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The Six Most Infamous Puzzles In Adventure Game History
by Ryan Creighton on 03/02/12 06:19:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

[this article by Ryan Henson Creighton is re-posted from the Untold Entertainment blog, which is awesome. Come hear Ryan speak at GDC 2012 at 1:45 Monday March 5th at the Independent Games Summit! Attendees seated in the first two rows should be aware that this area is designated the "Splash Zone".]

1. Getting the Babel Fish into Your Ear

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 1984 Probably the most well-known puzzle of any on the list, the babel fish puzzle is renowned for walking the fine line between fun frustration (or "funstration"), and pure seething evil. Displaced Earthling Arthur Dent has been zapped aboard a hostile alien ship. In order to understand alien languages, he has to put a babel fish in his ear. In the book on which the game is based, Arthur's friend Ford just hands him the fish. But in the game, a few more steps are required.

 

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy text adventure, co-authored by Douglas Adams, puts the fish in a vending machine and gives the player a limited number of turns to acquire it before the game becomes unwinnable. From the Everything2 entry on the puzzle:

After the player presses the button, the fish is vended, but with such force that it flies across the room and into a hole. The sequence of events for the novice player goes as follows: Above the hole is a hook, from which the player eventually decides to hang his dressing gown; this causes the vended Babel Fish to hit the gown and drop to the floor...

... where it falls down a drain ('press button and catch fish' is not a valid input). The player may then decide to block the drain with his handy towel, which causes the fish to hit the gown, drop to the floor, and land on the towel...

... where it is cleaned away by a cleaning robot that dashes into the room, and dashes out again via a small panel. At this point the player realises that the game is toying with him or her. Undefeated, he or she may choose to block the panel with Ford Prefect's satchel, at which point the Babel Fish flies into the gown, drops to the floor, the robot picks it up, runs into the satchel, and throws the fish in the air...

... where it is cleaned away by another cleaning robot, one tasked with maintaining the upper half of the room. It is this additional puzzle that caused players the most anguish, as the solution is not at all obvious - it involves placing some junk mail on Ford Prefect's satchel, which, when sent flying through the air, occupies the second cleaning robot enough for the Babel Fish to arc gracefully into the player's ear.

The game's publisher, Infocom, actually sold T-Shirts for people who managed to solve the puzzle:

 

It's a small sadness that, thanks to the Internet, a phenomenon like this couldn't really happen again.

2. Guessing the Gnome's Gname

King's Quest, 1984 

1984 was apparently a good year for infuriating adventure game puzzles. In the original King's Quest outing, Sir Graham meets a gnome who challenges him to guess his name. The obvious answer is "Rumplestiltskin", since most of the game's characters and story elements are cribbed straight from Grimms' Fairy Tales. But no - that's not the answer. Written on a piece of paper in the witch's house (the witch from Hansel and Gretel, whose person, house, and note have nothing whatsoever to do with the gnome), are the words "sometimes it's wise to think backwards."

That's what you get for NOT MAKING ANY SENSE.

Connecting the gnote to the gnome requires more than a small a leap of faith, to say nothing of logic. But no matter: many intrepid adventurers made that leap, strode boldly up to the gnome, and guessed "nikstlitselpmuR", which is "Rumplestiltskin" spelled backwards. But "no", the parser responds - "that's not the correct answer".

A million things go through your mind at this point. Does the game have it wrong? Did the creators of King's Quest forget that oft-unpronounced "t" in "Rumplestiltskin"? Or did you get the verb wrong? You try "ANSWER NIKSTLITSELPMUR" and "SAY NIKSTLITSELPMUR" and "TRY NIKSTLITSELPMUR". Or maybe you were wrong the whole time? Maybe the note has nothing to do with it? And if that's the case, then what's the answer??
 

This had better be good, old man.

"What is the gnome's name?" was, by far, the most-asked question of the Sierra Customer Service Hotline. That's because the solution to the puzzle is unfair and infuriating. Here it is. You're supposed to write the alphabet forwards and backwards:

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
ZYXWVUTSRQPONMLKJIHGFEDCBA

For each letter in RUMPLESTILTSKIN, you need to find the corresponding letter in the backwards alphabet. So R maps onto I, U maps onto F, and so on. The gnome's name - obviously - is IFNKOVHGROGHPRM.



