Gameological Q&A

Assassin's Creed III: Liberation

Not Again

We’ve had enough of these tedious game design tropes.

By The Gameological Society Staff • March 7, 2013

Welcome to Gameological Q&A, where we throw out a question for discussion among the staff and readers. It’s extremely similar to The A.V. Club’s AVQ&A feature. You might even say it’s exactly the same. If you have a brilliant question that would make a fun Q&A, send it to brilliantquestions at gameological dot com.

The question for this installment comes courtesy of reader EmperorNortonI.

For every game that comes up with an interesting puzzle or quest, there are at least 10 that recycle the same, tired old activities that have been with us since the ’80s. Pressure plate puzzles, fetch quests, escort missions, and locked-door puzzles all come to mind. What is your least favorite puzzle/obstacle/quest type, and what do you think is the worst example of this?

Anthony John Agnello

Rhythm game challenges. Now, don’t get me wrong. Tapping rhythm games are a ton of fun. Like any reasonable soul, I love me some Bust-A-Groove and Gitarooman. But I find that the people who are not so capable at making little rhythm games are the most likely to throw them into a game. It’s infuriating to get into the middle of Kingdom Hearts or Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time and have to sit there tapping blithely along to some crap song. It’s the worst sort of sadism. Tap along to this song “Fishy Fun” before we let you go back to playing your game. Go ahead. Enjoy. Slightly related to this are “Simon Says” type mini-games, where a series of button inputs flash on the screen, and then you have to memorize and tap them back.

Dan Whitehead

The ones that annoy me most are puzzles that are barely even puzzles or obstacles—the ones that have clearly just been put in because otherwise you’d be in an empty pointless room. I’m thinking of any door that has to be opened by finding a large red button, or any combination lock where some philanthropic predecessor has scribbled the answer on the wall. Dead Space 3 has some pretty egregious examples toward the end, as you unlock various alien doorways that are operated by sounds that equate to runes. It’s a pretty good idea for a puzzle, with shades of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, but people must have struggled with this task in playtesting. Each one has the answer crudely written right next to it, with maybe one of the runes slightly smudged in a half-hearted attempt to pretend it’s still a puzzle. It feels like the game is putting an obstacle in your path then immediately helping you over it for the sake of something to do. I’ll tolerate a lot of design cheats, but patronizing busywork isn’t one of them. That, to me, just shows a basic lack of respect for your player’s time and intelligence.

Drew Toal

Having also just played Dead Space 3, I’d like to wholeheartedly second Dan’s sentiments. The alien door puzzle was so pointless that at first I thought it was an artless Unitologist ploy. In the interest of abusing something different, though, I’ll vote for pointless vehicle missions. The Mass Effect series is one of the more notable offenders in this instance (the Mako in Mass Effect, the Hammerhead in Mass Effect 2, some other monstrosity in Mass Effect 3). I get the same feeling playing these levels that I do when watching a particularly Michael Bay-ish car chase. It’s something that’s supposed to be exciting and cool but just ends up being boring as shit and way too long. If I wanted to drive a tank or a car or a car-tank, I’d just go buy that game instead. The true scope of the horror really becomes clear on subsequent playthroughs, when I daydream of crashing my Makogrizzlyhammerhead coupe into the nearest alien tree and getting a new hobby.

John Teti

I just complained about this in the Tomb Raider review, but I’ll say it again: I can’t stand games that make you mash buttons to perform a simple action. You know the kind: You have to turn a valve or pry away the cover to an air vent, and the game puts a prompt on screen with a throbbing button icon, inviting you to hit the X button a thousand times. I suppose it can be mildly effective at times, when time is of the essence, but in most cases, it’s the lowest form of busywork. For all their good points, the Arkham Batman games do abuse this gimmick, as does Asura’s Wrath (to the point where it’s almost hard to mind anymore). But my “worst example” is Dark Void, for personal reasons. I was playing through a prerelease demo of Dark Void with one of its producers, Morgan Gray, and we were having a fun conversation about pet peeves. I complained about this particular design trope, and I didn’t hold back. You know how the story ends: Not 30 seconds later, one of those throbbing X prompts popped up on the screen, and I just let out a quiet groan. Gray was an awfully good sport about it, though.

