The grand-daddy of them all: In a time in which there was no internet, it was considered a good thing that most Atari 2600 games were rather simple. When the Swordquest games were created, however, simplicity went out the window, and many gamers found themselves frustrated and nearly on the verge of insanity trying to solve these epic puzzles. In this case, it was intentionally difficult, as there was a contest involved with real, valuable prizes.
Most Atari 2600 adventure games had a certain amount of RTFM, which is one reason modern gamers on emulators often get frustrated. The king of RTFM (and also this trope), was Raiders of the Lost Ark. Unfortunately, the manual left out a couple of steps (and didn't describe one vital object) for solving the game. Leaving a bunch of kids to puzzle out, with no internet (even the magazines were tight-lipped). A LOT of kids gave up, some eventually made the necessary leaps of logic. A modern gamer with no manual, forget it.
Manhunter: New York and San Francisco are the worst. You have to get a game over a specific way, and then you are given a name to search for later in the game. Normally, a game over in these games are something you try and avoid. Especially since they would often either say "rest in peace" or a silly message. Meaning you probably would not think to take these as a hint - especially since a lot of those snarky death endings often say "That wasn't a good move!" or "Here's a hint: Don't do what you just did!"
Nothing in the game, but the instruction manual has specific directions for what to do, only written backwards, i.e. eert eht fo retnec eht ta ti worht dna pmal eht thgiL. Guide Dang It, indeed, because most people ignore PC game instruction manuals outright, if they got one with the game at all.
But there is a painting in the gallery that hints this.
In Syberia, you must manufacture some legs for an automaton. The dialogue describes how only a certain model NUMBER will work, but conveniently leaves out the fact that said model number is an item you just plug in. The real determinant is the color of the wood, which is never hinted at. As an extra special bonus, the color you end up choosing on the control panel IS NOT THE SAME COLOR AS THE REST OF THE ROBOT!!! Thankfully, you can just brute force it, since there aren't that many choices.
Better, you do get what can only be described as the opposite of a hint: the brochure mentions such fine imported materials as "Madagascar ebony". Ebony is black. The wood you use is NOT BLACK.
To be fair, there is a picture of the correct wood in the brochure. But it's very easy to overlook.
The creators of Kingdom of Loathing have stated that they would be surprised if anyone has beaten the game without resorting to spoiler information.
There's a strict rule that any time anyone gives out a spoiler to a secret word for the Strange Leaflet Quest, that word becomes invalid. The only hint (on the wiki, not in the actual game) is that the words you're looking for are Shout Outs to old text adventure games.
The Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot familiar, the recipe for which was supposed to be a fun spading project, but which was reportedly discovered by the player Bashy buying eight of every item in the game and seeing what got consumed upon making it.
The Misshapen animal skeleton can only be acquired by combining 100 unique bones found during combat in Spookyraven Manor. Without a guide, it's impossible to know what bones do what, and how many are needed in total. Even better, the bones that drop from enemies in the Manor are random, necessitating either trial-and-error combat for days to get all the pieces, or by buying them all separately in the Mall and figuring out which pieces you're still missing.
The "Wrong Place at the Wrong Time" trophy necessitates that you defeat your Nemesis across 6 different ascensions in a specific pattern (the order of classes, as they are listed from top to bottom, in the beginning of each playthrough). There's no hints or anything ingame to suggest there's any reward or point to doing it in this fashion, and the trophy awarded for this feat explicitly notes that it is "OCD genocide".
One quest (The "Hidden Temple" portion of the "Quest for the Holy Macguffin"), actually needed to be altered because of complaints. It requires players to step on specific letter panels in a room, spelling a word, with a misstep resulting in massive health loss. What needed to be changed was not the contents of the puzzle, but the title of the adventure. Originally "Dvorak's revenge", the puzzle room's name was changed to "The Beginning of the Beginning of the Beginning", to avoid making players think it has to do with the Dvorak keyboard layout
In a parody of the Guide Dang It puzzles that infested the genre at the time (and, well, the series itself also), one of the puzzles in Space Quest 4 required the player to find (in game) the "Space Quest 4 Hint Book" and look up the solution - that single solution being the only actually useful hint in the book. The rest either referenced outlandish events that weren't in the game, gave some smartass one liners or parodied hint books themselves. You can find a transcript of the book's contents here (the genuine hint is the one about the timepod).
The hint book was also a moment of Fridge Brilliance. The book gives you a full walkthrough for Space Quest 4. But due to time travel, you are in the time of Space Quest 12 and 10 for the majority of the game. You leave Space Quest 4 in the intro cutscene and don't return until the end credits. Genius.
There is actually another useful hint - the "Super Computer" code hint is potentially useful at the end of the game, although this is an optional puzzle. But, in order to take advantage of it, you have to have found the laptop (near the start of the game...), taken the battery from the energizer bunny (also near the start) and bought the correct plug adapter, thus making it pretty much a Guide Dang It moment itself.
And how about using the rope to snare the Energizer Bunny look-a-like then examining him in inventory to get his battery for the Pocket Pal? And using the jar to collect the green slime in the sewer to unlock the Super Computer door near the end of the game?
A particularly cruel one in the first game, where in order to enter the enemy mothership in space, you need a jet-pack to fly to it. If you didn't get the jet-pack earlier, the game is Unwinnable. When you enter Ulence Flats, an alien greeting you will offer to buy your hovercraft. You're supposed to refuse the offer at first, until he returns and throws in a jet-pack as a bonus. Unfortunately, at no point does the game ever hint (until it's too late) that you even need a jet-pack, let alone the fact that this alien has it, and will only give it to you on his second offer.
How about the hidden reactor in the junk pile in part 3? Absolutely no hint is given that the thing is even there—for one thing, it's hidden behind the scenery—but without it, the game comes to a dead stop. And this is one of the first puzzles that you have to solve in the entire game; you've barely started and you're already irredeemably stuck. That is, unless you either purchase a hint book or call the hint line (which conveniently charges per minute and, at the time, wasn't operational outside normal business hours anwyay).