Guessing the gnome's name is a great example of how unfair, unpleasant and unforgiving puzzle design could be in the early days of adventure games. It's very telling that in future releases of King's Quest, NIKSTLITSELPMUR was accepted as a valid answer. Back in the day, the biggest difference between the approach of Sierra designers like King's Quest's Roberta Williams and designers at the rival Lucasfilm/LucasArts shop is that the Lucas designers seemed to want the player to actually succeed!

3. Microwaving the Hamster

Maniac Mansion, 1987

In the original Maniac Mansion, you could steal Weird Ed Edison's pet hamster and, as either Razor or Syd, put the little critter in the microwave and make it pop. If you hand the resulting goop back to Ed, realization of what it is slowly dawns on him, and your character spends the rest of the game as a tombstone in the backyard.

What did i just say about LucasArts designers wanting you to succeed ... ?

When the game was ported to the NES, LucasArts endured a rigorous censorship process that is fascinatingly chronicled by Douglas Crockford in The Expurgation of Maniac Mansion for the Nintendo Entertainment System. While the word "pissed" and the Michaelangelo statue had to go, the hamster-in-the-microwave schtick stayed ... that is, until the wrong person at Nintendo caught wind of it. The puzzle was excised from the European version, and all future pressings of the cart.

4. Drinking with Boos

Return to Zork, 1993 Before Internet memes made arrow-in-the-knee jokes ubiquitous, another memorable line from a video game lodged itself in the minds of gamers like a Rick Astley tune. This puzzle involves getting Boos to repeatedly pour you a drink, dumping it in the plant, and waiting until he's soused enough to steal his keys. Each time Boos pours, he asks "Want some rye? COURSE ya do!" It's Boos's exuberant Silliwood performance and the puzzle's repetition that makes the moment stand out.

Here's the rest of Boos's toast, which i thought was a Zorkism, but have now discovered is an old Rabbie Burns drinking song:

Here's tae us
Wha's like us
Damn few,
And they're a' deid
Mair's the pity!

5. Reading the Creation Account

The Neverhood, 1996

Mair's the pity that for its amazing visuals, The Neverhood wasn't a better adventure game. One of its most maddening puzzles wasn't really a puzzle at all. Early in the game, Klaymen discovers The Chronicles of Neverhood, a Biblical-ish account of the creation of the game's clay universe. Comprising eight books, the Chronicles sprawl out across 38 separate screens in the game. Most dutiful adventure game players brought up on Infocom's "feelies" were convinced that the Chronicles must contain important information about how to solve certain puzzles in the games, and read each and every section of the wall.

Well, gosh - THIS is gonna be fun.

The horrible truth is that the Chronicles exist only to flesh out the game's backstory, and have nothing whatsoever to do with any in-game puzzles. The player is merely supposed to walk to the far end of the 38 screens to pick up an object, and then hoof it back to the beginning of the hallway.

6. Creating Fake ID

Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned, 1999 

Much has been written about the death of graphic adventure games, but one of the most influential articles on the subject is Who Killed Adventure Games? by Old Man Murray, who details an idiotic puzzle in the third Gabriel Knight adventure that has the player assembling a fake ID of a man with a moustache in order to impersonate a man who doesn't have a moustache.

Hmm ... i'm clearly gonna need some double-sided tape, and a cat.

Concludes Murray:

Who killed Adventure Games? I think it should be pretty clear at this point that Adventure Games committed suicide.

USE mouse ON comments section

What are the most interesting, shocking, funstrating or memorable puzzles from your adventures?


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Comments


Robert Boyd
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Conquest of Camelot - The Riddle Stones. You need to solve 5 riddles to pass but which 5 riddles you are given is randomly chosen when you enter the screen. I remember I entered many a time to finally get a combination of riddles that I could successfully answer.

