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Moon Logic Puzzle

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"'Ninja star + Chess + Watermelon + Sand = Swimsuit. I need to bring a banana with me 'cause... it makes me immortal if I get shot. My teddy bear can find pieces of a screwdriver, but it is useless without fish.' I know that this game took a lot of work, but you can't make people think they'll need to take the cat and cover it with gasoline if they want to proceed..."
0EndlessNameless0, Pursuit user review

Sometimes, it's easy to see how to Solve the Soup Cans — give the chicken noodle soup to the guard with the cold, trade the tomato for the red orb, and pour the cream of mushroom into the chalice with Mario engraved on the side. The puzzles may be challenging and have nothing to do with what you're doing, but given enough thought, the solution at least is logical.

And sometimes, standard logic just won't get you to the right answer, no matter how hard you try. To find the solution, you have to look at the problem in a way that may seem entirely unintuitive on its face. This is not a Guide Dang It!; all the information you need to complete your objective is right there in the source. Some people will be able to make the intuitive leap almost immediately, others will struggle for hours and still never spot the bend in logic that leads to the answer.

If a frustrated player eventually does reach for the strategy guide, there will be two common reactions on discovering the answer: If the puzzle is well written, the answer will make complete, brilliant sense in hindsight, and the player will respect the puzzle designer, perhaps curse themselves for giving in to the strategy guide, or for needing it in the first place.

If it is poorly written or implemented, you still may not think anyone could possibly solve it on their own. You may also find yourself cursing the developer for expecting you to make overly arcane connections, notice absurdly minute details, or for throwing in intentional or unintentional Red Herrings; but even a badly executed but successful moon logic puzzle makes sense after you read the answer. The pieces of the solution were in fact provided, and the solutions make logical sense in hindsight, just in strange or hard to notice ways. Even a highly skilled puzzle-solver will occasionally get stuck on one of these. When this is bad enough that hundreds of players will get stuck on this puzzle, it's That One Puzzle.

Failed attempts at creating a moon logic puzzle, on the other hand, will have the player screaming at the ceiling in rage upon reading the solution, and are generally unsolvable except by accident. The worst offenders cross the threshold from "convoluted but comprehensible logic" into Non Sequitur or even pure Insane Troll Logic — for example, you should just know which three rocks should be arranged on the three pedestals and in what order.note  Other times, the clues that would have led to the solution seem so out of left field that it leaves the player wondering "how was I supposed to know that?" Such "out of left field" examples might entail figuring out the third meaning of a Double Entendre someone you talked to 20 hours ago made, listening to the unlisted audio track included on the bonus disc that didn't come with the rental, knowing some obscure pun in a language other than English that got Lost in Translation, or not being familiar with a common custom of the writer's culture. note 

This can go full circle into its polar opposite, Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay, where players get so used to game logic that Real Life logic is now what's alien.

If a character In-Universe has to solve one of these without player interaction, they may best display the skills necessary to tackle these kinds of problems if they're the Cloudcuckoolander; anyone else will have to rely on Bat Deduction. And in either case, the solution will turn out to be an Unexpectedly Obscure Answer.

Moon logic and soup can puzzles tend to still be in favor more amongst hardcore traditionalists than casual adventure gamers who prefer storytelling and puzzles that actually make sense within the context of the story. There seems to be a niche group who enjoys whimsical brainteasers exercises in quirky thinking more than serious attempts at a story. For them, it is more about the pride of figuring out on their own just how to get the Babel Fish, this example being perhaps the Trope Maker.

Far, far too many moon logic puzzles are based on Puns.

In real life, the genre of brainteasers known as "lateral thinking puzzles" or "insight puzzles" often fall in this category. Compare and contrast Stock Lateral Thinking Puzzle.


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Video Game Examples

    Pure Puzzle Games 
  • Antichamber intentionally instills this atmosphere, although once the player gets used to the strange yet consistent dream-like logic, it gets a lot less frustrating. The puzzles in the game are usually either this or block puzzles, though sometimes both. The most common general principle is that areas will often change when you aren't looking at them.
  • The Fool's Errand. Sure, most of the riddles still had text in the help menu, but while that might have provided theory, ambiguous wording obfuscated mechanisms. The Death Puzzle in particular is a huge leap from anything else in the game (mostly wordplay and logic challenges). Players needed to catch a fast-moving symbol with the mouse pointer (while avoiding another). The only way to solve the puzzle is to interfere with the mini-game by activating the program's pull-down menu, halting the animation and allowing the user to align the mouse for the payoff click, or find a way to move the symbol without moving the mouse (the latter was the intended solution,note  but the former, a glitch caused by the Macintosh's single-tasking nature, was deemed a valid alternate solution by the developer).
  • Pretty much any question on The Impossible Quiz that isn't an outright Guide Dang It! (or an Unexpected Gameplay Change) is this. For example, one question asks you to "Pick the smallest" of several circles. The correct choice? The dot on the "i" in "Pick", which is, indeed, the smallest circle.
  • Smartphone game series Let's Mischief To Couple is all about screwing up the relationships of happy couples by manipulating circumstances in insane ways. For example: how do you screw up a quiet walk in the woods? Obviously you take a knife from a nearby overweight kid's backpack, use the knife to cut down a flower from a nearby tree, and give that flower to said overweight kid, so that he can use its intoxicating pollen to brainwash a nearby deer into attacking the couple. Obviously.
  • The raison d'etre of McPixel, where the entire appeal of the game is to intentionally seek bizarre and hilarious outcomes in order to find the (usually) contrived solution. It helps that the interface is bare-bones as possible so that all possibilities can be boiled down to just clicking everything.
  • Professor Layton series:
    • Professor Layton and the Curious Village
      • One puzzle which frustrated many players literally requires knowledge of the QWERTY keyboard layout — which is, of course, not actually used within the game, but which can be found within PictoChat on the DS if someone doesn't have a keyboard at hand. It also requires seeing that the candy bar on which the puzzle is written has bite marks in it which are easily missed, but which make up part of the solution, and which are not mentioned in any of the in-game hints. Oh, and also, the puzzle is phrased in terms of SMS messaging, thus suggesting a completely different keypad layout that's entirely a Red Herring. Luckily for Europeans this puzzle was replaced with a mathematical puzzle; whether it was because it was deemed too difficult or because not all of Europe uses QWERTY is unknown.
      • One puzzle mentions a device that makes a hole in a piece of paper and then marks the hole with a line. The answer they're looking for is "compass" as a compass is used to draw a circle by hinging a pin with a pencil. Of course, if you think "line" means "straight curve" you're never going to figure it out and this puzzle comes off as a particularly bizarre jump in logic.
      • Another puzzle features ten lit candles; three have the flame blown out and you are asked how many candles are left "at the end". The answer is three because the other seven lit candles are allowed to burn until there is nothing left; "at the end" referring to when this has happened.
    • Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box has one puzzle that involves a bottle with three long, twisty openings that form a maze and two corks. The bottle contains garlic, and you must block two openings with the corks to stop the person who gave it to you from smelling the garlic. No matter what combination of openings on the bottle you block, you will fail the puzzle because all three of the openings lead to the garlic. The solution is to put the corks in the nostrils of the person who gave you the puzzle, which are also openings. The puzzle didn't specify that the openings were on the bottle.
    • Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy has the game's second puzzle. Prima's friend sent her a gift inside a block of ice, with a card saying that "you can use five 150 ml cups of hot water to melt 30 g of ice" and that she'd need to work out how many cups she'd need to melt the 2kg block of ice encasing her gift. The answer: 0. Prima just needs to stick it in front of her fireplace. The image displayed during the puzzle does indeed display a fireplace in the background, but the puzzle puts itself as a simple word based mathematics puzzle, meaning that most players just pay attention to the text and take the image as just being there for the sake of flavor.
    • Layton's Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires' Conspiracy has a number of these, more so then is even usual for the Layton series. One of the puzzles gives the player a brief explanation on the pH scale, and describes that pH 3 indicates acid and pH 7 indicates alkaline. It then asks what pH 0+0 would indicate. The answer is "photo". Because pH 0+0 kinda looks like "photo".note  Another puzzle has a man talking to his wife about how last year it was their seventh wedding anniversary on the 30th of June, while next year it'll be their tenth wedding anniversary. You have to say when the conversation was taking place. The conversation started on the 31st of December at 11:59 at night and halfway through the sentence it became midnight and the date changed to the 1st of January. Meaning the start of the sentence took place in the year of their 8th anniversary, while halfway through, it became their 9th. Just forgetting about the fact that it's pretty awkward that you have to put the date that the conversation specifically started, you don't exactly expect people to change the context of what they're saying based on a to-the-second clock, mid-conversation.
  • In the final puzzle in System's Twilight, your goal is to reboot the system by quitting and reopening the game but requires a giant leap of intuition since there are no hints given and most (if not all) game guides only partially reference the solution. Or, more likely, you get frustrated by it to the point where you Rage Quit in mid-puzzle, thus solving it accidentally.
  • There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension: Parodied during the Sherlock Holmes game. Game constantly points out how the solutions to each puzzle are ridiculous and nonsensical. Some of the game's actual puzzles can be downright outlandish, with lampshades aplenty, but exploration is often limited so you should quickly realize what to do anyway. Special mention to the Allegedly Free Game part, where a series of in-game switch combinations have to be found in the pop-up ads, hidden in a QR code and a game of sudoku respectively, that otherwise have nothing to do with Legend of the Secret.

