 4

Pages 230–327 (MSPA: 448–545)

NOTE: Before leaving for my next vacation, I will publish only one more Homestuck post, not two.  

You are now Pickle Inspector.

Pickle Inspector, the last main character of Problem Sleuth, has some things in common with Jade, the last main character of Homestuck. Both start off the story already well engaged in the comics’ respective game mechanics: Pickle Inspector spends a lot of time in the imaginary world, and Jade spends a lot of time in the dream world; both are also the only characters who started that sort of thing (PI building a fort, and Jade’s dream self waking up) before the story began. Though I don’t think very many people are aware of the parallels, I can’t imagine the author didn’t create Jade’s character with Pickle Inspector in mind.

Your door is blocked by something. Judging from the marks on the door, it looks like you attempted to open it with some sort of weapon. 

Aside from being another example of player narration weirdness, this is yet another of Pickle Inspector already having gone through some of the story’s typical patterns before that even happened. Like Jade, our last main character in Problem Sleuth seems to be something of a pattern-breaker.

Also, I bet the hairpin is Pickle Inspector’s weapon object.

I was right. Pickle Inspector’s film noir panel is done immediately, as if to get that obligatory pattern out of the way.

You drop the MACHINE GUN. Your VIM characteristic is way too low to carry around such a heavy object.

(1) Once again, this is Pickle Inspector subverting a story pattern.

(2) Unsurprisingly, Pickle Inspector’s statistics are just about the opposite of Ace Dick’s. This basically confirms my idea of the three main characters corresponding to video game difficulties.

Ace Dick is the only detective who didn’t kill a worker with a gun. Instead, he knocked out a worker with a bust.

Turns out Pickle Inspector’s office is blocked by a trombone, one that appears to be put up there by an officer he accidentally killed before the story started. This means while Ace Dick’s office blocking revelation happened way different from Problem Sleuth’s, Pickle Inspector’s happened the same way, but offscreen.

If I recall, a trombone is much later used to trap Mobster Kingpin in the afterlife. I wonder if it’s the very same trombone or what?

A little later, after Pickle Inspector is commanded to become homoerotically interested in his fan, Andrew Hussie is given the same command to the comic’s fans, presumably something ridiculous he accepted as a dumb joke. It’s kind of random and out of place, but that’s kind of the point of the story.

Problem Sleuth and Ace Dick entering back rooms not shown.

Pickle Inspector examines his bottles. At this point it’s not unreasonable to expect them to all be alcohol, but in reality, only one is. The other two are hot sauce and his urine. Despite what we already know about things not being what they appear to be, this one is a bit of a surprise, and it’s partly played normal; this is because at this point the game mechanic of using alcohol and a fort to enter the imaginary world is well-established.

You would take a swig from one, but you seem to have misplaced your handy DRINKING IMPLEMENT.

Here’s things not quite not appearing as they appear to be, but no less being super inconvenient, once again because at this point some things are well established.

As Ace Dick fires his gun at the ceiling (screw the weird key/gun terminology) to try and shoot the target, everyone in the speakeasy above runs away. Surprisingly, they do something normal by avoiding all this crazy nonsense.

Pickle Inspector is commanded to break through the glass on the door, presumably so that the player see what’s really there. In a masterful act of surprise, there is no glass at all, rather an opening he can crawl through.

Pickle Inspector finds an elf, but fails to get its secrets because of his low pulchritude, so he goes back inside. I’m kind of confused again—how come going through the door took him to a small room? Is the opening actually an imaginary window or something? If that’s the case, then that may tie in with his affiliation with imagination.

Pickle Inspector eating hot sauce not shown.

Finally something convenient happens: after the machine gun fires again and causes the slurry to catch fire, the sprinkler is activated and it cools everything down. Seems like Pickle Inspector has a considerably more sophisticated office than the other two detectives.

When Problem Sleuth plays the piano, instruments below the pictures of jazz musicians are revealed, which probably means he’ll have to retrieve the instruments from his secret room and put them there. I have no idea what that’ll do to the story but I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

Problem Sleuth and Ace Dick are commanded to go to the nearby doors, but both are blocked by an oboe. When I saw this page, I wondered, couldn’t one of them go there and snap the oboe in half? But then I realized that would be dumb since they don’t have access to the area with the oboe as far as I know.

Problem Sleuth retrieves the instruments from the room and applies them to the jazz musicians, apparently without a hitch. Apparently that causes a switch to appear on the wall? That logic doesn’t make any sort of sense, except I suppose as video game logic, where you solve random puzzles to cause things to appear.

