Favorite Puzzle

Oct 08, 2021

Chatting with a game designer friend the other day and we were bemoaning the state of adventure game puzzles and it got us talking. So I was wondering what is your favorite puzzle in Thimbleweed Park, Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island or any other classic point-and-click game?

Do you like head scratchers? What makes a puzzle good? What makes a puzzle hard? What makes a puzzle just busy work? Is that bad?


Patricio Oct 08, 2021
I don't have such a good memory, I'm not sure I can indicate specific puzzles (I don't have a great level of writing in English either, this will be torturous). As an adventure player with 30 years of experience, I think I can provide some general points:

A puzzle is good when:

1) When it has some logic. The logic does not have to be strictly rational, it can be, let's say, a humorous logic (open a lock with grog, because we know what the grog is made of, which also destroys glasses). What cannot happen is that a character who did not say he was hungry is willing to give you the object you need because you have given him an apple. That is infuriating.

2) A puzzle is good when its solution is better than the one you have come up with and your character refuses without rational reasons to do it (I want to cut a normal cake with a knife that I have in inventory and he says «no! I can do it!» Minutes later I get a saw in another stage of the game and with that I can cut the tora). A subtlety: when it is evident that the object you have DOES NOT help to solve the problem it is ok («the string is not long enough!» But if it is EVIDENT that it would work, I turn off the computer.

3) When you are not dragged to solve it due to fatigue. There are graphic adventures that frustrate us and make us start trying anything until they are unlocking for insistence. Not so long ago I played an adventure (I had been told it was good and it was not) in which you had to spy on the papers of a child who was on the ground. From the place where he was, clearly my character could see the paper, but the character had to be located ... in a specific place in the room. What they had to do is position the child in a way that makes it clear to me as a player that my character could not see that sheet. At some point I solved it by chance.

4) A puzzle is good when it does not force you (I repeat: it does not force you) to play an arcade part or something close to an arcade part. There is a legendary game in which you have to entangle a goat by clicking the mouse quickly in specific places on the screen. Something similar happens with the fish in the kitchen of the bar on Monkey Island (although it is softer, I can accept it) and with the fights in Indiana Jones (which fortunately one could rightly bypass by pressing the "0" on the numeric keypad).

5) When it is not solved with a mysterious object that we know nothing about. This usually happens in science fiction adventures, populated with objects that do not exist in the real world. Unless it has an obvious shape that fits somewhere, this is a designer's lack of creativity.

6) In general (though not always) I do not agree with fitting «puzzle brain teasers» into an adventure game. Those floating screens that appear where you have to move items until something starts to work are not to my liking. If they are simple, they can be stimulating and I am not against it, but if you have to know how to play a Hungarian card game from the 17th century, I am going to play Snoopy on my Commodore 64 (yes, the one that jumps black triangles).

7) A puzzle has to have a clear challenge, be organized and fit naturally into a simple narrative that does not claim to be a classic in literature: it is a video game, not the Divine Comedy.

8) A puzzle cannot kill you or allow you to advance in such a way that you cannot go back and the game is truncated. If it does (which is horrible), it should at least let you know.

9) A puzzle should be «balanced challenging», not something strictly difficult. This is very ambiguous and controversial, I hope it is understood. No puzzle should have us two days without progress. It is a game, when the experience is very frustrating the immersion is lost and with it the magic of playing.

10) Perhaps this is not so serious, but I think it deserves to be pointed out. A puzzle must be important, meaningful. It is preferable that there are few and good ones (that are solved in different screens and that require exploration), it has to have value in itself and know how to wait. They must be dosed like jokes, one must know how to say no to the temptation to repeat scenes in which one is trapped in a room and ten consecutive stupid puzzles must be solved with a stick and pushing a bed to be able to exit through the duct of the ventilation.

11) The object needed for the puzzle or something similar must not appear among the «non-playable graphics» in the background. If I need to collect water and for that to get a cup, that the background graphics should not show a cupboard full of wine glasses, bowls and crockery. The same applies to the motivation of the puzzle, it is desirable that it be real. Having to bribe a giant to go through the middle of the forest (where my character might as well turn it around) doesn't seem satisfying. You have to put that non-playable character that I have to convincen on a door or on a bridge.

It is an interesting topic, I appreciate that you have consulted it because I am very concerned with the adventures that I have been playing in recent years. I leave you greetings.

OzzieMonkey Oct 08, 2021
I find that the best puzzles involve a good old fashioned ingredient hunt. The directions to Monkey Island and Largo's voodoo doll come to mind. Something that rewards you for getting really invested in the game world and exploring. Opening the factory door in Thimbleweed Park does this well too. I think what makes a puzzle hard is when it's really unapparent that there's an entire section of the game you missed because it's hidden, or that you need to go back and talk to a specific character again based on how the story has progressed. One thing I absolutely hate that a lot of modern adventure games are guilty of is when you know exactly what to do to progress, but you have to give the character a reason to do it, so you're ahead of them and they won't let you "use object on thing" because they need to know why and then you wonder around exhausting all dialog and looking at everything just to inspire the character to do something you figured out hours ago. Absolutely infuriating

Zak Phoenix Mckracken Oct 08, 2021
My favourite puzzles in classic PnC adventure games:
MM: doing gym to get stronger, in order to open rusty grates; make the plant grow in order to climb up and access a new room
ZMKATAM: the dance at Kinshasa that reproduces the button sequence to open the huge door on Mars;
IJATLC: it was obviously stick to the movie, but a funny puzzle was in the Brunwald castle, to get rid of the alarm.
TSOMI: the whole sword insult fight
TSOMI2: the bone dance in order to get past the bone doors; the things to do in the spit competition (in hard mode) to win three first prize
TSOMI4: when Guybrush navigates on the stream of the memory and time
TWP: turning the puddle radioactive to be able to see the path in the forest

-- non Lucas-related games --
WOODRUFF (Sierra): using the meteo forecasts to know where a tiny meteor will fall down, to open an almost indestructible nut

A good puzzle should be what I say "a McGyver solution": something out-of-the-box, using apparently unrelated things to reach a goal.
A poor puzzle is when a player immediately can figure out its solution, without any doubt, any second use of an object.
Hard puzzle are the linguistic ones, even for native speakers. Even in Italian, puzzles based on puns are not so funny, IMHO.

Ronan Oct 08, 2021
I think it's important that puzzles have a clearly defined logical goal, even if its resolution is absurd.

One kind of puzzle I really liked were the ones in Dott that made use of the time-displaced setting and an action in the past unlocked something in the future, like the one with the flag/costume or the one with the statue arm.

Delores (not that one) Oct 08, 2021
I think what makes a puzzle good is internal logic, the right amount of difficulty, and entertainment. Oh, and doability. More on those below.

Internal logic means that the puzzle should make sense, as it were. It should make sense to the player, and not be random and arbitrary; something where, after seeing the solution if nothing else, you say, "yeah, that makes sense". It should also make sense within the game's world, shouldn't go against character for the characters involved, and so on.