    Other Video Games 
  • In ANNO: Mutationem, one of the early sidequests revolves around finding a suspect who disappeared in an elevator. The only clues being video footage of the suspect entering the elevator before vanishing and examining the crime scene has Ann noting that something in the room has changed. The real solution is that several objects in the crime scene are broken into a specific number of pieces, which requires Ann to go to that floor with the elevator, that also has a room identical to the previous one, following the clues on each floor will lead to the suspect's location.
  • L.A. Noire is filled to the brim with this during its interrogations. Typically it's an issue with the game expecting players to understand that they need to purposely ignore logical fallacies, side-step incomplete deductions, and purposely aim for tropes such as Conviction by Contradiction. All of which can be incredibly non-intuitive, particularly during the early cases. There is also an issue with the game often expecting players to treat circumstantial conjecture as evidence, and even a couple of moments where Cole will use Insane Troll Logic to make a correct answer work within the context of the questioning.
    • One of the most striking examples occurs in the case "The Fallen Idol". You're investigating a car crash to see if it was an attempted murder of the driver and her passenger. At the crime scene, you find ripped underwear belonging to the female passenger, Jessica Hamilton. When you interview the female driver, you ask her about Jessica, and she says that Jessica had a rough day, and has stars in her eyes with dreams of being an actress, ending with "what more can I say?" By this time the player is expected to have already pieced together from the highly ambiguous circumstantial evidence (the ripped panties) that Jessica was raped the prior day. The player is then expected to contradict the driver, and present the underwear. This prompts Cole to accuse the driver of hiding the fact that Jessica was raped. The clue, of course, was the dismissal "what more can I say?" As if this wasn't bad enough, there's also a giant red herring in the form of a letter from Jessica's mother, revealing Jessica is a runaway. Trying to present this as evidence is a no-go, even though it's also something the driver is hiding. L.A. Noire keeps player statistics for these things, and this particular line of questioning has a 90% failure rate — after hints.
    • Another example comes when Cole asks the husband of a murder victim what size shoes he wears. The husband responds by saying, "size nines, I think." The player needs to accuse him of purposely lying, then present his real shoes... size eights. Not the strongest case, Cole.
    • The game's issues stem from the "Good Cop", "Bad Cop", and "Accuse" system, wherein everyone is being knowingly truthful or lying, without grey areas. While the game sometimes requires normal human intuition/leaps of logic, sometimes it instead wants game logic, leading to great angst.
    • This can also extend to the street crime "Cosmic Rays". In it, Cole and his partner come across a disturbed man beating another to death. Ordinarily, the player runs after the fleeing man until he climbs up a roof and jumps off to his death. However, the game does not tell you that you can save this man. The trick is not to follow right behind him in the chase, but rather loop around him, in which case you fight him.
  • In Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords, The Tomb of Freedon Nadd features two puzzles in a game that otherwise has far fewer puzzles than its predecessor. One is a straightforward arithmetic puzzle. However, the other one, about faulty hardware, has often left players scratching their heads. The correct answer can be found by trial and error or in guides, but good luck understanding why it's the correct answer.
  • These are somewhat par for the course in Kingdom of Loathing. The game's humorous nature means that a lot of puzzles rely on puns, jokes, or even information that is totally unrelated to anything in the game. As a result figuring out new challenges or recipes can take a long time even with large numbers of people working on it.
    • Riff's ocean puzzle took the player base months to figure out (and they only succeeded after he posted a hint): during exploration of the sea, 43 islands were found that each had a single strange tiki idol, and when those islands were plotted on a grid and connected with lines, they spelled out a name which could be used to summon the tiki god himself.
    • Recipes. "Big Rock + Hot Buttered Roll = Heart of Rock and Roll" almost makes sense in retrospect, but there are others, like "bunny liver + popsicle stick = liver popsicle", that seem to strictly come from left field. explanation  And there are others, like lihc eye pie (that's the correct in-game spelling), that are based on puns. These also make sense in retrospect, but first have to be found by trial and error.
    • Some of the puzzles require the player to know what the devs' favorite band is. This would be the Brick Joke variant, since hints at that very fact are sprinkled throughout the game.
    • The final form of the final boss is unbeatable without a specific item; if you don't have it, the only hint is that you need to "rearrange the situation." Obviously, this means you need to craft a wand by pasting together giant letters found in unrelated places to spell "WAND", with which you can kill the boss with anagrams of her otherwise-deadly attacks. This was later changed to simply having to go dig up the wand from a wizard's grave, although crafting the wand is still an option if you have the items needed and don't want to waste time.
    • Unlocking the hard mode form of the Zombie Homeowners Association boss in Dreadslyvania took the playerbase significantly longer than any other boss in the dungeon. Each boss requires a certain item to be worn or eaten or drunk before fighting them. How do you get the item to trigger the Zombie's hardmode? Obviously you need to get a muddy skirt to drop off of a zombie in the village, get a seed pod from the woods outside the village and then dance in a ballroom while wearing said skirt so that the seed pod breaks open and covers your skirt in seeds that then sprout into weeds. Homeowners hate weeds after all. And this is derived from a specific experience one of the devs had with his own homeowners' association. Players who listened to the radio show may remember him talking about it, but for the majority of players who don't it was completely out of left field.
  • Max Gentlemen Sexy Business!: The third campaign opens with one. Cashious Villionaire uses the Sanctus Lapis Fortunum to control your actions, changing all of your dialogue options to do whatever he tells you. He will do this over and over again, in an attempt to break the player, but there is no option to resist him, or even to give in and stop the loop. How do you break out and continue the game? You have to skip the cutscene. Fortunately, if you go through the loop too many times, Cashious and your friend Angel will start dropping increasingly obvious hints about what you're supposed to do.
  • Metal Gear:
    • While the puzzle isn't particularly difficult or strange in terms of effect, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake deserves a special mention for containing one of the best/worst puzzles ever to be placed in a video game. It is replicated here in text form for your troping entertainment:
      You are attempting to bypass a gate, which has a high-voltage laser across it. Behind the gate, there is a guard, who has the ability to shut the gate off, and has been instructed to do so only at night. Your task is to somehow trick the guard into shutting off the gate. Thought about it? Good. Look behind the spoiler tags for the solution.
      You must backtrack to a laboratory, where there's a pair of eggs which can be taken. One egg will hatch into a snake, which eats your rations - the other will hatch into an owl, which will eat the snake if it hatches while the snake is in your inventory. Hatch the owl, and head back towards the fence. Then, equip the owl. The owl hoots, the guard, despite the broad daylight, declares it nighttime, and switches off the gate.
    • Metal Gear Solid:
      • The Codec number is an odd intersection of this and All There in the Manual, in that it's literally in the manual (well, on the packaging at any rate). Many people thought that when they told you to look on the back of the CD case, they meant the case of the CD you just got in the game (which you can't look at), or another similar in-game item, leading players to wander all over the levels either trying to use the disc, or finding whatever item was being referred to. There is a way around not having the game case: call Campbell about four times and Meryl's number will be added to your list of Codec frequencies.
      • This is actually an important exercise for a later puzzle, which you only can solve if you already encountered the game's weird puzzle logic. The telepath Psycho Mantis can play around with the vibration of the controller and makes comments on your save games. He will also dodge most of your attacks since he knows them before you start doing them. The solution is to plug the controller into controller port 2, since he is only monitoring the controller port 1. Once again, Campbell will eventually flat out tell you the solution. And if you still have problems, he will offer up an alternative solution which doesn't require messing with the console setup.
  • One that may take hours or be solved instantly, depending on how you think: in the RPG Blades of Exile you encounter a group of GIFTS: Giant Intelligent Friendly Talking Spiders, each named Spider. One acts as a Beef Gate and won't let you past unless you can prove you know the chief. The proof is to tell him the chief's name. Yes, the chief's name is Spider.
  • One optional battle in The World Ends with You pits the player against a pig lying asleep on the battlefield which wakes up and instantly escapes after a single hit. Pigs can usually only be killed by the weakness shown in their thought bubbles. The solution is to put your device in "sleep mode," which instantly kills the pig since its weakness was apparently sleep.
  • Assassin's Creed II
    • The glyph puzzles, where a common theme must be found between paintings, a code cracked, or anomalies found in photographs. Most of them are fine, but one or two of the painting puzzles are outright frustrating if you don't pick up on the weird hints they give you, or haven't been following the framing story too closely. Luckily, if you get it wrong enough times, Shaun Hastings can give you some advice that makes it clearer, but until then, who knows! (and sometimes that doesn't help much) The codes can be even worse.
      • Of particular note is the code wheel in the 18th glyph- for one thing, it involves Sumerian numerals, and it's highly unlikely you'd know what they were in the first place until Shaun gives you the hint, but even with the hint, it's still an absurdly difficult puzzle.
      • And then there's the code in the 20th glyph, which gives no real hints to the solution, and even Shaun is so puzzled he can't give you any help.
      • The glyph puzzles seem to be targeted directly at players familiar with the puzzle style of alternate reality games, and as they're off the critical path you don't actually have to solve them to complete the game.
  • The Hell's Gate dungeon in Tactics Ogre. Checking the Warren Report has a rumour about Hell's Gate opening up, but a player would have to specifically check for that rumour in particular in order to access it. The Shaman sidequest also has a similar example, as well as recruiting all the four sisters - If one has Sisteena and Selye, they will show up in a scene when Olivia is recruited (she is the only one who joins by default), then before one fights the fourth sister, Shelley, you are given a large hint that she's playable and that you shouldn't kill her. Of course, after that, it's a wonder how people discovered it.
  • Assassin's Creed: Unity has the Nostradamus Enigmas. These are 18 challenges throughout the game that contain 3 or 4 riddles each. Each riddle leads the player to another riddle until they reach the end. What makes this challenging is the locations of the next riddle are never consistent. Sometimes one Enigma's riddles will keep the player within a small area, other times the next riddle will be hundreds of kilometers away.
