troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
That One Puzzle
Hope you can reconstruct this skeleton perfectly. Did we mention there aren't any hints?
"So it's about this point in the game that the programmers looked at each other and asked themselves 'Um, did we actually have any puzzles in this game? It is a graphic adventure after all, I mean, the people are going to demand puzzles at some point or another', and so finally the other guy got really upset and he's like 'Alright, you want a puzzle? I'll give you a puzzle, motherfucker! Here's your fucking puzzle!', so he coded in the most illogical, impossible-to-comprehend, stupid-looking trial-and-error-based just-click-'till-you-accidentally-find-the-answer puzzle in the history of gaming, and here it is."

That One Level / Boss, for Solve the Soup Cans and other similar adventure game puzzles. These may sometimes require the use of bizarre logic to solve.

Remember not to list "every puzzle in game X" as an example; the whole point of That ONE Puzzle is that it's remembered to be much harder than the others around it, not simply that it's difficult.


Examples:

Action Adventure
  • La-Mulana:
    • The mantras. Essentially, after finding a certain set of items you have to find a tablet that tells you the mantra, then find the correct rear-side room to chant (type) the mantra. Finding the tablets and the items required isn't terribly hard, but figuring out the correct room is. To find the correct room to chant the mantra, you have to find a glowing compass on the wall in the front-side room, traverse the path from the compass to the boss room, then go to the rear-side, find the compass there, then traverse the same path, and finally chant the mantra in the room you are led to. Alternately, save yourself two hours and your sanity and just look up the rooms on the internet.
    • There's also the lantern puzzle in the second level of the Endless Corridor. You're required to light the lanterns that correspond to the end year of the Aztec Fifth Age (2012). However, the lanterns are labeled with the various glyphs that represent numbers. Remember those little symbols that show up near ladders to new areas? Those are the numerical glyphs, and that's the best clue you're gonna get. Thought they were eye candy? You're wrong. Just to add to the frustration, the game is incredibly picky about the correct solution, and will sometimes flat-out refuse to acknowledge that you've solved the puzzle.
    • The platform puzzle for the Life Jewel in the Dimensional Corridor. First off, you have to use the Lamp of Time to freeze time and stop a block in midair at a very specific point. Then, you have to jump down a spike-lined shaft, land the jump, and get off the block before the Lamp expires. Then, you have to pull off a very tricky series of jumps, where one misstep will send you into a spike. It gets worse: every time you fuck up (and you will fuck up), you have to wait three minutes for the Lamp of Time to recharge. That's three minutes in-game; you can't boot up any of the minigames or listen to the jukebox. If you kill the miniboss in the room below, then it becomes almost impossible to reach the Life Jewel room. And you can't leave the room until you either kill the miniboss or die.
    • The Room of Gems and Scales, the puzzle for the Mace. You have to balance a number of gems on a large scale. The game does tell you the weight of each gem...on two different tablets hidden throughout the ruins. But that's not all it tells you. You have to figure out Lemeza's weight, which is done by finding a scale in the Mausoleum of the Giants, pulling off a tricky jump to get to it, and figure out his weight from the numerical glyphs the scale shows. Even worse, one side of the scale weighs slightly more than the other, and this is never mentioned anywhere. And it's Lost Forever if you mess it up and don't have a save to reload to.
      • The remake tweaks all these puzzles slightly, making them easier (or at least more fair) with the possible exception of Endless Corridor. The map now shows compass locations, so finding the right locations is easier - and chanting the mantras takes a single button press, so finding them through trial-and-error is less tedious. The platform puzzle for the Life Jewel no longer requires the Lamp of Time; getting to it does, however, now that the Dragon no longer has a platform on his back (you have to stop time when he fires a water column and swim up through it to the platform; altogether, the timing is much more forgiving). Also, the Room of Gems and Scales starts with balanced scales (and Lemeza's weight has been adjusted to compensate). The Endless Corridor puzzle now requires you to pass through only 4 lanterns in the correct general sequence. The clue still requires knowledge of La-Mulanese numbers, but Mulbruk may glitch out and not give you a hint on the last two numbers. You also don't need to pass by all the lanterns, but many players make this assumption and give themselves further headache doing so. Ironic, since the order of the other incorrect lanterns is ignored in favor of the correct order of the 4 required lanterns.
  • Shadow Of The Beast 3 has the slab puzzle in Caves of Bidhur; every other puzzle can be solved consistently, but this essentially involves approximating a physics puzzle in a game without physics. You have to get a large slab across a long (but shallow) pit by placing (and moving them as you shift the slab along) three balls in said pit correctly so they evenly balance the slab correctly, one mistake and it falls in the pit and you have to go back to the last checkpoint. In itself this would only be kind of irritating, but the last checkpoint is at least a few minutes back and requires you to enter a cave full of respawning Goddamned Bats that you need to kill a certain amount of to get the hammer you need to do the slab puzzle, so you end up getting drained each time you screw up. Finally, there's a boss fight straight after solving the puzzle; while not too difficult it's another way to get sent back if you mess up and die.
  • Startropics has an infamous puzzle that is not that difficult, but left players confused since it breaks the fourth wall. Attached to the game's instruction booklet is a letter from the main character's Uncle; you learn late in the game that your Uncle has a transceiver in his shoe. You must enter a three digit combination to track the transceiver. Your only clue is "dip my note in water." If you dip the letter attached to the manual in water, invisible ink appears to tell you the combination. It's a simple puzzle, since the game outright tells you what to do, but even people who owned the manual and had the letter were confused, since actually dipping the physical letter in water makes no freakin' sense and many assumed the letter in question was an in-game item. Nintendo got so many questions about it that they published the solution in Nintendo Power.
  • Superman 64 is a very puzzle-oriented game. Many of the puzzles are simple, but there is a puzzle in the final level of the game that is maddeningly hard. Brainiac sends you to a room with several portals (Word of God is that it's a time machine) with a number in the center of the screen. Players must go through portals until the number in the center of the screen equals 2000, causing Brainiac's computers to go haywire. The puzzle itself is self explanatory, but immeasurably difficult because this portion of the level is heavily glitched so that the player dies at complete random- (even if you're using a Gameshark and have infinite health.) The glitches make the final puzzle nearly un-solveable.
  • The infamous block-and-backtracking puzzle in the Ice Palace of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.note  Fortunately (or unfortunately) made easier for the GBA remake.