Space Quest 2 - There's a part where you have to dive underwater in a swamp to obtain an item that you need to progress later on in the game. I know if I was in a swamp, diving would be the first thing on my mind.

E Zachary Knight
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While it wasn't an extremely hard puzzle, the one that kept me tied up the longest in Sam and max hit the Road was the telescope puzzle. At the top of the rotating restaurant there is a coin operated telescope that you are supposed to fix and use to find Frog Rock. But you couldn't see anything through it. I spent many hours trying to figure out what was wrong and how to fix it. Eventually, I resorted to going to every location in the game and pixel hunted to see if I missed anything. In one section of the carnival was a magnifying glass that I completely missed earlier. You are supposed to tape that to the telescope in order to see Frog Rock.

Adrian Hall
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My personal favourite is The Longest Journey's "make a fishing rod out of a rubber duck, a clamp, a bandaid and a clothesline so that you can grab a key from a railroad track that just happens to fit a power box on the other side of the city" puzzle. I would probably place that above the Neverhood one, though it is perhaps less interesting.

On the other hand, I think that Dreamfall: The Longest Journey is a great example of how to do adventure games right. except for the combat. And the confusing name.

Charles Battersby
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Rope. Duck. Clamp. That's the first thing that came to my mind.

Josh Bycer
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This is one of those times that I think I'm fortunate enough not to have gotten into PC games until the late 90s. As trying to solve a puzzle like #1 and #2 on this list would most likely cause me to commit some kind of violent act on someone.

I remember the original Alone in the Dark had some unusual puzzles, to the point I had to receive a walk-through in the mail from the developer, but I can't remember the puzzles off the top of my head.

Lars Doucet
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I can say with pride that I actually somehow GOT the gnome puzzle in the original version of King's Quest before the age of FAQs. Of course, I then proceeded to get stuck for months on some puzzle that was totally trivial to everybody else.

Worst puzzle ever I could never figure out was in Space Quest 2. There's this area where you're in a cave, crawling on your hands and knees, and if you don't have a light source you'll die. I'd picked up a glowing gem and knew I needed to use it somehow. Hold gem? Nope. You're crawling. Hold gem in one hand? Nope. Put gem in front of you and push it every step? Nope.

The answer? "Put Gem in mouth." What.

Craig Ellsworth
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Manhunter: San Francisco, the second and last of a series I wish Sierra had continued, instead of dumping it in favor of its other franchises like King's Quest, Space Quest, and Police Quest. This would have made a much better Police Quest.

Anyway, on Day 1, you climb through the exploded back wall of a bank office in Chinatown. There is a door in front of you with a pane of glass on it, and on the glass are the words "bat vomit". You can't enter the door. I got stuck on it for years, thinking that the door must lead to a safe of bat vomit or something, and I needed a key. Someone else figured out that I was looking through the back of the window of the office door, meaning that the lettering on the door was backwards, and it should have read "Tad Timov", a name I had to enter into my laptop to learn where he lived and investigate his apartment.

After that, the rest of the game gave me no trouble. The problem with this puzzle is that the lettering looked like "bAT VOMIT", making the b/d the only lowercase letter, and I assumed it was just because the paint had chipped away, and it was supposed to be a capital B. It never crossed my mind that I had entered the room through a hole in the wall.

raigan burns
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hmm... shouldn't it read "vomit bat"? Or is the person's name Timov Tad? Or is it written "Timov, Tad"? Something doesn't add up.

Craig Ellsworth
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@Raigan The name was written so the word bat was painted ABOVE the word vomit, not adjacent to it, so it looked like

bAT
VOMIT

which backwards reads

TAd
TIMOV

Even with this, they were really stretching it with having that single lowercase letter.

Jeremy Reaban
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Hah, I was hoping that Babel Fish puzzle was going to make the list.

I actually managed to get that one (since it was sort of trial and error) but I had to buy the hint guide for that game to finish. Some of the later puzzles were much worse (and obscure).