Joe Keiser

I cannot stand it when I’m playing a game and a traditional puzzle just comes out of nowhere. I’m not talking about games like Brain Training, which are just collections of that sort of thing. I’m talking about the times where you are playing a game that is not a puzzle game, but then a supervillain tries to stump you with a word jumble, or a village elder proclaims you the chosen one because you completed a sliding tile puzzle. I think we can all agree that, unless your game is about the wasted youth of a 70-year-old man, there is no room in it for an ancient, hateful sliding tile puzzle. Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation just did this a few months ago—that game is mostly climbing and stabbing, but then, inexplicably, an ancient race tests your mettle with a game of Labyrinth. I guess they figured they wanted their mysterious devices of immense power to only be handled by ages eight and up.

Ryan Smith

Fetch quests. When Mitt Romney and his conservative cohorts bellyached during the last Presidential campaign about all of the “takers” in society, surely they were referring to the handout-happy residents of most popular role-playing games. Not only do the feckless villagers of places like Hyrule, Albion, and Azeroth stand around and wait for some stranger to conquer some ultimate evil for them, but they constantly demand that the hero complete all of their menial tasks for them. Sure, I could collect 15 wolf skins for you in exchange for your mother’s enchanted necklace, but I’m tired of rewarding laziness. Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to zap the lake with a lightning spell, and you feed him for a lifetime.

Derrick Sanskrit
Zelda: Ocarina Of Time

It irks me when sequels have mandatory tutorials built-in to their story. In the second Ace Attorney game, Phoenix Wright gets bonked on the head, develops amnesia, and can’t remember how to be a lawyer for the game’s first case—just so everybody can explain the menus to you. Every 3D Zelda game since the Nintendo 64 has forced the player to stop what they’re doing so some villager up in a tree or something can explain how targeting works. Every Katamari title drops you in a safe room while the King condescendingly waits for you to prove you know every which way to push a ball before letting you get down to Earth. (Okay, the Katamari one actually reinforces the characterizations, but it still feels like a waste of time.) I get that these are important. Every video game is somebody’s first, and these are the base concepts that the rest of the game will rely on. I just wish there were an option for “yes, I’ve played this series before. I know what I’m doing, so just let me do it.” I don’t need the barista at Starbucks to explain how to order a coffee every time I walk in the door, and I don’t need an old lady in a treehouse to tell me how useful “Z-targeting” is. I got this.

Emily Gordon

I am getting really tired of seeing your character stripped of all their hard-earned equipment and abilities. It can happen at the beginning of a game (Darksiders, Metroid, God Of War), or it can happen in the middle of a game (Metal Gear Solid 2, Max Payne, Skyrim). It’s supposed to make you feel helpless, but really, you either just get a taste of how powered up you will be at some point in the game, or, if it’s in the middle, you just use mêlée attacks until you find the chest where all your stuff is.

Steve Heisler

Truth is, I don’t generally have a problem with any type of puzzle. It’s all about the execution in my book. If a puzzle is able to transcend its rote mechanics and become integral to the story or feeling of a game, then I’m all ears. I’ll fetch/tag/do whatever they want. But here’s a structure that I’m very sick of: being told to go find three of something. You know what I mean. “Oh, this magical sword won’t be fully powered up until you find the three orbs of infusion!” Aside from the obvious padding-out of the game, this trope immediately drains any sense of satisfaction or immediacy to accomplishing goals number one and two. It speaks to an inherent distrust that I’ll actually carry out the first two goals unless the game YELLS AT ME TO DO IT. I guess that goes with any puzzle, really. There’s no problem until intrinsic motivation gets thrown out the window.

Cory Casciato

It’s hard to believe that we’ve gotten this far into the discussion of worst quests and puzzles without exploring the dreaded escort mission that the question mentioned. I always thought it was the most universally loathed mission style in all of gaming, despite—or perhaps because of—at least one being shoehorned into every game. Sure, it seems like a good idea—the brave hero protecting an innocent against an onslaught of bad guys is a staple of action movies, after all. Unfortunately, they don’t translate at all. The brain-dead artificial intelligence that drives the character you’re escorting usually causes them to walk into the line of fire and die, forcing you to start over and do it all again—often with identical results. I’ve thrown more controllers over escort missions than any other single trope I can think of. One egregious example I recall is the “Escort Service” mission in Grand Theft Auto III, where you try to save an armored car from a band of Colombian thugs. The only problem is, the driver of the car you’re escorting seems to be completely unaware that you’re supposed to be watching out for him, so he’s constantly driving away from you just as he comes under attack. Even better, he also seems dead drunk, weaving all over the road, which makes it a chore to stay out of his way.

