City of Secrets - Hints

PLEASE NOTE that this post is about Emily Short's 2003 interactive fiction game City of Secrets, NOT about Aidem Media's recent graphical adventure with the same title. I cannot help you with the latter. (But if you're stuck in that game and want to check out some interactive fiction instead, why not try the also animal-starring and family-friendly Lost Pig? Once the application loads, type 'help' and read "How to play Interactive Fiction". It's a lot of fun.)

I just finished Emily Short's City of Secrets, which is an impressive work. In fact, I am tempted to call it her best yet.

Strangely enough, nobody has made a walkthrough for the game, even though there are a couple of points where you can get stuck.There are some hints on various places on the web (newsgroup postings, fora), but there's no central resource. So as a help to future players, I've decided to write down some solutions to potential problems here. If you get stuck in some other place, feel free to leave a comment, and maybe I can help you out.

In order to avoid spoilers, I'll encrypt all solutions with ROT-13. To decrypt, just paste the text into a ROT-13 decrypter like this one. (Or do it by hand: it's just a 13 place rotation in the alphabet.)

I've explored the city, but I can't get through the walls of force that block my way to the west.

Lbh'yy arrq n fcrpvny cnff, juvpu lbh pna trg sebz gur zna va gur ubgry. Whfg tb gurer naq gnyx gb uvz.

I need to get past a gate, but I don't have the password.

Lbh pna svaq gur cnffjbeq va gur onpxebbz bs bar bs gur gurngref (whfg svqqyr nebhaq jvgu gur fghss lbh svaq gurer). Lbh pna bayl trg va gurer jvgu na vaivgngvba--gel ybbxvat sbe fghss va gur cnex.

I want to go past the gate, but I still have a bug in my wrist. How do I remove it?

Lbh xabj ubj ybat V gevrq gb trg gur fvyire xavirf sebz gur nagvdhr fryyre? Jung lbh ernyyl arrq vf gur enmbe sebz gur ubgry onguebbz, naq n cynpr jurer gurer'f ab pnzren--gur pnfgyr gbvyrg.

Okay, I've found the gnostic temple, but I can't figure out what to do there.

Svefg bs nyy, lbh'yy arrq gur frecrag evat. Lbh fubhyq unir unq n ivfvba nobhg gung, naq vs fb, tb qvt sbe vg va gur cynpr jurer lbh fnj vg ohevrq. (Vg'f orlbaq gur cnex.) Gura gbhpu gur balk juvyr lbh ner jrnevat gur evat.

Nygreangviryl, V guvax lbh pna whfg zbir fbzr fghss va gur xvgpura naq gnxr na nygreangr ebhgr.

I need to get arrested, but how do I do that?

Qvqa'g trg fghpx gurer zlfrys, ohg fnj fbzrbar nfxvat nobhg vg ba gur arg. Whfg tb onpx gb gur cbyvpr fgngvba naq xabpx ba gur qbbe.

How do I get the winning ending?

V fnj fbzrbar nfx guvf nf jryy. Onfrq ba jung V'ir frra, V guvax lbh trg gur orfg rqavat ol: phefvat gur Pelfgny orsber Fvzba vf qrnq; urnyvat Rinvar jura gung vf fhttrfgrq ol gur perngher; gura fgbccvat jura lbh srry vg'f abg tbvat gb jbex.


  1. I'm searching the web for City of Secrets hint-requests; here are two I found which I did not yet cover.

    I have found the moon court, but nothing seems to happen--what need I do now?

    Guvf vf gur gvzr gb tb gb Fpururenmnqr'f fubj, juvpu vf abj ba. (Unq lbh gnxra n ohmmre, juvpu gur onezna pna tvir lbh, lbh jbhyq unir orra abgvsvrq.)

    I got into the backroom of the old theatre, but I can't do anything there. (Or, related: I've found out what you can find out there, but I don't know what to do with it.)

    Gurer ner fbzr jrngure onfrq vyyhfvbaf urer, naq lbh arrq gb pbzovar gurz. Fcrpvsvpnyyl, unir vg enva ba gur sver va beqre gb erirny gur cnffjbeq--be engure, n qrfpevcgvba bs gur cnffjbeq.

    Gb svaq bhg gur ragver cnffjbeq, tb gb gur obbxfubc naq ernq hc ba ybpny uvfgbel. Lbh'yy svaq gur anzr lbh arrq fbba rabhtu.

