8 Cliche Puzzles That Are In Every Goddamn Adventure Game

By Andy Hughes in Daily Lists
Friday, April 11, 2014 at 6:00 am

4) A Thinly Veiled Version of Another Game

I'm sure it's really hard to come up with original puzzles over and over, so some developers don't even bother and just crib from the arcades or the game closet to fill the empty space. It never fails: you can be lost in a futuristic city or in the middle of a lush fantasy world and suddenly be confronted with something that looks an awful lot like Tic Tac Toe, or Space Invaders, or any number of common kinds of analog recreation. Sometimes it's parody, but sometimes it's basically just the designers saying "yeah, we got nothing." On the other hand, compared to some of the dreadful "original" puzzles that adventure games can present you with, a ripoff can be a godsend.

3) The Sliding Puzzle


I don't know about you, but the only times I have ever encountered one of these in real life was when one of my neighbors decided to go cheap on Halloween. In adventure games sliding puzzles are often meant to be near-mystical experiences, usually found in some old temple or castle or something and requiring the gravest of concentration.

The worst part about these sequences, which give you a grid of tiles to shift around and form some sort of important shape, is that there's always at least one point where you think you're almost there, and then realize you have to undo all or most of the work you've done because the bottom left half of the Sacred Symbol is in the middle of the dragon's eye or something. Are they the hardest puzzles in the world? Usually not. But they can still cause many a blood vessel to pop in frustration, because there should be no earthly way that something you can buy in bulk from Oriental Trading should be giving your adventure avatar this much shit.

2) The Maze

I hate mazes, Jacques! I hate'em! Here's one aspect of gaming that works completely differently depending on how you tend to play. If you're an outgoing, gregarious sort who likes to gather friends around the ol' DOSbox to game together, you can actually have a pretty good time mapping out mazes, yelling at each other and feverishly taking notes like you're working in Mission Control or something. By the end, all of you will have tons of scribbled-over maps and torn relationships, but you'll look back and laugh, trust me.

However, if you play more I like I do, you've spent most of your life booting these games up in a dark corner somewhere cowering in shame, and the last thing you need when you're in that kind of mental state is a series of dark corridors and booby traps. Some adventure games are nothing but mazes, stretched out over long areas and forcing you to backtrack over and over, searching for hidden trinkets and the possibility of death. There are many labyrinths that have scarred me for life, so much so that I could probably make a list entirely out of traumatic adventure game maze experiences, but no list could properly contain my horrific memories of the Legend of Kyrandia. Just looking at the thumbnail for that Let's Play sends me into the fetal position.

1) "One of them always tells the truth..."

...and one of them always makes you want to shoot yourself. If you're a modern game designer, you must be completely sadistic to put this in your title circa 2014, because even parodying this thing is now something of a cliche. And yet I've seen variations on "Liars and Truthtellers" in games as recent as 2012's The Cat Lady, which means it'll probably be around in whatever neural implant form of entertainment we decide to turn to for fun a jillion years from now.

Say it with me now: one guard always tells the truth, the other always lies, and you've got to ask them a question to find out how to proceed. From Labyrinth to the Doctor Who episode "Pyramids of Mars," where even Tom Baker seemed like he couldn't wait to get it over with, this thing has bored and frustrated generations. Because the answer is always the same, these days this puzzle is more of a secret handshake between the nerds that make these games and the nerds that play them than a real challenge for either. Now, when we meet a pair of guards that both always lie, then we'll have something to worry about.

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