  • Beating the Final Boss of Chrono Cross (correctly) requires spells with certain colors and sounds associated with them to be cast in a certain order. Without casting the spells in the correct order, beating the boss correctly would be impossible. While the correct order is found in a few places in the game, it's very rarely in a way that call attention to it. The most obvious place is a boss that uses it as the answer to riddles, but this is A) optional and B) perfectly possible to mess up.
    • Also of note is that the tune that the Chrono Cross plays is composed of the first few notes that make up what is the theme song of the game: The Unstolen Jewel.
    • Additionally, the order is intentionally hinted at and countered by the final boss, who will use the opposite element of whatever the next in the order is until he is low on health. When his health is low, he will instead casts the elements in the correct order, allowing you to simply use the MacGuffin when the pattern is done.
  • Everything about the old PC FPS game that time (wisely) forgot, Bloodwings: Pumpkinhead's Revenge, follows a form of moon logic that even the developers probably didn't get half the time, from using a fire extinguisher to cross pools of lava and using a shovel to smash a crystal to upgrade your main weapon.
  • Some of RuneScape's quests have puzzles like this, ranging from the hard to the ridiculous. At one point, you find yourself in a prison cell. You need to attract the attention of your deaf neighbour through the window between your cells. To do this punch a hole in an accordion with a broken ink bottle, put a pipe into the hole, airproof the hole with inky paper, use your makeshift vacuum pump to catch a seagull, then play the accordion to fire the seagull into your neighbour's room.
  • Many puzzles in Silent Hill 3 become this on Hard Riddle difficulty.
    • This hideous puzzle, involving a keypad, and a poem about mutilating a face from which you are supposed to deduce the code. Even if you manage to figure out that the face corresponds to the keypad, you also need to figure out what parts of the face correspond to which buttons, and even then you end up with five numbers instead of the four needed. If you want to know exactly how much effort it asks of you to solve it, see here (search for "puz_02") for the solution. It doesn't help that a note from Stanley about the puzzle mentions "4 numbers would've been good enough, but he kept on going", even though the code is only four numbers. Even worse, it turns out the puzzle was made much, much harder due to a miscommunication during development. The writers assumed the first row of the keypad would be "7-8-9", and the artists assumed the first row would be "1-2-3", and then when someone tried to fix the puzzle to match the new keypad layout, they switched two of the numbers.
    • 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. Like the keypad puzzle, this was made harder due to a developer error. The dev notes say you're supposed to rank the birds in order from Heaven to Hell once you've figured out which stanza matches which bird. This is never mentioned anywhere in game.
    • Hard Mode has the Shakespeare puzzle, which requires intimate knowledge of Shakespeare's plays to decipher a numeric code. Failing that, you had other subtle clues in most of them to decipher if you don't. The first two stanzas aren't too hard to match up, but the other three are trickier (it doesn't help that even the developer notes are vague about which stanzas match which play, or even if the "one stanza = one play" rule still applies.) Even if you figure that out, you still have to figure out that the last stanza doesn't refer to a play at all, but means that you need to multiply two of the numbers corresponding to the plays and remove another one.
  • The video game adaptation of Who Framed Roger Rabbit has a puzzle requiring the player to call Jessica Rabbit for clues on how to progress. As noted in the Angry Video Game Nerd's review, most players would think to find a phone in-game to call Jessica with, when they actually have to call her toll-free number in real life and get the clues from Jessica's recording. But don't bother calling nowadays; it now leads to a porn line.
  • The following quote for the Zero Punctuation review of Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure is actually talking about how the game averts this by only holding one item at a time.
    "Most of your average adventure game experience was spent carting a truckload of miscellaneous knick-knacks around, patiently rubbing them all one by one against everything else in the hope of hopping onto the train of logic unique to the game's designer."
  • Paper Mario:
    • In Super Paper Mario's fifth chapter, all the Cragnons are kidnapped by the Floro Sapiens. Now, seeing this, you'll more than likely go ahead and follow them, hoping to save them. Your progress will then be stopped by a series of three blocks. Seeing this, maybe some people will realize that you need to hit these in a specific combination. Not too difficult, you only had to hit each of the three blocks once. However, you'll later come across another series of blocks. If you tried to hit them once each again, you'll be waiting a while. Turns out this combination is much, much longer. So how does one figure out this combination? Well, it turns out the Floro Sapians didn't kidnap all of the Cragnons, just a lot of them. If you go back, you'll find several, specifically one named Jasperoid, who will give you this combination. But only if you'll ask for it nicely, for which you have to type in the word "please" five times. He'll then give you the combination. Also, some may be tripped up by the fact that the combination is spread on two different text sheets, which you may think implies that there is a third series that the second sheet is for. It's all for that one, second series. And the "please" dialogue box is case sensitive, and you have to do it several times to finally get him to tell you.
    • Paper Mario: Color Splash features a selection of nearly 30 "Thing" objects — real-world items you can use to solve certain puzzles. Each Thing puzzle has strictly one solution, and the answers can be quite nonsensical. For example, there's a big block of ice that you have to destroy. You'd assume the right Thing is the ice pick, which you've been carrying for about half the game, but the only solution is to use a hair dryer to melt the ice. Other bizarre puzzles include bringing a bottle opener and a basin to a volcanonote , or balloons to a military basenote .
      • This is, however, mitigated significantly by the fact that the game's hub area has an NPC that will tell you which Thing or Things you need next, which means you just have to find a spot where you can use a Thing and then use the one he said you'll need.
  • Strife features an interesting mess. A man at the tavern asks you to steal a chalice from the Order's sanctuary and bring it to the governor for a reward. This will probably get you killed when the governor locks his office door and sics several dozen Order mooks on you. You can escape out a window but it's still a pretty bad idea. You wouldn't figure this out unless you talked with the guy you were sent to kill by another man and managed to put two and two together. Notably, doing this early on makes the game unwinnable since after finishing a few Front missions, you need to talk to the Governor to get your next mission. So even if you survive the attack you cannot advance the plot.
  • The RPG Albion has a weird little example. You are in a room. There are two doors and a sign on the wall saying you may go through the doors if you want. Naturally, if you try to open the doors, they are locked. The solution? Well, if you try a door a second time, it will open with no problem. Likely, you'll puzzle over it for some time the first time and try everything (there's not much you can do), and then manage to get out without knowing how you did it, but if trying it a second time immediately see what the trick was.
  • In order to beat the next to last level of the first X-Men game for Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, you need to destroy a computer terminal and wait for Professor Xavier to tell you to "Reset the computer now!" How? By pushing the reset button on the console itself. This made the game impossible to beat on the Sega Nomad since that system didn't have a reset button. Way to think ahead, Sega.
  • Doodle God is this. It's all that is. There is no plot except you combining random objects, sometimes sensibly (lava + water = steam and stone), sometimes randomly (fish + knowledge = octopus?)note 
  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: In order to cross through the final Miasma Stream and face the final boss, you need to find the Unknown Element hidden in the desert. Getting the Unknown Element involves casting certain spells on certain landmarks in a certain order throughout the desert. Said order is disguised as a poem told to you by Gurdy. Problem is, Gurdy tells you the poem in a sequence of Random Encounters with him. This combined with the extreme non-linearity of the game means that the player might not have gotten the poem from Gurdy before reaching the desert -or worse, gotten it so long before that by the time it becomes relevant they've forgotten about it. Once you've triggered the random encounter the only way to see the poem again is to flip through your journal... Assuming you even remember you have it.
  • A well written one appears in Final Fantasy Adventure. Palm Trees and Eight, got it? Some people got it right away. Others spent years trying to figure out the puzzle. The solution? Walk in a figure-of-eight path around some palm trees in the desert. How do we locate the place in the huge desert (it isn't even on the map that came with the game)? You have to have noticed that screens with a dungeon entrance usually lack enemies. An unintentional hint is that the game lags when you go between the trees.
  • Final Fantasy X: Accessing the ultimate weapons involves deciphering puzzles hidden in seemingly random locations, written in a language you need to be quite far along the game to understand, translated into phrases you enter in the map on the Global Airship. Solved about five times in recorded history; mostly, people just get the answers on the internet.
  • Golden Sun: Dark Dawn: "THE GOAT LEAVES NO TRACE BEHIND." The puzzle consists of three goat statues with differently-shaped bases, three correspondingly-shaped holes they need to go into, and a floor that changes colors where one goat has passed, so the others won't cross its trail. It would be an impressively tough puzzle anyway, but the hint pretty much tells you the opposite of what you need to know to solve it. However, Insight Psynergy maps a possible solution if you think to use it here.
    • The previous game, Golden Sun: The Lost Age, had the secret to navigating to Lemuria cryptically explained through a completely missable and rather convoluted children's song in a remote and completely optional town on an entirely different continent.
  • Mega Man Battle Network 3: White and Blue features one combined with Lost in Translation. There's this sidequest called "Legendary Tomes", in which an NPC asks you to find the three legendary tomes that were stolen from him, and bring them back to him. The three tomes are Earth, Sky, and Sea, and you eventually find them in the possession of random Undernet thugs. But you're told a few vague hints about a "secret" the tomes have, and you're given fragments of a riddle (Sky upon Earth upon Sea) to go with them. Turns out, they point to hidden treasure. But there's a catch. Several, in fact:
    • In order to get the treasure, you need to have the tomes on you. Which means you need to solve the riddle and hunt down the treasure before giving the tomes back to your client, or it'll be lost. Nothing hints at this, and it runs contrary to RPG sidequest logic, which generally rewards you for being nice and returning the NPC's lost items as soon as possible. More awkwardly, nearly every other job request in this game plays that straight.