And the wires on the wall, that look like just part of the scenery. Then a giant rat comes and steals both wires and generator, then you have to go back in the basement to retrieve both (some may think the game has become Unwinnable). Then to get into the spaceship, you have to take the seemingly immobile basement ladder and stuff it into your hyperspace pocket.
Try playing any Sierra game of the text-parser era without a hintbook, much less get a perfect score. Or something this side of Conquests of the Longbow without a hintbook. Of course Sierra had its own 900 number for hints, so if you wanted you could get mysterious charges on your parents' phone bill and tell them it was all in the interest of completing more games. Though there were a couple fake hints such as activating the Pizza shrine in Quest for Glory IV.
To add insult to injury, some Sierra games included the option to order the game's hint book right in the very same game over screen, which may have seemed outright condescending to many players considering how ridiculously obtuse some puzzle solutions were.
Sierra also had an early online bulletin board (we're talking pre-world-wide web) that would offer the same hints as the 900 number. You just had to pay long distance charges to log into it, unless you happened to live in whatever area code it was based out of.
ThisIrregular Webcomic! strip cites a moment (among many) from King's Quest V - a cat chases a rat across the screen early in the game. You are supposed to throw a boot at the cat (a boot that can only be found in an arbitrary part of the desert far to the west) so the rat can escape. What's that? You didn't? Well, the game is Unwinnable from that point on. As seen in the page for Unwinnable, Sierra is famous for that.
Actually, you can throw the boot or a stick, which is much closer (two screens west of where the cat appears). But you still have to know to do it.
By far the worst Guide Dang It in King's Quest V. In the final area of the game, any time you stay too long in one room of the castle, the big bad wizard appears and kills you. So who would possibly guess that to progress you actually have to stand in the room with the Big Ominous Living Eye above the doorway for long enough for the wizard to go to sleep in his bed, when trying that anywhere else in the castle will kill you? Guide Dang It! Most of the nastier puzzles have earlier, simpler preparatory puzzles tht have similar solutions to warn you. But not that one.
It's even more unintuitive by the fact that earlier you had to trap the wizard's brother (who was turned into a talking cat in a previous game) in a bag so that he wouldn't alert the former. In the same room. So the wizard goes to sleep and doesn't notice the thrashing bag besides his bed?
In one infamous puzzle in King's Quest V, you must get a pie so that you can later throw it at a yeti. This is doubly illogical, since between those two events is when Graham needs food badly.
And, of course, there's the strange contraption in Mordack's laboratory... powered by cheese.
In King's Quest I, "Ifnkovhgroghprm" was the infamous solution to a puzzle where a certain old gnome challenges Graham to guess his name in three tries. The only clues were that "Rumplestiltskin" is "close, but no cigar" (which requires using up one guess), and a note from a witch's cottage advising that it is sometimes wise to "think backwards". In the original version, this implied using an alphabetic cipher with A=Z, B=Y, and so on ... which very few players — even the hardened adventure gamers of the day — could figure out without resorting to the official hint book. When Sierra created the game's Enhanced Remake, the solution was simplified to "Nikstlitselpmur" .
The original solution to the gnome puzzle also works in the Enhanced Remake , so people who played the original aren'don't have to guess the updated solution.
In King's Quest II, a pOIsonous snake blocks one path and getting too close will make it bite and kill Graham. What do you do? Throw a bridle on the snake, which transforms it into a flying horse. Well, or kill it with your sword.
Such fun in King's Quest gets even better with the official novelization. Most of it is explained away by Graham's family essentially being full of kleptomaniacs (always following an ancestor's advice to 'take anything that isn't nailed down', and if it is nailed down, 'check for loose nails'). Things like the bridle were simply explained by the main character goofing up (meaning to grab his sword, but grabbing the bridle instead). Yeah, when a professional fantasy writer can't figure out how to explain those away, you've got serious Guide Dang It on your hands.
No, by far the worst Guide Dang It is in Simon the Sorcerer 3D. The game is full of moments like that, but the final puzzle is just unforgettable. You're in front of a huge computer, and you must put a CD there. The problem is that the computer has no button to open the CD space. So, what to do? Oh, easy: just stand in front of the computer with the CD on your hand, and then open the CD space of your REAL-LIFE COMPUTER, so that the in-game computer opens. No previous hints at any point.
Climbing. What the fuck. There's a point that requires you to climb a rock. It could have been much easier if you were told at some point that you're able to climb in that game. During the tutorial you're explained everything (and I mean everything) you can do there but the only thing you really should have been explained.
Actually the manual tells it, but there's no in-game explaination. Besides, considering that's the only time on the whole game where you can actually climb (except from another rock in the very first room, but it's pointless to climb there, so most people will finish the game without knowing they could climb there) they could even believe it was a dropped-out game resource.
The second Simon the Sorcerer game also features a crowning moment of Guide Dang It near the end of the game. You need to be able to sneak past a monstrous guard. The solution to muffling Simon's footsteps? Wear a dog. This command makes Simon magically transform the dog into a pair of fuzzy slippers and wear them. It should also be noted that a recurring source of humor is Simon's near total inability to use actual magic, so him being able to do this trick comes out of nowhere.
Obscure Sierra adventure game Gold Rush. Let's start with the fact that the opening is a Timed Mission and certain areas make the game Unwinnable if you spent too much time in the game. Then combine it with Trial-and-Error Gameplay (on the "Land" route, at least). and then throw in a puzzle that requires you to not only have switched a mule you just bought for another one you have no reason to search for in the first place but also have picked up a family picture (that you have no indication you can take) in your house at the start of the game before selling it and you have headaches WAITING to happen.