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.

So Problem Sleuth can finally use his phone to solve crimes, yay! Except he can’t do that anymore since he’s busy dealing with puzzles. Basically he’s too late in the story now to do any detective work.

Turns out Problem Sleuth was talking to a new mystery woman, one who is later revealed to be his own female counterpart. This “talking to mystery characters” thing is done a lot in Homestuck; several times, something very much like this happens, when we see a character talking to a new mystery character who gets a teaser in the next page.

After restarting in the imaginary world with two lives to spare, Problem Sleuth finds the other two detectives and uses his pulchritude statistic to lead them. This sort of reminds me of the thing of Karkat having purely non-physical ability with his whole leadership thing. It also firmly establishes our trio of main characters as a team of people who work together.

Problem Sleuth asks Pickle Inspector to conjure imaginary guns (reminds me of Roxy’s conjuration abilities), which seems to be a case of the reader, or should I say the player, experimenting with powers and using them to his advantage. I wonder how exactly that’s going to mess up completely.

So the imaginary weapon conjuration messes up essentially by not messing up, and actually working perfectly? I didn’t see that coming. Unlike with those film noir weapon panels, this one is a lot more legitimately triumphant and dramatic, rather than trollish.

The three weapons—the Candy Corn Handgun, the Tootsie Roll Shotgun, and the Pez Uzi—are simultaneously goofy and legitimately badass. They also match up with the theme of each character having multiple different weapons, some corresponding with each other to a degree. The weapon of choice motif is echoed to a stronger degree in Homestuck, where many of the characters’ weapons—pretty much all of them, really—are trademark features.

The three detectives resume the beast fight, and Problem Sleuth blasts a giant hole in the beast’s stomach. Given that just before that Pickle Inspector shot Ace Dick in the head and that didn’t do anything, one can only imagine his gun is probably good at something else; after all, that’s how the story works.

I guess Pickle Inspector can do decent damage by blasting the beast when he uses his battle menu like Problem Sleuth did? Looks like that matches with the whole video game mechanic thing present throughout the comic.

And Ace Dick deals the final, biggest blow on the beast. I can’t help but wonder if the trolls’ black king battle from Homestuck was inspired by these Problem Sleuth battles in style; I’m referring to both the canon description of how the battle went, and the fanmade video for it.

The three detectives all gain levels, which aside from matching to an extent with the echeladder in Homestuck, also serves as a good way to make stuff less crummy for our characters. OK, it actually mostly just boosts the characters’ main stats, but still I can’t imagine that won’t have any ramifications. Amusingly, Ace Dick’s imagination is not boosted at all, neither is Pickle Inspector’s vim; Ace Dick’s pulchritude is in fact decreased.

Problem Sleuth starts walking around the imaginary city in the monster’s legs, which is stupid as hell but also pretty cool.

Not shown: Ace Dick and Pickle Inspector facing off against the other beast again.

Problem Sleuth examines a spinning statue in a building which is a bit of an odd thing to see happening considering that everything we first saw through his window turned out to be fake.

Ace Dick does his truffle shuffle again, the same one that got him killed in an alternate plot option, and once again it gets him killed. It seems that no matter what you try, the truffle shuffle gets Ace Dick killed (sounds kind of like the whole predestination thing in Homestuck).

Pickle Inspector creates a jawbreaker launcher which promptly kills the beast. His imagination powers are apparently crazy powerful.

Problem Sleuth tries to do a mating dance but is eaten by the big beast that came earlier and just like in my Homestuck intermission posts, I feel like there’s no a whole lot worth commenting on right now due to there not being much scenes to comment on. Maybe I’ll be able to do more commentary again later, but right now I’m kind of short in that regard.

OK wow, here’s something that I actually can comment on. It seems like Pickle Inspector is by far the best at staying alive in the imaginary world, which makes sense with the whole balancing idea because barring his looks he could barely pass for a detective.

This is kind of disturbing as hell.

Aw dammit, scratch that. Pickle Inspector’s imaginary projection can’t exist in the real world, and thus disintegrates.

With Problem Sleuth and Ace Dick recovering from their imaginary binges, chapter four concludes. Overall, a lot of stuff happens in this chapter: our three main characters finally are all playable, and start working together, not to mention extended scenes in the imaginary world, the comic’s main realm of space; I’d say this chapter takes us out of the comic’s introductory phase. See you next time as I realize this “see you next time” thing doesn’t work for a comic I don’t remember well how it goes.

Next – Part 4: Liquor Explosions and Skull Puzzles

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