Adam Volk

There’s nothing quite as annoying as a pointless delivery quest. I mean, there you are, a badass Level 37 orcish viking wizard barbarian thief. You’ve slaughtered demon lords, battled undead dragons, and raided countless giant-spider-infested dungeons. The next thing you know, some lovable old farmer is asking you to deliver six jugs of goat’s milk to the next village. I mean, it’s not like you’ve got something better to do like, oh, I don’t know, save the entire world from complete and utter annihilation. Sadly, role-playing games and open-world shooters are riddled with these. They’re really nothing more than filler that draws things out in between dungeon crawls, but I can’t help but think that the world might get saved a little quicker if some people just used FedEx instead.

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  • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

    I hate pretty much every “puzzle” in games. I’m playing through The Phantom Hourglass right now, and I think Zelda games are pretty fun and stuff, but these aren’t even puzzles. Ok, there was one that I legitimately got stuck on, but only because I think it was really poorly designed, especially in context with the rest of the game/puzzles.

    On the flipside I love the fuck out of actual puzzle games. Professor Layton? Yes please.

    • Cloks

      I think puzzles are a legitimately important part of Zelda games but they were implemented pretty terribly in Phantom Hourglass. They should be about using the new items you get and learning skills necessary to take you through the game but you’ll often get a puzzle that’s just testing your ability to make all the blocks in a room a certain color. Also, who can forget the dreadful Pol’s Voice puzzle from Link’s Awakening? Ironically, Oracle of Ages is probably my favorite Zelda title and it’s the one that’s mostly pure puzzle dungeons but it’s done well and has the excellent Oracle of Seasons to provide you with an intense, fighty counterpart.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        Apparently I can forget the “dreaded” Pol’s Voice puzzle from that game, as I have no recollection of it, or indeed of any really awful puzzles from that game (though I remember some steps of the trading sequence needlessly obtuse, and the final payoff of a boomerang was a bit disappointing).

        • Cloks

          There was a room with three enemies that you had to kill in a certain order in the second dungeon. I believe it was a Stalfos, Pol’s Voice and a Bat. The hint was incredibly obtuse if you played the game without an instruction booklet.

        • https://twitter.com/tymcast Tyler Mills

          I only played the DX verison, and in that version an owl statue elsewhere in the dungeon straight up told you the answer. It was asinine, but not difficult or that troublesome.

        • bradwestness

          Yeah, the main issue with that one is that at no point in the game did they tell you that a “Pol’s Voice” is the name for the giant rabbit thing, or that a Stalfos is the skeleton guy, or that a Keese is the bat, so unless you had the players guide you were kind of left out to dry.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/gorfious,4040/ Gorfious

        The Oracle games are great.  They don’t get enough respect.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          Those games are fantastic, and their “play it in either order, and the second one becomes the sequel to the first in a larger cohesive narrative” thing still kind of blows my mind.

        • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

          They need a re-release STAT.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000590707081 Chris Ingersoll

           @twitter-493417375:disqus , I believe they are being released on the 3DS eShop soonish. Not sure if it’s a Japan-only thing but I really hope not as I never played them the first time around.

        • GaryX

          I really need to get around to playing those.

        • https://twitter.com/tymcast Tyler Mills

          All’s I gotta say is.
          ^This

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/gorfious,4040/ Gorfious

          Or maybe they do get respect these days.  I’m glad.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

        The Oracles games are great. I’m pretty disappointed in Phantom Hourglass so far. So much of it is just annoying me. Have you played Spirit Tracks? Is that one any better?

        • SmatchimoTheTrumpeteer

          Spirit tracks is marginally better, if not just less infuriating in terms of re-treading the same territory over and over. I wasn’t a big fan of the train concept, though. Sailing is my preferred method of travel.

        • Cloks

          I only got about half an hour in before putting it down so I can’t really speak. It’s supposed to be decent if not great.

        • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

          I’m close to beating Spirit Tracks… I like it more than Hourglass, but they are both still very far down the list… every other handheld Zelda, from Awakening to Minish Cap, is scads better.  The stylus control scheme adds nothing to the experience for me… it’s pure gimmick.