Torin's Passage, another relatively obscure Sierra Adventure game is not necessarily impossible to win without a guide, but can be a major pain in the ass without a guide on some of its puzzles. More painful examples include the The Lands Above's phenocryst and the crystal used to make its platform usable note you have to press the shard you get from the guard (Herman) into one of three different colored holes on a control panel (with the exception of the fourth hole, the red hole, which just switch what the other holes do), making pillars rise and fall until you somehow get them all to lower and make the phenocryst usable, the Escarpa's tiles to find its phenocryst note You have to collect a handful of tiles all around the level, which isn't bad in itself, except that you later have to rearrange them on a podium found in the bottom of the world to make a face. Unfortunately there are many shapes you can make that can be deemed by a player as a "face" (nevermind a "smiling" face, and the hint system is absolutely useless in finding out what the hell the face is supposed to look like, Purgola's rearranging of the purgolin priests and priestesses (Ostiaries), both to lead Torin and Leenah to a phenocryst and also to access it note The first phase is to rearrange the Ostiaries along corners or parts of the pentogram so that each of them line up with every other one in a way they all have at least one trait in common (such as lining up all the Ostiaries whom have a gold belt, who have green hoods, who have white robes, etc) in either lines they're connected to. The second phase involves rearranging them between female and male, and then making them shuffle about in the most inconvenient way possible to hopefully get them to be arranged from the lowest-pitched singer to the highest (for the men) and the highest-pitched singer to the lowest (for the women). It is possible to make the second phase much easier by keeping a female and male pair on the wrong side of either groups while rearranging the rest in the right order before you have to make them sing, but of course the hint system won't tell you that, Asthenia's huge-ass maze with the tiniest wrench on earthnote you need to find a wrench in said huge-ass maze, and the only indication it's there is that it glitters from time to time and that the hint system eludes to it, but won't tell you much else on how to get to it and its crystal lazer puzzle note rearranging crystals in a box so that a light reflects on them in particular angles written on the crystal. You have to get the light to shine from its source crystal to another crystal on the other side of the box and finally Tenebrous's (The Lands Below's) grass trekking note after helping the sunflower, you have to navigate over hotspots indicated by the grass telling you variants of "yes" and "no". Of course, said hotspots aren't always consistant and they have a relatively small area that'll get them to say "yes" to, sometimes even making you look back in an area after moving an inch when it is now deemed safe when before it wasn't.
In The Labyrinth Of Time, most of the game is standard point and click adventure, but at one point in the game in order to progress you need to move through a "Surreal Maze," which was a repeating room that could only be escaped by going through the exact right path. Very much like the Wind Fish's Egg in Link's Awakening. The only problem? Unlike Link's Awakening, there is NO point in the game in which you told this path. Even worse is the fact that there's no pattern to the solution either that you could conceivably guess; it's a COMPLETELY random sequence of paths, and there is NO WAY to finish the game without doing this maze.
Myst: One example of this: Getting out of the Mechanical Age requires you to rotate the main area of the age to get to two small islands that have part of the password leading out. The problem? There was a bug in the game when it was first released that prevented the area from rotating towards one of the islands. A patch was later released to fix this, but until then players had to use the guide to find out what the solution was.
Another one was the sound puzzle in the Selenitic Age. The water fountain and its microphone, as well as the blue page, are hidden in an area accessible only by a nearly invisible pathway off the main path. No wonder you can't find the water sound on the radio periscope device that tells you which order to play the sounds in, so you end up resorting to a guide or trial and error to find the solution. realMyst's free-roam modification made this one a lot better.
This was an amazingly pretty game for its time and a brilliant concept, but man, it was rough as hell, especially in the way the puzzles were implemented. The worst part was that even if you DID have a guide, it was still possible to miss the vital clue that would allow you to leave the Stoneship Age. That was the panel with the subtle red square on it which led to the room which lit up the ship's interior. There was just one problem: If the monitor's brightness wasn't turned up...really, REALLY bright...you wouldn't be able to see the square at all. Some monitors (like the one I had at the time) simply couldn't go bright enough. Cyan must have taken some serious heat for that, because the first thing Riven asks you to do after starting the game is to set the brightness.
The sequel, Riven contains a more egregious one in the form of the "Animals Puzzle", which precious few gamers can honestly claim to have solved without a walkthrough. The problem wasn't coming up with the solution; that was difficult but not entirely impossible. The real problem was that, once you knew the right animals in the right order, the "keypad" you had to enter them into was not well-labeled, and it took forever to try to enter one particular permutation. Imagine a 10-digit keypad that actually has 20 keys, but some of the digits 0-9 are repeated. Except that, even though it looks like there are three 9's, only one of them is the real 9, and the others are fake even though they look very much like a 9. And the only way to tell which is real is to enter all of the permutations of the correct code. And it takes 30 seconds to enter a 5-digit number.
Even more Guide Dang It is the Fire Marble Dome Puzzle, which requires you to use topographical maps in order to pinpoint precisely where on the islands the domes are, so you can put those pinpointed locations in exactly the right spot on a grid that barely resembles all five islands puzzle-pieced together, so you can power up said domes.
Riven also requires you to notice the one door in the game that doesn't close automatically behind you in order to proceed to a necessary area.
There's also the three infamous "age end puzzles" in Myst IV: Revelation. In one age, you manipulate monkeys in a certain way, but the puzzle was flawed upon the game's first releasing, so you didn't have much time to call the monkeys so they could be controlled in time, and if you didn't do that the right way and have all the monkeys in the right spot at the very end, you had to do it all over again. The second one involved playing certain harmonic frequencies in a certain order on some sort of instrument, but the notches on the instrument you had to line up with were picky, and it was also a timed puzzle that you had to do in a certain way, and also affected by the same timing glitch as the Monkey puzzle. The final puzzle involved raising and lowering water levels in a certain way in order to gain access to the door to the end of the game, but it was really picky about how you're supposed to do it, and some players have trouble with it even when they have a guide.
Pfft, you mention the water-lowering puzzle but not undoing Sirrus' control over Yeesha's body? you have several images, each having three to five symbols hovering over it. When you mouse over the symbols, a snippet of conversation plays. When you click the images, the symbols will grow larger and then you can tell the top one to go to one of the images next to it, repeating this step until all the symbols are placed on new images. You need to unscramble the conversation, with correct context as given by the images. Have fun!
Actually, that one was pretty easy. What wasn't easy was the first puzzle in Dream, where you had to mouse over coloured blobs to change the colours to the right colour and there are about 7 different colours they all cycle through and a slip of the mouse could ruin half an hour's work. Not even a guide could help you through that.