The right amount of difficulty is subjective, of course. :) But I personally find both puzzles that can be solved immediately and puzzles that are too difficult to be frustrating. An example of a puzzle that had the right amount of difficulty might be getting nurse Edna out of her room in Day of the Tentacle. When you try to just kick her out the first time, you can see how it doesn't work, and this (subtly) suggests a way forward. FWIW that puzzle also fits well with the game's quirky logic, and "makes sense" to me in the above sense.

One way of keeping the difficulty level under control is to make a puzzle sequential, breaking it down, and guiding the player along the way. The best examples are probably the treasure hunt in Monkey Island 1, and Largo's voodoo doll and the treasure map hunt in Monkey Island 2. In fact I'd say that this sort of integration also helps a game otherwise - it makes it feel like there's an overraching theme and story, that it's more than just a random sequence of largely unrelated acts. An adventure game is an *adventure*, not a puzzle or an "escape room".

Entertainment is very much related to that, of course, but each puzzle *also* needs to stand on its own as far as entertainment goes. Just what this means depends on the game, of course, but noone likes *boring* puzzles, right? For many of your games, humor is a big part of this, and I appreciate that.

Finally, doability. What I mean by that is that it should be possible for a player with no previous knowledge to figure out a puzzle. It's related to internal logic (above), and the right amount of difficulty (also above) - if you need previous knowledge for a puzzle to make sense or be sufficiently easy to figure out, it's not really doable in the sense I'm talking about here. I think there were some puzzles in Indy III that failed this; when I played that game for the first time, I was quite young and hadn't watched the movie, had in fact not even heard of Indiana Jones before. I think the game presupposed that you were familiar with the movie.

Related to doability, BTW, is language and cultural knowledge. Remember the "monkey wrench" in Monkey Island II? Extremely difficult and random for a non-native speaker, though otherwise it was a clever and funny puzzle that gave me a good laugh. Same for the "red herring" in Monkey Island 1.

That's about what I can think of off the top of my head.

P.S. oh, one final thing - for keeping the difficulty under control, having different game modes is great. The two difficulties in Monkey Island 2 were a stroke of genius, and I don't know why this never caught on in the industry.

gcat Oct 08, 2021
A good puzzle is to get stuck on it, getting back few times to solve it, failing, trying again (knowing its NOT a simple game bug because it is a Gilbert 😀 and finally solving it (without the help of the all knowing WWW.
(e.g finding the RIGHT coffin in MI2)

Ron Gilbert Oct 08, 2021
Not that anyone asked, but my favorite puzzle in MI1 was melting the grog mugs.

Chris Armstrong Oct 08, 2021
Insult sword fighting springs to mind as a puzzle that has everything you need right there: but first you have to take time to experiment, learn & understand the mechanics of it.

There's a natural progression and momentum builds along with your understanding & experience. New content being drip-fed keeps things fresh and entertaining, and then when you finally feel like an absolute badass and go to take on the sword master... suddenly it's given a whole new twist and you have to get creative with what you've learned.

What makes it really great is the feelings you're having along the way correspond with the narrative perfectly.

gcat Oct 08, 2021
forgot to mention... THE BEST puzzle was the spin-up of my Floppy disc drive in MM... because I knew I did something right... or horribly wrong ;-)  That was a big thrill 😀

Kelgrim Oct 08, 2021
I would love some more puzzle rehash at the end of a game, perfectly done with the LeChuck voodoo doll. Guybrush is hunted, he can't calmly explore like he did on the islands before. To transport that feeling of urgency in a smaller area, you can't have super hard puzzles. When you drop down to the tunnels, you should be able to finish the game in the same session and without requiring a walkthrough that could spoil the ending.
The climax in MI1 pretty much has no puzzle and the ending feels great because you get all those nice cutscenes and action. Similar in DOTT, nice screens but not the fun puzzles we had earlier. MI2 has that (yeah, I love the reveal) AND a puzzle that makes you feel clever and lets you remember the start of your adventure. The rehash in MI3 with the dog hair recipe did not serve the same necessities. The atmosphere on the carnival did not give me a feeling of imminent threat. That started in the rollercoaster and in the end the challenge was to hop off the wagon at the correct moment. Meh, at least the screens were fascinating.

In general I like puzzles with make-shift solutions, especially unrealistic ones, because they require two skills. You have to understand the situation and think of the appropriate solution - the adult approach. And since this solution does not exist, you have to be creative - think like a kid. The elevator doesn't start because it is too loaded? As a kid I didn't even know that is an issue and had to learn that fact to solve the puzzle. An adult could remove some weight, but kids *know* that helium helps with the take off. So to solve the puzzle the adult has to relearn that naivity. While make-shift is a principle in adventure games, it only achieves perfection when you cater to players in all ages.

And I have a kink for close-the-door puzzles. DOTT and MI2 taught me that and you won't fool me again. Whenever I find something behind a door I remember how it took me a week to figure it out the first time.

Azrapse Oct 08, 2021
- In Maniac Mansion, breaking the lamp that held the key to the dungeon. Also, the different things you could send to the TV guy to solve the game.
- In Indy3, finding the flight manual in Venice that would allow to skip the entire blimp part at the airport. I found it so cool that you could find shortcuts like this in a game.
- In Monkey 1, the part about taking the grog to Otis' cell. And, of course, the insult swordfight. And finding the way to the Swordmaster. And the entire thing about the head of the navigator.
- In Monkey 2, using the picture of the sailor lady on the Wanted poster. And roulette thing.
- In DOTT, I found it so cool to use the time capsule to turn wine into vinegar.
- In Loom, the different applications of playing a spell backwards to do the reverse of the spell (gold to straw, close stuff, reverse the tornado, etc).

Bosbeetle Oct 08, 2021
I consider good puzzles, puzzles where the solution will make me laugh, either by being absurd, or the solution not being neccesary (like climbing a fence and after climbing finding out the fence was open or was not a fence at all etc). Puzzles that have multiple solutions are also nice if done right.

Also I like it if there is some physics involved like knowing acid might go through iron, electricity and water dont mix, gravity works, black holes attract stuff, the anti particle of photon is still a photon, entropy depends on how course grained you consider a closed system.. erh I disgress.

Basically any puzzle thats fun(ny) and makes me learn a new thing is a big bonus for me. That might be learning about history or physics or some common foreigh knowledge that skipped by me.

I personally do not like the "I know where to get a part but I don't how", or even worse there is a part missing but I have no clue what part and why.

Bosbeetle Oct 08, 2021
I also second the loom backward spell thing that was awesome and so rewarding to solve.

Puzzles have to feel rewarding when solved

Ricky Oct 08, 2021
The one puzzle I'll always remember with a smile is in MI1 when Guybrush is thrown into the water and needs to escape before drowning. While in general I am for puzzles that can be solved with pure logic, but this one was just so funny.

Delores (not that one) Oct 08, 2021
BTW, re: the Monkey Island 1 sword fights (which, like everyone, I absolutely LOVED), I wouldn't actually call those puzzles myself.

Now, some might object and say that I have a narrow definition of "puzzle". I prefer to think that I have an expansive view of "adventure game" where the game mechanics can include more things than object interactions and perhaps fist fights (Indy, I'm looking at you again).

