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Try Everything

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"It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet

Subtrope of Trial-and-Error Gameplay. The inevitable process where, lacking a guide or any hope of solution after they'd exhausted the saner, more rational responses, people will, out of frustration, resort to using every single item/trying every option with every other item/funnily shaped spot on wall/steampunk eggplant. As the reasoning goes, you've tried everything else, why not Try Everything? Has varying chances of success and limited efficiency, but sometimes it's the only option. In real life too (commonly referred to as "Brute Forcing"). Can lead to people shouting, "Guide Dang It!!", because, really, if you're just trying everything rather than reasoning through it, it's just as brainless as consulting a guide — and it takes a lot longer.

Related to Solve the Soup Cans, where it's about situations that are impossible unless this is employed. Also related to Speak Friend and Enter, where the solution is so obvious that you Try Everything before you consider it.

See also Million to One Chance. Compare Talk to Everyone and Combinatorial Explosion, where the developers have the headache of coping with lots of items and only one way to do it. Related to a Pixel Hunt, where finding that elusive clickable hotspot often devolves into just clicking everything until something happens. If the game tends to say "I Can't Use These Things Together" or "You Can't Get Ye Flask", a player who is Trying Everything will likely get very sick of hearing it.

This is an interactive version of How Do I Shot Web? May result from Enter Solution Here.

Not to be confused with the Shakira song from Zootopia, which is a song about experiencing all that life has to offer even if you fail.


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    Comic Books 
  • One issue of Justice League Adventures has The Flash attempting to disarm a bomb wired to a keypad that required a three-letter password. Being The Flash, he simply tries EVERY three-letter combination at lightning speed, starting from A-A-A, A-A-B, etc. The disarm code turns out to be O-F-F.

    Fan Works 
  • Naofumi in Ambition of the Red Princess is notable for trying to absorb every unique material he finds into his shield, including different parts of the same monster, giving him far more forms for his legendary weapon than the other three Cardinal Heroes.
  • In-universe, this is what the narrator of Pokémon Strangled Red does when Steven is first shown after Miki's death. He can't pick up or receive items, battle wild Pokémon, or get useful information from any NPC character, so he lays down on the bed... which turns out to be the way forward.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Mr. Bean's Holiday: After Mr. Bean's antics cause a father to miss his son's train, and the next train skipped the stop his son was at, the father put the phone number of his hotel room in Cannes up to the window. Unfortunately, the last two numbers were blocked by his fingers. Mr. Bean's solution is to write down every double-digit number from 00 to 99 and call each completed phone number. Subverted, as father and son are reunited before the call is made (none were seen onscreen after 06).
  • In the climax of Star Trek (2009), as Spock is piloting the Red Matter ship towards the Nerada, the Romulan ship from the future, Nero, her captain, orders his crew to fire everything at the RM ship to keep it from impacting. Just before the missiles hit, in comes the Enterprise, piloted by Sulu and the rest of the crew. They don't have the firepower to take out the Nerada, but they can blow the hell out of the missiles and allow Spock to kamikaze the ship into the Narada. (Last minute transport, so no worries.)

  • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry has to get into Dumbledore's office, but he doesn't know the password. He does know that the password is always some type of candy, so he rattles off the names of every popular brand he can think of, like "Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans" (then he remembers that Dumbledore doesn't like those, so that's clearly not right), "Chocolate Frog", and "Sugar Quill", before throwing up his arms in desperation and shouting, "Cockroach Cluster!". And that is the password, which causes the bemused Harry to say “Cockroach Cluster? I was only joking …”
  • Idlewild presents the human race with a puzzle in the form of a Depopulation Bomb disease. The only success was a crazy mishmash of genetic and sociological sampling from around the world, bioengineering a novel immune system, multiple sterile safehouses, tons of drugs, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence.