Uru not only requires you to find Journey marks, some deviously hidden and often not actually connected to the puzzles, but the expansions had wait periods for plot progression that border on the insane. One puzzle requires waiting 14 minutes for some energy pellets to be created. Then you had to drop one in a pit and run to another age to find where it landed, when you may very well have started on this age and not know any better.
The "Myst Online: Uru Live again" version changed the 14 minute wait... to four hours.
The ending to the fan game D'ni Legacy. The player cannot know that the whole world of Amerak has fallen apart, leaving only airless asteroids, or that you need to take that key to Elanif if you don't want to be trapped.
On top of being one of the shining examples of Nintendo Hard, Solomon's Key was extremely fond of this trope. Not only does each group of levels have a secret level, each of those levels had a secret item that could only be found by making a brick and then destroying it in a certain spot of said room. There is never any indication as to which spot this might be. Beyond that, there are three extra rooms that are only accessible if you managed to find all twelve previous secret rooms and all twelve of Solomon's Seals. Not only is this never mentioned, but nobody even published a guide for the game. Most gamers didn't even know of half of these hidden items until the advent of GameFAQs.
A Vampyre Story has a doozy, right near the start of the game. You have to mix together potions to make an acid. Luckily, there are instructions on a nearby chalk board. You have three beakers - one with a purple potion, one with a green, and one with an orange. The next step in the intructions is "cool first, warm second, cool last". Next to the potion-mixing table is a bunsen burner sitting on top of a refrigerator. So, what do you do? Put the first and last potions in the fridge and the second in the bunsen burner? Put them all in the fridge, then the burner, then the fridge again? Nope. You pour the green potion into the bunsen burner, then the orange, then the purple, ignoring the fridge completely. Why? Because Green and purple are "cool" colours, while orange is a "warm" colour. If you got past that puzzle without a guide and without trial-and-error, give yourself a pat on the back.
The notion of "warm" and "cool" colors is basic color theory. Or to put it another way, Autumn Moon expected their audience to consist entirely of art students.
Ghost In The Sheet, while funny (how many games start off by running you over with a bus?), features many Guide Dang It moments because what you can and can't muck around with isn't immediately apparent. Who knew you had to pick up a metal bar, and then sharpen it on the spinning, rubberless wheel of a suspended car? Funny game, but needs a little glowy aura around things you can pick up, and maybe some more NPCs hanging around to drop the occasional hint.
Even worse was an overly-convoluted puzzle that involved opening locker doors in a specific way, and a "No Smoking" sign that was actually a button you had to press! At least the titular Ghost didn't say this puzzle's solution was "obvious", like he did after inputting one of many numeric passcodes, this one which isn't stated out in the open and can only be figured out by determining a pattern out of previous codes found in a diary! And furthermore, how the hell are you supposed to figure out that you should electrify a bone in order to get a makeshift flute?! Granted, this was an amateur-made Adventure Game created by two people using the freeware Wintermute Engine, but you'd think they'd give more hints for these extremely-tough-even-for-an-adventure-game puzzles...
Example not directly related to the actual gameplay: Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love For Sail! included some graphics and dialogue that could be replaced at the player's whim, intended to allow players to place themselves physically in the game world. Sadly, the developers forgot to mention this feature in any of the game's documentation, and released the instructions through a patch later on.
Phantasmagoria: A Puzzle of Flesh is pretty bad with this too. Along with having to show everything to everyone, the puzzles are somewhere betweeun unintuitive (getting your wallet by putting your rat under the couch, then luring him back with a granola bar) and ridiculous (opening a toolbox with hammer and screwdriver, using a 'combo' process not explained even in the manual.)
This may be a bug: at one point in the game, you need to use an object by right-clicking. Nowhere else in the game is this required.
The puzzles in Limbo of the Lost were the final nail on the coffin for the game, as half the time they don't even begin to make sense. For example, early on in the game players are expected to put a worm into a flask of water to create tequila.
This isnít a Guide Dang It moment if you know of the myth that there is a worm in the bottles of certain kinds of tequila.
Even more egregiously is the soul vial puzzle, where the player needs to fill an empty (green-tinted) vial with liquid to replace it with a vial containing a warrior's soul, which shines green in the vial. To do this, players are expected to fill the vial with water (which shines through as a blue colour, as opposed to clear as real-life water should) and mix some saffron into it to turn the water green (not that many players even know what saffron is or what it does in the first place, and those who do probably already know that saffron makes water yellow, not green).
Point-and-click game KGB has the main character discover a clue leading him to a fishing boat about to leave town near the end of chapter two, but the game simply does not allow him to go to the docks unless he meets with an accomplice in the park and compares some rather unrelated information first - and said accomplice won't be in the park unless you talked to him earlier in the game and agreed on this meeting, even though there was no indication towards this being nessecary, and you even being told specifically NOT to contact him at that point by an ally you had no reason to distrust. The game has a few more such moments (including one where you need to be at a certain place at a certain time in order to see one of the villains drive off, letting you trail him to your next destination. The game never even remotely hints at what you're supposed to do at this point), but this one is the most game-breaking in that you know what you are supposed to do, but the game just won't let you actually do it before you've done something else you never knew you were supposed to have activated in the first place. The fact that you learn nothing important from this guy, and he never does anything particularly helpful after this point does not help the case.
And really, this is one of many, many situations in KGB where the puzzles range from extreme difficulty to borderline impossible without third-party intervention. Two examples of this are the coded messages that player receives at the beginning of Chapter 1, and the end of Chapter 2. By the time you get to the end of the game, progress is dependent entirely upon trial-and-error. Aside from Dagger Of Amon Ra, I consider this to be one of, if not the hardest adventure game of all time.
That is an example of invisible causality - a whole class of potentially Guide Dang It problems in adventure games. The term describes a situation where you have to do something completely irrelevant in order to move the game forward - like talking to the guy in the park to go to the docks.