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Ryan Creighton
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In the Gabriel Knight puzzle, you have to create a fake id to impersonate this guy. He doesn't have a moustache, but you're supposed to draw a moustache on the fake id you've created. Then, because you've depicted him with a moustache, you have to snag some hair from a cat (by chasing it under a fence with double-sided tape stuck to it), and wear the fur as a fake moustache.

raigan burns
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You should really read the OMM article that was linked to. It's entertaining, and educational!

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Reemi Pedersen
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Kings Quest (All of them) - Dying alot

nuff sed

Daniel Gooding
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I can't be the only one that consistently got stuck with kings quest 5 hanged in the desert.

Why would anyone think to throw a boot at a cat.

Dan Felder
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I think the one that bugged me the most was from Tales of Monkey Island - Chapter Two. It wasn't a hard puzzle, but that was why it was so frustrating - it was a design error.

The Setup: You have to get a golden artifact out of its case and you're not strong enough to pry it out. Your former-enemy, who is now an ally, offers to help you - as he's much stronger. Your character declines, due to him still really not liking the guy.

The Problem: Every time I tried to pry the artifact in any way, the former-enemy reiterated, "Why don't you just let me do it." Not being brain-dead, I instantly got that the solution was to have the NPC pry it out for you. However, whenever I went to talk to him - there was no dialogue option to ask him for help. He kept offering, but you couldn't accept! Your character's pride was too strong.

The Method: I spent nearly an hour combing the game's islands, looking for a way to grease the artifact or apply more pressure, but eventually I gave up and looked the solution up.

The Answer: You DO have him do it for you, but you can't simply ask him for god-knows-what-reason. You have to take the crowbar from your inventory and CLICK on him with it. I've watched half a dozen playthroughs of this puzzle by various people and that simple user interface issue confuses practically everyone. You spend the whole game up to this point talking to people to get them to do things for you, and at this juncture it utterly falls flat - resulting in heavy frustration.

Great game, GREAT game... But that was a problem.

Colm McAndrews
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overcomplicated puzzles is most certainly not the reason why adventure puzzles "died", that is, they left mainstream. They did because we and the new gamers couldn't be bothered to use our brains that way anymore. Besides there was nothing wrong in calling Sierra or Infocom for hints, once or twice or thrice for a game, because the goal of making you think was already fully achieved. We got very very lazy concerning videogames, we don't feel we have to give em that kind of commitment anymore, we have a very strong conception of ourselves that make us feel we should just draw pleasure from things, not pain or effort, unless we're paid to do it.

Anyway, aside from the infamous goat puzzle in Broken Sword(im surprised it didn't make this list), these days i'm playing Discworld from Psygnosis. The whole game is ridden with completely illogical puzzles. At one point the main char meets "himself" sleeping on a bench, he snores thus preventing a butterfly to be at "your" reach. To me it wasn't even clear i had to block the snoring(the act is not animated well), but that's what you had to do. But to do it you don't use a tape or bandaids or little masks, no you had to shove a frog inside the sleeping man's mouth. Is there some kind of proverb telling that the remedy for snoring is frogs? Because guessing puzzles mostly has to do with this kind of "cultural" induction.

Then at one point i had to use a ladder to enter a sleeping person's house but it made too much noise when i laid down the legs of the ladder. I had to padcover the ends of the poles, again i didn't know i had to, the PROBLEM wasn't clearly pointed out by the game(like with a big THUD word drawn), but that's what i had to do. But that's not the point, the point is the object to use. I accidentally got the solution without hints: i had to apply a padded bra with the ladder end.

Roger Tober
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"They did because we and the new gamers couldn't be bothered to use our brains"

Yeah, games used to be an obstacle course that you had to go through and we enjoyed it. Now, it's a narcissistic thing where the game has to mold itself to what we want it to do. There is a pleasure in constructing these characters and deciding how they should evolve, but it's not brain work like a puzzle. There are lots of arguments about adventure game's demise, but the one I think makes the most sense to me is that they didn't make the transition to 3d. They were built on small environments where you had to search out answers. Even the popular current ones like Longest Journey and Siberia, are 2d games with a 3d character. The 3d games I've played, I've found myself walking around in a boring atmosphere looking for who knows what. That was all right when I walked through a few frames, but it's incredibly boring in a larger world.