Adventure Game
  • Yu No: In Mio's route, while underneath Triangle Mountain, you get trapped in a room with two skeletons and a dead body (which is a whole other story), and the only way out appears to be through a crazy-difficult puzzle in the center of the room. You are able to use an in-game laptop that translates the symbols in the grid puzzle to numbers, which doesn't make it any easier at all. Thus, Guide Dang It fits here well.
  • The Dig:
    • It has, at one point, a puzzle where you have to re-assemble the skeleton of an alien turtle. No Rule of Fun Translation Convention is applied, other than that each part can snap to an arbitrary position in the turtle's shell, and the shell gives no hints to the orientation of the several near-identical small, straight bones. The only thing in the game that comes even close to a hint for this is a fossil on the ground up the stairs from where you have to do the puzzle. Oh, and by the way, if you don't add a specific additional item before you finish it? The turtle is killed once more, and you have to do it all over again. This is known as the place where most people stopped playing the game.
    • The interface made it even worse: For months after the game came out, just about every other post on comp.sys.mac.games.adventure was "How do I rotate the bones in the turtle puzzle?".
    • Another infamous puzzle, which the player discovers at a roughly similar time in the game, is the "rat-cage" puzzle, where an alien creature snatches a vital part of an alien gizmo away, leaving a nearby room inaccessible. To get the part back, the player first has to construct a primitive cage by using a long hook and a dead animal's ribcage, then lure the animal out of its hidey-hole and chase it into the cagenote , and then place a tracking device around the creature, so that you can find the creature's lair and dig up the missing part. And all of this is without any indication that there's even a puzzle in the general vicinity, or how to solve it, with an added dose of Pixel Hunting.
    • Another one is how to open the Cocytan inventor's tomb: The tomb's entrance is buried under a rock in a place you would not normally suspect there's something there, after entering the ante-chamber Low can discover a Pressure Plate which opens the ceiling so Low must jam it with a metal bar, but unfortunately this doesn't cause anything yet, Low must then use a power source in a hidden socket which will light-up the ante-chamber, if the pressure plate was jammed when Low goes out he will notice a glow on the rocks which by clearing it will reveal a prism, so far so good, but now to open the tomb, the moons of Cocytus must be at an eclipse, so how in the world you do that? Answer: On another spire there's an empty room with two retrievable crystal bars and a dim light on the ceiling that looks way out of Low's reach, so the player must somehow think that using the bars (which you don't know what they are or what they do) with the dim light that looks out of reach is possible! Doing it transforms the room into a planetarium in which the player must find the correct moons' positions, with all these conditions fulfilled the tomb opens. For this the only clues given to the player are a painting next to the tomb's entrance showing the moons in eclipse lighting a beam from one spire to another, and using a certain combination in the "map" room which shows the ante-chamber open; On top of that, several of the actions for opening the tomb only become available after you look at the "clues", and like the "Rat puzzle" above, there's no indication of a puzzle in the vicinity or what you must do.
    • And if those weren't bad enough, there's one spot where one of the NPCs in the game gets captured by a giant spider. The clue to saving her is to get a high pressure blast of water to come out of a drainage vent....after diverting a river into it. The kicker? If you don't talk to her about the grate afterwards (so that she can ask you how you came up with that plan) and leave the room, the game is put into an unwinnable state: the next event (the other NPC getting his hand stuck in a crevice) never happens and it is impossible to talk to the woman about the grate after leaving the room.
  • Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned has a ridiculously infuriating first puzzle, involving Gabriel trying to rent himself a moped by pretending to be Moseley, who can rent one. To do this, Gabriel must distract Moseley with a piece of candy and swipe his passport from his pocket, steal his hat and jacket, draw a mustache on the face of the passport photo with a marker to hide the face, and then construct a fake mustache by putting some masking tape on a small hole and chasing the cat past that hole, leaving some of its fur on the tape, and then using the fur to create a fake mustache by gluing it to Gabriel's face with a packet of syrup. As Old Man Murray put it:
    "Maybe Jane Jensen was too busy reading difficult books by Pär Lagerkvist to catch what stupid Quake players learned from watching the A-Team: The first step in making a costume to fool people into thinking you're a man without a moustache, is not to construct a fake moustache."
    • The logic might've been that since a distinguishing feature like a mustache tends to attract your attention, it would've distracted the rental employee from the fact that Gabriel and Mosely didn't look too much alike. But it's still pretty much of a stretch.
    • According to the programmers in a Game Informer interview, nobody at Sierra liked that puzzle. However, Roberta Williams had left the project by then without telling anyone what she'd planned for that sequence, and this was the first replacement puzzle anyone could think of. Under time and budget pressure, they had to go with it.
  • Another literal puzzle in Under a Killing Moon, where a note has been torn into tiny pieces. The pieces have to be reassembled, and Tex will not be able to read it until each one is in exactly the right place- a single pixel off, and it's illegible as far as he's concerned. To top it off, the pieces don't snap into place or give any other hint that they've been correctly aligned. The end result is that it's easy to have a puzzle that looks completed but isn't recognized as so by the game, forcing the player to randomly move pieces around one pixel at a time to trigger the next cutscene.
  • Then there's the 'cubes in the vault' puzzle in Infocom's Spellbreaker. (A variant of the Twelve Coins Puzzle) There are a dozen or so magical cubes, but only one is the true cube you need. In order to determine the actual cube, you'll need to resort them a number of times, and cast the 'detect magic' spell. Problem is, you can only do this three times before being caught by security — and if you haven't truly narrowed it down to one cube, it will use Schrödinger's Gun to move it away from the one you pick to another one that fits all clues so far — and you're not allowed to save the game while in the vault (to prevent solving the puzzle with trial and error, and hide the fact that it's cheating). One of the toughest puzzles ever in Interactive Fiction, if you're not familiar with the Stock Puzzle beforehand.
  • Full Throttle features a puzzle late in the game where the player has to find a secret passageway to Malcom Corley's office in an alley behind Corley Motors' headquarters. As a hint, Maureen mentions that she used the passageway to get into the office by lining her eyes up with a crack on the wall, then kicking the wall at that spot when a nearby set of switches were all green. Also, she was six years old at the time. This had many players stumped, because the spot itself was already difficult to find, but the timing had to be precise as well, so it wasn't easy to tell whether they had the wrong spot or their timing was off. (The spot made a different sound when thumped- not that it helps if you think you've got the right spot with the wrong timing.)
  • Phantasmagoria 2: A Puzzle Of Flesh has precisely two actual puzzles, at least, according to Spoony that is. One of them, the final one, is this.
  • Space Quest 3 has a puzzle near the beginning where the player has to repair a spaceship to escape from the garbage scow on which Roger awakens after drifting through space. One of the items required is a fusion reactor, found deep in the scow's depths; a reactor that the game steadfastly refuses to even acknowledge unless you specifically ask about it, and which is hidden behind a chunk of scenery. In other words, the only way you're going to find it without buying the hint book is if you possess the gift of second sight, or you happen to be one of the designers.
  • Mystery Of Time And Space has the green wall, an oversized 'turn-on-the-lights' puzzle where even if you know the exact series of panels to click, will take several minutes to go through and click all of them. If you don't know the exact series of panels to click? Forget it.
  • For a time, there was a screenshot from Ripper that was universally used as the example of a "ridiculously hard" puzzle. Specifically, you're given a motherboard with a bunch of microchips with arcane instructions and serial numbers on them and expected to put them all in the right places. The real kicker is this is just the most visually intimidating puzzle; there are puzzles that are even harder in Ripper.
  • The Trapped Trilogy is infamous for ridiculous and confusing Moon Logic Puzzles. The one that springs to everyone's mind is the nonsensical fishing rod (glue a banana, rope, and knife together), although the evidence puzzle in Escape is even more confusing.
  • Another Space Quest example comes in the sixth game, where the player has to reprogram a tricorder-like device by rearranging various chips and switches inside it. The solution is to decipher a series of clues in the game manual—"the red chip does not go next to the blue chip," that sort of thing—which, while not impossible, brings the game to a dead stop for anyone unskilled in such puzzles. (Amusingly, the puzzle hints were originally supposed to be in the game itself, not the documentation; because something got screwed up along the way, the puzzle was treated as copy protection on the Sierra message boards, meaning that posting an entire solution was a bannable offense.)
  • An infamous example occurs in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge. The player must open a pipe with no hint as to how to do so. The solution? Stick a banana on the spike of a ticking metronome, causing a piano playing monkey to become frozen and usable as a "monkey wrench". Even worse is that this solution often got Lost in Translation and overseas; "monkey wrench" is a term often only used in America, which confused the living heck out of those living in other English countries. Translators had no fun working a way to make this puzzle sensible in other languages. Ron Gilbert made very dang sure after this fiasco not to use puns for a puzzle solution in future games.
    • The Spanish version of the game went around this by adding a book to the Phatt library titled "101 uses for monkeys", which explains how monkeys can be used as "llaves inglesas" (spanish for "monkey wrenchs"). True, there's a chance that people might not take the book and miss the clue, but in general, the humor of the game made it more likely that people would read all the books in the library at least once, so there was a big chance to get it. The book doesn't explain WHY a monkey can be used as a wrench, though, which, of course will confuse players.