Actually, if you are Genre Savvy you know you can trust Greenberg and should contact him, as you escaped the bad guys together at the end of chapter 1. And actually there are lots of hints that you should not trust your controller... but so subtle I would not have seen it without a walkthrough. And yes, you have no reason to distrust the woman who tells you not to contact Greenberg, but to be fair you have no reason to trust her either : you don't know her. As to why you are supposed to tail the guy you see drive off, it is because you have already linked him to the group (he was the one setting the date for the boat departure), and on the fishing boat, all the other members said that "the fourth member" will drive off at about 9 am. But you get stuck in unwinnable situation so many times that clearly is a design choice. Fortunately, you can backtrack to the last room you entered (good for instadeath), and if you have no save before the point of no return, you can at least restart the *chapter* instead of the whole game...
Shadow Of Memories (Shadow of Destiny in the US) has a bunch of them in the course of normal play, especially if you want to get the best endings: two or three conversation choices at different points in the game send you down different branches, which not only affects which ending you get, but also the backgrounds of the various characters! The game makes reference to the specific conversation choices being "important", but beyond that makes no mention as to WHY they're important. Then, of course, there's the problem of actually proceeding through the game, which, in later chapters, requires travelling to multiple time periods... Between that and trying to reconcile the various endings, a guide is definitely needed!!
Infocom's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy adventure game. Ye gods. Not only are many of the clues found in the literal in-game "guide," but there's no index on the thing, so you have to keep guessing searches. How else are you going to figure out that the Brownian motion is used to power the improbability drive? And in many puzzles, the Guide is about as informative as its entry on Earth. The early game is filled with Lost Forever items whose function is often obscure and which you have to obtain on a time limit. Most notorious of these is the Babel fish: unlike in the book, where Ford simply sticks one in Arthur's ear, getting one in the game involves a bizarre puzzle in which two items (one of them probably lost already) get combined in a way that makes absolutely no sense until tried. Being overly familiar with the book doesn't help all that much, since the game diverges from the book's story; you have to prevent the dog swallowing the microscopic space fleet from happening like it does in the book.
One of the most egregious examples is the toothbrush in your room on starting the game, which has a good chance of being required at the very end of the game. Even the junk mail that is required to get the babel fish is hardly comparable.
For that matter is the puzzle where Marvin asks for a random tool. It's always one you're missing if you don't have all of them. Adams said while designing this game he wanted to transcend user unfriendly and make it actively user malicious.
Or how about the fact that, to open a case that contains an item that you need, you need to find out which word of the second verse of the Vogon's poem is the password (which changes every game), which can be figured out by pushing a button on the case itself. However, what it doesn't tell you is that the Vogon won't even say the second verse of his poem unless you enter the command ENJOY POETRY after the poem has started. You do get a small hint towards this (the Vogon reading the poem says you didn't look like you enjoyed it if you fail to input the command), but not many people would think that "enjoy" would be a verb that the game would recognise.
Runaway: A Road Adventure. The game had it's puzzles mostly grounded in realism up until a moment about halfway through: you need to use a WW2 machine gun, but it's out of ammo. Solution? Load it with tubes of lipstick mixed with gunpowder. That's just the developers being mean.
The Game Boy and GBA games fall into this trope rather well. Especially with the one character saying he'll only give you This if you give him That. You LITERALLY have to find an item named "That" for him.
Hamtaro: Ham-Hams Unite! has Stars. After you finish the game, there are 12 stars scattered around in the different areas of the game. Most of them just require you to backtrack to a certain area and dig them up. Two of these Stars, however, require you to cough up large amounts of Sunflower Seeds to seemingly random Non Player Characters. But they don't just give you the Star on your first payment, oh no. You could pay them twice, or twenty times. It's completely random. Hope you have lots of money.
Another example from Ham Hams Unite is those damned Rocks. Rocks are scattered around the world and you are never told what they are for. You use Rocks to unlock a door underneath the Sky Garden. The door is unlocked when you collect 26 Rocks, plus a special Rock, and put them in the bin to reach 100 grams of Rocks. Even worse, in order to get the final special Rock, known as the Heavy Rock, you have to go through an incredibly long Chain of Deals that spans 3 separate areas. So you not only have to find 26 Rocks, you have to suffer a pain-in-the-ass Fetch Quest. And what's behind this door? A secret shop where you get an exclusive song. Yep. That's all you get.
The interactive fiction game Jigsaw gives you plenty of opportunities to completely screw yourself out of victory without even knowing it. Most of them are about failing to collect all the jigsaw pieces in a time period before doing something that renders them Lost Forever (an in-game device does tell you if there are pieces you haven't discovered in that time yet, but it won't warn you when you're about to inadvertently make it impossible to get them), but the biggest one by a mile has to be the drawing competition at the very end of the game. To win it, you need to have collected a sketchbook and pencil hidden in a stool at the beginning of the game and sketched at least four animals over the course of the game. There's little indication in the game that this will become vital later on, and if you don't do it, you fail to get the competition prize and can't complete the game without it, even after you've spent hours slogging through all these Lost Forever-riddled historical Timed Missions beforehand. Guide dang it!
What makes this especially, ah, interesting is that the author of Jigsaw, Graham Nelson, is also the author of "The Craft of Adventure", an essay on interactive fiction design whose "Player's Bill of Rights" basically warns designers not to do this sort of thing. As Graham admitted, "like any good dictator, I prefer drafting constitutions to abiding by them."
The worst part is how the first part of the game, the prologue, is not only timed, but incredibly hard as well. (if anyone knows how to avoid the party, I'm Serperoth, feel free to contact me). Plus, with older/obscure games like that walkthroughs are rare, hard-to-access or both.
Speaking of Interactive Fiction, anything and everything designed by Andy Phillips. For some of the puzzles, not only do you have to think in a very unconventional manner, but you also have to solve them in a very specific way. Even if you know what you're supposed to do, the game may appear like that's not going to work, fooling you into thinking that's not the solution - simply because you're not going about it the exact right way.
All the Clock Tower games have this to some extent, but by far the worst is Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within. Not only are various endings based entirely on whether or not you happen to be playing as Alyssa or Bates at the time, but other random problems crop up - for instance, doors locked to Alyssa are open for Bates, even if you just changed personas. Possibly the worst example is a statue that, if examined, comes to life and chases you (providing a second antagonist for that scenario.) While you think you'd want to avoid this, if one ignores the statue, they're shoehorned into the "G" ending in the last level for no apparent reason.