          Riding around in the train, I go back and forth on whether I like it or not.  Mostly I find it dull, but sometimes I zen out on it.  While there are some fast travel options, I wish there were more.

          Dungeon design is middling, and the bosses are all over the place.  Some duds, some stars, but one that would have been awesome was totally hamstrung by the mushiness of the stylus controls (a level of precision is needed in the fight; the fire/ice boss for those familiar).

          My favorite thing from it has been the interaction between Zelda and Link, actually.  She’s a fun character this time around.

      • Happy_Mask_Salesman

        Man, FUCK that Pol’s Voice puzzle.  I was stuck there for a over a year of playing on and off.  That was probably the most satisfaction I ever got from beating a  game though, and Zelda is still my favorite game series, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing after all…

    • Citric

      The real problem with Phantom Hourglass is that you’ve got to redo the same puzzles repeatedly to get through the stupid temple. The first time you finish a puzzle, hooray. The 4th time you finish the same puzzle, you want to put that stylus through someone at Nintendo’s eye.

      Also it’s a mandatory stealth section and timed, which just makes everything more fun right Nintendo?

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        I never understood all the complaints about that temple. Typically when you revisit it, the new powers you have make shortcuts and alternate paths available to minimize retreading, and it never struck me as any more annoying than, say, backtracking through a prior area in Metroid and using new abilities in it to unlock new paths or traverse it more quickly.

        • Citric

          You don’t get the ability to let you bypass the stupid triforce hauling section until extremely late in the game. That is the worst section of any game.

    • caspiancomic

       The Layton series does puzzles pretty much perfectly, not surprisingly. I think a lot of other games that seek to integrate puzzles into a non puzzle-specific genre could learn from many of its examples: guessing incorrectly results in a penalty to your reward but never eliminates it, hints are in limited supply and provided only when asked for, you can choose to back out of a puzzle and return to it at your leisure, etc.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      Can we talk puzzle subgenres?  Specifically, “athletic” or “twitch” puzzles?  I’m thinking of
      2 of the 3 Game Boy Advance Klonoas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfHlzNUgmfs ,
      later stages in any Mario Versus Donkey Kong game,
      any late-game versus challenge stage in any block-based puzzle game
      fighting games (including wrestling games!) with “challenge missions” with certain conditions
      navigating certain patterns in hardcore shoot-’em-ups
      (note: these are some of my favorite video games; I’ve just put the bad ones out of mind)

      1 of the 3 main reasons I love video games is that they require brain and brawn of the player in a purer way than almost any other hobby, because there’s nothing palpable or familiar to latch onto when the worlds are created wholecloth and control mechanisms are abstracted.

      Games almost always let players learn from failstates.  When I’m required to dissect devious puzzles while ALSO performing at a blistering pace, either my brain or my fingers break down.  I leave with 1 or the other not having learned the lesson, which means I’ve wasted my time.  String enough of these missions in a row, the meaingless play sessions stack up and I start kicking things in real life.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

        I actually recently realized that Shmups are sort of possible for me. I’m slowly trying out different games in the genre. And while it’s certainly not my favorite and I’m still awful at them the few times when I can zen out are way awesome.

        Also Ikaruga is more of a puzzle than a shooter. And I’ve been playing Bangai-O Spirits on DS and some of the levels are straight up puzzles. Like there is a “puzzles” category.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

          Oh, I hear you.  I’m awful at them (hence my love for Bangaio, Panzer Dragoon, and Parodius over Cave or Compile games), but people forget how shoot-’em-up-dependent video games were and how, as a result of that, so many are so good.  I’m always drawn more toward the puzzle-favoring ones you mentioned rather than Toaplan enemy hailstorms.

          Bangaio Spirits is my 7th favorite game ever because the puzzles aren’t actually that twitchy, so you don’t need to sell me on it.  Everyone: play the whole series!

    • EmperorNortonI

      I hate puzzles in non-puzzle games, as I can’t tell the difference between puzzles, invisible walls, or “you can’t do this yet, come back later in the game” invisible walls, and inevitably waste time trying to do what is impossible, and fail to engage with actual puzzles at all because I assume they are un-solvable.

      I also hate real puzzles.  I just can’t solve them for the life of me.

      Logic games, on the other hand, are awesome.  It’s kind of surprising that games don’t make more use of them.  You know what I mean, those logic problems that used to be on the SAT, where you have to figure out how everyone sits but they all have conditions about who they can or can’t sit next to?  Those are fun.  I even forced my English students to spend a term learning how to do them.  I’m an evil teacher, I guess.