First-Person Shooter
  • In Marathon, the level "Colony Ship for Sale, Cheap" required you to raise seven platforms to specific heights in order to fashion a staircase (they didn't automatically stop at appropriate levels, so you had to time the switch hits exactly right). Unfortunately, the switches to do this were divided between three observation bays separated by lots of walking, and it was rarely possible to set them correctly on the first try. This puzzle was so loathed that the designer apologized for it in the sequel's credits terminal. When fans remade the game in an open source engine, the platform heights were initially made automatic but later restored to full difficulty for authenticity's sake.

MMORPGs
  • Runescape:
    • Shortly after the start of the quest "Monkey Madness", you must solve an infuriatingly difficult 5X5 sliding puzzle or pay 200,000 gold to skip it.
    • One of the newer quests, Elemental Workshop III, makes it far, far worse. A room-sized, three-dimensional sliding puzzle, of the same difficulty as the one in aforementioned Monkey Madness, except you can't bribe your way past it and it uses an irritating interface that'll probably take a few tries to get used to. And it has five parts to complete. Oh, and did I mention you have a limited number of moves for each of the first three parts? Have fun.
    • Celtic Knot puzzles in Elite Treasure Trails. Even players who don't bat an eye at the slider puzzles hate the sight of these.
    • In A Void Dance, you have to solve a very irritating Block Puzzle, this time with beer barrels, just to get an empty barrel out the door. Apparently, the barrels are made of an indestructible material that resembles wood, because the idea of smashing the top of a barrel never occurs to your character, despite the fact that the mission is clearly a time-critical situation!
    • There's also the Temple of Light from Mourning's End: Part 2. It involves changing the path and color of a light beam using crystals in pillars, in a huge multilevel dungeon, filled with Shadows that frequently knock off 100+ health in one hit and will constantly mob you. In addition, there's also several Agility obstacles scattered around the dungeon, which you can (and will, frequently) fail, dropping you into pits filled with shadows and forcing you to run all around the dungeon. Words cannot describe the incredible frustration of this quest.