And my point is, it's great to have things like that in a game. An adventure game does not have to be a collection of puzzles alone, and the best adventure games are those that offer variety and novelty, including novel mechanics. Monkey Island 1 got it 100% right.

In contrast, there's many, many adventure games that focus on puzzles only. The Whispered World comes to mind. I know people who loved it, but I personally found it underwhelming, too stuck in its conception of adventure games as being a sequence of puzzles, and only puzzles really, and fairly sequential puzzles at that.

So I'd say, good puzzles are good and can make for a good adventure game, but a *great* adventure game (like many of the Lucas ones, like Monkey Island 1 and 2, Day of the Tentacle and all those staples of my youth) is one that goes beyond good puzzles alone.

JP Oct 08, 2021
First I like puzzles that have a logical solution. In particular some of my favorites are in Day of the tentacle when you need to do actions in different times (past, present, future) and with different characters in order to solve the puzzles. It is not just a sequence of steps done by one character, but instead there is one o more aspects that have influence in the puzzle resolution.

Robert Kosten Oct 08, 2021
For TP (in addition to essentially *everything* Delores, such a great figure to identify with as an 80's geek kid!) it was getting the coin into the sewer. Brilliant exploitation of the characters *not* being independent, but sharing a superconsciousness.

For MM I can't think of a favourite, for MI it's probably the Guybrush gets thrown into the water.

Other favourites I can think of is Zak McKracken the whold airplane sequence with the egg, microwave, and toilet. And in Loom realizing I can reverse spells.

In general I actually prefer more serious adventures (The Dig, Myst/Riven, Technobabylon, Shardlight, etc.) for their atmosphere. But the funny/wacky ones tend to have more memorable puzzles. Of those I clearly prefer those that break the 4th wall *ever* so slightly.

Piecesofkate Oct 08, 2021
I'm replaying TWP for the 3000,002nd time, and I still love the bank manager puzzle. A prank, pervy call to distract him and get the key - inspired. And in this instance I liked the process of using multiple characters to solve it. It was satisfying having to line everything up properly, then execute. My methodical brain appreciates that - not everyone thinks the same way, but I would guess a lot of adventure game players do. When it's done properly it's tidy and therefore rewarding. And it has a nice humour element to it too.

The worst kind of puzzles are ones that take real cloud thinking to solve. The logic should be there in the game for the most part, not reliant on too much outside knowledge or failing in the face of language barriers or obscure double meanings (can't think which puzzle I'm referring to there...)

What's your least favourite puzzle, Ron?

Eigendrea aka Rum Rogers Oct 08, 2021
Tough question, but I think the most satisfying puzzles are those that as a player make you re-apply what you learned way earlier in the game.

I'm specifically referring to the cannon puzzle in MI1 Part II, when you realize you need to use the pot for safety as you did at the very early stages of the game. It's not a tough puzzle per se, but it gives a player that "a-ha!" lightbulb moment that I so desperately long for in an old-school adventure game.

Anyway, sense of reward aside, I prefer puzzles where I'm absolutely forced to think hard and reason a lot BUT without being spoon-fed. A perfect example is the puzzle chain in MI2 leading to "something of the thread": you just know that the Largo's door doesn't seem to stay open, and you need to personally make the connection (close door -> door stays a little open -> I can use it as a trap when he gets in -> but how? -> mud -> swamp).

That same puzzle would be "meh" at best if Guybrush said something like "The door doesn't seem to stay closed, I wonder if I could exploit it to trick Largo somehow?".

All in all, what do these two puzzles have in common? Again, the key is DO NOT SPOON-FEED THE PLAYER, or the whole sense of satisfaction/reward for solving a puzzle will dissolve, mainly because the puzzle is super easy.

Puzzles don't need to be absurd (I still love some Monkey-wrench puzzles though), but they need to be logical AND not obvious. Which is super hard to do, even when I design my own games I can never quite balance intuition with pure guessing and obvious solutions.

Xoinx Oct 08, 2021
My favorites are the ones that make goofy (and therefore easily overlooked) elements essential, e.g. the pulley in the rubber chicken.

DanVzare Oct 08, 2021
I think if I had to choose my favourite puzzle, it'd have to be swapping the squeaky mattress to get the toy mouse in Day of the Tentacle. Simply because me and my family were stuck on that one puzzle for years. We managed to solve every puzzle in that game except that one. When I finally figured it out (namely, how to swap the mattresses), I managed to complete the rest of the game with ease, since I had pretty much already figured out what was needed for the rest of the game.
I'm especially proud of the fact that I never looked it up either.

If I had to choose the best designed puzzle though, it'd be the final puzzle in The Secret of Monkey Island. Using a can of root beer to defeat a ghost makes no sense when simply explained as is, but in context with all of the puzzles that precede it, such as the instructions not being what they seem with the treasure map, the ingredients being substituted in the Monkey Island map/recipe, and the special root to defeat ghosts. It all comes together to make something insane sound like a logical solution. It's the perfect example of an adventure game puzzle done right, and should be held aloft as a standard for good puzzle design.

Luke Schneider Oct 08, 2021
I think my favourite MI puzzle is the breaking of the dam. The fact that it has 2 solutions (flint and cannonball, or using the lens) is great, and both make logical sense.

MI2: Spitting contest - it's both my favourite and least favourite. As a kid, I didn't think about taking the wind into account, but ended up doing it with random chance. When I realised why as an adult, I appreciated the effort and detail.

Fate of Atlantis: The puzzle involving the parrot and the name of the book was great and took a bit of thought, but had the beauty that you could stumble upon the answer accidentally and have an "Oh!" moment. So whether you worked it out yourself, or just happened upon the solution - you still got something out of it.

Thimbleweed Park: I think the "it's in the trailer" puzzle is very entertaining - it's a really simple one, some might say it's not really a puzzle, but it gave me a good reaction when I was playing through.

Loom: Not a single puzzle, but how the puzzles worked. I appreciated the fact that spells that didn't make sense to play backwards COULDN'T be played backwards.

As a general overview: I think what makes a puzzle GOOD is the reaction it gives you at the end. If a hard puzzle makes you think "Oh! Of course" when you solve it, then it's good. If you have to resort to using every item on everything else and still don't understand the logic, then it's not a good puzzle. Also, puzzles that have multiple solutions stop people from getting stuck - especially one that requires player knowledge, rather than in-game knowledge. I'm less keen on play-on-words puzzles in adventure games, because they don't always translate well (Monkey Wrench in MI2 - It was a term I didn't know as a child in England - We just call it a pipe wrench), I appreciate that it's good for the native language speakers, but it does make for seemingly illogical puzzles elsewhere in the world.

DieSkaarj Oct 08, 2021
The format of an adventure game puzzle can often be surmised as a lock and key situation. Where the reward lets the player advance or unfold more of the tale. I find that it's not the puzzle itself, even if its intricately designed, but the hints to how its solved that remain in my mind.

One of my favourite examples of signposting is in MI1. You've got to traverse the forest on Melee Island to find the Sword Master. You can wander into the solution, you can try to figure it out or you can be led to the end. It's one of those about the journey kind of situations.