Although the game does have hints hidden in the levels, one of which mentions that changing personalities can alter stuff that happens in game, as well as a hint telling you that you have to examine the statue or you won't get the best ending.
Star Trek: 25th Anniversary, during the level That Old Devil Moon you are faced with a door locked with a 5 digit security code. Your only hint is that the owners were a "superstitious" people. Even going through Player Guides now, none but one mention how you were supposed to figure out the code, they just tell you what the code is. Apparently you were supposed to look up the planet's information in the computer before beaming down, then look up information on the races who live there and making note of their special numbers. The code is the result of rendering one of the numbers in the Base of another of those numbers.
But the worst part is that there is no way to return to the ship after you land on the planet. So If you saved over your only save game after landing on the planet, without getting the answer from the ship's computer, without a guide it becomes Unwinnable
Star Trek: Judgement Rites fixed this by allowing you to access the ships computer during missions by using the communicator, at least in one mission.
NES adventure game Willow suffers from this at times. While the game is, overall, rather linear, there is often no in-game indication whatsoever that performing action A leads to location B opening up. Probably the most egregious example is early on when you talk to one of the Nail Clan and he tells you that they make their home in the forest. Later, you have to talk to one of them to get an item that allows you to progress (Which actually is mentioned in-game), and you find him in an area that's much closer to a mountain that it is a forest. Further, brute-force exploration is the only way to figure out the precise square the Clansman and item is on, at least at first.
While Point-And-Click adventures are almost guaranteed to have a few Guide Dang It moments for players who fail to catch a ride on the designer's particular train of thought, Shadowgate for the NES is an egregious example. Many of the puzzles were instant death if you failed to solve them on the first try or within a few seconds of seeing them and more than a few things were capable of being Lost Forever.
Who ever thought that a random unmarked door, which you must pass through to proceed, would open into a blistering inferno that is instant "back where you came from" if you open the door without wearing the cloak? Or for that matter, that even if you wear the cloak you get killed by a fire demon when you try to proceed after entering unless you throw the orb into the fire to extinguish it. What's that? You threw the orb into the lake to freeze it so you could get the key, and then didn't realize you had to use a torch to thaw the lake just enough to get the orb to pop back up? Oops.
And remember, using a torch on the orb itself simply puts out the torch. Many players did this and gave up, without realizing you need to use the torch on the ice, not the orb.
The game Trapped by Godlimations generally avoids this trope, except for a point where you need to burn a human finger with a match in order to get a lockpick. It's only vaguely alluded to in game.
Disappointingly, the sequel Pursuit engages in this egregiously. During the opening of the game, the police detective protagonist refuses to leave her house before gathering such objects as a banana, her favorite teddy bear, and the lightbulbs from her kitchen light fixture. One has to wonder if it's standard police procedure in Australia for the officer to ransack her own home before taking on a case.
Worse, worse, much worse from the same game is a late puzzle that requires you to combine a banana, a large rope and a knife with some super glue to create a fishing rod. Not only does this make no sense whatsoever, it isn't even vaguely alluded to or hinted at anywhere in the game. To make matters worse, this occurs late in the game when your inventory is very full of objects, and any number of objects can be combined, and the order in which items are combined matters, meaning the "try everything" option results in literally hundreds of possible combinations.
The game is also a bit sexist, and that can lead to some really frustrating puzzles. At one point, the female protagonist needs to grease up a bolt. However, she refuses to do so because she would mess up her fingernails. Keep in mind that she's hot on the pursuit of an infamous murderer, and lives are on the line. The solution? Use the (childishly nicknamed) teddy bear you were required to take with you on this police mission as a rag.
The third is just as bad, with three big puzzles that each seem to be some form of Moon Logic Puzzle. The first one tasks you with escaping a cell. Trade an expensive watch with the man in the opposite cell for a sink handle, turn on the sink, stop up the drain with a coin, block the floor drain with a blanket, and call the guard so he slips on it. The second one requires you to find evidence. Click on a random spot on the wall to open an alcove, put a nail in a single-pixel hole above the alcove, use the toilet seat(!) you had to remove earler as a hammer, put a lamp in the alcove and turn it on, hang a picture with a pinhole over the lamp, look for the light spot on the opposite wall, and click on the wall to open an alcove with evidence in it. The final one? Remember the colors of the previous two rooms (and if you don't remember them, good luck guessing because you can't go back), use color-coded microchips to change the color of a ventilation shaft (WHAT!?!), change it to brown to get a key and green to get a combination, and use the key and the combo to open a safe. Made even worse by the ending, which is basically one giant Ass Pull.
Needless to say, Retsupurae did a great job tearing the games' puzzles apart.
Time Hollow is pretty good about avoiding this for the main path... but there's a few optional tasks you can perform that fall squarely into this. All but one of them, you have no reason to suspect are even possible without checking a guide, in fact.
Milon's Secret Castlegets a lot of criticism on this front, though most of it is exaggerated. Left+ Start continuing the game seems like a Guide Dang It, but it is mentioned in the manual. Most of the secrets are not marked, but many of them are optional, or redundant, or placed in such a way that running through the most obvious path in the level with the shoot button held down will find them by accident. The reason this game belongs on the page? Milon can move blocks to reveal doors. This is not mentioned in the manual. This is not even slightly hinted at in the game; there is a shopkeeper who gives hints, but he found it more important to tell you to "FIND A SAW" (the saw is in an item shop, for free, in a game with infinite inventory space and no negative-effect items). Even if Milon is standing near a block he can move, and pressing up against it, the game's animation does not indicate that Milon is pushing it and you must push it for several seconds to move the block. Worst of all, the player cannot make any significant progress without figuring this one out; you can enter three rooms, only two of which will have anything in them.
Every game in the Zork series has one of these. For example, getting past the cyclops in the first game requires either saying "Odysseus" or feeding him lunch. Attacking him with the sword, knife, or your bare hands; trying to sneak past him; or giving him anything else or saying anything else results in a game over.
