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Ekaros

Worst puzzles - what to avoid

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I thought it would be good to gather some bad puzzles from different games, so such things can be avoided.

One I hated in remake of MI1 was the plank, bird and the pier. You could see it in original, but I didn't catch it in remake. Such pixel puzzles which can't be seen aren't good...

Anyone else remember anything like it or pixel hunts that should be avoided.

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I hope that with today's 2D graphics pixel hunting won't be a problem. The resolution should be high enough.

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Any puzzle that's impossible to solve without a strategy guide- even if the solution is a bit of a reach, it should be logical... something that makes me think "Ah!" once I've sorted it out.

I'm not a fan of busy-work puzzles either... ones that aren't particularly fun or challenging, but require a whole lot of clicking and re-work to finish.

Sorry I don't really have many specific examples. I guess a busy-work puzzle would be the one in Myst IV where Yeesha's been kidnapped and you have to "get the ancestors in harmony" by clicking dozens of colored orbs multiple times until they are ultimately all white. There's a minimal amount of strategy involved, but the novelty wears off quickly and it soon becomes a time-consuming chore.

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Puzzles that need immaculate timing (I'm looking at you, boulder puzzle from Escape from Monkey Island).

Edit: To clarify, puzzles that not only need precise timing, but need lots of trial and error to find that exact moment in the first place.

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I love sliding puzzles! :P They are short, sweet and focused.

I guess I hate any adventure puzzle where you can screw up the puzzle, so there is no way to solve it, but you won't be able to know it until much later.

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Anything involving escorting someone, for such things are a scourge upon humanity.

Yeah, I know it's not a huge thing within adventure games, but you never know when someone's getting start feeling savvy.

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All illogical puzzles, that have a solution that makes no sense at all. Overly difficult word puzzles like the infamous gnome name in original King's Quest. Also one solution puzzles, if you can logically use some other solution to the puzzle as well and you have inventory items fitting in both solutions (i.e. you can break a window with a rock but not with a hammer).

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I hope that with today's 2D graphics pixel hunting won't be a problem. The resolution should be high enough.

People often misunderstand the term "pixel hunting." The principle is still very relevant.

A "pixel hunt" was when you would figure out which objects mattered by moving the mouse over everything in the scene and seeing what made the cursor light up. It's not about an object that is too small to see, it's about it not standing out to the player as important. It also applies to seemingly useless items that just blend into the background.

In the old school palletized 2D era, the backgrounds were often painted and the foregrounds were pixel art so looking for that contrast in styles would be a clue as to what could and couldn't be picked up. In modern graphics, it's much easier for an interactable object for a meaningless background prop.

Players should know what objects are relevant to them. Hell have a button that puts floating words over objects that can be interacted with. I've seen that done in Tales of Monkey Island and it's a fine solution. The scavenger hunt aspect of adventures is the least fun, and overlooking things can be the most frustrating dead ends. Best to avoid that issue altogether.

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Players should know what objects are relevant to them. Hell have a button that puts floating words over objects that can be interacted with. I've seen that done in Tales of Monkey Island and it's a fine solution. The scavenger hunt aspect of adventures is the least fun, and overlooking things can be the most frustrating dead ends. Best to avoid that issue altogether.

Personally, I really enjoy hunting for and collecting useful items while exploring the rest of the environment, but I can see where you're coming from. The "button wot illuminates all usable items" is a fine idea-- keeps people from getting stuck and allows folks who just don't like the scavenger hunt aspect of the game to avoid it. I'm all for features that help a person to pick and choose where they want to focus their energies.

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I'm cool with sliding tile puzzles, although it kinda lacks originality. I'd prefer something fresh whenever possible, amirite?

Things I don't like to see in adventure game puzzles:

--General trivia questions: Although this is brain work, I don't think it fairly counts as puzzling, and may create unnecessary barriers to gameplay.

--Mathematical story problems (I'm looking at you, Puzzle Agent). Things like, "If there are eight rivers flowing into this lake and there are 200 salmon swimming up all eight rivers, and the rivers each fork once, and then each of those forks also fork again before reaching the lake, and if there are predatory fish waiting in all the forks but the three pictured here, how can you distribute all these schools of fish between the eight source rivers to guarantee that the greatest possible number of fish will reach the lake???" I did the first two of these in Puzzle Agent, but by the time I got up to the 4th/5th one of them, I just looked up the answers because NOT INTERESTED.

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One kind I don't love too much: puzzles involving character movement itself. Tim and GF players knows what I'm talking about (*cough*Pepito*cough*). The goat from Broken Sword is another good example. In both cases I had to give up and peek the dishonourable walkthrough guide

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I don't mind puzzles the Pandora directive is still one of my favorite games and had several sliding puzzle and also some really hard puzzles.

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Any kind of instant death trap....unless it's funny....and have an auo save not far before it. Repeating a section again and again is never fun.

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Any kind of instant death trap....unless it's funny....and have an auo save not far before it. Repeating a section again and again is never fun.