I think the best puzzle you've ever made however IS the secret of Monkey Island. Thirty years on and nearly everyone has their own solution. A win for open ended design.

I also liked the resourceful approach to ingredients in MI2's first act on Scabb Island. Again, it's sign posting but as a paradigm it translated really well onto the end parts of Tales From Monkey Island where you've got to collect more ingredients. It's a decorated fetch quest but it requires head space, and I like that.

Jasja Bos Oct 08, 2021
I can't remember many specific puzzles, but there are a few, and I guess that make them stand out. At least memorable, for me.

In tsomi I liked the melting mugs and following the shopkeeper. Also the part in the water.

In MI2 there's a puzzle where you switch a poster which I thought was clever and winning the spitting contest was quite rewarding.

I TP I remember a puzzle with the bank manager that was fun. And the part with the clown and the audience. I definitely want to replay the game now!

Shawn Oct 08, 2021
First thing I thought of was the spitting contest, but damn I still think that puzzle is too hard. So I guess that's what makes a good puzzle for me, emorability.

I also love the entirety puzzle-wise of DOTT. I think having 3 main characters in separate but connected timelines allowed for very unique puzzles.

TheSpaceNavy Oct 09, 2021
The recipe puzzle in MI1.  Loved all those crazy substitutions!

"Do you like head scratchers?"
Yes, provided there is at least a thread of logic and I can eventually find the answer.
"What makes a puzzle good?"
Having an solution that is a little not obvious, but can be abstracted from 'the facts of the case'.  Funny is a huge plus too.
"What makes a puzzle hard?"
A puzzle is especially hard if I've missed or forgot a key clue- i.e. forgot Delores t-shirt had a blueprint on it.  Usually I have a week or more between play sessions, so that happens more than I would like.
"What makes a puzzle just busy work?"
Repetitiveness for sure, but also something in me thoroughly rejects mechanical puzzles like in Myst.  Just not my cup of tea.
"Is that bad?"
To each his own 😀

Oh, and one of these days, you need to let us know what the next big thing is going to be, Ron-  I'm itching to back something!

Eric Oct 09, 2021
My favorite puzzles in MI 1 were the cannibal puzzles and the grog puzzle. The puzzles I liked the least in the MI games were the treasure hunt in MI1 with the dance instructions, the bone map puzzle in MI 2 and the monkey wrench puzzle (though, looking back on it that one is pretty funny/clever). They Were all enjoyable, though.

Eric (Different one from above) Oct 09, 2021
Monkey Island sword fighting insult battle!
And having to follow Otis.

Everyone is talking about their favorite puzzles... but here's what I dislike: When they show you a bunch of symbols and you have to enter the correct ones based on some sort of document you picked up elsewhere.

It's one of those things where I feel like if the character has the document on hand, he should just enter the code in. And if he doesn't have the document, then don't present the option to guess the code. Ultimately the puzzles that can be solved by guessing aren't my favorite.

Dipper Oct 09, 2021
I like when the game has a good mix of puzzle types and nudges you in the right direction now and then, a little bit less than Loom, which I found that tiny bit too easy, but more than Zak McKracken, which at times leaves you high and dry also with the probability that you took a wrong turn somehow and there is no chance you'll beat it now.
My favourite puzzles are probably the ones that have immediate impact on your journey and reward you with a further clue or item and "one-scene" puzzles, such as where Guybrush is captured in a room with Wally and needs to escape. I also like "lists" of things such as the recipe on the Sea Monkey. Recently played Darkestville Castle, and they sometimes present you with several lists at the same time, which I found exhausting (together with the fact that 98 percent of the jokes are not funny and there is too much annoying talk). A problem that Tales of Monkey Island had as well methinks.  
I must have played MI2 ten times but every time I arrive at *the door* on Phatt Island where you need to guess the fingers, I hate it and have to look it up because I forgot it again. To me there is no logical or systematic approach to figuring that system out it's just wild guesses.

Dipper Oct 09, 2021
I like when the game has a good mix of puzzle types and nudges you in the right direction now and then, a little bit less than Loom, which I found that tiny bit too easy, but more than Zak McKracken, which at times leaves you high and dry also with the probability that you took a wrong turn somehow and there is no chance you'll beat it now.
My favourite puzzles are probably the ones that have immediate impact on your journey and reward you with a further clue or item and "one-scene" puzzles, such as where Guybrush is captured in a room with Wally and needs to escape. I also like "lists" of things such as the recipe on the Sea Monkey. Recently played Darkestville Castle, and they sometimes present you with several lists at the same time, which I found exhausting (together with the fact that 98 percent of the jokes are not funny and there is too much annoying talk). A problem that Tales of Monkey Island had as well methinks.  
I must have played MI2 ten times but every time I arrive at *the door* on Phatt Island where you need to guess the fingers, I hate it and have to look it up because I forgot it again. To me there is no logical or systematic approach to figuring that system out it's just wild guesses.

Conny Torneus Oct 09, 2021
Well, I recently started to play Thimbleweed Park so for obvious reasons I don't have a favorite puzzle in that game yet. Speaking of which, why are people saying this game is based/inspired by x-files? It "feels" more like Twin Peaks 🙂

Anyway, my favorite puzzle in Maniac Mansion is when you ring the doorbell to lure Ed out of his room. Subtle, yet fun to watch.

In The Secret of Monkey Island it was the Melting grogmug puzzle, without a doubt. Out of the box puzzle, very rewarding and fun. The Swordfighting with insults was top notch too.

Although I wasn't a huge fan of the Monkey Island 3 Storyline I did enjoy the Banjoo Puzzle as well as the Singing puzzle. It felt like a natural flow from the Swordfight puzzle in MI1.

I like headscratchers, they are in my opinion essential to any good Point-and-click Adventure game.

A good puzzle is hard, but rewarding. If comedy can be included it's a plus. Doesn't mean that every single puzzle should be hard. Good variation from really easy to really hard puzzles and with some sidepuzzles that doesn't drive the storyline is good too for some depth.

A hard puzzle is the kind of puzzle you can spend days, weeks or even months to solve. Usually these puzzles are a big part of your journey in the game.

A puzzle that is just "busy work" to me is when you just pick up every object you see and randomly try to combine them with everything in the game. Is that bad? Not at all, it's the basis of a good Point-and-click Adventure game 🙂

Henry Oct 09, 2021
Mi1: sword fight, Just awesome. and actually the entire Melee Island part in its entirety. Awesome.

Mi2: Voodo Recipes puzzles, particularly the bucket of mud.

Dott: different time zone interactions. Good flavour.

MM: the kid interaction to solve puzzles

To my mind, a good puzzle elaborates the story. Outside the box thinking is super, but bad puzzles do not elaborate but basically engage with the players brains primarily. This is a subtle differences but I believe it is true. You will try different things at one point (ok with that) but then adding an extra item/piece just to make it even more difficult is not elaborating but fighting with the player.