The game hints at both of these; the message you get if you hang around him or give him something indicates that he's hungry, and the Odysseus thing comes from mythology. If you don't know mythology, there's also a hint in the black book that you obtain during the course of the game. (The first letters of each line of the commandment in the black book spell out ODYSSEUS.) Incidentally, "Ulysses", the Roman version, also works. It still doesn't make sense, though, because an important plot point in the original myth is that the Cyclops never learned Odysseus' name.
There's also the Loud Room, which screws with your commands by making the last word echo echo echo ... and ignoring it. You can leave the room, but you literally can't do anything else else else ... including seeing the room description again again again ... taking inventory inventory inventory ... and so on on on ... There are actually two solutions. One makes sense and involves draining the nearby lake through the dam which is the source of the noise. Unfortunately, it takes a while and only works for a few turns at a time. The permanent solution is to stand in the room and type "ECHO", which magically STOPS the echo (or at least makes it so you're no longer bothered by it)!
In all fairness, though, when you're in an echoey place, isn't that the first thing you want to shout?
Actually, that solution makes sense in a counter-Interface Screw/Breaking the Fourth Wall sort of way. When you type a command in that room, the ECHO command is invoked, causing the original use of the command to be ignored and just having the word repeated. Type ECHO, and the ECHO command is invoked...on itself, ignoring the ignoring effect of the ECHO, thereby negating it's effect entirely. This explanation only really makes sense in hindsight, and even then, only in a Willing Suspension of Disbelief sort of way.
The original mainframe Zork had some really bad forms of this. Notably To make the rainbow solid to get the treasure there, you had to wave an otherwise uninteresting stick. This one was so bad, they changed the stick in to something resembling a rainbow in the Infocom port of the game.
How about trying to deal with that bloody thief? Kill him early in the game? Too bad you were supposed to give him the jeweled egg to open it and uncover the true treasure inside? What? You didn't know you were supposed to give it to him? Neither did I 'till I read an online guide. Nevermind the fact that you need to kill him later and he's tough as nails in a straight-up fight unless you give him artifacts from the journey over and over again and try to cheapshot him.
Necronomicon had a puzzle where the player was presented with about 20 unmarked bottles, and had to mix two specfic ones in a beaker. Every such attempt involved moving the bottles one at a time from their shelf to the beaker, there was absolutely no hint as to which bottles had to be mixed, and only very vaguely alluded to that you had to mix some of them in the first place. This puzzle leads directly into having to locate an unknown piece of information from a talking, hard-to-understand and annoying-to-operate interactive encyclopedia, then using the name it gave you to locate a specific urn of ashes in a massive room of urns by looking at near-impossible-to-read labels with initials of the guys whose ashes these are. This is the point where most everyone either look up a guide or throw the game in the trash.
English adventure game The Guild Of Thieves used this in the worst way: at one point, the player is asked to cross a path of coloured squares in a pattern. While the the player gets the correct path, the game will not tell you how the squares are laid out. The solution: consult a paper map that was included with the game.
It would seem that most of the mystery in the 1990 puzzle/adventure game Theme Park Mystery is figuring out what the object of the game is. The puzzles range from the frustratingly obscure (the Zoltan fortune-telling machine, which does tell you what the game objective is. Eventually.) to the downright surreal (the chess board in Dreamland). What makes the game particularly Guide Dang It is that it comes with a booklet that turns out not to be a manual, but a guide to theme parks and amusement parks throughout history.
Those flipping pictures frames in Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, which are not only in invisible crates and need a particular 'rang to find (forcing you to search through every nook and cranny of every. Single. Level.), but are required if you want to accessthe Secret Level. Oh, and the best part? Once you've accessed the Secret Level, 123 more pictures frames become avaliable to find. Krome sure can be a bitch.
The Goonies II has most of the key items and goals like this.
In one of the Scooby-Doo CD-ROM games, you have to click a random torch on a wall to trigger an encounter necessary to the plot. Why click that specific spot?
Some of the Lost and Found items in Flower, Sun and Rain are pretty straightforward. Some of them... not so much. For instance, the third one in Scenario 4 has the hint that the guest in room 407 drank all the cocktails from the restaurant, and they're worried because that's a lot of alcohol. No, you're not supposed to add together all the alcoholic ingredients listed for the cocktails. No, you're not supposed to add together all the ingredients, alcoholic or otherwise, either. You're supposed to add together the the alcoholic concentration of the drink, that for someone without enough chemistry knowledge would be indistinguishable from temperature. Try guessing that without looking it up.
In Indiana Jones and the Fate Of Atlantis, one of the first puzzles you face is trying to get past an obnoxious bouncer to interrupt your colleague's speech. You can either talk your way past him, knock him out, or stack some boxes and climb through the window. What is not apparent is that your choice here completely changes the storyline of the game (which tailors itself to the solution you chose), and since most Adventure gamers are conditioned to assume that the first solution that works is the only solution that will, many players missed out on 2/3rds of the game.
That's not quite true. The actual branching point comes later, once you've found the Lost Dialogue. The path Sophia suggests depends on how you got past the bouncer, but you can still pick any of the three paths at that point. However, it's not apparent that that conversation is so vital.
In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the travel function is unavailable after the first few sections of the game. Woe to those who didn't make use of it to visit every location and pick up everything they possibly could, because there are several very easily missed items that (due to the game's unforgiving combat system) are more or less essential to completing the game.
Douglas Adams's Bureacracy, in some very bizarre manner, makes some amount of sense with most if its puzzles to start with (a parrot missing its left wing will become very excited upon seeing a painting of Ronald Reagan— think about it). However, when you get to the airport, the game requires you to climb one of the structure poles and crawl into the air ducts, and what happens when you leave the air ducts is bizarre, to say the very least. There is no indication at any point that you can do this, no sane person ever would, and this only marks the beginning of the puzzles making no lick of sense.
Isn't the circuitous, nonsensical, and oftentimes entirely irrelevant shenanigans your average bureaucracy tends to put one through the entire point of the game?
