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That One Level / Puzzle Game

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In games full of puzzles, these stand out for being the most frustrating. Expect moon logic and confusion.

    Katamari Damacy 
  • "Make Ursa Major" and "Make Taurus" in Katamari Damacy. Both levels have as their requirement that you pick up exactly one of a given type of item—bear for Ursa Major and cow for Taurus. While any one will do, in order to get the best score possible (and avoid getting mocked by the King), you want the biggest one you can get. The problem is that you're being judged by the original King of All Cosmos... and he is a fricking idiot. He counts statues of bears or cows (and in the latter case, milk cartons) as appropriate items. Nothing is more frustrating than spending five minutes building the Katamari to the right size, rolling towards the giant brown bear... and then bumping a bear cub and getting yanked out of the level. And then insulted by the King.
    • One of the Taurus start positions put you on the roof of a building. If you roll forward at all, you will bump into a tiny cow-colored pylon and—guess what? IT'S A COOOWWWW! (Level ends).
    • The cows and bears showed up again in a level in the sequel, We Love Katamari, but this time you had to get one of either. The same level made a reappearance in Katamari Forever. Making it much less frustrating was a new feature added to WLK that let you restart a level if you were unhappy with your results.
      • Another annoyance about the Cowbear level: It's also followed by two smaller Kintaro-Bears running in front of and behind it, which are very easy to roll into by accident. A commonly suggested strategy here is to first grow just big enough to knock over the smaller bears, but not catch them, and roll into them and wait for them to run away. Then you can keep on rolling around and getting big enough to catch Cowbear. And even if you carefully avoid everything and grow big enough, it's fully possible to run out of time
      • What makes it even MORE annoying is that unlike other objects in the relevant stages, the cow and bear items WON'T vanish when they get too small to affect your Katamari's size. This means that it's possible to have an 8M Katamari poke against a tiny windup bear or bottle of milk that is small enough as to be invisible, and have the level instantly end.
    • For a level from the original that's tough to complete instead of tough to do well on, "Make a Star 4". You have ten minutes to go from five centimeters to one meter. You need all ten minutes.
    • The North Star in Katamari Damacy has you making a star that is exactly 10m. And you can't easily tell how big the Katamari is. Good luck with that. Thankfully, the King is fairly forgiving.
      • It helps to look at the size charts before going into this level. Once your Katamari is large enough to roll up a Regular Tree, you'll know you're very close to 10m.
    • In Beautiful Katamari it gets worse, with the Roller Roaster. Your goal is to roll up hot stuff to hit 10,000 degrees. Problem is, it's far too easy to go careening into big bunches of what the level considers "cold" stuff, and you lose automatically if your katamari "freezes" (0 degrees). And those fire extinguishers... brrrr.
      • In BK the Roller Roaster level is doubly hard if you're going for 100% Completion, in which case this level has some unique items that you have to be pretty large to get. So you have to balance your temperature with what you pick up and as soon as you get the item you need to make sure you have enough stuff around to finish the stage. Also, the last level where you need to stay away from the black hole until you're large enough to pick it up rather than get sucked into it is like this. Once again, not needed to beat the game but for achievements.
      • These items include "Devil Kataoka". First of all, you need to be really big to roll him up, meaning you'll have to make time for cooldowns inbetween collecting things to avoid reaching your goal before you grow big enough. Secondly, he's standing in the middle of a shore (bringing an additional risk of accidentally rolling into the water), with snowmen at both sides - and these are almost impossible to avoid at the size you'll be at this point. Thirdly, after you've finally got him... good luck getting enough leftover non-cold stuff to finish the level. Luckily, there's an item called the Sacred Torch (also exclusive to this level), which requires you to be even bigger than this but also gives you 10000 degrees - enough to finish the level.
    • The campfire level from We Love Katamari also appearing in Katamari Forever. You must touch something EVERY FREAKING SECOND or your flame fizzles out in very short order. The objects don't add much fuel to your fire, and if you roll even a LITTLE into the water, you are extinguished immediately. That and Roller Roaster were two levels that a lot of gamers would have preferred to keep in the past.
      • Not to mention all the OTHER That One Levels that came back... Roller Roaster, the bear/cow level (AGAIN), THREE size challenges, a renamed version of Make a Star 4 that only gives you FIVE minutes... it's like they were trying to create "That One Level: The Game".