Chris Oct 09, 2021
Many good points made. Slightly off topic but I will add that as I started playing games as an adult with distracting kids interrupting me constantly while trying to make a little progress on a game, it is so easy to miss critical dialog and cut scene info that is needed to solve a puzzle. So my request is to find a way of letting the gamer have access to that prior dialog and cut scene. I do appreciate that character interactions usually have contained the important nugget of info as the single dialog line once you revisit that character after having previously completed all the exchanges. That has saved me.
So...be forgiving with critical info.

Deckard Oct 10, 2021
I liked The Island of Lost Soles puzzle in Spellcasting 101. Easy and very hard at the same time and immensely gratifying when you solve each part of it.

Marc Oct 10, 2021
I just can talk about Monkey Island 2. The best puzzle is the a mixture of all kinds of puzzles. Puzzles that are so obvious and easy (Guy at the door who asks for Numbers) but no one thinks about it being so easy because just before you had the multi-step solving of abstract thinking of using a banana on a metronome to hypnotize a monkey and then use him as a tool. Also in German the "Monkey-Wrench" is not a common term, so its not so obvious to see a monkey as a way to open a Valve...

Also i really liked the situations where you would collect items and in a situation where you are stuck and wondered how to go on in the game, a collection of items make vaguley sense to combine or to the use them in situations and sometimes make bizzare predicitions that turned out to be helpful...

I really love this game and have fond memories of sitting in the early 90's in the basement playing it on a Saturday evening.

PS.: When is the Dinky Island DLC coming out?!

Michael Bolin Oct 11, 2021
Ron, I just watched the "interview"
you did with Tim leading up to the Broken Age Kickstarter:

https://youtu.be/re_LWmRJK-g

Indeed, you mention the grog puzzle as your favorite, so you are nothing, if not consistent! Though you also mention you would be against:

- pixel hunting
- a verb/noun system like choosing "Open" then "Door"

Though both of these elements made it into Thimbleweed Park, no? I'm curious about your change of heart there. (I enjoyed them, FWIW, though I played TP on PC rather than tablet.)

LasseS Oct 11, 2021
I enjoy a good puzzle that requires some thinking and is not just busywork, obviously it can be hard to strike that balance of a puzzle that makes sense without being too obvious, a puzzle that is challenging and satisfying to solve and not too obtuse or just ridiculous.
Personally, I really enjoyed the grog puzzle too, as well as finding the treasure on Melee Island. What looked like one of those accursed maze puzzle was not that at all but it also wasn't TOO obvious that the dance steps would be the solution. Melee Island in general was really strong in puzzle department. Also remember really enjoying the puzzles in Eric the Unready in general but nothing specific comes to mind now.
It does seem like a lot of indie adventures these days tend to lean more on point & click story games, I do miss games that go really deep on the puzzle side, fortunately we still occasionally get games like Thimbleweed Park that do harken back to the golden age of adventure games.
I do get the feeling mainstream audience might have problem with puzzles these days.. Telltale didn't become a mainstream success  until they basically eradicated puzzles completely from their games.. But on the other hand games like Zelda are popular and they are quite puzzle heavy, though more exploration based and simpler puzzles with lots of block pushing and such. I suppose mainstream gamers have a problem with adventure game puzzles.

Philipp Oct 11, 2021
There are so many favorite puzzles, so to pick one from Monkey Island: Picking up the idol to escape underwater death. Why? Because it is simple and silly, but perfectly communicates the anything goes humor and style of the game. You might even argue it sets up later puzzles, because you now are willing to try things which would seem to silly in other games

As for what makes a good puzzle - as I get older I am less concerned with style, difficulty, mechanics and all that, I just want the puzzle to make sense in and contribute to the story and the setting of the game. Hoping you are not tired of praise: Thimbleweed Park was start-to-finish celebration of that kind of good puzzle design and good game design!

Or to reverse it: I loathe obstructionist puzzles which artificially slow down the story and I loathe "Simon says" puzzles where you need to do things in a certain way at a certain time while every natural solution is disallowed, just because the game says so. And do I have to say it? Quick time events are not puzzles!

Boris Schneider-Johne Oct 11, 2021
So my favourite puzzle of all time of course is an Infocom puzzle. In "The Lurking Horror" there is a hidden passage you can only find by drawing a map and realizing that two locations are adjunct to each other. I don't want to spoil it but I still remember the night when I solved that one and immediately had to call my friend and colleague Heinrich about that one.

I like puzzles that use the mechanics of the game in non-obvious ways. Point and click always has the problem that there are finite combinations of things to try and you are always treading the fine line between "very obvious" and "totally absurd" combinations. IF with parsers has a better toolbox because the player might try a verb / an action that was never before mentioned in the game but feels right. In PnC that would be just a "Use" or no verb at all - no challenge.

Timing based puzzles that give you plenty of time (and I remember most of Rons timing puzzles to be generous to the player once you realize they are timed puzzles) and/or many tries work out well. I've seen plenty of timing puzzles that just require you to do things fast rather than elegantly. Those I do not like.

Any kind of puzzle that has you thinking outside the screen is fun. Your knowledge of the real world helps you play the game. You can feel clever because you bring your knowledge into the game world rather than just being the typical amnesiac that most games make you as a starter.

The hardest puzzles to create are the ones that deal with other humans/beings. Especially dialogue based. I see many people liking the Sword Insults of MI1 and they are a clever design because in this specific situation you would not totally break out of the script. I would love a good detective game but questioning witnesses is just so tough to script. In a couple of years we might have AI characters for this that can use more then just pre-scripted text. The author just needs to define a style and the knowledge and intentions of that character and then you have a free conversation. That could be fun! And again, would move you away from PnC back to typed (or voice) input.

Finally a good puzzle needs a reason, a backstory. Why is this obstacle around? Who locked the door? Why did somebody leave a coded message? Where would they hide something not to be found? "Oh, I need the blue key for the blue lock and it was hidden under a carpet". Yeah, but who put that key there and why? A lot of puzzles are just obstacles to stop you just walking into the next chapter, but for a satisfying game, the puzzle is not just a brainteaser with no sense. I am looking at you, 7th Guest - the most overrated game of all time.

Boris Schneider-Johne Oct 11, 2021
Additional comment: Before the plague I tried quite a few Escape Rooms and of course the "Exit" Games from Kosmos. Two further totally conflicting observations:

In Real Live Escape Rooms the rule "Why is this puzzle there" is my main pet peeve. "You need to rearrange the pictures on the wall based on the domino pattern on the back" - yeah but why would somebody hide that info in this sceario this way? It makes no sense at all? About 2/3rds of the Escape Rooms I was in had several puzzles that had no context at all. Some are really good - the chain of logic follows the story and theme of the room. I hear they have some really good ones in Praque, I am thinking of going there with friends next spring just to try some of them (most of them are playable in English).

And with the Exit Games from Kosmos and Inka&Markus Brand it is the other way round. Their BEST puzzles are the ones that make absolutely no sense at all in the context of the story, because they use the box, the codewheel, sometimes even the manual in totally nonsensical ways. Lots of 4th wall breakers. But the design of these is clever and the fact that nearly two dozen games in they still find a way to "pervert" their own codewheel makes me smile. And the BEST situation of course was when you finally realized in one of the games that you simply need to call the phone number you just decoded. (And sometimes they fail - especially because the printed material is so small that in some cases you can not see vital information. The very first puzzle in The Pharaos Tomb is unsolvable because of the small print - otherwise a pretty good game!).

