Frustration Puzzle YKTTW Discussion

Frustration Puzzle
The designers force you to complete an annoying puzzle with absolutely no consequence for failure.
(permanent link) added: 2011-07-03 14:43:42 sponsor: krimsh (last reply: 2011-07-05 11:56:07)

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There's no surer way to kill the tension in gaming - Suspicious Video Game Generosity combined with That One Level. Cue controllers being thrown through television screens or out windows. Frustration Puzzles are agonizingly difficult puzzles (sometimes involving an unexpected Genre Shift) with absolutely no consequence of failure outside the time - and potentially sanity - that the player loses. And the catch? They're mandatory. These aren't Side Quests we're talking about here, where the obvious solution to an impossible situation is just to get on with things. No good Frustration Puzzle can be anything less than absolutely required in order to advance the plot. They come in two main varieties, although other variations on these themes exist: 1) A tough puzzle immediately after a save point or checkpoint. Here, failure does equal death, but who cares? You simply reload or respawn right before the troubles. Only to have to do it again. And again. And again. 2) A tough puzzle where the penalty for failure is to be sent back to the beginning of the puzzle. Doubly agonizing if this sort of puzzle is a long way away from a save point or checkpoint, because you can't simply turn off the game and walk away until your blood pressure returns to a normal level.

The end result is an artificial inflation of gameplay time combined with sucking every last drop of fun out of the event. Elements of the trope are: 1) A puzzle that is basically a required action 2) No real consequence to your failure 3) Annoying difficulty, sometimes combined with Unexpected Gameplay Change 4) All of this, usually in a game that's not designed around solving this sort of puzzle.

Examples to be considered:

  • Valkyrie Profile has three on Hard Mode - Solerno Academy (not too bad), where you deal with timed colour puzzles; the Clockwork Mansion (a little worse), with a massive set of rooms that rotate; and the Tomb of Amen-ti (Nooooooooo!), with a large enemy-free section with floating monsters that hunt and chase you - and when they touch you, you don't fight, you just go back to the beginning of the section. None of these missions (no missions, in fact) are necessary for game completion, but by the time you reach them, you've already come through most of the individual level, and if you want to get any sort of decent rating, you have to do them.
  • Digital Devil Saga II has the Khumbanda Chase scene near the beginning - you're thrown in jail, you break out, your invulnerable jailer chases you around the cell block. If he catches you, you're thrown in jail, you break out, your invulnerable jailer chases you around the cell block. Over and over and over again. Complete with unneccessary Unexpected Gameplay Change.
  • The race across Lab 32 in Chrono Trigger can count as this; Unexpected Gameplay Change, difficult mini game, and basically required for advancement. Fortunately, it's only mostly required.
  • The card game tournament in Final Fantasy IX can qualify.
  • In any game where Save Scumming is possible, any hard section of the game can become this.
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