      • DrFlimFlam

         I solved one once in English class way ahead of everyone else, when all of the logical components snapped into place, and raised my hand. The teacher asked for the answers, and I gave them. Then he asked me how I knew that. I started stammering about how it all just made sense for a minute, but I couldn’t quite articulate how, and he glared at me for ruining his plan for the rest of the period.

        Also then he packed up and moved overseas halfway through the year. And we watched a lot of movies. He wasn’t a good teacher.

        But I like logic puzzles.

      • His_Space_Holiness

        Logical Journey of the Zoombinis, baby. Made my childhood ever so rational.

    • Djula

      The Zelda series and its increasingly disappointing puzzles are a perfect example of how the the various systems of a game come together to make something either compelling or utterly dull.

      I don’t really think the puzzles of Zelda games have evolved much since A Link to the Past. The vast majority of its puzzles have always been simple locks and keys. They will almost always ask exactly two things of you: can you figure out which key fits into this lock (use bomb on cracked surface, use hookshot on target symbol, use boomerang on taut rope) and have you found the the key yet? At the simplest, you have literal keys and locked doors. At about the most complex, you need to light four torches to move a wall.

      Looking back at the older games, these simple puzzles worked because dungeons made you play the long game. They had branching paths and enemies that posed a constant threat. When you’re going down a path that leads to any number of dead ends (because you haven’t found that arbitrary key yet), health and consumable management becomes a legitimate concern. Everyone that played the original game remembers the sixth dungeon and its infuriating wizzrobes. In isolation, they had simple patterns and easily avoided attacks. In packs, they could shave so much health off your bar so fast that you had to be extremely careful to get out of each room alive. Lock-based puzzle design becomes compelling when each barrier may force you back into dangerous territory.

      The problem, as far as I see it, is that the series adopted modern design conventions without updating its puzzle structure. You have to give players more leeway and less punishment so forgiveness is built into every corner of newer Zeldas. Bottles give you plentiful health restoration (potions are cheap!), there are fewer enemies, and what enemies there are deal less damage. Worst of all: you can’t get lost. The dungeon layouts are extremely linear. Boil down the structure of the modern Zelda dungeon and you will never find more than two doors ahead. Go through the “wrong” door and you immediately run into a lock that can’t be opened. The game forces you to turn around and go through the “right” door, leading you (oh so gently) to the next key. Without the long game, without the labyrinthine and dangerous dungeons, these puzzles are no longer roadblocks. They’re speed bumps.

  • Citric

    Timed block pushing puzzles. I know where the blocks need to go, we have established this game. We know that block pushing tends to be really slow and tedious. So let’s just keep the blocks where they are so I can do whatever, okay?

    Related to this, anything that makes you go round and round in circles while holding a wheel to make something happen, that’s just busywork.

    • George_Liquor

      I’ll second the dislike for sliding block puzzles, (I’m looking at you, Twilight Princess) and I’d extend it to any puzzle in a game like that which relies on artificially restricting your ability to move or perform an action.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      This comment made me remember that I have an irrational hatred for those “ice level block pushing puzzles” where pushing the block always sends it careening 100% across the room. I’m not sure why those bug me so much – I don’t think I find them THAT much harder than normal block puzzles – but whenever I encounter one, I let out an audible groan.

      • doyourealize

        Especially annoying in Alundra, which seems to never think there can be too many.

        • PaganPoet

          I liked those puzzles in Alundra. But in my opinion, the puzzles are the best part of that game.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

        A Link to the Past and you must be on bad terms then.

      • GaryX

        Ice Cavern in OOT had that, I think.

        • Chris Hansen

          I was actually thinking of the Yeti level in Twilight Princess.  Seems Zelda is one of the worst offenders.

        • GaryX

          @google-56b2a92b51523f3daa181b25f2b6e05c:disqus Ah. My main problem with Twilight Princess is that I don’t remember much of Twilight Princess.
          Except for the Leone tribute level. That was cool.

      • Professor_Cuntburglar

        I remember there was something like that in Pokemon Silver. There was an ice cave you had to get through, but whenever you touched the ice you would just keep going until you hit something. So you had to figure out the correct series of directions to go in so that you would end up at the exit. It took me forever. The worst was when you would end up just next to the exit, but you couldn’t move towards it without flying past it to the other side of the room.