      • WLK is also topped off by a secret level that has no challenge and seems to be there for the sole purpose of throwing off completionists: the rose level. You can leave and re-enter at any time, and the game will remember how many roses you've picked up so far. Each time you enter, the game will provide one of three locales from other levels littered with roses (and bunches of roses, worth 10 each) to be picked up. The roses are all you can pick up, and they don't increase the size of your katamari, which is kind of the point of the game. You need one million roses. It's not for nothing either: finishing the level makes it rain roses on the main map.
    • Touch My Katamari brings us the diet special. The premise is that you have to roll up as many food items as you can, going up to 30,000 kcal. While that may sound simple, many of the high cal items are placed verrrry close to the low cal ones. There's also a lot of characters who will most likely end up sending you flying in the direction of fatty foods. And, while common sense can mostly dictate what items you should be going for (fish bones, good choice, jumbo burger, bad choice), there are quite a few items that have way more calories than one might expect.
  • In the Katamari Damacy clone The Wonderful End Of The World, the Cafe Internets level is significantly harder to get a successful score than any other level in the game. It's easy to become just large enough to make navigating the level practically impossible.

  • The Escapists
    • HMP Irongate, and to a lesser extent San Pancho. San Pancho introduces landmines and jeeps, so even if you try to dig across the former, you'll get caught by the latter. It also happens to have double thick walls, so you should have upgraded your pickaxe to sturdy if you want to escape. HMP Irongate is even more painful; It combines cameras and contraband detectors with Guard Towers and stun batons, so doing anything wrong will essentially instantly kill you.
  • Ghost Trick
    • The prison break is infuriating. It's carried out in near-darkness (unless you're in the ghost world, where time stands still) and is both a stealth and escort mission, made doubly annoying due to the fact that it portrays a three-dimensional cutaway of the building in a two-dimensional perspective. It's hard to know, in one area, that you need to have Jowd hide behind the stairs because you can't even tell that area is accessible. If you don't know that Jowd can hide behind the stairs, try figuring out without a guide that Jowd isn't supposed to go up the stairs normally, but has to jump up and go through a grate that one of the guards would be hiding in had you not opened it and made him fall by this point.
    • Even worse is the heart attack level, notably the one time in the game where you can pass a checkpoint after the situation becomes unwinnable, forcing you to start from the beginning.
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  • The slow-tempo stages of the Lumines series. Depending on how filled with blocks your screen is when you get to them, they can either be these or chances to milk craptons of points. Lumines II is quite nasty with these kinds of levels, putting slow levels right before the last stage of each of the game's Challenge modes. In fact, one stage that was in the original had its line speed halved for II.
  • Repton is a fairly straightforward game, certainly pretty easy by the standards set by later games in the series, until you reach the eleventh level, "Giant clam". On this level you have to collect diamonds while being pursued simultaneously by three monsters; their unpredictable movement means that often when you turn a corner to get away from one, the others will now be ahead of you. There are no rocks provided to kill the monsters, and every diamond in the field must be taken before leaving that area. Oh, and when you exit the area, a rock blocks it off, so the lower area must then be completed without losing a life.
    • There is a trick to make this level much easier. It won't help you with the lower area, and costs you one life, but it makes the upper area much, much easier. When the level starts, run immediately to the lower area entrance. When you finish it, make sure the three monsters are stuck right behind that boulder. Take the last diamond and lose one life. The monsters are now stuck and you can pick up all the remaining diamonds without too much hassle.
  • Tetris: The Grand Master 3 brings us Sakura mode, which has stages that can become nearly Unwinnable as a result of a single misplaced piece. Of note are the following stages:
    • Stage 8 — Two horizontal U-shaped structures that have gems on their longer sides. In addition to that, the X-Ray item, which renders the playfield invisible save for a line that sweeps horizontally across the field activating every other piece.
    • Stage 15 — A tall structure shaped somewhat like an hourglass. Unless you make some creative piece placements, you may find yourself needing to do the annoying "soft-drop the piece carefully then wait until it's at the right height" technique to slip pieces into the two overhangs. One mistake in placing pieces in those overhangs and you may as well skip to the next stage.
    • Stage 16 — The stage itself isn't hard. The killer here is the Roll Roll item, which actives every third piece and causes your current piece to rotate automatically every split second. If you just rush through this stage, you'll have misrotated pieces foiling your run.
    • Almost all of the extra stages count. To begin with, there's stage EX3, which gives you double-sized pieces to work with. Unfortunately, the developers neglected to also double the number of cells that a piece moves (to accommodate their increased size), not unlike the case with TGM1's Big mode, and if you lock a piece in an odd-numbered column, you'll end up with a gap that is completely impossible to fill up.