    • Secondly, that "Sky above Earth, Earth above Sea" thing? It's not as obvious as it sounds. If you look at each tome in your key items menu, you'll see their description, followed by a seemingly random series of black blobs and dashes. What do you need to do? Stack the three tome's lines on top of each other, in the order the riddle says. Then you'll reveal a message...
    • And herein lies the third problem. You see, the message is in Japanese. So if you haven't studied that language, you're stuck here. But even if you know Japanese, it doesn't really look like writing either unless you know in advance it's supposed to be text:
      That's supposed to say ハニワ haniwa, for the record. What does haniwa mean, then? They're unglazed earthen objects fashioned in ancient Japan.note  So now what?
    • As it turns out, this refers to a random object that appeared to be nothing but decoration in an area you visited right at the start of the game. In the Teacher's Lounge is a statue that fits the description.
    • What makes this even worse is that when you FINALLY find it, which REALLY isn't likely without a guide, Megaman HandWaves the whole thing by claiming there were symbols on it that explicitly says it's a haniwa. Symbols that are not visible to the player! Thankfully, the reward for all this is just money. An absolute fat ton of money, but still nothing required for 100% Completion. See it in all its glory here.
  • Shin Megami Tensei series:
    • So, you're Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, and you've just beaten the boss halfway down the last dungeon and found yourself in a huge, open area full of platforms supported high in the air on stone pillars. You explore a bit and... you're stuck. The path just ends. You can check everywhere for hidden doors, examine your automap for suspicious-looking squares with a missing wall, but to no avail (and the game itself gives you absolutely no hints). The solution? Walk onto the empty air. Indiana Jones would be proud.
    • In Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth's third dungeon, a puzzle requires you to fill two blank spots in a school schedule. The solution is extremely obscure, requiring you to shorten each class's name to a two-letter abbreviation (something which is never brought up) and arranging the schedule like a grid where each day of the week is one row (which is not exactly obvious since there are more blank spots on the schedule than the two you need to fill). On this grid, each diagonal line consists of the same letter, at which point you can deduce the two classes. Fortunately, you can just ask Naoto to solve the puzzle for you, which was probably what players were expected to do as a way to establish her genius deductive skills.
    • Persona 2: Innocent Sin has a part where the party are trapped in an air raid shelter under a school. The rules of this area are as follows: once you've entered, you can't find the exit, but one person did get out by using a mirror to find it. The solution requires you to notice that the rumour system relies on exact wording (which was pointed out subtly in the previous dungeon). No one knows where the exit is, which means that an exit must exist. One person got out, so finding it is possible. A mirror reflects things, including the normally unseeable exit. This means you can find the exit by looking at it indirectly. The party accidentally broke their only mirror, but another party member has a digital camera, which can take a photograph of the exit. Doing so allows her to point out where the exit is, revealing it to the rest of the party. Maya will explain how the puzzle works to you if you don't figure it out, but if you do work it out, it feels awesome.
  • Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening: During the fourth mission you enter a room with two doors, a statue and a staircase which leads to another door. The doors before the staircase are locked, including the one you just came through, so you have to go through the staircase. But once you're in the middle of the staircase, it will break send you to a room full of enemies. After you beat them, you're returned to the previous room but with the doors unlocked. You fight the miniboss after the door in the middle and the mission ends. On the next mission you will eventually acquire the item Soul of Steel which hints to the statue in the mission before. So, of course, you go back there but nothing happens if you try to use the item on the statue. What to do? After you acquire the Soul of Steel an invisible staircase will appear where the first staircase was! You can now use the invisible staircase to reach the next door.
  • Attack of the Mutant Penguins is as close to a Moon Logic Game as you can get. The Angry Video Game Nerd describes its bizarreness:
    Angry Video Game Nerd: From what I understand, there's a bunch of penguins walking around. You buy tickets and they go into a transformation booth where they become evil mutant penguins. And from there, they go to the Doom Scale — yeah, the Doom Scale. They jump in the mouth, and appear on the scale. So, you gotta stop the penguins by using a weapon, for example, a baseball bat. How do you get the bat? You gotta collect letters that spell the word "BAT". Where do you find the letters? Inside treasure chests. But how do you open the treasure chests? A key, right? NO, GREMLINS! Yeah, you collect what they call "gremlins" and supposedly, you drop the gremlins inside the treasure chest, and then it opens. But no, it doesn't open right away, it takes like ten seconds. The more gremlins you use, the faster it opens. But it doesn't open, it like, explodes. When you get the bat, you gotta kill all the penguins, but they don't die if you hit 'em, instead there's a bunch of power orbs that scatter all over. You gotta get all the power orbs to power up your bat so you can kill the penguins, but you only kill the penguins wearing hats because the ones that don't wear hats fight the ones that do wear hats. If the mutant penguins on the Doom Scale outweigh the regular penguins, the Doom Scale starts screaming and going apeshit!
    Angry Video Game Nerd: This is the weirdest game I've ever played.
  • Killer7's puzzles are fairly easy to solve (especially when you can usually pay a guy to have him flat out tell you the solution,) but the logic behind them is frequently no less esoteric, like filling a vase with water to get an Odd Engraving to float to the top to grab it, instead of just turning the vase upside down and dumping it out, or summoning a pigeon by flushing a toilet. Since the whole game is one massive Mind Screw, the bizarre nonsensical puzzles don't stand out like they ought to.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda has many hints that are near impossible to decode thanks to their vagueness and "Blind Idiot" Translation. One particular hint from an old man says "THERE IS A SECRET WHERE FAIRIES DON'T LIVE". Secrets in the game usually mean a hidden entrance that can be revealed by bombing a wall/rock or burning a bush, but the hint only tells you that there's something in an area where there's a lake but no fairies in it. What do you do? Use the Recorder to drain the lake and reveal a hidden staircase. Nothing in the game tells you that the Recorder has such power. Nintendo Power contained a short story soon after the debut of the game that narrated Link being stumped by this riddle, and sitting down next to the lake to relax and think the problem through. How does he relax? He takes out his recorder and plays some music. Given that the recorder usually whisks you away to a place that contains active enemies, this is especially counterintuitive an action, but the hint worked.
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, there is a puzzle in the Temple of the Ocean King where you have to stamp your map with a mark to find the next spirit. The stamp is on the touch screen, your map on the top screen. How do you mark your map with the stamp? Close the DS so the stamp is "pressed" into your map. This still makes some clever sense if you're playing on a 3DS, but will prove impossible to figure out to anyone playing the game for the first time on any console that doesn't have a clamshell design; playing on other consoles like the 2DS or Wii U require the player to enter sleep mode or back out into the home menu.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Master Quest. In the first dungeon, there's a room with a pool of water and a floating platform moving back and forth, which you have to ride in order to reach the other side, but the way is blocked by a spiked log. The original game has a switch that lowers the water level, creating a safe gap between the log and the platform. This switch is gone in the Master Quest. The solution? Roll under the log (or "crouch" with your shield).
    • The rest of the OoT Master Quest isn't too bad, with most puzzles revolving around looking for torches and switches hidden in the most obscure places. But when all else fails, play the Song of Time - you might just make a block materialize out of thin air. Because by the time you get to the temples, you're expected to know that playing the Song of Time when Navi turns green would make a giant blue block appear, because similar blocks removed with the song earlier would reappear when playing the song again, and Navi turned green around them. Furthermore, playing the song while standing on (or under) one of these time blocks doesn't affect it at all, which of course you have to find out by yourself (thankfully it's not above a Bottomless Pit). Probably the most egregious example is in the Spirit Temple: in one room, you have to play the Song of Time three times at very specific locations, in order to safely drop a box you need to hold down a switch from one time block to another so you can reach it, and if you screw up, the box falls into a Bottomless Pit instead and you have to Puzzle Reset.
    • Hero's Cave in a linked Oracle of Ages game has a room with a Hamiltonian Path Puzzle. However, no matter which path you take, you're always going to end up with at least one spare blue tile. You're supposed to use the Cane of Somaria to cover this tile with a block (which is red!).
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: "The Eighth Heroine" sidequest requires Link to find a statue of the titular heroine, with the only hint given that someone in Gerudo Town might know about her. One would assume it would be the librarian who tells Link about the seven other heroines, but she doesn’t even interact with the quest — her dialogue stays the same as ever. Instead Link finds the Eighth Heroine's location by... feeding the chief's pet seal, who turns out to be an oracle and can at random tell Link the rough location of the statue or just give him pun-heavy advice, either of which it only gives if fed a certain type of fruit (all other fruits randomly pull from a different pool of advice). Also it's the only talking animal in the game (in seal-speak; it requires a human translator), so most players wouldn't even be aware that asking an animal was a possibility.
  • Another World had a particularly obnoxious one near the end of the game, where you climb a flight of stairs to encounter an armed alien soldier. Instead of immediately blowing him away like any other enemy, you instead have to run to the other side of the room where, instead of blowing you away at first sight like any other enemy soldier, he'll instead start deploying mobile bombs that will never reach you and instead travel down the stairs and explode on the screen below you, blowing a hole in the floor. But you can't stop him after just one! You have to let him deploy about five of these things before they break through the floor completely. If you screw up and kill him before that, it's time to suicide and start over.
  • Parasite Eve 2: The only way to return to Dryfield is blocked by a gate that requires knowledge of Japanese calender phraseology to open. The only hints you get to the solution lie in a cryptic hint that the answer is the "age of the full moon" and that there is some Japanese writing that Aya can't read. The game actually gives you the answer as well, but you can only get it from an optional bit of dialogue in an earlier area of Dryfield (the area you're trying to return to, so you better remember to do it before the disc change) where you fought a boss. The puzzle is optional, but failing to complete it locks you out of the Golden Ending.