        THAT’S NOT HOW ICE WORKS NINTENDO

    • The_Misanthrope

       Any timed puzzle, especially ones in 3D space where the camera isn’t always your friend, is nerve-wracking.  They always remind me of Milton Bradley’s Perfection, the game that teaches children about stress.

    • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

      Oh man, have you played God of War 2? Every few minutes in that game you had to preform some mini quick time event for turning some fucking crank around a big circle to open something. 

      • Citric

        The first God of War was also lousy with cranks, which is probably a big reason why I never bothered with the rest of them. I AM NOT YOUR PACK HORSE GOD OF WAR!

        • Chum Joely

          Bad news about God of War III, guys…

      • indy2003

        Thanks to the God of War franchise, I still feel a bit resentful towards the circle button on my PS3 controller.

        • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

          I was pretty sure my circle button was going to break before I finished the game

  • George_Liquor

    Oh man, mandatory stealth missions! I hate ‘em, especially in games that otherwise don’t rely heavily on stealth and thus don’t have good stealth mechanics. Sneaking into Hyrule castle in Ocarina of Time is a pretty good example, but the worst offender I can think of is Return To Castle Wolfenstein. In 99% of that game, you play a bad-ass–and noisy–Nazi stomper. But in one singularly crappy  mission you have to put everything you’ve learned about the game aside and sneak through a Nazi-infested forest in broad daylight without alerting anyone or the game just ends. It’s cheap, it’s frustrating and it’s completely at odds with the tone of the game.

    • Drew Toal

      This happened to me in Witcher 2 the other day.

    • DrFlimFlam

      I hate artificial restrictions like that. Either I’m awesome, or I’m not. If I’m awesome, let me be awesome.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

      **SPOILERS FOR MASS EFFECT 3: CITADEL DLC**

      I like how the beginning is clearly supposed to be a stealth mission, (they take away all your medigel and weapons except for a little pea shooter) but my Vanguard was still allowed to brute-force his way through with biotic charge.

      • Fluka

        I feel like Stealth only works in games where it’s actually built into the game as a core mechanic with clear methods and logic.  It even works somewhat in Skyrim in the Thieves and Assassins Guild questlines, because the game tells you when you’re detected and not, and actually gives you skills to aid being sneaky.  

        @twitter-493417375:disqus  SPOILERS FOR CITADEL That was supposed to be a stealth mission??  Shit.  I was Charging and Novaing and Biotic Flarin’ everywhere on those dudes.  At least my character got a taste of her own Vanguard medicine later, hehe. The casino portion works a bit better, again, because it’s more of a puzzle with obvious detection parameters rather than just “be sneaky!”  END SPOILERS.  Also, I’ve still yet to figure out how to get the Stealth achievement in the Mass Effect 2 Arrival DLC.  

        • djsubversive

          Amusing story about stealth in Skyrim, in the form of a made-up conversation between one of my targets and his partner [DARK BROTHERHOOD SPOILER]: 

          “Honey, you know that argonian wearing all black that just broke in here and then left when we stared at him for a full minute before you told him that he shouldn’t be in here, and then I told him that he shouldn’t be in here?”

          “Yeah. Using the exact same sentence I did and starting half a second after me doesn’t sound creepy at all. Way to fit in with the living, genius.” 

          “Anyway, he’s out there rolling around while that dark elf girl who’s with him just creeps along. Now he’s taking our firewood and packing it on his horse. Hey! That asshole just took my tankard!”

          “Maybe you shouldn’t have left it by the mill!”
          “What’s the use of having a damn table out there if I can’t set my drink on it?!”

          “Shut up, they’re coming back up to the house. Maybe he’s returning your tankard and he’s gonna offer us some money for the firewood.”

          “Really? An argonian in black leather armor with black fur trim and a black cloak, with black boots and a black hood? And that dagger looked an awful lot like Mehrune’s Razor. Let’s just… I don’t know, pretend he’s not there. Stir something in that pot and I’ll pretend to eat this raw venison. People eat raw venison, right?” 

          “No, they don’t! And this pot hasn’t been cleaned since you turned me into a vampire! Why do we even have all this food still lying around?”

          “Shut up! I hear the door opening!”

          And then I murdered them because THREEEEE DAWG told me to. And took all their booze because that’s what I do.