Platform Game
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) The Billiard Ball puzzle in Silver's version of Dusty Desert. Basically, it's a section where you guide your telekinetic hedgehog around a corridor, all the while pushing a giant billiard ball as you go around. The hall has several obstacles and pitfalls littered around it, and it's only possible to hit the ball around nine times per run. Also, there's a time limit. This is already challenging enough, but combining it with the game's physics makes it very frustrating - and the worst part is that there was no "trick" to solving it, apart from glitching the game and walking through a wall to skip it.
  • LittleBigPlanet has the multiplayer puzzle in Serpent Shrine. Here's the picture: There's a tunnel that has massive, flaming snakes running through it. They appear too fast to just run through. There are 3 balls that are lowered by winches, and can be grabbed. Up top, there is a button that lowers the winches, allowing the partner to grab onto one. Step off the switch, and the balls go back up. At the end, after the third ball, there are two Prize Bubbles. Understand, now? Well, it's just frustrating. Your partner will invariably be worse than you, and will either not grab on in time or step off/on the switch in time to get roasted by the snake. Did you know that if the person in the tunnel dies, you only have 4 chances, total? The puzzle's location is far in the level, making it irritating to get to. It's a subjective puzzle, since it depends on if your partner is absolutely perfect at doing one of the tasks. The player on the buttons has to be in the exact center or else the snakes will kill the other player regardless of being raised or not. Honorable mention goes to the 4X puzzles, but the trouble in that is merely getting four players together to attempt them.
  • The Lion King on Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis has the infamous monkey puzzle in Can't Wait To Be King, the second level: To advance, the player has to roar at a selection of monkeys to get them to change their position, after which the player has to jump into them to let the monkeys toss them around - and if they're lucky, all the monkeys will have been organized in such a way that they can move on to the next section. It's especially aggravating in the second section, where the player will have to organize one set of monkeys perfectly to even get to roar at a specific monkey, who needs to be turned to finish the level. The fact that these puzzles sandwich an infuriatingly difficult ostrich-riding section doesn't help, and rumor has it that the game's chief designer had never once passed the second level.
  • Wario World has a puzzle in Pecan Sands that involves punching some arrow blocks around to get to a red diamond. It is very tough to figure out how to do it without a guide.
  • Wario Land 3: The blue chest in E3 Castle of Illusions and green chest in S4 The Steep Canyon, which require you to fly through large spike mazes with the owl.
  • Fez contains several puzzles that can only be solved by deciphering a set of symbols that can be found in various areas of the world. Well, three different sets of symbols, actually. You must figure out how to read the game's number system, alphabet, and a button based code. You are never outright told the significance of any of these symbols and, even if you find the key to deciphering one of them, you probably won't notice. Thankfully, these are optional puzzles.