  • Prince of Persia 2 has one at the end of Level 13, with a message on the wall saying "He who would steal the sacred flame must die", and a giant torch that kills you if you touch its flame. To obtain the sacred flame and exit the level, you have to let yourself be killed by a mook on the same screen as the torch.
  • The old role-playing game The Standing Stones ends with a trivia quiz (a Shout-Out to the bridge scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail) where you need to answer several questions correctly to get the McGuffin. First you're required to remember how many experience points your character has (and no, you can't look it up at that point), then you're asked several questions about real-world trivia. You have only ten seconds to answer each question, and if you aren't intimately familiar with U.S. culture (e.g. "How many home runs did the Sultan of Swat [i.e. Babe Ruth] hit?") or nerd culture ("How many crew members were on the U.S.S. Enterprise?"), you're screwed.
  • In Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star, unlocking Artoria Pendragon as a playable character is a doozy to say the least. The first thing you do is go into your system settings and set your clock between 3:00 and 4:00 pm if you have version 1.00 of the game. This is only for patch 1.00 of the game (if you have patch 1.01 then you can skip this part). Next up you'll need to choose one of the main levels with a "Mystery" side mission on any difficulty. Then, you have to complete the Regime Matrix but don't defeat the boss in the stage. From there, you'll need to go to one of the following locations: Sector D in the Jeanne d'Arc stage of Nero's arc; Sector J in the Nameless stage of Tamamo's arc; Sector E in the Cu Chulainn stage of Altera's arc; or Sector H in the Tamamo stage of the Special arc. After completing the Regime Matrix and have gone to one of those sectors, begin to kill the enemies and make them drop health power-ups. Consume 5 health power-upsnote  in that sector after completing the Regime Matrix. After completing those steps you'll be informed that Artoria, King of Knights, will challenge you to a fight. Once you defeat Artoria (force her to retreat) you'll need to defeat the boss Servant and then you'll unlock her as a playable character.
  • Dark Souls II has Earthen Peak, a giant windmill tower filled with deadly poison, including inside the boss room. How does one remove the poison? Why, set the blades of the windmill on fire with your torch, of course! Despite there being no indication in any of the games that you can do this to an environmental object (only enemies can normally be struck with the torch) and it being in no way obvious that the windmill mechanism is pumping the poison (most of it is just sitting in still pools with no obvious source.)
  • In the titular Ringed City from the Dark Souls III DLC, there's a wall with the inscription "Show Your Humanity". How do you show your humanity? Being embered? Unequipping your armor to show your human-looking skin? Bringing some specific NPC with you? No, you have to step into the water outside, use a Young White Branch (or cast the Chameleon spell) to transform into a Humanity sprite from Dark Souls 1, and then walk back up to the wall while transformed, which reveals a ladder leading up a hidden path. There's absolutely no indication whatsoever that using an item or sorcery that normally disguises you as something found in the local scenery suddenly transforms you into a Humanity sprite in a specific area, let alone that you have to transform into something at all, other than an obscure connection to the lore.
  • Parodied in Earthworm Jim 2's sudden quiz show in "Villi People"/"Jim is a Blind Cave Salamander", where neither the questions nor the answers make any sense (though, as suggested in the manual, the "right" answer is usually the most nonsensical/wrong of them). In order to answer questions, you require mealworms (each question costs a mealworm, and you need 9 to join the show). Unlike other examples, you don't need to join the show to proceed in the level (but once you join it, you cannot leave until you spend all mealworms), and answering "correctly" only earns you either more mealworms or rewards you cannot use for the rest of the level.
  • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance: Re-recruiting Shinon. You have to talk to him with Rolf, and then defeat him with Ike. The latter part is logical enough given the sheer contempt Shinon shows Ike in basically every conversation they've ever had (though still something of a Violation of Common Sense in a game that otherwise employs Permadeath) but Rolf? Prior to this, the two have never had a single onscreen interaction. See, you're supposed to remember a seemingly throwaway line from 10 chapters ago where Rolf played coy about how he learned to use a bow, deduced that Shinon must have taught him because he also uses a bow, and that because of this Rolf holds a special place in Shinon's heart that can be used to return Shinon to the side of good, but only if Ike humiliates him in a duel first.
  • Dino Crisis's door passwords each have to be deciphered from a Code Disc and a Digital Disc Key, with increasingly convoluted rules. Surprisingly, the final password ends up being DOCTORKIRK.
  • The Binding of Isaac:
    • Using The Bible on Mom will instantly kill her, unlocking the Halo (a pretty useful item). Nowhere in the game itself is this explained, and The Bible isn't an item you're likely to randomly use in a boss fight (it normally just grants temporary flight). At least the game justifies this, since a Bible falls on Mom's head and kills her in a cutscene, but no other item in the game has this kind of special rule.
    • Unlocking The Lost in Rebirth. First, you have to kill yourself in a Sacrifice Room while holding the Missing Poster. This will display one of several unique death screens on your last will. Each death screen needs to be pieced together in the right order, then you need to kill yourself as each character in the right order with the methods listed. There are no hints that any of this will happen anywhere in the game. This was a deliberately impossible puzzle that was supposed to be solved by the community as a whole, although the character and solution ended up getting datamined instead.
    • Afterbirth+ added an even straighter example. To unlock The Forgotten, you have to beat the boss on the first floor in under a minute. This will cause Mom to laugh. If you return to the spawn room, you'll see an odd shadow looming over it. Placing a bomb in the center of the room causes the handle of a shovel to fall down. While holding the shovel, Mom will constantly try to stomp on you, which will only cease for a single room when you activate the item. You need to carry this shovel all the way through the Mom fight and into Boss Rush, beat Boss Rush, then complete the shovel (mercifully making the feet stop). Then you need to take the shovel all the way to The Dark Room and use it on an innocuous patch of dirt in a random room. Good luck even starting the puzzle.
  • Borderlands 3: Played for Laughs on Eden-6, where Wainwright Jakobs and his boyfriend Hammerlock have to progress through the Jakobs family puzzles. Thankfully you just have to shoot people while they help you behind the scenes, but judging from Hammerlock's commentary the puzzles make no sense. And to top it all off, it turns out that the solution was written on the ceiling.
  • In Ori and the Will of the Wisps, the Midnight Burrows sidequest has befuddled many players. At the dungeon's entrance, Tokk deduces that the tall, medium, and short obelisks in the background are notes to a song that opens the gate. To do so, you have to Bash the high, medium, and low hanging bells on the corresponding order. After completing the dungeon and showing him the Ancient Tablet, he notes that it has the song inscribed backwards, which implies that, to access the Ancestral Light tree that increases your attack power by 25%, you must ring the bells in reverse.
  • Garfield: Big Fat Hairy Deal has very little instructional text and no hints. Combined with the game's overuse of Red Herrings, it's almost impossible to figure out without a guide.
    • How do you get rid of the giant rat in your basement? Find Nermal in the sewers, kick him and collect a wind-up mouse, drop it on the desk of the health food store so you can scare the owner and steal a spinach donut, then feed that to the rat.
    • Then there's the question of how Garfield is supposed to get to the animal pound. You find a trowel in Jon's garden, sell it at the hardware store, buy birdseed, go to the park, and drop it so a giant duck will fly you over there.
    • What makes this even worse: Those two examples above? That's all the puzzles in the game. Getting rid of the rat gets you the key to the pound, and getting to the pound with it frees Arlene and wins the game.
  • Super Smash Bros. Melee uses one of these to unlock Luigi. In order to unlock Luigi, you have to finish the first stage of Adventure mode while the 1's digit in the seconds counter of the level's timer is 2. This will cause Luigi to replace Mario in the battle that normally occurs after the level. Then you have to play through the rest of Adventure Mode, and defeat Luigi in his Challenger Approaching battle.
  • Super Mario Sunshine's infamous "Yoshi's Fruit Adventure" manages to do this in a Platform Game. The goal is a Shine Sprite on top of a series of elevated platforms above water, but Mario is not able to reach it with his regular tools. However, there are leaping Cheep-Cheeps in between these platforms.note  The solution? As the title suggests, you're supposed to get Yoshi to eat certain kinds of order to spray the Cheep-Cheeps with juice in order to create platforms which you can use to get to the Shine.note  But that's not all. You first have to specifically eat a durian, which in the level only comes out from Ground Pounding a hut that drops random fruit, in order to turn Yoshi purple and generate a horizontally moving platform to get to the elevated platforms in the first place. Then you have to stray off the path to feed Yoshi a coconut, which will turn it pink and make it generate vertically moving platforms. The only way anyone would know any of these mechanics is if they had idly experimented beforehand and then connected the dots somehow, which is unlikely for most players since you never have to use these mechanics in any other level. It's no wonder that whenever people cite the game's flaws, this level will usually come up.
  • The Atari action-adventure game Artefakt Przodków has a puzzle like this. How do you get past a wall? Why, you need to give poison to a small animal, then use its corpse near the wall to destroy it. There are no in-game hints to this either. That said, the solution to this puzzle is directly given in the manual (with a hand-wavey explanation that it's an "explosive corpse"), and the other puzzles in the game make more sense.
  • The Secret Level in Commander Keen 4 can be accessed by collecting twelve inchworms together, so that they form a giant flying foot that takes you there. That explains the strange sentence in their description: "Watch out where you step or they'll be afoot!"
  • Survival Horror game Tormented Souls has quite a few. Here are two examples.
    • Setting a clock to the correct date and time. The key insight is realising that the paintings in the room and nearby corridors are clues and not local colour. One tells you the required date, and the positions of the weapons in the others tell you how to set the clock hands.
    • Opening a safe with an unresponsive dial: nearby you find a diary page, with a drawing of a safe and the numbers 2-8-4-3-6. Go through the magic mirror into another room, with another diary which mentions switching the TV channels from left to right. Turn on the TV. Instead of video, it has still pictures of a die (6 faces), a 4 leafed clover, a yin-yang symbol (2 halves), a tricycle (3 wheels) and a spider (8 legs). Now all you have to do is see the connection between the pictures and the numbers in the first diary, and view them in the order hinted at in the second diary.