Someone Oct 11, 2021
@Boris Schneider-Johne:

"Point and click always has the problem that there are finite combinations of things to try and you are always treading the fine line between "very obvious" and "totally absurd" combinations."

That's not necessarily true. But that would be another discussion.

"I would love a good detective game but questioning witnesses is just so tough to script."

There are some interesting concepts/detective games out there. For example I would recommend you to play "Detective Case and Clown Bot in: Murder in the Hotel Lisbon".

PeevishDave Oct 11, 2021
I love stories. Visual art can tell stories through shapes and colors, dialogues through text, music through sound, etc. and I think that puzzles can be a peculiar storytelling device that tells stories through logic and interaction.

I like hard puzzles as long the difficulty serves the story they want to tell me. Anyway, one of my favorite puzzle from Secret of Monkey Island it's probably the easiest one: "pick up the fabulous idol" (when Guybrush is drowning). It needs just a single action and yet it tells a memorable story, in fact, I remember it after 20 years. And it's the story of me getting trolled, you bastard xD

I think that's the difference between a puzzle from a puzzler magazine and one from an adventure game. And that's why I don't like much these games that put random puzzle sections, often placed full-screen, that are just there to challenge me but that have no storytelling value.

AMM Oct 11, 2021
@Boris Schneider-Johne: I guess translating the infamous MI2 „monkey wrench" puzzle into German was a tough one, wasn‘t it? You did a pretty good job with that one, even though there was no way to keep the play on words alive.

On topic: A good puzzle needs logic, but not the obvious one; a logic that needs a bit of thinking outside the box. DOTT really excelled in this aspect due to the different time periods being an integral component of the puzzles. The wine-turns-to-vinegar puzzle comes to mind, for example.

In MI2, the solution to winning the spitting contest was brilliant. What made me solve that one was browsing random books in the Phatt City Library which eventually surfaced the autobiography of a spitting contest champion. I do not know the English title of the book, but almost 30 years later, I still recall the German title: "Mix dir ‘nen Grünen" (awesome translation again, Boris - kudos for that!). The title in a very funny way hinted at mixing a green liquid from the yellow and blue ones and using this as a "thickener" enabling you to spit further. Add the wind and right timing to that, and there you have a pretty much perfect adventure puzzle.

I also vividly remember following the merchant in MI1 to find the sword master. This was a first for me back then. I was 12 years old with limited adventure experience and did not think at all of following the merchant outside of the store. I was frustrated from waiting again and again for the merchant to return without making any progress with regard to the sword master‘s location. Only by accident, I walked through the door just when the merchant had left again - only to find out that you could see the merchant leaving the screen on the right-hand side.

This may not be the most original of all puzzles, but to me, it was eye-opening and totally immersive because it gave the impression that other characters (here: the merchant) were really „doing something on their own" instead of being just „decoration".

But let‘s face it: If you want an adventure game to keep you busy for hours and hours, it also needs quite a few of your standard „use x with y" or „find key(code) to open door" puzzles.

Chris L Oct 11, 2021
I love puzzles which draw from information across the game, and recontextualise it. The greatest puzzle in the games listed, for me, was the final LeChuck fight in Monkey Island 2. The thing that made it great for me was that you had to repurpose the voodoo doll instructions from earlier in the game in a new situation.

It played on the expectation that every item has exactly one use, then you can ignore it in your inventory forever. It wasn't particularly challenging to figure out what needed to be done, but there was a sense of accomplishment in noticing something that didn't fit into the standard patterns.

The next thing that I enjoyed about the puzzle was that I needed to think laterally around the instructions. The earlier use of them during the game was pretty straightforward, but it was a little more lateral in the late-game puzzle. It's unusual for puzzles to be repurposed in a way that gives them a "difficulty curve", but that made it particularly satisfying.

Chris L Oct 12, 2021
To add to the above, I genuinely think the LeChuck voodoo doll is one of the two best video game puzzles I've ever experienced, and the other one falls into a similar category -- the Riven marble puzzle.

Again, it draws from information you learned throughout the game (the number system, the animals, the map) but recontextualises it all into a new puzzle. In this case, a hard as nails one that really relies on how much you have learned about the world you're in.

In both cases, they're puzzles that really encapsulate their game and its ethos. Incredibly well thought-out and designed.

Matt Oct 12, 2021
I have to admit that I really don't like head scratchers at all. I want the game to continue and the story to move on. The state of puzzles in modern adventure games that don't involve thinking about absurd solutions, but rather straightforward combinations and add new gadgets instead, is really the right way. I didn't enjoy Thimbleweed Park as much as Monkey Island back in the days, because the genre moved on, and you didn't. Alt TABing constantly out of the game to read a walkthrough, because it gets annoying, completely breaks the experience for me.

Elena Hitomi Oct 12, 2021
Monkey Island - when I was trying to find the X--took me so long and I was going in circles since the place looked the same. It was fun, though

Thimbleweed Park - when I was looking for a bottle just to find out it was at the back of a house. Like... I've never thought the game included the back of a house. But yeah, I think it was my fault for not exploring more

Drezebees Oct 12, 2021
My best description of my favorite kind of puzzles would be a situation changing puzzle:
MM: getting the key out of that chandelier
Broken Sword 2: getting past the gate in the harbor
Gabriel Knight 3: getting the moustache from the cat

SimTec Oct 13, 2021
My favorite type of puzzles for ex (like with MM) have to do with electronic/mechanical devices (radios, etc) since by trade as well as hobby I operate these kind of things.

I like point and click because you can quickly get through the parts that are easy, however it would be great if point and click would allow greater ability than to just click a word and point to an object.

For ex: In maniac Mansion, rather than click a word (pull/pickup) and then point to the door mat at the front door, you could drag the mat with the pointer to discover the key under it allowing more physical control of the screens objects.

A puzzle to me is more interesting when the options are left to possibilty of imagination than just by permutation based pointing and clicking away, especially when the puzzles are harder.

Considering this, a combination of more screen control combined with a full English text word parser would definitely add to the experience of point and click!

vite Oct 13, 2021
I really liked getting the cook fired in MI2

Shawn Oct 13, 2021
Good callout on the mi2 bar cook but what about the infamous Rapp Scallion???

Johan Windh Oct 13, 2021
I tend to like puzzles which are many parts, with varying complexity within the parts. Like the Largo Voodoo Doll.

In TWP I liked the fact that some puzzles, like the "kidnapping" of one of the agents, were based on if you did a certain thing, otherwise it wouldn't happen at all. It didn't bring the story forward but it sure added to the mysterious vibe of the game (which I really loved).

I also like puzzles where the answer or way forward may be right in front of your eyes but you need something to point it out for you. Like the telescope pointing to the secret stone in the Rum-guy's hut in MI2.




Do you like head scratchers?

-Yes, as long as they do not get Monkey-wrench-absurd (impossible for a 10 yr old non-english-native). But there must be some time or possibility of solving easier puzzles in between the really hard ones.