Puzzle Game
  • Sliding-tile puzzles are usually considered this, and they appear in too many games to list here.
  • The Stock Puzzle with water containers with 5 gallons and 3 gallons where you have to get 4 in one container is very hard the first time you try it.
  • The 7th Guest:
    • Aside from the bizarre and arbitrary Guide Dang It Trope Namer for Solve the Soup Cans, it has The Microscope Puzzle, which is a game of Ataxx against the AI. Whose intelligence, unfortunately, is based on the computer's processor being able to figure out the best possible set of moves in a set amount of time. It was probably possible to beat back in the days of Windows 3.1, but now it's borderline impossible without locking the available processor speed using an emulator such as DOSBOX.
    • The Soup Cans puzzle is also infamous because it demands the player to spell out a coherent sentence using a handful of letters...and the only available vowel is Y. The solution provides foreshadowing for later events in the game ("Shy gypsy, slyly, spryly tryst by my crypt"), but there's no way the player would know about it at that point. Fortunately, this puzzle is a lot easier if you check the in-game hint book ("Bashful nomad, craftily, agilely, meet secretly near my underground vault.") and have a thesaurus on hand.
    • There's also the attic puzzle, which also happens to be the very last puzzle in the game, and to an untrained eye will seem completely illogical and solvable only through trial and error: It's a model of a tower, with its walls laden with windows, and clicking on some makes lights appear in the windows, until the game seemingly takes over for you. There's a method to the madness, however: The puzzle is essentially a programming puzzle, where the game remembers what kind of move was made for each shape of window, and will repeat that move for each window encountered. The challenge is to choose your moves so that you can advance to the top of the tower without bumping into the walls or going over previously-lit windows, but it gets even worse when you can make the puzzle unwinnable even if you get all the way up to the last part.
    • The Bishop puzzle is another notorious one. The objective is to switch the places of four white bishops and four black bishops on a 4x5 chessboard using standard diagonal moves without ever putting a bishop under attack by the opposing color. The small playing field makes movement very restricted, and because you can't ever put a bishop in harm's way, it's very easy to get turned around.
  • As for the sequel to The 7th Guest, The 11th Hour, there's the infamous Beehive puzzle, also known as the Honeycomb puzzle or "Blood and Honey" officially, which is essentially another version of the aforementioned Microscope puzzle from the last game, but played on a six-sided grid made of hexagons. The shape of the grid makes it just a bit easier to trap the AI and capture new cells, and the AI itself isn't quite as ruthless as before, but the game is still hard enough to be generally recognized as the point where most players quit the game.
  • The Dr. Brain series has a couple of widely hated puzzles.
    • The Lost Mind of Dr. Brain had an entire level on "Music Theory." The idea was to rearrange sheets of classical music so they matched up with the song they played. The difficulty could range from notes on the wrong line or stanzas switched up, to entire stanzas jumbling and symbols needing to be rearranged. If you knew nothing about classical music, let alone music sheets and music theory, this was 20 puzzles of pure hatred. And that's on Easy!note 
    • In Castle of Dr. Brain, it's either the magic square in the maths hallway or the find-a-word in the language hallway.
    • In The Island of Dr. Brain, it'll be the randomised magic square in the volcano or the microscope puzzle on any difficulty other than Easy.
  • Myst:
    • The subway puzzle in Myst can be a terror. It's so bad that a lot of players ended up mapping it out just to figure it all out; the idea was to listen to sounds and make use of Trial-and-Error Gameplay to find out each of them represented a cardinal direction. Also, there's a problem in the Windows version of the game that causes the North and South sound to be flipped in this puzzle, but not in another puzzle that uses the same sounds. The worst part is that even if you know the solution, the puzzle takes an eternity and a half to complete thanks to needlessly long scene transitions. Oh, and you have to solve it twice to get both pages! The Miller brothers themselves have even acknowledged it as a mistake on a few occasions, such as this interview.
      • The tone-matching puzzle is the other common contender for the worst puzzle in the game (and it just so happens to be part of the same age as the aforementioned underground maze). Basically, you learn through one of Atrus's journals that there is a sequence of notes to be played to get to the Selentic Age. That's not hard to figure out. However, rather than simply playing these notes in order, you instead have to adjust a series of sliding switches so these notes are played when you pull the lever. The switches require pixel-perfect accuracy though. If you are even slightly off at all, the puzzle will not work, and the game doesn't even have the courtesy to tell you which notes you got correct. Many a tone-deaf player would Rage Quit the game at this puzzle.
    • Many people will cite the animal puzzle in Riven (which relies on your finding five animals around the world of the game, three of which are obvious, but two of which are... not). The problem with the animal puzzle in Riven isn't necessarily solving it (though this isn't exactly easy); it's telling the game you have solved it. Note to game developers: if you're going to have people pick animals from a 25 digit keypad, don't put three fish on there and then ask the user to figure out which fish is the right one.
      • Even worse than the animal puzzle in Riven is the Marble Puzzle. You are given a grid with colored marbles corresponding to the typical ROY G. BIV mnemonic. You are expected to put the marbles in specific spots on the grid, and these spots correspond to domes on the five islands in the game, and the domes each correspond to a certain color given in a completely different in-game language than your native tongue, and to find the spots you need to go to a topography map on one of the islands and then figure out the location of the domes, then pinpoint those on the grid when the locations are extremely specific, and argh, Guide Dang It! It's not illogical, just rather unintuitive, and if you're not good at topography, it doesn't help. Oh, and one of the marbles isn't even necessary to completing the puzzle.
    • The two timed puzzles in Revelation also stand out. They're not hard, exactly, just incredibly fiddly, especially when done very very quickly, as the game requires. Generally, one will be easier for a replaying gamer than the other, so if one is That One Puzzle for you, then the other will likely be easier for you to figure out. Ubisoft has acknowledged the problems with the timing on these puzzles too, and have released a patch for the game that makes the timing a bit more forgiving. They're still rather finicky, though.
  • The Sierra game Lighthouse - The Dark Being is filled with these puzzles, but one stands out. In the temple you come across some kind of plant like shaped thing with two bell-arrangements on the outside and three levers on the inside. You get NO hints to operate the thing, there is no explanation anywhere, you don't even know what you are supposed to achieve and if you are making any progress at all. You can waste hours on that thing, just ringing the bells and pulling the levers.