Broken Sword: Shadow of the Templars has the infamous goat puzzle. At one point in the game you reach a screen with a goat tied to a stake in the ground, where you can do three things: go back, approach an old rusty plough or go to the entrance to the next screen. When you try the latter two options, you get butted by the goat, preventing you from progressing in the game. The solution is to click on the entrance to the next screen, then when you get hit by the goat and the player character is getting back onto his feet, click on the plough. George will jump up and run towards it and move it in such a way that when the goat tries to attack him again, its chain gets stuck on the plough. The game in no way indicates that you can actually do this.
Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror has the boar puzzle. Not sure what it was with this series and troublesome animals. Late in the game you can only get to a certain path on an island by shooting a pig with a dart, which then charges you. If you grab a branch at just the right moment, then you can jump out of the way; the pig will charge through the undergrowth and open a new path ó the one you'll need later to find your way off the island easily. If you don't, then he just knocks you down. You get up, dust yourself off and life goes on. If you'd grabbed the branch, you could go straight down the new path to your intended destination. If not, you have to navigate the jungle yourself. You do this with directions that you are not told through three similar screens with six exits each that repeat whether you're lost or on the right track. There is no indication that you're making any progress or that you can progress, and one wrong path means starting again on the journey you don't even know you're on. Some players thought that the game was Unwinnable by Design at this point and restarted.
Illusion of Gaia had plenty of these, including but not limited to a puzzle where you had to stand still on a glowing tile for about 20 seconds, a point where you could not proceed without reading a letter that a party member slipped into your inventory while you were sleeping, a fair number of small, essential items lying in completely arbitrary places somewhere in enormous dungeons that you could only find by a glint of light they would give off every few seconds, and a Bonus Dungeon that you could only access by collecting all 50 of the Red Jewels scattered throughout the game with no clear pattern, most of which would be Lost Forever if you missed them. Fortunately, the game's manual included a mini-walkthrough that would clue you in to the solutions of the more obscure puzzles.
Even the thorougly nonserious Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People had its share of these. But the absolute worst by a long shot was the way to get the ninth "expression of affection" in Baddest of the Bands. First off, it's an in-game hint, which means that hints have to be turned on. Then 1. you have to sabotage Two-O-Duo and Pom Star (just those two, not Cool Tapes), 2. Pick up the Limozeen coloring book, but don't Teen Girl Squad comic, and 3. go to the Two-O-Duo stage, which is the only place Strong Bad will give the hint that serves as the expression of affection, and wait until he does. It's anyone's guess how Telltale expected people to figure that one out on their own.
The NES adaptation of Platoon lives off this. Most of the game is a nondescript forest maze, with various objectives strewn about, and practically no in-game hints, although the manual offers a few clues.
The Point and Click game of Blazing Dragons had you stuck until a dodo delivered a message. Problem was that the dodo was being shot at by a hunter (who thankfully went to a certain academy). The solution was to backtrack all the way back to the second room you probably visited and to stamp a dodo on the endangered species list. Afterwards, the hunter is arrested.
The Ace Ventura licensed video game has a puzzle where you need to assemble several elements into a totem. No hints are given. You're supposed to figure out by trial-and-error, apparently, that it's supposed to be this abstract thing.◊
The point-and-click DOS game Alien Incident features mostly sensible puzzles, but has one that makes hardly any sense at all. Near the beginning of the game, there's a door with flashing lights under it that can't be opened. For some reason, using the remote controller found in the mansion will open the door. Once inside, the player will learn that the remote controller actually controls a television inside. Why does it also open the door though, remains a mystery. The worst part, though, is that the puzzle isn't really necessary until quite late game, when the player has several other areas to exhaustingly search as well.
Older Than The Internet. Have you ever tried playing the original text-based adventure game? It's called Adventure, it invented the genre, and it's bloody difficulty to figure out.
The majority of Still Life 2 is pretty accessible, but in the closing minutes of the game you have to disarm a bomb before your partner is executed in an electric chair. There's a ticking clock and no hints. Fail and she's gone for good - if you reload she'll be dead before you even get a chance to disarm the bomb.
In the Nancy Drew game The Captive Curse, you're tasked with taking a picture of a "monster" to prove to a character that the monster is still "on the loose". In order to trigger the appearance of the "monster", you have to look at a certain inventory item. Looking at it before taking the picture doesn't work, and going to the spot where you can take the picture before looking at the item doesn't work either. If you don't already know what to do, you basically have to look at every inventory item, visit every location, and talk to every character in order to figure it out, as it's not at all obvious that you must look at the required inventory item.
There are quite a few other examples of this in the series, especially in the older games when Nancy didn't have a task list to provide her with a record of what's already happened.
In The Night Of The Rabbit at some point you are in a submarine and have to cross a bridge guarded by a kid called Humbert. In order to make him go away you have to give his nanny (who is somewhere else) an advertisement about violin lessons so she will come to take Humbert, however the game give no indications that she would accept this item.
Zig-Zagged in Carmen Sandiego Great Chase Through Time. The hints are provided in-game for pretty much everything - however, during each case, you must find three pieces of a carmen note before you can get the criminals arrested. In Japan, there's a notable example: Two of the Carmen Notes are easily found. However, one piece is obtained instead by talking to the guards - and there are four of them. While it's always the same guard who has it, not everyone will figure out that yes, the criminal did go through there. This is a very minor example for two reasons:
1): Plenty of kids brute-forced it or figured out that maybe one guard saw where it was.
2): The manual actually says "Did you try asking the guard in the winter room?" in its hints section.
The game adaptation of ''And Then There Were None tended to have solutions that were quite bizarre, and the only sort of in-game help provided were a series of cards with vague clues. The most infamous example comes from the second chapter: It's night, and you can only progress if you go upstairs and briefly check on the guests. Problem is, you need a flashlight with batteries, and Patrick will refuse to go upstairs until you find both items. The flashlight is relatively easy to find (it's in a drawer in the dining room), but the batteries are nowhere in immediate visible sight. And ultimately, where are the batteries? In the flour sack in the pantry. You have to search through the flour twice to get them.
And after all that, you may want to read this article and nod in agreement as you do so Ö