Colm McAndrews
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Roger Tober:Absolutely, it's all narcissism. I'm not sure about the environment thing, though. Most of the adventures offer terribly large areas to explore simultaneously, just think about Zak, where you travel around the world. Or Monkey Island, with a whole island just for you to have fun in.

I don't fully understand your point. I believe adventures could go 3d whenever they wanted, there just weren't enuff people to buy them, and because 3d bloated costs, they couldn't do them. We were suddenly a minority, like indians in America, colonized by the horde, the DooM generation. As Mrs. Roberta Williams pointed out, suddenly computers were for everyone, bought by, well, low class people :)

Just as the "horse culture" was lost, ALL american gamers lost the puzzle culture, that of a game that has you sitting in front of it trying to figure out how to progress in a story. I guess Germany still has it. Back then we would have never complained about puzzles being hard, and punishing, we wouldn't even complain about bugs. I think we were more manly!

Daniel Punch
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Regarding the frog in Discworld, the hint was supposed to be at the very beginning of the game. Rincewind coughs up the frog after getting hit by a rogue spell. You're supposed to realise that when you see him sleeping on the bench in the past, and the frog had to get in there somehow.

The problem with that is that you just got hit in the face by a bolt of indeterminate magic. Seeing a frog jump out of your mouth afterwards doesn't make you think that it must have been placed there.

I will agree that the game has a very obscure brand of logic, some of which requires intimite knowledge of the books. The hints that the game gives are often as obscure as the puzzles themselves.

Regarding "They did because we and the new gamers couldn't be bothered to use our brains that way anymore.", I think I prefer Ron Gilbert's explanation of the Adventure genre (see the recent video interview between Schafer and he).

Adventure games didn't really die, their audience just failed to expand at the same rapid rate as other genre's.

Colm McAndrews
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oh for god sake, was there a hint at the beginning?
In my case the problem wasn't connecting 2 things, i just could never have remembered that little bit happened when i began playing 2 weeks earlier :)
also the game doesn't clearly say that there's a problem in that place, it's not really clear that rincewind's breathe prevents me from catching the butterfly, it's not clear i need the butterfly and why(it's not clearly explained that if you move butterflies in the past they turn into water the day after). Same for the ladder bit.

for the rest, yes that's a good way to look at the problem. Maybe adventure makers should have started doing adrenalinic action games and simply added puzzles here and there. Think a Dead Space or Mass Effect or anything else with moments of environment inspection, object grabbing and contraption tinkering. Like the main character has to open a wall panel but instead of just kicking it open he has to grab a vial of acid from a table and throw it at the panel. That would have been good.

Michael Ball
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@ Joe Wreschnig

You'd be correct... IF the six puzzles in the article were representative of the typical adventure game puzzle. But they aren't: these are the most INFAMOUS, as in "not represenative of the norm". Contrary to your belief, the logic behind the vast majority of adventure game puzzles is very sound.

Also, half of the six puzzles are from games with an emphasis on comedy; while these particular puzzles are ridiculously and inexcusably convoluted no matter which way you look at them, puzzles in comedy adventure games are SUPPOSED to be wacky. It's part of the humor!

The two biggest factors that led to the decline of the adventure genre were the rise of the FPS and the advent of 3D gaming.

Rob B
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'They did because we and the new gamers couldn't be bothered to use our brains that way anymore.'
'Now, it's a narcissistic thing where the game has to mould itself'

Except puzzle games are still one of the biggest selling genres out there. From the simple nonograms to the ingenious use of portals in... portal. It sells in gaming, it sells in papers, it sells in dedicated magazines. So you are demonstrably talking elitist nonsense.

The important difference is that these games have _logical_ puzzles and logic is something these old adventure games sorely lack. Even in greats like Monkey Island and Beneath a Steel Sky (Which I adore.) it is possible to look at the nuts and bolts and realise that this is more an exercise in object recognition than anything else. (It was just driven by great characters, a good story and some of the few genuinely hilarious moments Ive ever seen scripted in to a game.)