    • Another good example is the puzzlebox in the House of the Inventor. It combines 4 or 5 puzzles in one box. A 6×6 sliding puzzle is under it, some arbitary clicking is involved and then some. You get a code from the box from one of the puzzles that you have to enter in a different side of the box. It is styled with squares, triangles, circles and rectangles. Now now, easy enough, right? There are four rotating disks, stacked on top of each other, each containing all 4 symbols. The obvious solution would be to try the 4 piece code you got forward and backward. Nope, does not work. You have to turn all the disks to the first symbol, then all the disks to the second symbol and then enter the full code from top to bottom.
  • The Professor Layton series probably has several, however many players can't go past that damned chocolate bar.
    • Usually, it will be a 'that one puzzle' if it's worth over 50 Picarats.
    • "that damned chocolate bar" refers to the infamous "Chocolate Code" puzzle. You must crack a fiendish code, with only 6 characters to work on. One of them isn't even in code, which makes it harder! The message is written on a chocolate bar with seven squares (one blank to represent a space), and there are small bites taken out of some of the squares. This indicates the postion of the decrypted letter relative to the encoded letter on a computer keyboard, so for example a bite on the left would mean "d" gets decoded to "f". The in game hints never mention the bites, and you would assume they're eye candy (no pun intended).
    • One of a few puzzles the European edition of the game replaced entirely, instead giving you a trick question about probability that was simple once you spotted the trick.
  • Ace Attorney has a couple.
    • Sometimes you don't have to prove what the game says you do, or you can only present the correct evidence once you've pressed a seemingly innocuous comment or three first. At other times logically, you could present any one of three pieces of evidence to prove the point, or there're three statements that it's perfectly reasonable to try presenting evidence on, but you have to have the RIGHT evidence on the RIGHT statement.
    • One end-of-case puzzle requires you to notice that a character accidentally said the wrong name. Sure, an obvious contradiction, but you'd be surprised how many people miss it.
    • A few moments in Investigations 2 qualify. One of the final testimonies in Case 3 has one statement that, when pressed, offers you two options, and the testimony 'branches' depending on which one you select. Except neither contains a contradiction. It turns out, the contradiction is in The last statement, but even if you know the evidence you need to present, it won't work until You activate the first branch, press it, then go back and trigger the second branch and press IT. Then you have the Logic Chess battle against Bansai Ichiyanai in Case 4. It requires you to go back on previous lines of questioning to discover options that weren't there before. (Something you've NEVER had to do in LC before.) And contains one dialogue option that only gets you penalized if you select it... Unless you choose it right at the very end.
    • The final case in Justice for All has a doozy. In the last testimony, where you CAN'T outright prove the culprit's guilt but instead have to prolong the case (which is very long, so your penalty bar is probably low) you'll reach a testament from a Professional Killer in which you can press statements and the Judge asks you if it's relevant or not. NOTHING IN THESE STATEMENTS GIVES YOU ANY NEW EVIDENCE, so you're inclined to say it's important because you don't want to waste the Judge's time. ONE of these statements will give you a slipup by the killer in his pronouns, and THIS you have to flag.
  • Axis Mundi in Catherine. As if the stage itself wasn't ridiculously difficult, add in the Mystery Blocks. They have no problem spawning black holes, which spell instant death.
  • Ghost Trick has two. The first, breaking Detective Jowd out of prison, is a combination Stealth-Based Mission and Escort Mission done in mostly-complete darkness (you can see by switching to Ghost mode, but then you can't slide the screen), with the worst part being that you have to get your escort-ee to climb inside the ceiling. The second, saving the justice minister, isn't nearly as bad... except that it's the one time in the game that it's possible to have a checkpoint put in place after the situation has become unwinnable, and gives you no indication you screwed up except that you can't do anything.
  • On one of the last levels in the Web game 4 Elements, the arrows start firing as soon as the level begins. Even if you do get the energy to flow past the arrows, you need to connect enough red gems to charge the bomb powerup twice, or you'll never make a path through the boulders.
  • The Secret Island of Dr. Quandary has the Tax Factor minigame. The target audience for the game was grade school kids in the nineties. Tax Factor is basically an exercise in high-school algebra, and can stop adult players in their tracks if they're bad at math.
  • Repton: The PC remake has one on Avalanche Level 15. Six rocks block the passage to the key, and you can't shunt them aside, because to get in position to start shunting, you have to take the diamond holding them up. If you do that, they will fall in a heap and can't be moved. The solution... push an egg above the first rock, so that the falling of the others is delayed while it hatches. No previous level has used this trick. There isn't an egg anywhere nearby — you have to think of the idea and then fetch an egg from the opposite side of the level.
  • The Fool's Errand has the word formula puzzles in which you need to click a series of buttons in the right order to produce a coherent sentence. This might not sound hard - and one of these puzzles is pretty straightforward with the buttons simply adding letters to the beginning and end of the current phrase - but many of these puzzles give you buttons that don't just add letters, but change a certain letter to another one or reverse the entire current phrase, which can fast lead to headaches trying to figure out just what kind of sentence you're supposed to create. The one from "The Dream" scroll, in particular, is so fiendishly difficult that it took weeks when the game first came out (back when GameFAQs didn't exist, mind you) for someone to solve it - and the computer program they used to find the solution back then took sixty hours to do so!
  • Nancy Drew: Curse of Blackmoor Manor had the moving rooms puzzle. And there was no hint before you went in that the rooms moved. Take two clicks into that room without a walkthrough and you will end up screaming at the computer.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has the notorious Babel Fish puzzle, which only allows you a limited number of tries before you figure out the nonintuitive solution involving an item that may already be Lost Forever.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors: The torture room lives up to its name—its final puzzle has you fiddling around with switches on two separate screens, so there's no way to know if you actually have all of the switches you can currently work with in the right spot or not and just need to switch the other two, and unlike most puzzles in the game, there are no in-game hints. Fridge Brilliance when you realize that the torture room is down the "wrong path", the one that doesn't lead to the door with the #9 on it at all—the fact that the Building Q group isn't able to get hints like they can for most puzzles should signal them that it's a Red Herring!
    • The sequel, Virtue's Last Reward contains a very irritating dice-moving puzzle. In the Archives it's fairly simple to match up the clues and solve the puzzle because all you need to do is have the right colors in the right place OR the right numbers in the right place, but in the Q Room it becomes much harder because now not only do the colors AND numbers have to be right, they also have to face specific ways, which requires a certain combination of movements for each die... hopefully the other dice don't get in the way of those movements!