    • Tetris Worlds has "hotline", where only lines at certain altitudes matter.
  • Several of the gimmick levels for the Jewel Quest games can arguably be this, but there is no denying the monkey challenges. Here, not only do you have to turn all of the squares on the board gold, but you also have to put monkey relics in all of the available cages. The catch? Match up any three or more monkey relics, and whatever gold spaces they occupy are turned back to brown (meaning you'll have to turn them back, again), and they can be matched up with monkeys already in the cages, undoing all your hard work.
  • Level 8-2 from Zuma is the third version of the Altar of Tlaloc map, which wasn't too bad before, except now you're working with all six colors and a longer starting chain on a map with a laughably short marble track (about 25% of which can't be hit because it's Fake Difficulty under the playfield.) Players have entered the stage with a full set of extra frogs and lost every single one.
  • The N game has several of these. You play as a ninja who has to collect a blue block to switch open the exit door. Simple right? Now try doing that while avoiding the missiles, electric robots that follow you, the lasers, and the mines. Oh, and you blow up and die if you run out of time. Considering the fact that there are at least 500 levels in this game, there's no doubt that at least ten of them will piss you off to no end.
    • The one everyone agrees on is 88-4 "Mother Thumping Impossible". Narrow passageways, carefully placed Thwumps, mines covering the floors and walls, it has it all.
  • Tetrisphere's Hide n' Seek mode has any level with the rare Crystal Tower rules. Tower rules task you with destroying\moving all the blocks around a tower to expose the picture underneath. Crystal Tower is much the same, except now the tower breaks if you move a block into it, or if any block is destroyed nearby. Normally you have 3 lives but breaking the tower is an automatic loss.
    • While a breather after the Crystal Tower before it, the last Hide n' Seek level is the only level that starts with a donut with the blocks stacked all the way to the top. This means the entire thing glows red when you start, and you need to move blocks into crystals just to free some space to drop blocks into.
  • In the online game Psychopath it's Level 55, Spaceship. The object of this game is to reach an exit in the given number of moves, which will always be the fewest possible. Spaceship tortures the player with a dozen possible approaches that fall just short, making it very hard to choose the correct approach. Even the level's creator originally set it to 221 moves — then someone else pointed out that it can be done in 219, so now, of course, that's required.
  • The Nintendo Hard game Chip's Challenge has several of these. One of the most notable is Doublemaze, which is huge, painfully confusing, and difficult to navigate.
    • Another notable level is the aptly named "Totally Unfair". Earlier you did a level named "Totally Fair", in which you had to lure a teeth (which will always move 1 square towards you if they can) through a maze and onto a brown button. It was actually a pretty easy level. Then later on comes Totally Unfair, which is the exact same level, with 2 distinct differences: 1. You cannot see the teeth or the maze the teeth has to move through. 2. You have only 60 seconds to complete the level this time around. How on earth are you supposed to beat this level when you can't even see the maze or the teeth? By memorizing the EXACT pattern of the maze and the movements the teeth have to make to get through it, and timing your movement accordingly outside of the maze so that the teeth will still attempt to chase you through it, even though you're multiple screens away. Did I mention there are bear traps all over the maze? If you make any type of mistake, including not timing said movements EXACTLY right, the teeth will be stuck, and you'll have to restart.
    • Then you have "Icedeath", which is Trial-and-Error Gameplay taken to its logical extreme, the painfully tedious block puzzles such as "On the Rocks" and "Writer's Block", and "Spirals", which can end up nigh-Unwinnable based on which version of the game you're playing due to a Game-Breaking Bug in the level design that screws with the walkers' movement pattern. The Steam remake appears to be fully aware of which levels fall under this trope, giving you achievements for completing each one.
    • The sequel is even more prone to these thanks to all of the new puzzle mechanics involved. One of the most insidious showstoppers is "The Village", where you must guide a group of dispersed Chip clones to various objects and switches scattered around the area in order to allow your Chip to escape to the exit. The clones all move at the same time, meaning a valid move for one can spell death for another, and the order in which you must carry out these tasks is convoluted at best and seems designed to kill the Chip clones as quickly as possible. If you kill too many, the level becomes impossible to solve, meaning a restart from the very beginning. Have fun!
  • The dice puzzle in Virtue's Last Reward. Fairly straightforward yet annoying in the Archives, and very hard in the Q room. There, it's not enough to have the dice in the right positions, they also have to be oriented properly as shown on the illustrations, which requires a certain amount of moves for each of the dice.