    Alternate Reality Game 
  • Junko Junsui/She Stirs, which was notable for being heavily investigation/communication based and only rarely involving puzzles, but it STILL gave into this several times. Resulted in several Facepalm moments for all of the major players when the solutions to each puzzle turned out to be obvious looking back, but only if you happened to guess just the right thing.
  • where.gif. Friggin where.gif! The image was a circle, and inside the circles was "square root of sixty four", mirrored horizontally. From this, the ARG gamers were supposed to figure out to find the digit location of eight eights in a row in the number pi (not including the 3 point). Keep in mind it's not an easy number to find even once you realize that's what "square root of sixty four" refers to; you need to calculate pi to 400 million digits to see it. And when you get that number you had to type it backwards into the admin answer box.
  • In the Groove 2 released their song-unlock codes this way every month or so, but no matter how hard the puzzles got the rabid fanbase could always solve them in a matter of hours, if not minutes.

Non-Video Game Examples

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Pokémon: Sun & Moon, Lillie and Gladion traverse Poni Canyon alone and are stopped at a puzzle where three statues featuring the three Alolan starters must be pushed into the correct slots right in front of them to open the door...or that is what the enthusiastic Lillie assumes, because as soon as she tries pushing one of the statues across a square, she's pulled back quickly before rusty spears try to skewer her alive from underneath. To her shock and surprise, Gladion goes to the door and pushes it open without issues, telling her that the puzzle itself is a trap to make trespassers believe they needed to solve the "puzzle" just to be met with death. (Notably, at no point beyond the fatal trap is there another gruesome example of a trap.)
  • Paradox Blue runs on these - although since the entities setting the puzzles are literally aliens, it's perhaps unsurprising. Want to try one? A prototype high speed train is travelling along a track when an identical train appears on the track ahead of it, going in the opposite direction. There are no points, neither has time to stop and the head-on collision will be devastating. How can you stop the collision? The solution: since it's a prototype train it's unique, so the identical one is actually a time-shifted reproduction of the one you're on - specifically, shifted a moment into the future. So, decide to release either a red or a blue balloon out of the train window. Wait until the future-you on the future-train releases a balloon of one of those colours. Then release a balloon of the other colour yourself to destroy the symmetry. (To be fair, this was so obscure even to the characters in the Manga that Izanamiel had to show up on the train in disguise to give them a nudge.)