Roguelike
  • Any puzzle involving Peg Solitaire is often this. For example, there was this one puzzle in Zork Zero..
  • NetHack implements several Sokoban levels in the game engine, using boulders and pits. Although each one starts out solvable without cheating, most of the normal game rules aren't suspended on the Sokoban levels, which can lead to things like monsters shattering boulders with wands of striking, immobile jellies spawning behind them, giants picking them up and throwing them at you, and so forth. Thankfully, not only are the Sokoban levels optional (although you'll probably want the rewards for the long term), but you can cheat the game in various ways with only a small Luck penalty.

Role-Playing Game
  • In Tales of the Abyss, there are four puzzles in the Meggiora Highlands, the first of these being a Block Puzzle that makes the infamous Tower of Zosma feel like a pushover in comparison. You have to push four blocks onto four particular 1x1 spaces on a 12x12 grid. They all start unlit, and to push them, you must light them, rather like torches. Doesn't sound so bad, right? Forgot to mention that when you push one, the other blocks that are lit go in the same direction as the one you're pushing. And that the blocks that are unlit also go in the opposite direction. And that there are barricades around two of the spaces you're supposed to be pushing them onto, facing in different directions. AND the spaces you're pushing these blocks onto are very much spread-out. To add insult to injury, the other three puzzles are insultingly easy. To add more insult to injury, your reward for doing this is to remove one spell from the boss' repertoire, causing it to just cast the ones it'll still have; this is the case with the other puzzles as well, but at least their difficulty justifies that. To add MORE insult to injury, when you do three of the puzzles, the other one's reward becomes...nothing. The good news is that that last bit makes this one skippable, but good luck finding that out on your own.
  • Baten Kaitos:
    • The Zosma Tower has five floors of fiendishly hard, timed, 3D block puzzles. This is the only part in the game where the camera will screw you over, and that just adds to the difficulty. To start the puzzles, you have to have a fire in your quest magnus, which you use to light a torch, which powers the puzzles. If you take too long, the torch goes out and the puzzle resets. If you run out of fire, you have to go back down the tower and get more from the bottom. Also, at the top of the tower is That One Boss.
    • Later in the game, you get Mizuti's sidequest, which involves going into the basement of the tower to solve five more block puzzles, which are even harder. The second puzzle is the worst, with one step that requires insane timing to bounce a block off an elevator. Also, at the end, you fight the Wizard Shadow, using the same mechanic as Xelha's fight against the Ice Goddess.
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn: "THE GOAT LEAVES NO TRACE BEHIND." Of all the puzzles in the entire freakin' game, this is the one that gets you stuck. The rules are oblique - you have to move each goat statue to its proper hole (look at the base to find where it must end up), the statues can only move to a golden tile, and leave silver tiles in their wake. It is very possible for the uninformed to fubar themselves without realizing it (mercifully, you can leave the room to make it reset), and if you slide the wrong statue onto the wrong hole, the room resets immediately.
    • There's also the fact that unlike in every other puzzle where Insight Psynergy only shows you icons on objects that can be interacted with the respective Psynergy, here it actually reveals the entire solution. Good luck figuring that one out considering how utterly useless it is for most of the time.
    • Golden Sun had a minor one: a simple sliding block puzzle where you moved a torch-bearing pillar onto a tile. However, water keeps falling on the one spot the pillar has to go through, and it takes very precise timing to avoid the torch being extinguished.
    • The Lost Age has one in the Great Gabombo statue filled with enormous rotating gears. The only hint you get is a rat that bounces from one gear to another, and is liable to be dismissed as a Big Lipped Alligator Moment, since it doesn't show how you climb the gears in the first place.
  • Mega Man Battle Network 5 has a couple of puzzles that will throw you for a loop. When Lan's on a cruise ship, a major object on said ship is stolen. No one in the room has it, and no one's entered or left between the presentation (where the object is shown, secured) and when the object was taken. This one's fairly simple - Everything Is Wireless, and the various mirrors lying around could potentially reflect an infared signal to the jack-in port. Just after, though, is a very confusing puzzle - the place where the culprit fled is behind a door sealed with a code. All you have to go on is some odd word puzzle. Mercifully, the code is in all numbers, and the poem for the code is full of numbers.
  • Pokémon:
    • Lt. Surge's Gym in Pokémon Red and Blue and the remakes has the infamous switch puzzle that can take forever to solve. Essentially, you're given a room full of trash cans that had a locked gate at the end. To open the gate, you had to find two secret switches in the cans. The first one was placed randomly, and the second one was guaranteed to be 'one trash can away' from the first one. Unfortunately, that left you with between three and eight trash cans to pick from, and if your first guess wasn't correct, then the puzzle would reset.
    • Seafoam Islands in Red and Blue. You have to go through it to get Articuno, and it requires a lot of maneuvering via Strength, and if you slip down to the lower levels too soon, the wild current takes you for a ride.
    • Unlocking the three legendary golems in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire requires the player to read several sentences in Braillenote , have some specific Pokemon in specific spots of their party, and take a number of actions that would normally provide drastically different results.
    • The Ice Cave in HeartGold and SoulSilver. The ice maze is hard enough, and then you have to push four rocks into holes without getting them stuck-and then repeat on the next level down.
    • Pokémon Diamond and Pearl: Candice's gym. It's basically a pit made out of ice, and you've got to slide down the pit in ways that give you enough momentum to smash through the snowballs placed as obstacles to Candice. Unfortunately you've got stairs, rough patches, and Mooks placed in just the right areas to prevent you from taking the most logical routes.
  • Wild ARMs 2 has one of these as the first puzzle in the final dungeon that had fans scrambling for answers on the message boards for a long while. Turns out you need to know how the days of the week got their names and have the information enough in mind to realize what the clues are referencing.
  • In Icewind Dale your party comes across a dilapidated bridge. When you approach you are presented with text stating that it doesn't look safe enough to cross. Unfortunately the game never actually hints that getting to the other side would be desirable, and given the large maps and the game's nature of forcing you to hunt through the fog of war for hidden doors and barely visible corridors it is extremely easy to turn your attentions elsewhere. Even if you did know that you were supposed to cross the bridge the solution to this 'puzzle' is far from straightforward. The intended solution is to find a book on bridge engineering from a different part of the map, possesion of which apparently gives your party the architectural confidence to proceed. Unfortunately the game is full of useless and worthless books, and by this late stage is it highly likely that the player will dismiss any books they find out of hand without even bothering to read the title.
  • In a DLC for Dragon Age II, Mark of the Assassin, there is a very sophisticated puzzle. 25 tiles form a 5x5 square portrait of a man, or rather you need to flip them all to make them form the portrait. In the beginning, all tiles are face down. When you flip one, all tiles adjacent to it flip as well. Sounds easy? Well, good luck solving this puzzle without looking up how to do it.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics A2 has one mission where you have to interview several people in town about their New Year's Resolutions and then tell the question petitioner what the most popular resolution was. Sound easy enough? It would be except that some people either give no proper answer at all or give resolutions that could cover multiple answers, making it difficult to determine what the most popular resolution is. To make the situation worse, the entire quest takes place on a battlefield screen, which means you're forced to have your party go door to door and person to person to conduct the interviews, which can take awhile to cover the entire town unless you cast Haste on everyone and/or use units that have a high Move stat. If you fail the quest, then you get to have fun repeating the quest again and running all over the map listening to everyone yet again.
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2 has The Hands of Time, one of the three Temporal Rift puzzles. You are presented with a clock face that looks like this. When you start the clock on a crystal number, the hands move to the number you pick, and then spread apart, i.e. if you pick a 1, then the hands move to the 1 space and they each move over one space, and then the 1 disappears. If both hands land on empty spaces, then you have to reset the clock. The objective is to clear all the crystal numbers, which there can be up to thirteen of.

