The 5 Most Absurdly Difficult Video Game Puzzles (Pt. 2)

#2. Zork II's Base Running

Infocom

Zork II came out in 1981, a time when many video games were still lacking the "video" part. The early Zork games were text adventures, and even in a genre infamous for puzzles that assumed the player literally had months to devote to endless random guesses, Zork's seemingly unsolvable obstacles stood out.

Infocom
Reading? What is this, a game for nerds?

Still, patient gamers who could get into the weird headspace required for these adventures could get through Zork II without too many frustrations. At least until they reached the "Oddly Angled Room."

You quickly realize that the room is a maze, but that shouldn't be a problem -- one of the first things you learn when you play text games is to draw a map as you go. But that's no help in the Oddly Angled Room, because your movements seem to take you to totally random places. Well shit, now what?

You should probably examine the room a little closer. Here's what you learn: "A LONG WOODEN CLUB LIES ON THE GROUND NEAR THE DIAMOND-SHAPED WINDOW. THE CLUB IS CURIOUSLY BURNED AT THE THICK END. THE WORDS "BABE FLATHEAD" ARE BURNED INTO THE WOOD."

fergregory/iStock/Getty Images
A DISAPPOINTED CHILD CALLS THE GAME STORE TO SEE IF THEY ACCEPT OPENED ITEM RETURNS.

Oh, OK. So, have you figured it out? Go on, take a minute to really think about it. We'll wait.

Right, you got it? If you realized that the clues are referring to baseball, congratulations! You're a goddamn liar, because nobody could have figured that out.

Gamers are stereotypically not known for their sports prowess, and it doesn't help that the "references" to baseball are more subtle than the subliminal messages hidden in this article (take every 23rd letter and you get "BUY A SHIRT"). It's like if your grandma had to recite the lyrics to a Polish gangster rap before she was allowed to finish her bingo card. If they referred to the club as a bat, it would make more sense, but instead it sounds like a weapon or a torch, both common items in Zork. And even if you're a massive baseball fan, associating random diamond-shaped objects with the sport is more likely to be a sign of an oddly specific mental illness than anything else.

Infocom
Unless you're as stoned as the wizard from the box art.

If through some cognitive miracle you make the connection, you're still nowhere near to solving the puzzle. To get through the maze, you need to "run" the bases, but there's no indication as to where home plate is located, meaning that your first movement could be in any direction. The only "hint" is that the diamond window gets slightly brighter with every successful move. Obviously.

The designer of this puzzle actually apologized for it, noting that it wouldn't be accessible to foreign gamers unfamiliar with the rules of baseball. Or Americans who aren't big on baseball. Or hardcore baseball fans who weren't expecting their favorite sport to pop up in a fantasy adventure featuring wizards and elves. Or anyone else, ever.

#1. Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire's Braille

Nintendo

One of the reasons the Pokemon games are so successful is because they're simple. That's not a bad thing -- players can wander the world to catch cool monsters without getting frustrated by obstacles. Even the game's "legendary" Pokemon, while tougher to find, don't offer unreasonable challenges. At least until the developers started working on the third generation of games, Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, and for some reason said to themselves, "Hey, you know what kids would love? Obtuse Braille puzzles!"

Nintendo
"Tedious translation work is way more fun than battling monsters!"

Pokemon Masters who manage to find the obscure Sealed Chamber are greeted by wall after wall of messages written in Braille. The first room "helpfully" provides a cipher, except without making it clear what sections represent what letters.

To further confuse matters, the Braille marks for commas and periods are placed on the side without context, throwing off anyone who manages to realize what the room is all about in the first place.

Nintendo
You'll gouge your eyes out in frustration, then learn Braille and solve the puzzle.

Moving to the next room gives you messages to translate letter by letter with the Braille alphabet you were forced to write down, which you may recognize as defeating the entire purpose of a language designed to be quickly processed through touch. Not since perfume commercials have people so misunderstood how the senses work.

The messages provide some backstory and also give you instructions to include two somewhat rare Pokemon in specific slots of your team. Assuming you understood the message, you track them down and then haul ass back to the cave. Well, that was tedious, but now you get to battle some legendary Pokemon, right?

Nintendo
Or will you have to ... wait for it?

Ha, no. Now you have to scour the world to find three random doors that have suddenly appeared on rocks that you previously ignored because they looked like unimportant pieces of set dressing. Stumble across these totally arbitrary locations and you'll discover more Braille, which give you instructions like "Stop and wait. Wait for time to pass twice." So naturally you put the game down and don't touch it at all for two minutes. Not because you understood the puzzle -- you're just sick of this bullshit.

Complete these silly little tasks and you can finally catch the game's legendary Pokemon. After jumping through all these hoops, they must be pretty rad, right?

Nintendo
"With this wasted time, I have suddenly become starkly aware of my fleeting mortality."

Nintendo sort of learned their lesson, first by making the puzzles easier in the enhanced version of the games and then by including a Braille chart in the sequels. You know, for fun.


Ian Ury is Pip Ury's twin brother, a general writer of stuff, and an occasional amateur animator. If you wanna comment, drop him an email. Ryan Menezes is a writer and layout editor here at Cracked. He broke down and made a Twitter page just for his Cracked fans.

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Related Reading: Video game puzzles get more absurdly difficult. You try and solve Silent Hill's poetry. And while you're at it try and solve Google's most puzzling interview questions. Frustrated? Chill out by learning the secrets behind what you think are unsolved mysteries. Yeah, we totally know what happened to Amelia Earhart.

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