What makes a puzzle good?

-When they bring the plot forward or enhance the mood/vibe of the place you're in.



What makes a puzzle hard?

-Language barriers. But that's hard in a bad sense. In a good sense I'd say when you have to think a bit laterally. Like using similar items for other uses.



What makes a puzzle just busy work? Is that bad?

-When puzzle after puzzle has no real meaning and does not add to the story or vibe. It's just in the way. Then it's bad. Like quite a few of the puzzles in Simon the Sorcerer for example.

Johan Windh Oct 13, 2021
@Matt: you had to read a walkthrough for TWP? There was a perfectly well implemented hint system all along...

Nick Markus Oct 13, 2021
The most memorable and hilarious puzzle from MI would be "how to get out of water when you are attached to an Idol?". You already carried the Idol in your inventory so you are supposed to KNOW that you can carry it again. But exposed to a variety of out of range cutting objects, you are trained to believe that you HAVE to cut the rope to solve the problem. The puzzle is designed so that the player creates an unsolvable puzzle by himself when there is none : absolutely brilliant.
In MI2, the dreaded "finger code" that took me HOURS to solve (no Internet at this time).
But my most favourite puzzle of all times is the gold dome puzzle in Riven. To solve it, you have to put together information from very diverse sources scattered on the whole island. I love puzzles that make you "feel smart" when you solve them. Your reward is not just a trophy/success : your satisfaction comes from the feeling that you used your full ressources to solve a very complex problem.

Conny Torneus 6d ago
Since we're sharing our favorite puzzles and what puzzles mean to us I feel we need to address VR as well.

It goes without saying that it can open new doors when it comes to puzzle solving and overall how we experience Point-and-click Adventure games.

What's your take on it Ron? Can we bring it to VR?

I belive we can, if done right.

Sushi 6d ago
My favorite puzzles are those with multiple solutions. For example in Zak, there are different ways to wake up the bus driver, different ways to escape from the mind bender jail (even including getting kicked out once you've lost your wits and verbs). In Maniac Mansion, there were a few of those too- but more often than not they were puzzle chains that only could be completed if you played them with other characters. I'm sure modern players may be infuriated by these loose or dead ends or they'll complain that the walkthrough they're following isn't right, but for me they made the world feel real (despite the limited graphics). As an example of a puzzle that does the opposite in this respect: the dam puzzle in Monkey Island. Over and over again I will try to use the spyglass as a magnifying glass with the sun to get some gunpowder to catch fire. But that never works. Still Guybrush comments "boy is it hot here" Why? Who knows. At least I always get a good laugh when you try walking to the sun.
I like being rewarded for experimenting. Even if these aren't necessary puzzles to complete the game. Annoyingly keep ringing the bakery door when they're closed in Zak. Cheating your way into winning the spitting contest in Monkey2 (and then realising that still isn't enough- and you need some physics like the wind to win). Talking about physics, getting the rope on Monkey Island with the hanging corpse was a nice one, just like the melting mugs. Yep, physics as part of the solution are great. The weird device you can use as a catapult; because it leads to alternate endings.
In monkey island 3, I liked the setup to the duel with Vanhelgen- as you are rewarded for wandering of the beaten path and thinking out of the box (or coffins)
In Thimbleweed Park, I enjoyed the puzzles with Franklin a lot as they made you rethink what you can do with each verb.
Any puzzle that gives me as a player an "aha-erlebniss" qualifies as a good one: Reversing spells in Loom.
The "fist - nose ring" at the start of Full Throttle was a good one too. In the same game I remember the mine field and 50 duracell bunnies. Bad puzzles from that game were the action bits were you need to fight other bikers. Needless to say that insult swordfighting is a wonderfully executed linguistic puzzle - and especially how you need to apply it later without safety net when fighting the swordmaster. I think the puzzle in Thimbleweed Park with the annoying radio kid echoed this one a bit, but didn't match up as it required a lot of knowledge on 80's lingo that may be apparent for English speakers, but felt more of a trial and error deal for me. Let's not mention that other word pun puzzle involving animals and hydraulics. At least that one had a funny special case animation as a reward for trying everything in the inventory. The worst language puzzle award still goes to the "Rumplestitchkin" puzzle in King's Quest.
The best puzzles are usually multi-part so you cannot solve them by accident - or one part at most, which may trigger the player to experiment further or remember it later once the puzzle setup is revealed.
The whole first part of King's Quest 3 was fun too from a story building perspective: you just wander around being bossed around by an evil wizard who turns you into a mouse or something if you aren't fast enough or do something forbidden. No handholding there, but at one time you realise you should plot your revenge in true prison break/the great escape-style. Unfortunately that involves navigating your way along some stairs and cliffs.
Ron, I don't think you have ever put a really bad puzzle in a game, like the key to the door hanging just next to it (at least you disguised it as a very hard-to-find brick ;p ) but even if you would make a game with only bad ones now, I'd buy it!

Johannes 5d ago
I liked the grog mug puzzle too, but I think that you had to look it up on your replay of MI1, iirc!

SimTec 5d ago
[cont...]

An example when to introduce the command line for the word parser would come after the player clicks the "TALK TO" link. I think this would be a great extended feature! (I've always liked fill in the blank more than multiple choice anyway :D)

If we are talking about enhancing, this is where I think this is going. Other than that, I wouldn't change a thing with these games already in my toybox :)

[Next I think AI and VR will enter the GUI]

SimTec 5d ago
[cont...]

An example when to introduce the command line for the word parser would come after the player clicks the "TALK TO" link. I think this would be a great extended feature! (I've always liked fill in the blank more than multiple choice anyway :D)

If we are talking about enhancing, this is where I think this is going. Other than that, I wouldn't change a thing with these games already in my toybox :)

[Next I think AI and VR will enter the GUI]

HyperCow 5d ago
I enjoy a good puzzle which builds on itself. You gather one item which is used with another, and maybe is combined once you figure out how to gain access to a device/stove/oven/laboratory. The ScummBar kitchen puzzle is pure combination joy!

Calzone 5d ago
MI2's door puzzle has always been a favorite of mine. Mainly because I could not for the life of me figure out how it worked, but my brother took one look at it and solved it immediatly.

Though personally I prefer puzzled that have multiple elements and can be worked on and tested out, like in zelda, portal or similar. That or logic puzzles like Cheryl's birthday. Adventure game puzzled I often find to be more like riddles, where you have to reason my way to a solution, then test if its true, and if it's not you have to just try again with some other resoning.

xananax 4d ago
For me a good puzzle *in a point and click game* (as opposed to a puzzle game) is one that is narratively fun.

As long as seeking the answer has me continue to have fun dialogues, discover new interactions, see new areas, or progress the story, then I'm in.

Conversely, a pure puzzle in a pnc game can often bring the action and irreverent fun to a screeching halt and often feels like padding

Dino Figuera 4d ago
In my life I have encountered 4 types of adventure players:

1. the "I would spend 10 years playing this rather than checking the solutions"
   type

2. the brute force Puzzle solver type, who would try any possible combination
   without even thinking (and eventually checking the solutions)

3. the "solutions are the best friend" type

4. finally the type like me: proud to solve the game without solutions,
   but sometimes got too stuck to not use them, and feeling very sorry for that.