Insta death yes, if you do something stupid, but you should bring back to life just before action in all cases. And if such some point might realy need dying ;D

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Any kind of instant death trap....unless it's funny....and have an auo save not far before it. Repeating a section again and again is never fun.

I agree with this, and it's ultimately why I didn't enjoy LIMBO, as much as I looooved the art style. I think there is an entire category of people who get pleasure out of the instant death/unexpected death traps.... to them it's surprising and funny or delightfully macabre, whereas to me it just seems frustrating, unfair, or poorly designed.

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The biggest problem I have with slider puzzles is that they do not logically fit into ANY environment at all. Who would ever put a slider puzzle anywhere to open a door or operate a mechanism?

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Maybe you can put in the same category as timing puzzles but anything that requires you to hear a morse code from a piece of music or the correct order of tones are off the limit for me. It may be my personal inability to distinguish those tones but I consider it very bad puzzle design because of not considering deaf players. Or hiding something in an image that is impossible to see for someone who is colour-blind. Just unbearable.

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I agree with the Goat Puzzle from Broken Sword, and anything that generally invovles clicking around randomly with no logic. Also, definitely no puzzles involving moving/climbing on boxes, unless done in a hilarious/mocking context...

Timed puzzles can be pretty boring, there were several in Full Throttle that I found irritating (I guess they might fall into the "death trap" type mentioned above - the puzzle at the end of the game seemed to have no logic at all other than trial/error clicking through the screens).

Learning puzzles (I don't know what to call them) can be hit & miss - Insult Swordfighting was fun because of the humour, but the road fighting sections in Full Throttle got tiring.

I can think of a few puzzles from The Dig/Phantasmagoria 2 that involved clicking on things in different ways that were never mentioned in the manual or used elsewhere in the game (i.e. holding the mouse button or right instead of left clicking). They just struck me as badly designed.

Ironically, one of my favourite adventure games puzzles was the turtle in The Dig, though generally Myst/7th guest style puzzles aren't fun at all. I guess I've always accepted pixel hunting as part of adventure games, though it helps if you have some idea what you're looking for, rather than a random hidden object that solves a puzzle in an inconceivable way...

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Slider puzzles aren't bad, but they're not what comes to mind when I think "adventure." I agree with the assessment of "one puzzle, one answer" when there are other potential ways to solve it. The puzzle style that bothers me the most is the one where you know *how* you're supposed to do something, but you don't how *where* to do it. The best example I can give is from the Discworld adventure game; you're supposed to get a robe off a monk, and you have a chaos butterfly (a butterfly flaps its wings and a storm rages thousands of miles away). Make the monk damp with rain, he takes off the robe, Bob's your uncle. But you can't just 'use' the butterfly, it has to be used on something. In the end I had to use it on a lamp above his head... mind you the lamp itself just seemed to be another setpiece of the background... IN THE PAST. Unless you remembered that that exact corner was where the monk stood in the future era, you had only the lamp to go by. That, to me, is less a puzzle and more a punishment of not paying attention to every detail.

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One type of "puzzle" I find really annoying are the guess the correct combination puzzles. Like in Telltale's Back to the Future when you had the guitar battle. It was just a case of choosing different movements until you got the right combination. It looked cool but it wasn't a puzzle, it was just padding to make the game seem longer.

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i've written a few articles about graphic adventure game puzzles:

12 Types of Puzzles in Graphic Adventure Games

The Six Most Infamous Puzzles in Adventure Game History

The best puzzles make you feel like you're smart. Mediocre puzzles make you feel like the game designer is smart. Terrible puzzles make you feel like the game designer is an idiot, and that you're also an idiot for bothering with the game in the first place.

- Ryan

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I think it's really important for puzzles to be solvable as soon as the character 'Gets it', by which I mean that as long as you have the required materials, and know what to do with them, you can solve the puzzle.

A good example of an excellent game that was almost ruined by these kind of problems is 'The World Ends With You' for NDS. This game was FULL of 'puzzles' where you would have the items necessary to solve a problem, and even know how/where/with whom to use them, but the solution wouldn't 'activate' until you'd met some arbitrary and pointless condition.

One example from the very beginning of the game: You need to get onto a stage. The stage won't open until this one guy sings. He has a sore throat. Eventually you find 'Cough Drops'.

Now the puzzle is eventually solved by giving the 'Cough Drops' to the singer (duh), but the game won't LET you give them to him until you talk to this one dude hiding out in a restaurant who TELLS you "Hey, why don't you try giving him those 'Cough Drops'?"

These kind of 'puzzles' suck, and only serve to frustrate players, by making them feel like their insights/epiphanies don't matter, and that they are just along for a ride.

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Anything that can't be deduced from information already given by the game and/or common sense and is dependent on insane moon logic.

The fake moustache puzzle from Gabriel Knight 3 is the perfect example of this.

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I remember The Dig having some pretty infuriating puzzles, can't remember which ones now (will have to replay that!)

Toonstruck I recall had some annoying real-time puzzles as well, though I did love that game!

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