Simulation Game
  • Trauma Center: Under the Knife:
    • That one part with the Triti virus that kept reproducing itself again and again. Actually occurs more than once in the game, and is almost unbeatable each time. The key (which makes Triti the easiest GUILT, except for the Luck-Based Mission Deftera on a good run) is to extract thorns so that none of them are next to each other on their edges before treating the affected area, and always extract Triti in pairs. Naturally, all Angie will bother telling you is that there's a pattern.
    • The second time is the killer. Sometimes, one of the thorns you're trying to removenote  will turn into poisonous gas that you must vacuum away or suffer tremendous damage. While you're vacuuming away the gas, the thorns you pulled previously will regrow, meaning you've lost all your progress.
    • Fortunately there's a trick that allows you to pretty much bypass the puzzle aspect of Triti, namely 'as soon as it appears, use your Healing Touch and scribble like hell all over the screen, aiming to take out all scalpel points before the HT runs out.'

Survival Horror
  • Silent Hill 1 has the infamous piano puzzle at Midwich Elementary.
  • Silent Hill 3:
    • This hideous puzzle. If you want to know exactly how much effort it asks of you to solve it, see here (search for "IV-b-3") for the solution.
    • Even worse is the Crematorium puzzle on Hard, where you are required to know the habits of a bird most people have never heard of, and the hint also contains a false pointer.
  • Silent Hill: Homecoming has a slide puzzle in the attic that has caused much rage and controller-breakage for many. The reason this slide puzzle is so difficult is because you can't reset it by exiting and reentering the room. You have to die or reset the game. The other problem? The tiles are random every time. There is no one solution to the puzzle.
  • Fatal Frame had two kinds of regular puzzles: slide puzzles and numerical puzzles. Normally numerical puzzles of remembering a date mentioned in a scroll somewhere in the mansion would not be a problem...if they weren't in Japanese on the PS2 original...and if the developers had made a bigger clue of telling you that the translation for the Kanji numbers were in your files.
  • Resident Evil 4 features a very annoying sliding puzzle when playing as Ashley.PROTIP  Thankfully, the solution's easy to remember for future playthroughs once you've figured it out.
  • Ao Oni: Version 5.2 includes the 'Cipher Puzzle', which involves decoding a series of dots on a page. The solution itself is actually extremely simple once you know what you're doing, but getting to that point requires knowledge of how a Japanese abacus - a Soroban - works, meaning most western players are understandably stumped. Even the game's English/German translator advises looking up a solution in the ReadMe file.
  • Haunting Ground: The creation of the Godstone during Riccardo's chapter: you have to go around the mansion several times to find the correct sequence of machines to use, there's a lengthy section where you have to make Hewie sit in one spot and wait (which he will refuse to do unless your relationship is golden) while you run a lengthy gauntlet to the other side of the door he's meant to unlock for you, and if you accidentally put the Godstone in the wrong machine at any point during synthesis, you get to start it all again. Oh, and Riccardo can run in at any point and interrupt your puzzle-solving, potentially sending you on a 10-30 minute detour of trying to lose him.

Non-video game examples:

Live-Action TV
  • Each episode of Legends of the Hidden Temple ends with a timed run through a Temple of Doom, where each room has some puzzle you need to solve to proceed to the next room. Of import is The Shrine of the Silver Monkey, where you must find the three pieces of the monkey statue, reassemble them in the correct orientation on the pedestal in the middle of the room, and push down on the head to lock it in place and open the next room. Apparently this is really, really hard to do. Contestants couldn't find the pieces, or they would get the orientation wrong, or put the base on top of the torso, or couldn't press down hard enough to trigger the door, or simply weren't tall enough to reach the shelf one of the pieces was on. Many a game would go smoothly until they reached the shrine, then they would waste the game in that room.


That One LevelAnnoyance TropesThat One Sidequest
That One PlayerThat One IndexThat One Sidequest
That One LevelScrappy IndexThat One Sidequest
That One LevelVideo Game Difficulty TropesThe Computer Is A Lying Bastard
That One LevelYMMV/Home PageThat One Sidequest
The DigImageSource/Video GamesDig Dug
That One LevelYMMVThat One Sidequest

random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
91741
5