    • Opening the pod room door in the Treatment Center requires you to play a game of Mastermind, except you only get ten chances to guess the password and it's randomized after those ten attempts. Mitigated slightly by the fact that numbers aren't repeated, but it's frustrating all the same.
    • The Pressure Exchange Chamber after Clover basically says Screw This, I'm Outta Here! and leaves you and Tenmyouji stranded in the chamber, because what you have to do and how you have to do it to get out isn't very clear. Also the puzzle on the door to get in and out of it requires a very steady hand in order to connect the dots, and the touch screen can be rather finicky. Even better? The game likes to crash randomly upon starting the puzzle. The PEC Room in general is pretty buggy.
  • Angry Birds: Any level requiring precise timing or aiming can turn into this. Especially in the "Friends" version, where you want to score higher than your friends. Sometimes, killing the pigs is easy, but taking out enough debris with them to get a top score is hard. Plus, some levels in that version work best on Facebook, leaving mobile players wanting to hurl their phone/tablet across the room. Oh yeah, and the aimer in most versions is a powerup in "Friends", rather than a standard feature. It also doesn't help that there are projectiles flying at the birds in some levels of most games. And yeah, you can use powerups but even if you have money/game coins to buy them, they lower your score.
  • Dynomite! has "Castle Dynomite". It's level 28 in the deluxe version and 18 in the online version, and despite not being the final level (the two versions contain 30 and 20 levels respectively), it is by far the most difficult. At the start of the level, you must be extremely careful with your aim, because you need every egg of the right color in the right place to clear out the rocks at the top of the "castle". Once you have cleared out the top three clusters of rocks, the level gets a little easier, but things can still go oh-so-horribly wrong if you're not good at ricocheting eggs around another cluster of rocks...which, by the way, is stuck to the bottom of the level so you cannot clear it out, so it not only gets in your way but also counts as eggs for the purpose of checking the warning line, so even if the ceiling is still 3 rows away from the warning line, you will lose if you don't immediately finish the level. This is one level where it is recommended to save not only before but during the level, since if you don't clear out the eggs at the bottom and fail the second half, you have to start all over from the "every egg needs to go in a specific place" first half. The two levels that follow Castle Dynomite are hard, but they pale in comparison to this.
  • Icebreaker: A Viking Journey features "Between the Lines", the level you access in Hammerfest after you rescue the Cutting Master and achieved 20 Par goals. The Par for this level is 4 cuts of ice. Now, this may seem manageable on a 4:3 screen, but when played on a 16:9 screen it's impossible.
  • Antichamber: Stairway to Heaven, ironically, is one of the rooms you'll end up hating the most; not because of its difficulty, but because many different puzzles around the game lead to it (it's quite the inverse of a Hub Level: it has a lot of different entries, but not many exits). It can be very frustrating to solve a puzzle believing you're going to unlock a new zone, only to discover you're again in the same room where you've already been lots of times. Worse yet, once you've seen the room's glowing balls, and therefore realised where you're now, it's too late to go back: the passage you came from has already disappeared, meaning you have to use the Escape button to come back there.
  • The 55th level of Ball Revamped IV: Amplitude, "Long Fuse and Run". You have to light the fuse and dodge lasers for roughly 15 seconds while waiting for it to burn. Oh, and the laser guns don't stop firing once the obstacle has been blown up. The fact that level 56's level select code is "painful" may not be a coincidence.
  • The Witness:
    • The jungle, and not only because of its associated mechanic (already covered under That One Puzzle). It has the hardest to find starting puzzle of any section (and the most confusing area layout overall). There is a section of sound puzzles where there are intentionally confusing sounds, including really annoying ones like a telephone ringing (even the bird chirps themselves are much more annoying than a pleasant musical tone would have been). The second section requires taking a detour to raise a wall with more puzzles, then taking another long detour to reach said puzzles. The final area of the jungle is a weird shepherd tone maze which serves no purpose other than confusing the player (even the laser box itself is the hardest one to find in the game, the only place you can see it from is the mountain top). And finally, the jungle is the only area of the game with an anti-shortcut! Everywhere else in the game has shortcuts that open up when you solve certain puzzles, but the jungle has a permanent pop-up wall instead, leaving one lovely path untraversable (and another one plagued with annoying noises) for the rest of the game.
