Video game puzzle designers tread a fine line: If the puzzles are too easy, they're boring, but if they're too hard, nobody will finish the game and you may wind up responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent controllers. The key is to make the difficulty of a puzzle come from a logical place so that solving it will make sense to the players, giving them a sense of well-earned accomplishment. But sometimes, the closest thing to a "logical place" that a game designer has is the cubbyhole underneath the toilet that his insane mother kept him in for most of his life. And that's how we get puzzles like these:
#6. The Longest Journey's Rubber Ducky
The Longest Journey is the story of an art student, April Ryan, who saves both her world and a parallel fantasy universe from total annihilation (the fantasy aspect comes from the idea of an art student doing something useful). Naturally, the fate of both worlds revolves around a rubber duck.
Early in the game you come across a key stuck on an electrified subway track. Now, this is before you know you're supposed to be a hero -- before you even know a second world exists. So as far as April's concerned, at this point in the game, she's just a regular college student waiting for the subway. It makes no sense for her to drop everything and endanger herself for a piece of garbage on the tracks.
But it's so shiny!
But whatever, that's video game logic for you: Every gamer knows to frantically Klepto-Klutch every item in sight, just in case it might save your life later. So you need the key, sure: But you can't just turn off the power. Clearly, you have no choice but to leave the area entirely and run back to your apartment to fiddle around with a completely unrelated machine.
Behold! The artificial game-length padder!
It controls water pressure, which obviously has nothing to do with subway tracks. But you start screwing with it anyway, because you're an art student: Your whole purpose in life is to fix things that aren't broken.
You want to steal that big ol' clamp, which, remember, you have no motivation for doing at this point. But whatever, maybe you're going to use it to hold your unreasonably large art-kid blunts. The problem is, it's holding down a leak. So you use the gold ring your dad gave you on your 16th birthday to conduct electricity through the cut wire up in the corner, powering the device up and loosening the clamp.
Next, it's up to your room. Glancing out the window gives you this view:
"I have to wade through shit to grab something pointless? Huh, art school prepared me for something."
Dropping bread crumbs on the rubber duck attracts a seagull, who punctures the duck with his bill as he eats. After the damaged ducky floats away, you stuff the clothesline in your pocket, because when your father abandoned you as a child, he accidentally took your favorite stuffed animal with him and you've compulsively hoarded ever since. Then you track down the duck and reinflate it, presumably getting raw sewage in your mouth in the process. Now you're ready to get that key!
Wait, what key? Oh, right -- you were doing something at some point before you got high and started fucking with these birds.
All right: Now to tie the clothesline to the clamp and remove the Band-Aid that's patching the hole in the duck. Then you force the clamp open with the deflating toy.
Because, hey ... free key.
When the duck finishes deflating, the clamp will snap closed onto the key. It makes perfect sense! The following image, to some game developer, was the logical conclusion of a series of problem-solving steps:
"Honey, I left my wallet at home. Can you tie a sausage to the dog, plug in the hair dryer, upend the garbage outside and then turn on the record player -- make sure it's playing the Batoosie -- then start throwing darts at the mailman until he-"
#5. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy's Babel Fish Vending Machine
Anyone familiar with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy knows it has a weird sense of humor, so it's no surprise that the game based on it has some bizarre, non sequitur puzzles. But its infamous difficulty level crossed the line from "hilariously offbeat" to "fascist hate-fest" in a hurry.
Early in the game, you need to get your hands on a Babel fish, which functions as a universal translator if you stick it in your ear. They're dispensed from a vending machine, but because this is a video game, it's not as simple as hitting B16 and accidentally getting a bag of raisins instead of what you clearly chose (seriously, why are they always in there? Nobody wants you, raisins).
The first time you try it, a fish shoots out of the machine and falls into a hole below a hook. OK, no problem, you just take off your dressing gown and hang it on the hook so it blocks the next fish ... and sends it down a "hitherto unnoticed drain."
Shit, OK. Still, no problem. You can cover the drain with your trusty towel. The next fish lands neatly on it ... and is promptly snatched by a cleaning robot.
At which point you lose interest and go play Halo.
Dammit! Well, all right, let's think this through. The robot exits through a little panel at the base of the wall, so you need to block that off. Your satchel will do. You press the button again, the robot plows into the satchel and the fish soars into the air ... where it's snatched by a flying cleaning robot.
At this point, we'd take the hint and start spamming "stomp robot." But that won't work here: You have to distract the second robot by putting some junk mail on the satchel, which sends it flying as well ... assuming you bothered to pick that junk mail up earlier. If you didn't, you're screwed. Oh, and the vending machine only has five fish in it, so a single wrong move means you don't get one. Which means you never understand what the hell's going on, which means you'll be inevitably killed a couple of scenes later and have to start the whole game over.
Or just quit and play a different, less painful game, like Russian roulette.
That "click" is the sound of a frustrated gamer loading his gun.
#4. Silent Hill's Poetry
Silent Hill is a series of psychological horror games where you battle disturbing monsters in a surreal otherworld. Silent Hill 3 upped the psychological ante further by cruelly punishing anybody without an English degree: In order to decipher one key riddle, you had to intimately know your Shakespeare. It all starts when you find this in a bookstore:
Shit, now we have to backtrack to Starbucks so we can get this deciphered.
Each stanza represents a play, and you have to order them appropriately. The above quote, for instance, is an obscure reference to King Lear. What's that? You don't have an intimate, encyclopedic knowledge of King Lear? "Haha, what are you doing playing video games" the developers of Silent Hill ask, "when you could be discovering the wonder of literature?"
If you do happen to be a professor of Shakespeareology, you eventually end up with a five-digit number. Puzzle solv- wait, shit, the door you're trying to open only takes a four-digit code. That's what the last stanza is for:
"Solve for X and blow thine self, verily."
Now, obviously we don't have to decipher this one for you. But for all the *snicker* little Snugs out there, we'll hold your hand: It's telling you to double the number for Hamlet, triple the number for Romeo and Juliet and remove the number for Macbeth. Clearly!
To be fair, this poem only showed up on the hardest difficulty -- there was a much easier puzzle on lower levels, for all of you dimwits out there who play video games to shoot monsters in the face instead of analyze the story structures of 16th century English theater.
Psh, that looks like fun. Now silent contemplation of The Tempest? That's what gaming is all about!