    Live-Action TV 
  • CSI: NY: While investigating the death of a mounted policeman in "Officer Blue," Stella and Danny surmise that the perp has hidden his weapon in a trap he'd installed in his car, and that it is opened by using some combination of the trunk being either open or closed along with both the windshield wipers and the radio being either on or off. After trying several combos and none working, Stella tells Danny, "Ah, screw it; just turn everything on." He opens the trunk, turns on the wipers and radio, and... nothing happens. He exclaims, "Rat bastard!" and bangs the steering wheel with his fist, sounding the horn - which finally causes the trap to pop open, revealing the sniper rifle.
  • In the 4th episode of Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, after the previous episode, where the Gokaigers were granted a new power for their Combining Mecha by Magi Red, the Gokaigers try out the other Ranger Keys to see if they do anything. We only see them using the JAKQ and Battle Fever keys, but it's implied that they tried all the other keys with no results, realizing that they have to be granted the new "Greater Powers" by the respective Sentai teams.
  • Lois & Clark: One time, Clark hacked into a program called Valhalla by using super speed to enter an alphabetical list of Norse Mythology names. The password turned out to be "Odin".
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: In "Changing of the Zords", Tommy must rescue Kimberly, who is trapped in a machine that drains her life force. Since the control panel is not labeled and he can't figure out how to turn it off, he goes, "Might as well try them all." and hits all the buttons and switches. However, this doesn't work, but he finally turns it off by smashing the control panel.