When I got the Amiga 500 after the commodore 64, I did not know any adventure games.
The first adventure I got to run was called Operation Stealth from Delphine software.
I remember I got stuck right away at the very first room, for months.
Then I unlocked the first puzzle by chance, and I managed to go forward but I have been using the solutions a lot, I had no experience and it was too hard for me.

Then there was Monkey I, The first I have solved entirely by myself, the one and only in my heart, for the fun, the music, the sadness, and nostalgia that hits you when it is over.

The first puzzle that took me a while to solve is, I guess, considered an easy one:
The pot to wear as a helmet at the Circus.
I´m attached to this puzzle because I was inexperienced and this first joy of discovery was making me understand the logic of using something for another purpose. Which I think is the key to good puzzles.

The second Puzzle I mention is a very famous one, the Monkey Wrench in Monkey II.
I am Italian and did not speak any English back then,
I could have never solved this. A friend told me the solution and I was speechless. This puzzle was for me the most absurd of all times.
Not because it was hard and based on the language, But because it was illogical.
I remember I could not forgive you Ron for this :D
you can not use a soft tail for such a heavy job, even in an imaginary world.
Things can be crazy, no problem with this (melting iron with grog) but they have to be logical.
For the same reason, I hated Pixar´s Up: If you use special collars to make your dogs talk, you can not make them fly planes!

Søren Ladegaard 4d ago
Hi all

I can't really think of a favourite puzzle. But I can explain what I DON'T like in adventure games 😀

When you have "done everything" in a room/scene and progress further into the game. If then, at a later stage, you get stuck and the solution is in a room/scene that you're already done with. There is no apparent reason to go back to that room. But if you do by chance you realize that there's something new there.

I can't remember exactly but I think that in Monkey Island 2 the above actually takes place. The first part of the game is to get off Scabb Island. Then later in the get I remember being stuck. It turns out that if you return to Scabb Island and enter the bar you can make progress in the game. But - as far as I remember - there was no incentive to go back. As a player you thought "I'm done with Scabb Island".

I don't like when there's a way to highlight all the hotspots on the screen. I like to find everything myself. I also dislike hint systems. But I do like when there's some kind of a journal to keep track of the story or remind me what it is that I'm up to 😀

Being 43 years old I can't play every single day. It's like reading a book. Sometimes you don't read it for a week. But in an adventure game I tend to forget where I left off.

And then there's a MAJOR deal breaker. There is one, and ONLY ONE user interface that works. And that's the 9 verb SCUMM interface.

Everything else is crap. Period. 😀

Emma 3d ago
In MI1 I really liked the melty grog mug puzzle and having to give the cannibals the navigation pamphlet in exchange for the head.

In MI2 one of my favourites was the ‘If this is X then what is y?' password puzzle for the back alley gambling. I felt so smart when I figured that out. And the Rum Rogers puzzle where you have to swap out the grog.

Thimbleweed has great puzzles. I liked having to get the stamp off the envelope, simple and satisfying. And the puzzle in the radio station where you have to put the record on for Willie.

Steve Brown 3d ago
From the first time I noticed that there's a switch on top of the antenna tower that gets the DJ to come outside and flip it back, until the moment Willie gives me back the repaired stopwatch.

-I don't care for puzzles where I'm stuck in a single spot until I figure out what the designer was thinking.  That's the problem with what a lot of people call puzzles: They're more of a riddle that the designer came up with, but ultimately they're full of ambiguity about the interpretation and they stem from what the designer thinks is "what the player should be thinking when they hear my amazing riddle."  I could make an "amazing" joke that riffs on an old Simpsons episode or something, but I should still expect most of the room to not have a clue what I'm talking about.  If I then say, "You don't get to go home until you get my joke," then suddenly we have a not-that-fun situation on our hands.  Like all-to-many puzzles, esp. in indie p&c adventures.

-What I LOVE, on the other hand, is when I've already been able to see a piece of the puzzle in action.  Like how I could flip the switch at the top of the antenna tower and see the reaction, long before I had any idea what I'd be doing with it.

I have a real tendency to give the accessible part of the game-world a once-over before I actually start giving any thought towards progressing the game.  (And if I were less lazy, I'd be taking notes while I do this. wtb in-game mechanisms for this sort of note-taking!)  I will, however, still pick stuff up and try using it here and there, but if my first try doesn't trigger a state change, I'll just move on and keep exploring.

-Another thing that I noticed I really enjoyed (in TWP) is when puzzles draw from an ability that I have from out-of-game.  eg. Putting the patrol robots in maintenance mode.  I imagine lots of people complained about how they had no idea what to do with the jumpers, but I wasn't one of them.

Imagine a world where the back of the box had a list of "recommended prerequisite skills:" Jumpering, Toner-Cartridge re-inking, Basic Chainsaw Usage and Maintenance...

Or perhaps a world where, pre-playthrough, we attempt to profile the player a bit to discover their skillset, then substitute in particular puzzles so as to maximize their ability to complete puzzles without frustration.

I don't find it all that far-fetched, myself.

wysiwtf 1d ago
ok most of this has probably been said but -

what i like:
puzzles that make sense, in their own logic of the game. the universe can be crazy but it puts you in a setting. if that works and the puzzles follow that logic its all good - even if you need hours to come up with the solution.

what i hate:
obvious things you need to do but you cant because you didnt do something back in the game. i dont particular mind backdragging and revisiting already "finished" scenes but it should be obvious you have to do so, otherwise ill end up running around all the spaces ive been to a hundred times already just to miss the one dialogue option that wasnt there before. f*ck that.

if i end up running around all the places and combining everything with everyhting and wondering if i just encoutered a bug or am just stupid... its mostly the game design thats stupid.

theres two approaches to the usage of inventory: one of them is that every object you have is important at some point and you know about this and the other approach ist to make the world "more immersive" by allowing you to pick up almost everything you see, even if its not going to be useful - ever (read: Dreamweb / which i totallya dig).
I think the important part here is to know what you are dealing with and if its one of those games where every object you can grab is also needed for some puzzle i think its important to get rid of them somehow once that puzzle is cleared. otherwise it is just confusing and produces hundreds of unsatisfying clicks and tries.

another example:
i need to cut a rope. in my inventory theres scissors and a saw. both dont work and produce a standard line of "this doesnt seem to work" but in the end youll find a knife in some kitchen drawer and this one just does it. this is frustrating. i dont expect a gamedesigner to eliminate all of those items before cutting the rope but i expect him to do a better job than just giving me a default line (like: the scissors are not strong enough / i dont think a saw is just the right tool for this / etc). be aware of your edge cases and direct the player accordingly.

bottom line:
adventures puzzles dont have to be _easy_ but they have to make sense _in themselfes_.

oh, and also i think pixel hunting screens is SO 80s! and it doesnt get better with FullHD+ graphics (I do like how you made that one optional with the specs of dust in TWP, tho).

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