    Game Shows 
  • A common tactic on Jeopardy! is the "tease-out metric", or an extra bit of info in the clue that helps hint towards the correct response (e.g. "As Popeye's adopted baby could tell you, April brings this flower." "What is Sweet pea?").
  • Some of the Bonus Round puzzles on Wheel of Fortune seem practically set up to be lost — RSTLNE only reveals about 1/4 of the puzzle on average, and even "three more consonants and a vowel" (or four consonants if the contestant has a Wild Card) sometimes do only so much. Perhaps the most evil ones came in the mid-1990s, where it was frequent for the bonus puzzle to be only three to seven letters long, with RSTLNE occasionally MIA entirely. Good luck trying to figure out that the three-letter "Person" they're looking for is GUY in only 10 seconds. Or in the 2010s, something else heavy on the obscure letters like JACK BE QUICK or ZIP UP YOUR JACKET.
  • The Pyramid franchise sometimes had this in the Bonus Round, where the goal is to give a list of things that fit six given subjects in 60 seconds. No hand gestures, no prepositional phrases, just a list. While this may seem easy for something like "Types of Soup" (just list things like "chicken noodle" or "clam chowder", and so long as your partner says something with "soup" in it, you're good), try doing it with something like "Things That Are Enshrined". The 2002-04 revival often had super-esoteric boxes like "What Tom Cruise's Dentist Might Say" or "Things on a Cave Wall".
  • Only Connect drifts from unusual connections into this at times, especially in finals, when they're deliberately being more obscure than usual. One quarter-final in 2010 had this sequence question, the answer being the next in the sequence: Central = 1, Circle = 2, District = 3, ??? - The answer being Bakerloo = 4. London Underground lines sequenced by the correspondingly coloured snookerball value.
  • Wipeout had one in the form of an obstacle known as the Shape-Shifter, a spinning wheel with three shaped cutouts in it that had to be traversed past. By how the hosts explained it, it was implied that you had to jump through the circular disc to make it to the other side utilizing whatever they gave you that way to do it (trampoline, zip line, swing, etc). However, in reality, it ended up being hard to do so without using the shapes as an assist of some form. Then again, in a moment of disbelief that left even the hosts stunned, Rico "Rolling Thunder" Curtis actually horizontally dived through the hole and landed on the platform with a tummy slide.
  • Many of Norm Blumenthal's puzzles on Concentration had easy enough clues to parse, but once in awhile, he'd throw in a doozy of a clue. For the puzzle "Great Day In The Morning", a drawing of a Great Dane would be used for the portion "Great Day In". Steve Ryan would get in a good one on Classic Concentration, using a pitcher of ice water for "Onions Make Your Eyes Water".
  • Idiotest is more or less based on these. Every question is presented as an image on a touchscreen, and contestants must touch the part of the picture that answers the question. Thing is, every question deliberately phrased in a way that makes the most obvious answer incorrect, and the right answer something else entirely. For example, the show might say "Touch the thing that always lets you see through walls", and include pictures of X-ray glasses, infrared cameras, and such. The correct answer? The window that looks like it's part of the background.
  • The UK gameshow 3-2-1 was notorious for this: the contestants were given a series of props and riddles and had to decide if it led to a grand prize or the Zonk — a dustbin. The clues were utterly bizarre. In one example that was featured on Room 101, the prop was a giant wishbone, and the clue was " "Take one that never changes, add a pub and a precious stone, bring them all up-to-date, and now, you're on your own." Obviously this refers to a package holiday to Istanbul (because the wishbone comes from a turkey, and the riddle indicates the modern name for Constant-Inn-Opal). The contestants seemed no wiser once Ted Rogers explained it, and who could blame them?


    Live-Action TV 
  • The puzzles in the Total Immersion game Red Dwarf from the Red Dwarf episode "Back to Reality" seem to be like this (justified in that the whole thing was an illusion designed to make the crew despair). For example, the one where their failure ended the game involved using the S.S. Esperanto's guns to destroy the Despair Squid, the "clue" being that "Esperanto" literally means "hope", and hope defeats despair. Another was realising that Rimmer couldn't swim, and therefore there must be a hidden message in his swimming certificates. Andy the game maintenance guy insists these are all blatant clues and anyone who didn't get them "must have been playing like puddings!"
  • Overlapping with Brick Joke: There's one episode of NCIS where someone is doing a crossword and says they are looking for a three letter word for "Mistake". This initially is just a set up for a joke, as the other person suggests "FBI", and the scene ends without giving a real answer. Near the end of the episode we learn the correct answer is "Err", which doesn't really work as "Mistake" is a noun and "Err" is a verb meaning "to make a mistake", so they aren't really synonyms. amusingly, this thread has people suggest "dud" or "sin" as answers, which actually make more sense than the canon answer.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Mindtrap is based on this kind of puzzle. For example, here's one: A well-known fashion designer wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city. She decided to spend a few days at a rural resort. Feeling like some fresh air after a day of reading and relaxing, she decided to go for a winter stroll. That was the last time anyone saw her alive. The autopsy revealed that death was due to the pack she had on her back. What was so deadly about this pack? Answer: It was a pack of wolves. And this is one of the simpler puzzles in the game. For most of them though, you're allowed to get more information by asking the other player (who can read the answer) yes-or-no questions.

  • It may not sound like one to modern audiences because of how damn well-known it is nowadays, but the original Riddle of the Sphinx from Oedipus Rex is very much opaque if you don't already know the answer. "What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, three legs in the evening, and no legs at night?" This is extremely metaphorical, equating morning/afternoon/evening/night to infancy/adulthood/old age/death is nowhere evident, nor calling a walking cane a "leg". And note it is indeed treated as such in the play, since plenty were eaten by the sphinx for failing to answer before Oedipus.

    Visual Novels 
  • Hotel Dusk: Room 215:
    • There is a puzzle where you have to close the DS to give someone CPR. This comes up another time in the game too: when you have to close the DS to flip over a jigsaw puzzle you just put together to see a note written on the back of the pieces.
    • The electric room puzzle is a great example of a problem whose solution is perfectly obvious in real life, but obscure within the context of a Nintendo DS game. You need to flip two switches at the same time. You touch a switch, and it goes up. You release the switch, and it goes down. In real life, you'd just use both your hands to hold both switches up, but the Nintendo DS can only register one touch at a time and freaks out if you try to touch multiple spots at once. So what do you do? Just touch both switches at the same time anyway, and it will somehow work even though it shouldn't.
  • In Last Window:
    • There's a puzzle where you're trying to prevent a Marie from throwing herself off the roof. The main, Kyle, is on the left screen, while Marie is on the right one (the DS is held on its side like a book). What's the solution? Slam the DS shut when Marie isn't looking to make Kyle leap over to the right screen and pull Marie away.
    • A puzzle requires you to get a key out from a music box, where the key is trapped in the music box's cylinder. You have to close the DS when the cylinder's gap is showing, then while the DS is closed press the R button so that the pin presses at the key, before quickly opening the DS and pulling the key out with the stylus. This puzzle falls into Guide Dang It! for most players, due to how convoluted and finicky it is.
  • A key plot point of Umineko: When They Cry is the Witch's Epitaph, a riddle that supposedly points to the location of 10 tons of gold. Naturally, it is extremely difficult to solve, although the clues make some sense once you know the answer. How hard is it? For starters, you have to be fluent in English, Japanese, and Chinese to even stand a chance at solving the first clue ("Behold the sweetfish river running through my beloved hometown")Answer . You also need an atlas handy (although in-universe, there are scenes of characters consulting an atlas while solving the riddle, so this should be obvious).

    Web Comics 
  • Being a combination of webcomic and reader-progressed adventure game, Wicked Awesome Adventure frequently brings its characters up against this trope. It lampshaded a Moon Logic Puzzle with this turn.
  • Problem Sleuth gloriously parodies this sort of puzzle, in part by applying the usual Insane Troll Logic to the entire setting. Even giving it its own GameFAQs category, "Weird Puzzle Shit".
  • As another Interactive Comic, Awful Hospital also utilizes some of this on occasion. The most notable being the correct solution to the battle with the Double Doors; when confronted with this, the answer is this.
    I can't be out of order! I'm not a door you idio
  • Tower of God is full of tests taken by the Regulars, which are often about combat, but sometimes puzzles. One run by the (rather sadistic) Hansung Yu near the beginning certainly has a peculiar logic: You're faced with several doors, and are told to find the correct one within ten minutes. The right answer is to open any door within five minutes; if you wait past that, they are all the wrong one and you'll be killed. Hansung always tells the Regulars there are no more hints, hinting that hints have already been given and they are sufficient to find the right answer. These hints are that, even though the room is otherwise soundproof, people waiting for their turn can hear the dying screams of those teams who fail, and it's always after more than five minutes; and that there's an analog clock in the room that has five-minute cycles.

    Though a number of teams do pass this test, only Shibisu is shown actually figuring it out properly, and he might well be the only one, particularly considering the other smartest Regular, Khun, is totally stumped because he's too much of an overthinker.