    Video Games 
  • In any game which has a numeric keypad (or similar combination lock) as an obstacle, brute-forcing it is usually a viable option unless the designers thought ahead and made the passcode prohibitively long or actually required the code to be found in the story first. This is especially true if the solution is split into parts; you only need enough parts to narrow it down to a reasonable cross section of answers.
    • Played for laughs in Portal 2 when Chell and Wheatley accidentally reawaken GLaDOS. Wheatley tries to cancel the process, but when he finds out it requires a 6-character alphanumeric password, his solution is to just brute force it, all while a very angry GLaDOS is reassembling herself in the background. Despite being an AI, he gets as far as "AAAAAC", only to realize that he skipped "AAAAAB".
    • Played for Laughs in The Stanley Parable with the keypad in the office. You learn the code when The Narrator remarks "There's no way Stanley could know the code was 2-8-4-5", and he remarks it was amazing Stanley was able to figure it out just by trying everything. Even better is when you come back on a second playthrough and remember the code from before The Narrator tells you: he gets notably upset that you didn't even let him finish talking and forces you to listen to some new-age music for a moment to "calm down your anxiety".
  • In many, many Roguelikes, drinking your unidentified potions or eating the stuff you picked off that mysterious herb bush is not an option for the sane. When you're down to single-digit HP and attacked by an entire pack of jackals, it may be your only option: "What's this one? No... What's this one? Maybe this one?" *is devoured whilst blind, sick and invisible*
    • When things get really bad, there's also the unidentified scrolls game, which has a wider, riskier range of consequences. Resurrection? Destroy Armour? Summon Greater Demon? Teleport? or Dig?
    • How about wands? "I wonder what this does?" *Killer Elephant is turned into a newt* "How about this one?" *The Death Ray hits the monster! The Death Ray bounces! The Death Ray hits you! ...Do you want your possessions identified?*
  • The codec frequency for Meryl in Metal Gear Solid was actually given on the back of the game box, leaving the people who didn't work this out to resort to calling every frequency, because you couldn't progress without it.
    • The Colonel does say that it's on "the back of the CD case", but Snake was given a CD in-game not long before that you can't examine, whence stems much confusion, especially if you're not familiar with Metal Gear's trademark fourth-wall-breakery.
    • This was also a detriment to people who didn't have access to the CD case for either borrowing or renting the game, and thus had no way of finding out what it was even if they did know what the Colonel was talking about. Luckily, the needed frequency in question happens to be very close to the logical starting point of 140.00.
    • There was a similar experience in the original NES Metal Gear, made even worse by the fact that he would only answer your calls if you called him from certain rooms.
  • In Professor Layton, solving many puzzles simply requires inputting a letter or single-digit number. Players who are stumped can Try Everything by going through the entire alphabet or number line until they hit the right answer. You lose picarats for getting wrong answers, but only up to twice per puzzle, so if you've already gotten two wrong answers you have nothing to lose by doing this.
    • Some puzzles, however, have no brute-force method. And others have multiple digits or use entire words; in those puzzles, trying the brute-force method would take ages.
    • Lampshaded in Diabolical Box where one of Layton's lines after getting a puzzle wrong is "Well... I suppose that's one possibility eliminated."
  • Metroid:
    • In this game you can only progress by destroying walls, floors or ceilings. However, only certain pieces are destructible, but there is no way you can distinguish these pieces. You either have to know, or are simply required to try to destroy every piece of floor, wall or ceiling in the game in order to progress...
    • Averted for most locations in most 2D Metroid titles because the Power Bomb will clear the screen and reveal any destructible blocks.
  • During the courtroom segments of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, players who are stumped as to which piece of evidence to present often resort to Save Scumming and simply try presenting every piece of evidence until they get it right.
    • Doing this out of court has a running gag of Wright showing off his Attorney's Badge, something nearly every NPC responds to. Main characters (such as Maya and Gumshoe) will note he has shown them before.
    • If you're Genre Savvy, you never even bother with your attorney's badge, just to save time. Which will screw you over in 1-4, since it's the only item that gets the old guy to respond. In the following case, if you show your badge to Gumshoe, he will still say you're "always flashing it around", despite you never having shown it to him before. A similar event happens in 2-2, where showing your attorney's badge to not-Director Hotti is the only way to convince him to share information with you regarding Ini Miney's accident.
    • And in Trials and Tribulations, this will screw you over, in that the response for the correctly used item is the exact same as the usage for everything else. Well, for about 3 panels in, but if you're trying everything, that's all you're going to look before you reset.
    • Some of the games will actually punish players for trying to brute force their way in the trials by making it where the penalties are so high that sometimes you literally just have one shot to get it right. Of course, this will induce more Save Scumming.
    • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney and Dual Destinies take most of the fun out of Trying Everything outside court rooms—witnesses would previously give unique and comical responses to irrelevant pieces of evidence, but now they will give the boilerplate "I don't know" dialogue unless the key item is presented to them.
    • Dual Destinies practically encourages Trying Everything with the Mood Matrix, which only has four options for every statement in a testimony, incurs no penalties, and occasionally veers into Moon Logic Puzzle territory.
    • In Dual Destinies, they even parody this tendency if you have Athena present something to Apollo that he doesn't have a set response to:
      Apollo: Yes! Nice one, Athena. Keep it up! I don't care if it's totally unrelated to the case or just plain annoying or even embarrassing. Just keep presenting evidence without any regard for others! That's the first step towards becoming a successful trial lawyer!
      Athena: Leave to to me! I'll present one piece after another, and then another!
  • The first two Discworld games suffer from such ridiculous (albeit hilarious) logic that this is required more often than not.
  • In the fifth episode of Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People, when Strong Bad calls Videlectrix and asks for a tip on how to complete a Videlectrix game, he is advised to try to use everything with everything.
  • Although A Vampyre Story mostly averts this trope, it has one puzzle that appears to be designed around it — you have to take an item from a stack of several, try to use it, return to the stack, notice that one of these things is not like the others, then take that and use it to solve the puzzle. The problem is that until you try using the incorrect item the game won't acknowledge that there's anything notable about the rest of the stack, nor will it give you any other hint that might suggest a need to return to something you've apparently exhausted. It looks as though the designers expect you to get desperate and start trying everything to eventually bring you back to the stack to find out that "hey, this one looks different, let's try it."
  • Theresia: Dear Emile does its best to avert this by way of Booby Traps. Clicking on everything tends to result in getting peppered with arrows or stabbed by a flying knife.
  • La-Mulana punishes players who resort to this:
    • One method is lightning bolts. It even warns you about this in the manual. It even shows you a picture of exactly what will happen to you. These usually are used when the developers don't want you to just whip everything in the room to try solving a puzzle. Sometimes this behavior makes sense, because Lemeza is nominally an archaeologist; sometimes it just seems cruel. The lightning bolts are particularly evil because the game has optional collectibles, some of which can only be found by randomly whipping every wall looking for secret areas. Then again, they are mostly optional.
    • Other times, this type of behavior is discouraged by only giving you one chance to solve a puzzle.
  • Scribblenauts actually encourages you to do this, and they really do mean try everything.
  • PHANTASMAGORIA! The game where sometimes clicking on rats makes things happen and sometimes they don't happen! There's no real way to progress other than to just do absolutely everything you can.
  • Being an Adventure Game, Telltale's Sam & Max: Freelance Police games include some of this. Of note, though, is how the manual encourages the player to try shooting everything and anyone with Sam's gun. This almost never solves anything, but the responses are often quite hilarious.
  • The only way to solve the mining laser puzzle on Therum in Mass Effect is to keep trying until you get it right.
  • The barrel puzzles in the Fade in Dragon Age II avert this. If you don't solve them within a certain number of moves, they vanish and a bunch of demons show up to attack you.
  • StarTropics: The robot in the submarine will at some point ask you to enter a frequency to continue. You cannot progress until you do. Have you lost the letter that came with the instruction manual and are instructed to put in water? Well, it's only a three digit code, you can just try them all one by one. The answer is 747, which is thankfully a fairly iconic number, so once you do learn it it's hard to forget it in future playthroughs.
  • Quite common in Interactive Fiction (and other Adventure Games as well), where players tend to pick up everything and, when confronted with a puzzle, immediately try to apply everything to it. A variant is the "guess the verb/noun/adjective or pronoun on rare occasions" puzzles, where the player has no choice but to resort to trying every variation on "use the thing on the other thing" until they find the right combination of verbs and nouns. For example, in one real-life example, "use whip on lion" gives a failure message ("You're too afraid of the lion!") while "whip lion" works perfectly.
  • This is more or less the only way to collect all the voice clips in Baroque if you don't already know how to get each one. Punch every NPC, hit every NPC with a sword, shoot every NPC with your BFG, give every item to every NPC; repeat every time something plot-significant happens. Add to this the fact that there are over 300 items in the game, some NPCs only show up on certain floors of the Neuro Tower, and every floor is randomly generated... yeah. It gets pretty ridiculous. And yes, some of these are permanently missable.
  • In The Tower of Druaga, uncovering the Inexplicable Treasure Chests could require passing through a certain set of points, killing enemies in a specific order, entering a particular combination of controller presses, or any number of other things the game couldn't be bothered to hint at. Players without a guide could consider themselves lucky if they figure out how to get the treasure on a floor and exit before the timer ran out and not have it be a poison potion. Of course, even players who tried absolutely everything were doomed to fail on the couple of floors where the treasure was a Missing Secret.
  • Grim Fandango:
    • The game normally gives the player enough hints to avoid this trope (provided you examine everything and Talk to Everyone), and the lack of a way to combine items simplifies things even further. Year 2, however, has one puzzle which requires you to figure out the purpose of a slip of paper with the words "Rusty Anchor" on it. There's exactly one direct clue as to who might be of help there, and if you missed it (or haven't been to that place yet), the only solution is to show the paper to every character in the town — which can result in interesting answers, up to and including beat poetry and a piano ballad. It becomes very obvious that the game actually expects this behavior, when, upon finding the right person to ask, the first thing you hear is "You mean, besides the song, and the poem, and the bar, and the statue by that name?".
    • Almost the exact same situation occurs when you receive a mysterious token with a number and meaningless word written on it. It turns out that this a coat check stub, but you will only find that out by showing it to everyone you meet until you end up at the coat check girl.
  • Three of the games in the Mental Series, these being The Journey, In the Woods and Mental Showtime, all encourage this, stating that clicking on everything to find the solutions is the best way forward.
  • A lot of Escape The Room games are so tricky that the player is left to literally use/combine every single item in their inventory, no matter how ridiculous. Sometimes this works, and sometimes the solution is so absurd that it results in a Moon Logic Puzzle.
  • One way to find Ad-Lib notes in Groove Coaster in order to maximize score and get Full Chains is to invoke this trope and just tap any time there isn't a note immediately ahead. You'll probably get a lot of GOODs but at least you'll know where they are next time.
  • The Witness:
    • A few puzzles have few enough possible path combinations that it's entirely possible, albeit time-consuming, to brute-force them. Many sets of panels attempt to prevent this by shutting off the current panel on failure, making you have to return to the previous panel and re-solve it (your previous solution remains visible, though).
    • Generally, the first few tutorial puzzles for each new symbol expect the player to brute-force them, then look back after three or four puzzles and spot the pattern that allows them to deduce the rule for that symbol.
  • The Journeyman Project, as part of its Copy Protection, asks the player to input eight-digit passcodes at three points during the game. You can either do what the game intends you to do and obtain the passcodes from the manual...or, noticing that the game checks each digit as you go along and will explicitly invalidate the password attempt as soon as you enter the wrong digit, try every single number for each new digit you get to. At worst, you'll have to retry about 70 times per passcode (as opposed to 10 million if the game only checked your passcode once you've entered every digit).
  • Each of the first two The Legend of Zelda games, for the good ol' NES, has a place where an item does something in one spot that it never does anywhere else in the game, with no hint that you should try it. Yes, it's needed to finish the game in both instances.
  • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, you can earn affection points with a character by finding lost property around the monastery and returning it to the correct character. However, there's no penalty for offering them something that doesn't belong to them, leading many players to simply run through their entire stash until they get a hit.
  • Pokémon encourages players to try different Pokémon and moves to beat the game, partially from the Gotta Catch 'Em All slogan which requires players to try every Pokémon in battle to level them up.
    • In the early games, the item-finder wouldn't pinpoint where hidden items where, only saying they were nearby or maybe giving a general direction, leading to players checking every tile to find the hidden loot. The item-finder often wouldn't indicate items hidden in trash cans either, causing players to check every trash can in the game just in case.
    • Lt. Surge's gym has a pair of switches hidden in trash cans that players must find to turn off the traps preventing them from facing Surge. Since there's no way of knowing where the switches are beyond being adjacent to each other, players were forced to simply check each trash can until they found the switches.
  • OneShot: In-universe, Niko can convince the Lamplighter at the top of the Refuge elevator to try brute-forcing the five-digit security combination. After many hours of real time, it works.