  2. I need one more barrel to build the elephant...

  3. I'm in the dinosaurs mouth but cant get past the instruments. How can I do it?

  4. im stuck at episode 5 where rex is at the place were the Mole King is held, i need to know how to get past that stupid rat guard.

  5. Dear Anonymous, you are playing a completely different City of Secrets (the Aidem media point-and-click game, not the Emily Short interactive fiction game). Since I haven't played that, I cannot help you.

  6. Hi, I can't figure out how to get the "hook" at the dump. I thought the hint said it was in the pile of trash, but all Moles ever says is "What a tip..." when I try searching there. ???

  7. Christina, I'm afraid the same is true for you that was true for the previous posters: you are playing a completely different game than my post is about.

  8. i need to solve xavier's puzzle- could u do step by step directions like" then move the ball"

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Hi fellow philosopher. I'm playing the Emily Short game, and I am stuck on the second floor of the library. I can't seem to figure out how to get back down, passed the meshed door frame and the "mysterious force."


  11. Hm, it's nearly three years ago that I played this game, and I must admit I can't quite remember what you need to do in the library. I'll try to get around to replaying the game as soon as possible. Meanwhile, it might be worth posting the hint request in the Hint forum here: Perhaps someone will come along who played it more recently, and Emily Short herself also sometimes frequents the forum. (Though I don't know if she remembers the details of a game she wrote 8 years ago. :) )

  12. socialbreakfast14 March 2012 at 19:19

    @JFM Think about how rare book reading rooms work in real life.

  13. I've been searching for hints for this game for a long time, and I'm very glad I've found this page (yeah, I'm a bit late to the party). I have a problem though: I know what to do to get past the barrier, but the game doesn't allow me to do that. V'ir orra gbyq gb gnyx gb gur pbapvretr ng gur ubgry sbe gur cnff, ohg rirel gvzr V gel gb fgneg n pbairefngvba, ur xrrcf vtabevat zr. V'ir gevrq rirelguvat, fubjvat be tvivat uvz guvatf, jvgu gur fnzr erfhyg. I'm completely stuck. I've tried to write on the forum you've linked to, but for some reason I cannot registrate...

  14. Hi Kate,

    I'm afraid I really don't know how to solve this problem. It's been a while since I played this game!

    Registration on the int-fiction forum shouldn't be difficult... if you continue to have problems, you could send an email to the admins. (If you can't find their email, ask me, I'm sure I could find it.)

  15. LightEmittingDiode4 June 2012 at 22:32

    I'm stuck in a conversation with Malik after a theif robbed me. How do I get out of this conversation?

  16. At the risk of seeming like a complete novice I have to ask how I stop the thief from killing me with his switchblade on my first foray out of the hotel, I'm sure I've tried every response but I still wind up dead!

  17. Eric, is it possible that you have to be mugged to advance the story?

  18. I know this totally sounds lame but im stuck at the very beginning of the game. i keep getting mugged every time i leave the hotel room. Help!!

  19. Please help. I know the password (did the reading). Where the heck do I say it? Also, I saw Scheherazade's show, but MISSED the opportunity to talk to her. arrrrrgh. I'm kind of just wandering. I saw Simon get arrested, I've started to annoy the spice seller and bartender with questions, I'm saying the password to everybody, I've knocked on police head quarters, just in case getting arrested is what needs to happen, I keep waiting for the damn Secret-Secret show to start (said the password outside the door, JUSTINCASE.) A few tips? Anyone??

  20. I am stuck in the library. I know I have to do something with the rare book room, but I don't know what I need to do. I thought about pushing the bookshelves to try and get downstairs, but I have no idea on how to get past it. Please help!

    1. It's 8 years ago since I played the game... really don't know the answers to this any more! Next time I play it, I'll make a walkthrough, because it is sorely needed.

    2. I figured it out. You cannot go downstairs if you are carrying the Guide book.

  21. Wow. I never even had to do anything in the library! Maybe I should go back and get some of that text. Anyway, for anyone having trouble, I am putting up a complete transcript of my playthrough (including all the stupid crap I tried). I got to the end, even got the "good ending" completely by accident!
    Here it is:
    Hopefully this will help anyone. It was a really enjoyable game.


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