There are good reasons why the best of these games can get boiled down to this. For any given obstacle there are thousands of possible solutions and the designer is having to get you to pick the solution they had in mind. The objects and the few world locations you can interact with are the only ways of narrowing this down and if the objects dont match the situation well enough or the sequence of interactions grows too long then once again you are back in to the thousands of possible solutions territory.

The thing that really burns away any satisfaction is that in many cases those thousands of possible solutions are entirely valid. There is no frame work for the logic to be built on, nobody lays down any clear limitations, yet many (For the majority, most.) solutions you come up with will arbitrarily be shot down because you didnt follow the same path the designer decided was correct. The longevity isnt in requiring greater thought its in being punished for having your own ideas in a severely limited environment that doesnt specify what exactly those limitations are. It is to puzzle games what Syobon action is to platformers.

We have much better ways of doing this now, we know how to lay down ground rules (Professor Layton lays out the constraints before letting you loose on its often fiendishly difficult puzzles.) or allow a much more expansive set of solutions for any problem (Scribblenaughts or fantastic contraption and other The Incredible Machine alikes have a dizzying array of possibilities.)

Sometimes genres go out of style not because of the failings of modern players, or some other bit of pompous drivel, but because of the failure of the genre itself.

Ryan Creighton
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Colm - the goat puzzle from Broken Sword ALMOST made the list. Wanna know why it didn't? Because i still haven't solved it yet! To write about it would mean i'd have to look up the solution, and i'm still working on that puzzle, years later. A bit selfish, i know ... but surely, you appreciate my reasoning?

Roberta Davies
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Ryan: I haven't even got round to playing Broken Sword yet! But I've heard a bit about the goat.

If you want a pointer in the right direction... it's essentially a timing puzzle with action elements. Completely different from everything else you've seen in Broken Sword.

Roger Tober
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I loved that Return to Zork puzzle, even though I didn't actually get it. I came close. I knew there was a trap door under the guys chair because my nephew stabbed him with a knife and he fell over and the trap door opened. Trouble was, it also ended the game. I don't know why I didn't think about pouring the drink in the plant. I felt like an idiot when I got the hint. I love adventure games but I'm not very good at them, at least the hard puzzles.

Christopher Braithwaite
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One of my favorite puzzles from Monkey Island involves a cute bit of misdirection. Guybrush is thrown into the sea tied to a golden statue. There are dozens of very sharp things such as scissors, knives, broken glass, etc that can cut the rope but all are just out of Guybrush's reach. Since Guybrush can hold his breath for 10 minutes there's no immediate worry, but he's not going to leave the bottom of the bay until he frees himself from the statue. It's only after trying to reach every sharp implement that I realized I'd carried the statue to that location in the first place, so all I needed to do was pick it up. That solution made me laugh so hard I nearly fell off my chair!

Addison Siemko
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Haha! I had forgot about that one...

Alexander Jhin
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Police Quest. You enter your police car, drive from the parking lot and the game immediately crashes your car and kills you. Reading the manual, it clearly says police procedure is to inspect all four tires before driving your vehicle. OK. Try typing "look at tires" or "inspect tires" or "kick tires" or "measure tires" but none of those work.

Turns out, you just need to walk your character in a circle around the car to "inspect" the tires. It's almost as immediately intuitive as a Mac's touch-pad.

Colm McAndrews
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awesome.
Love the whole series and the manual/procedure idea.

Thomas Engelbert
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Penumbra had a puzzle where there were laser triggered explosives. In order to shut off the lasers, you had to click on multiple buttons on an interface, to turn them all from red to green (or green to red?). Bad thing was, instead of having a predictable pattern, it was either random, or too complex and dependent on too many factors, so that I ended up clicking random buttons until I had it. Took me roughly between 10 to 30 minutes for each time I had to do it, save once where I had it accidently in less than a minute...

Jakub Majewski
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Police Quest 4, the final stages of the game - I remember it to this day as ruining the whole darned game for me. You spend the entire game trying to do things the correct, by-the-book way. You try to follow procedures. You rely virtually exclusively on police equipment - when you find something worth taking, it's generally just evidence.