  • The players in DM of the Rings respond to the entrance of the Moria mine in this way. They are on their way to chop down some trees to construct a battering ram when the DM ends up screaming the answer to them in frustration.
  • Gabe from Penny Arcade runs into some difficulty playing Dark Cloud 2.
    Tycho: Man, I really thought you had something going with that Garbage Mail Clock.

    Web Videos 
  • Every Old School Computer Game, by Alasdair Beckett-King, in which an adventure game protagonist tries to present every item in his inventory to an NPC until he gets a reaction.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Looney Tunes cartoon "Ali Baba Bunny", Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck tunnel into the cave of a wealthy sultan. Seeing this, the sultan’s guard Hassan tries to activate the password (which is, “Open Sesame”, naturally) only to realize he has forgotten it, so he rattles off several different S-words (“Uh...Open, sarsaparilla? Open, Saskatchewan? Open, septuagenarian? Open, saddle soap?”) before eventually getting it right.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has the Cutie Mark Crusaders, who don't have their Cutie Marks yet. Since they're desperate to get their Marks, they try everything from paper authors, catapults, sports, chicken catchers and several other things to get their marks of adulthood. All with accompanying Mad Libs Catchphrase of "CUTIE MARK CRUSADERS (Insert name of attempted job here) YAY!"
  • Justice League: In "A Better World", Flash tries to open a combination lock by entering all possible combinations at superspeed. Averted when Batman tells him to try his combination, guessing (correctly) that the Alternate Universe Batman who set the lock might have used the same one.
  • Averted in Gravity Falls when Dipper is trying to access the Author's laptop and, not knowing the password, tries every possible combination he can think of that's associated with the Author. Unfortunately, it turns out that too many failed attempts triggers the laptop's fail-safe and nearly erases all the data.

    Real Life 
  • Security experts refer to something that tries to guess passwords by trying all of them as a "dictionary attack" (i.e., try every word in the dictionary), or a more thorough "brute force attack" (try every possible combination of letters/digits/symbols/etc.). A similar method, called "rainbow table", consists of getting one's hands on an encrypted password and comparing it with a huge table of possible passwords and their encrypted equivalents.note  The exception to this is the one-time-pad cipher; if you try brute forcing a one-time-pad encryption, you end up with literally thousands to millions of interpretations, and no way to know which was the correct one (that is what the key is for).
    • On a meta level, dedicated attackers will scout every possible opening on the system besides user credentials (and indeed there are often many; social engineering attacks, cross-site scripting, known vulnerabilities for individual applications,...), then try breaking in through all of them, starting with the ones more likely to succeed or least likely to leave a trace.
    • Some security systems counter this approach by freezing up if too many wrong guesses are entered and/or imposing a significant (and often increasing) time delay after each wrong guess. Some others feature Self-Destructing Security; iOS devices for example can be user-configured to wipe out all data on them after 10 failed passcode attempts.
  • Websites that require this in order to navigate the site are known as having "mystery meat navigation." MMN is a highly frowned-upon practice, as it can mislead users into believing that there is less content on the page than there really is.
  • The old computer axiom PLOKTA (Press Lots Of Keys To Abort). Ritually performed by spreading both hands wide and mashing the keyboard in an effort to make your computer respond.
  • This was a key part of Thomas Edison's process in perfecting the light bulb. He knew that certain materials would light up if you passed an electric current through them, and he had to find something that was reasonably cheap and durable. He tested over 6,000 different materials before he finally found what he was looking for (it was carbonized bamboo).
  • This was the origin behind The Cheesecake Factory's Doorstopper menu, going all the way back to the franchise's beginnings. Initially, founder David Overton had no experience in either cooking or business, and thus didn't have the foresight to know which strategies to take or what mistakes to avoid.note  His main concern at the time was not being too reliant on any chef that could walk out on him, and so he only put items on the menu he himself could make, and every single time his consumers loved it. Over time, the menu would grow to the point where its size would become a major selling point (in addition to its cheesecake).