    • The Challenge, the Brutal Bonus Level to end all puzzle game Brutal Bonus Levels. In a nutshell, it's a series of around a dozen or so randomized panels that all have to be solved within a very tight time limit (this in a game that, up until now, has been very much about taking your time to figure things out). This includes a set of three panels in which two panels are deliberately unsolvable, leaving you to waste time figuring out which one can be solved and then actually solving it. And it does this twice. And if you run out of time towards the end, it's a loooooong trek back to the record player to start over. And your reward for completing this madness? The line pattern for the final video... which then turns out to be part of an hour-long environmental puzzle. And you thought the cloud in Braid was bad....
  • Quadrax, the Block Puzzle game, has plenty of these thanks to having nine entries, even considering the difficulty of the later games:
    • Quadrax III and its level 44. You'll be stuck there for a long time before getting that last block where you need it.
    • Quadrax IV has 'Anubis', a Marathon Level that takes a lot of coordination. An early hard level blocking most of players is level 17 despite the hint scroll describing exactly the trick you need to perform.
    • Quadrax V: level 58, a Marathon Level that takes a lot of coordination and also needs almost half an hour to solve, but finding out solution will take much longer. 'Anubis' is only a slap on wrist compared to this one. The same game has also level 34 titled 'Crane Opener', which is played only with one character but is difficult due to somewhat original use of new mechanics, and level 69, which is level 89 from previous game but with Cutting the Knot option removed, so you'll need to finish it the hard way in this game.
    • Quadrax VII has a lot of these by courtesy of at this moment the game basically stopping being oriented at casual gamers, but level 73 really takes the cake. So much one can spend dozen of hours there and not knowing what to do.
    • Quadrax X: Level 70 because of possibility to change four basic blocks available in the game into any type you want, but only two possible combinations actually working. Level 84 isn't easy either because of shadowy main trick and it being difficult to perform.
    • Quadrax Neverending : Level 6, which even the tester of the game wasn't able to finish without author's help, and level 20, which is Marathon Level of all Marathon Levels (and longest Quadrax level to date), has difficult to find out objective, and it isn't that much easier even when you know what to do.
  • Sutte Hakkun may as well be notorious for insane difficulty later on, but some stages are absolute outliers:
    • Stage 5-7 involves making a basic vertical zig-zag path through the stage to get to the shard far out of reach at the start of the level. The catch? Even ONE mistake will cost you. Dearly. If you don't place the blocks in the EXACT spots (one placement forcing you to balance Hakkun over a bottomless pit) you will be GUARANTEED to either get stuck or die from the pit.
    • Stage 5-10 would be super simple if it weren't for the damned bottomless pit and the ridiculous maneuver you'll have to pull off at the start of the stage. As soon as you jump down the hole, you need to quickly inhale two blocks from the right and spit them out on the left. If you succumb to pattern following and do the same for the third block, you will either get yourself stuck or waste points having to jump and inhale it again (And if you forget to fill it with red paint, you're screwed.) The rest of the stage involves extremely precise block placement over a gaping chasm, with a ceiling covering the initial jump, meaning that slamming your head into the ceiling and falling into the pit is also possible.
    • Stage 10-7 is 5-10's older brother. The same tactic used at the start of 5-10 must be used halfway into this stage. Screw it up and either get stuck or say hello to the pit. If you don't screw up, then the rest of the stage is a still-very-tricky maneuver through downward-facing one-way walls, but at least it's easier than the section before it. Better quicksave!
  • Hardspace: Shipbreaker: Salvage Runner Geckos are the most hated ships in the game (as of August 2021). The big problem with the thing is its cargo hold, which is full of random salvage of the sort you'd find across all other ships. Including, of course, highly dangerous and fragile things like coolant/fuel tanks, thrusters, terminals and hydroponics cabinets, among other things that have given you grief before getting to that point. The cargo hold also shares pressurization with the crawlspace, thus leaving it isolated only by the ship's main airlock. And by the time you get clearance to salvage this class of ship, Atmosphere Regulators (the only thing that lets you depressurize a space without heavy winds or even Explosive Decompression) often spawn broken and unusable, and in Salvage Runners are especially prone to doing so. As a result, before you can even depressurize the vessel and get to the hull you must slowly pull things out of the cargo hold one by one and stuff them into the airlock before breaching the ship, or outright cycle them out to get them in the barge if they won't all fit. And if there's an Environmental Control Unit in the back, you're screwed, because it won't fit in there. And if you don't do this tedious work or screw up, and breach the cargo hold, all the cargo will smash around and cause a chain reaction of explosions that will reduce the whole place to worthless scrap. Thus, most players just avoid Salvage Runner Geckos by the time they get clearance.

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