Anyway, so there you are. Trying to track down a serial killer. You've gone through most of the game, and frankly, you get the impression you are still nowhere. All you've done is crossed off a bunch of people from the suspect list - which seems to be empty now. To be fair - if I recall correctly, the game did hint at who the actual serial killer is, but it wasn't a character you actually encountered. It wasn't a suspect you could point to.

So, how do you, experienced, by-the-book, police-equipment-using detective reach the end of the game? Well... see, at the very first crime scene (a trash-filled backalley), there was apparently a piece of rope lying around on some old junk. To this day, I could swear this rope wasn't there the first time you visited, that it appeared later - but whatever. And meanwhile, at one of the other crime scenes (I think - memory is a bit fuzzy on this), in a park, there is a stray dog.

Put the rope on the stray dog, and it drags you back to its home and its owner, who is - naturally - the serial killer. Now why did that not seem obvious to me?

By the way, it goes without saying - the serial killer somehow overpowers you and takes your gun away. Fortunately, like all good policemen, you realise that if you combine a can of aerosol spray with a cigarette lighter, you create a flamethrower. It's not really a bad puzzle as such, I mean, it even makes sense, because that really is what happens in real life when you do that. But at the end of a police officer's story, it seems like an awful copout - you *want* to somehow use your police combat training or police equipment. You *want* to show that a police officer has what it takes to catch a serial killer. But no, the game tells you - a police officer is no match for a serial killer unless he picks up some stuff that happens to be lying around in the serial killer's apartment.

Suckage.

Gary Dahl
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Monkey Island 2: Using a monkey as a wrench!

Louis-Felix Cauchon
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In willy beamish, when you got caught by the villains in a certain part of the game you could see an animation of you sinking in a water tank and dying. So every time you get caught, you just pressed ESC and reloaded your game. But, if meanwhile you've helped a frog king, at the end of the dead animation he saved you and the game could continue. How the hell could you know that since you have to let yourself get caught witch is illogic and wait to the 4/5 of the same dead animation you're used to see!?

Svyatoslav Torick
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The microscope puzzle of The 7th Guest was already hard to crack back then. Now "there is no possible way" (quote from T7G) to make it through. The reason is, the game AI uses CPU to define the best next move. If the processor is slow enough - say, 386 - then the microscope puzzle becomes easier to solve. If it is Pentium+, you lose, because the game always makes every move most rational.

Stuart Feldhamer
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Actually, I beat the Microscope puzzle recently. I got an Othello program on my computer and cranked it up to the highest difficulty, and then pit the two of them against each other. :)

After I did that I realized that unlike the rest of the puzzles in the game, there is no reward of any kind for beating the microscope puzzle!

Roberta Davies
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The "microscope puzzle" isn't a puzzle, it's an Othello-like game. You need a LOT of patience.

First, you have to play it enough to get the feel of the game and what the best move is in every situation. Then you just keep playing and playing. The computer ALMOST always makes the optimum move, but very rarely it makes a mistake. You have to be ready to spot the mistake and exploit it when it happens.

Roberta Davies
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One puzzle that really had me stuck was in the original Zork. Sooner or later you hit a dead end, and it's obvious that you have to find a way across the river to proceed. The solution is to get the sceptre (found earlier in the game), stand at the end of the rainbow that crosses the river, and wave the sceptre. This turns the rainbow into a solid bridge. There is a sort of hint: the sceptre is decorated in multi-coloured enamelling, which might make you connect it with a rainbow. On the other hand, who waves a sceptre? In the days before the internet, this was a game-stopper for me. Eventually I got in touch with somebody who had a walkthrough and was willing to mail me a photocopy of it.

Planetfall's ending kept me puzzling for longer than I care to admit. After Floyd's tear-jerking sacrifice, ravenous monsters are released into the complex. The key to solving that one was to stop thinking in terms of puzzles and instead ask yourself, "If this was happening in real life, what would I actually do?"


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