    Web Original 
  • The Ricky Gervais Show:
    • The much-hated "Rockbusters" segment. Example — "They're not the wooly ones, they're the ones that run and charge at you". Answer — the ram ones, i.e. The Ramones.
    • Karl also thought up a few "lateral thinking" puzzles. They prompted Ricky Gervais to respond with this one:
      "A bloke, just in his swimming trunks, walks into a swimming pool full of man-eating sharks. He walks around for a bit, and slowly gets out the other side, and he's not bitten or anything. Why not?" Answer: I was lying about the sharks.
  • The website/riddle game God Tower is a series of these. It is broken up into 99 levels; in each level you must deduce a secret password that allows you to unlock the next level. The only clues you're given are an extremely cryptic image (actually a Flash object) and the webpage title. Some of these clue images can be interacted with (which may guide the player in the right direction) and certain levels have multiple images. The game subtly hints that you may need to use the power and knowledge of the Internet to solve some of the levels by providing links to Google, an online calculator and a Thai-English dictionary (for the benefit of Thai players, as the website was made in Thailand) at the bottom of each level's webpage. Another peculiarity of the game is that it assumes you're playing on a Windows XP machine, as some of the levels may require you to use features from that OS (or at least have intimate knowledge of it).
    • One example: level 11 requires you to use the calculator on the Death Clock website to figure out the password.
    • A more involved example is level 21. The solution involves the player having to know the features and options of Shockwave Flash objects, pixel hunting, searching outside the boundaries of the puzzle, knowing of how to deal with password-protected ZIP archives and manipulate WAV files.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventure Time episode "Time Sandwich" has Magic Man steal Jake's sandwich and will only give it back if he gets past his time-slowing force field by solving his riddle which is, "When your face turns 7:20, when green leaves turn brown, the only way forward is down. Then you'll see, the wetter, the better." What does he mean? He meant that Jake has to be sad to be able to move normally. The arms of a clock at 7:20 resembles a frown, brown leaves stands for autumn which is associated with melancholy, moving forward by having a "down" attitude, and wetter as in wet with tears. While the riddle makes sense with the answer in mind, it fits this trope.
    Jake: That's not a riddle! That's wordplay at best!
    Magic Man: You try to come up with something on the spot!
  • Gravity Falls: "Irrational Treasure" has a series of these when Dipper and Mabel try to track down the secrets of the founder of the town. However, the founder's way of thinking is so strange that Dipper's logic can't figure out the clues, but Mabel's goofiness does. For example:
    • The note turns into a map if it's folded into a hat.
    • The map leads to a picture that looks abstract, but is in fact, just upside down.
    • The picture leads to a graveyard statue. Dipper tries to figure out what the statue is pointing at, while Mabel pushes a secret switch by pretending the angel is picking her nose.

    Real Life 
  • Zen Koans. Consider: A monk asked Zhaozhou, "What is the meaning of the ancestral teacher's coming from the west?" Zhaozhou said, "The cypress tree in front of the hall". This is an actual koan from The Gateless Gate. The real trick is, that's not the answer. That's a question. The student is expected to learn and understand this exchange, and come up with the proper response.
  • This math problem: Three friends are having coffee. They have 12 sugar cubes to share between them. Distribute the sugar cubes such that each person puts an odd number of sugar cubes in their cup of coffee.
    The solution: Person A puts 1 sugar cube in their coffee, Person B also puts 1 sugar cube in their coffee, and Person C puts 10 sugar cubes in their coffee. While 10 is not an odd number mathematically, putting 10 sugar cubes in your coffee is very odd; the word "odd" in this case also being used in the same sense as "strange" or "unusual", and not just as in "leaves a remainder of 1 when divided by two".
  • The MIT Mystery Hunt is practically made of these types of puzzles. Here is an example of an easy puzzle: It looks like a simple 22x30 word search, right? Nope! Only 6 of the 32 words can be found. The solution (official link here) is to:
    • Notice that (1) all the words are related to fractals; (2) the word "LEVEL TWO" shows up at the top left, indicating a fractal's second level; (3) the word search has dozens of different 2x2 repeated blocks. This is a clue that level one expands like a fractal into level two by substituting each letter with its own 2x2 block. Now it's your job to recover level one, by doing the substitution backwards without knowing what the original letters were.
      For this, you have to notice three more things: (1) there are exactly 26 unique 2x2 blocks, so each represents an original letter; (2) the word "LEVEL ONE" has to show up at the top left of level one somewhere; (3) 25 of the 26 letters (no "X") show up in the word list. After praying that you have a good cryptogram solver on your team, this is enough information to fully recover the first level of the fractal word search. (It'll be half the dimensions of the second level, 11x15.) But wait! Only 18 of the words can be found here. You've found 24 out of 32 words so far. To find the last eight words...
      You have to dive into deeper levels of the fractal! Level three should be a piece of cake at this point; you've already figured out how to substitute backwards so it's much easier to substitute forwards. Poring over the 44x60 grid nets you three more words. But now you run into trouble, since level four's grid is 88x120 and you won't have enough time to dig through such a large grid by hand.
      Time to write a bot/program to generate and search the grids for you! A brute force searcher might be able to grind its way up to level 10 (a 5632x7680 grid) before it gets too slow to use. This earns you two more words, one at level 4 and one at level 6. The last three words have to be located at even deeper levels; you'll need to write a smart program that can discard unneeded grid segments without generating or searching through all of them. If you get this far, you'll find two more words, one at level 15 and one at level 17.
      The last word's location is probably meant to punish any programs that weren't smart enough. There's only one word the bot needs to find, so this tests if the programmer is good at quickly eliminating regions that can't possibly contain the answer. The last word shows up on level 86, somewhere inside a 425,541,888,504,349,469,496,573,952 x 580,284,393,415,022,003,858,964,480 word search grid.
      Now that you've found all 32 words, the staple secret of the word search genre shows up: Write down all the unused letters (from the first level), which spells out a message that finally, finally leads you to the answer. (The message asks about the exact location of each word, too, so you can't just find 95% of the words to read 95% of the secret message.)
      After all this, congratulations! Your team has successfully solved one of the over 150 puzzles in the hunt. Good luck getting to the rest of them (most of them harder) before the 72-hour clock runs out!
  • Sometimes invoked during job interviews as a means of testing for lateral thinking. A question may have a straightforward "correct" answer, but that would be impossible for the candidate to know. An example given on the show QI is "How many harpsichord repair experts are there in Britain?" (Here, nobody knows the answer. Even official census results don't have enough information since "harpsichord repair" isn't profitable enough to have as your primary occupation.) The interviewer is less interested in getting a "correct" answer and more interested in how the interviewee came about it, as a reasoning test.
    • Subverted by Google, which used to be infamous for asking its interviewees several such questions. Time and experience revealed little to no correlation between a hire's ability to provide good answers to brainteasers, and that hire's job performance. (For that matter, numbers like GPA and SAT scores were also shown to have little to no correlation. Google now no longer uses any of these three metrics.)
  • Cryptic crosswords. Instead of typical crossword puzzle clues, they will usually consist of two parts: a generic clue, and one that requires wordplay or some other contrivance to figure out. (For example: "Tragic arrangement in A-flat (5)": "Tragic" is the generic clue for the word, and "arrangement in A-flat" is the "cryptic" part, suggesting that the answer is an anagram of "A-flat" — in this case, the answer is "fatal".) During World War II recruiters at Bletchley Park used a particularly difficult cryptic crossword to find potential codebreakers.
  • The crossword puzzles featured in Harper's magazine not only use cryptic clues, they often don't follow the normal crossword-puzzle structure. Sometimes they're arranged in a spiral; sometimes they're a whole grid with a few bold lines to delineate where the black spaces ought to be...Suffice it to say that they're very, very devious, and anyone who's brave enough to try one had better learn to think way outside the box.
  • The book The Mother Tongue notes that British crossword puzzles tend to be much harder than American ones, and often rely on rather complicated wordplay.
    • A particularly vexing one it lists has a five letter word, and the only clue is "Sweetheart could take Non-Commissioned Officer to dance". The answer is "Flame". The explanation? NCO is short for Non-Commissioned Officer, another word for "sweetheart" is "flame" and the flamenco is a kind of dance. What?
    • A less ridiculous, but still really hard crossword mentioned in the same book: the word is three letters, and the only clue is "HIJKLMNO". The answer H2O, as it's the letters of the alphabet from H to O.
  • The famous phrase "think outside the box". The "box" itself refers a classic puzzle, in which one is supposed to connect 9 dots in a box shape with 4 straight lines — which can be eased by going beyond the "box" formed by the dots. The puzzle itself dates back to 1914 at least, but it was popularized as a test of lateral thinking by management gurus in the '60s and '70s, who coined the phrase to refer to it.
  • There's a famous chess puzzle where the only solution is to promote a pawn to a knight of the opposite color - an obviously illegal move, but the framing of the puzzle is phrased in such a way that it is considered an acceptable solution.

To properly end this page, you must shave the bowling pin with the broken paperweight to make a key, and use that to return to... you know what? Forget it.

Alternative Title(s): Insight Puzzle, See The Sailboat, Moon Logic