        • Halloween_Jack

          I’ve still yet to figure out how to get the Stealth achievement in the Mass Effect 2 Arrival DLC. 

          If you just want the badge, do as I eventually did and break down and follow the walkthrough on the wiki; it’s not terribly intuitive, and seems to depend on batarians having really bad hearing in exchange for possessing two sets of eyes.

      • AmaltheaElanor

        Aw, man – others have already played this DLC?

        I started reading reviews and suddenly really, really want to buy it (which I wasn’t planning on).

      • Fluka

        @AmaltheaElanor:disqus OMG yes yes buy it, if you are a fan of ME, its characters, and pure uncut joyful fan service.  It’s a really sweet goodbye to the series.

      • http://alixnoorchis.livejournal.com alixnoorchis

        That part was Not Fun with an Adept.  I kept running out of bullets and most of my powers were fairly ineffective since the enemies had shields.  I haven’t felt that unskilled at Mass Effect in a long time.

        Also, there was that harsh reminder that the medigel is actually dispensed from your armor, so you can’t actually heal if you’re not wearing any.

        • Halloween_Jack

          One of the things that I wanted for the end of ME3 was a final boss fight with the Illusive Man; two of the things I thought of to make the fight at least reasonably challenging* would be either to not have more than a tick of health under your shields (makes sense since your armor is blown off), or to have TIM duplicate your powers. I was pleased to see that the DLC essentially did both of these.

          *Not that the franchise has really served up decent final boss fights in either of the two predecessors, frankly. 

      • Professor_Cuntburglar

         Mass Effect is pretty awful about stealth in general. It always, always just turns into a game of “hide in the corner waiting for every bad guy in the vicinity to come to you, until one of your allies says loudly ‘I think that’s all of them!’”

    • dmikester

      This, this, a thousand times this.  They always feels tacked on and are often poorly designed because of the rest of said game being designed by people focused on making you a killing machine.  

      The most recent example of this that I’ve played is in the latest Assassin’s Creed 3 DLC, where every mission until the last one has you going on a murderous rampage through the frontier, and then all of a sudden you have to never be seen by anyone in the last mission in a situation that’s frustrating rather than fun to sneak around in. I know there’s some irony here, since ostensibly a focus of the AC series is to sneak around and be, you know, an assassin and stuff, but there’s a very specific feeling I get when I hit one of these stealth missions that come out of nowhere, and boy, did I feel it in that last AC 3 mission.

    • SamPlays

      The worst offender that I can remember off the top was in Uncharted 2. The game is effective as a cover-based TPS but it is NOT a stealth game, period. So it made no sense at all that you had to stealth your way through some courtyard/museum. Even worse, you couldn’t just “stealth” past the guards, you had to take them out, too. But if you were detected it was game over. Huh? Why can’t I just shoot up the place if I get caught, like in every other part of the game? 

      • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

        Plus you had British douchebag stereotype making macho wise cracks in your ear the whole time. Motherfuck I hate the characters in Uncharted so much.

        • SamPlays

          Yeah, everyone was pretty irritating by the third game, which assumed it was time to dig a little deeper into “relationships”. I think Chloe may be the only character who hasn’t annoying. Nathan Drake was a gun-totin’, Indiana Jones-style, colonialist-lovin’ wiseguy in the first game but the sequels have highlighted why those qualities are not flattering and are actually annoying.

      • Crusty Old Dean

        Because they were “just museum guards”. For like five minutes there, Nathan Drake grew a conscience.

        • SamPlays

          Well, couldn’t he have used tranqs or something non-lethal? Even a cardboard box would have been a better option.

        • Citric

          He does throw the one guy into a river several hundred feet below, so he didn’t grow that much of a conscience.

      • Professor_Cuntburglar

         One of the things I like about Uncharted 3 was that it incorporated stealth into the gameplay more.

        Also you can’t shoot up the place because it hasn’t been established that the guards are Evil Mercenaries (though you do end up killing at least a few of them. Specifically that guy you throw off the tower).

    • Chum Joely

      How about the stealth mission at the hospital in Hotline Miami? Whatever you do, don’t let yourself be seen… or the nurse will send you back to your room!!!

    • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

      I think I’m seeing a trend here, and that’s stuffing things in to a game where the majority of gameplay is drastically different from those things, and the design of the game doesn’t make those things effective or intuitive.  So shoving a stealth section in an otherwise non-stealth game, or a driving section in a game that clearly spent no time developing driving mechanics, or random puzzles in to an action game. I feel like this gets done in a misguided attempt by the developers to dodge criticisms of the game being repetitious or something.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        Yeah, sometimes these setpiece moments that switch up the game’s mechanics can be fun and keep the player on his or her toes, but usually, they’re just awful and frustrating. My least favourite: the chariot sections of Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones. They’re difficult, the chariot is impossible to control, and if you fail one, then you have to restart the entire thing.

        • AnonymousBosch

          God, yes.  I’d played through Warrior Within enough to get the canon ending.   Gave up on Two Thrones on my first playthrough after my 20th attempt at the Chariot Section.  I didn’t sign up to play a cruddy racing game.

    • asdfmnbv

       The worst one I can think of is “The Hulk” game (the one based on Ang Lee’s Hulk movie). The game understood that people who bought a game called The Hulk must have really wanted a game about Eric Bana sneaking around military bases. Bruce didn’t have cool stealth items, the cover system wasn’t particularly intuitive, and you’d spend most of the level sitting behind a crate hoping that the last checkpoint was reasonably close. And these levels were like 3/4ths of the game. But fortunately, when you finally do get to play as the hulk you get to relive the many classic fights from that movie, like the time the hulk fought some dogs, over and over again until the next terrible stealth level.   

      This reminds me of “Peter Jackson’s King Kong, The Official Game of the Movie”, another game where you had to play as the main character of the movie (Adrien Brody) instead of the much more exciting character the game is named after. The game had like 2 levels where you played as King Kong and fought dinosaurs and airplanes and stuff so they could show them in commercials, and the rest of the game a FPS.

      I guess the real question is, why do my parents keep giving me movie tie in games for Christmas?

      • His_Space_Holiness

        The same reason those games exist in the first place: because parents don’t know what to get and will settle on anything that seems familiar or non-offensive.

      • djsubversive

        Oddly enough, Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction had the BEST stealth mission. Hulk has to infiltrate a military base. To do this, you need to find a truck that has access to the base. When you do, Hulk smashes it over his head and hides under it like Snake and a cardboard box. 

        Hulk: Ultimate Destruction is a great game.

  • Cloks

    I loathe grinding in RPGS. The battle systems in RPGs that use grinding to artificially lengthen the playing experience are more often than not awful to constantly revisit. I have a limited amount of time to play games and would rather progress than wander around for an hour, fighting the same enemy to the same beats over and over again. Instead of forcing me to become powerful enough for the next bit of story, why not just indulge me and let me keep playing the game? This is why I’ve never beaten a Penultimate Fantasy or most of the JRPGS that I’ve played. If you have to integrate grinding, at least make it into a sidequest so I’m entertained while playing a video-game.

    • EmperorNortonI

       You know, I’ve been playing RPG’s and whatnot for so long that it didn’t even really occur to me that there could be an RPG without some form of grinding.  It just seems like such an integral part of the genre, so deeply encoded into its DNA, that it’s inescapable.  But now that you mention it, modern RPG and RPG inspired games have really done away with it as a necessary side-activity.  You can play something like Torchlight or Borderlands without having to troll the same area, fighting the same re-spawned enemies for the necessary level-up.  In fact, I played Borderlands 1 with the explicit goal of NOT over-leveling, and as such skipped almost every side quest until reaching a zone that was simply un-playable without a little bit of leveling.  I guess that shows that, while far less important than in the Bard’s Tale games of my youth, it’s still a part of the formula.

      On the other hand, the whole system of level progression has been kind of bothering me of late.  The way that you keep getting stronger and stronger, able to do more cool stuff with more awesome items, but somehow the world continues to adapt to you, so that you never really seem to be improving, just running really fast to stay still.  It provides the illusion of progress, one of the biggest drugs that gaming has to offer.  But what alternative is there?  How can one see progress, and gain expanded abilities, without an accompanying increase in the challenge offered by the world – such a situation would lead to quick overpowering and boredom?  How could a level-free RPG work?

      • valondar

        Well I suppose the question’s worth asking: What is it that bothers people about grinding?

        I mean for me it’s the repetition. I remember back in World of Warcraft I once spent an entire day killing the exact same dozen furbolg npcs in Felwood just to improve my reputation with the Timbermaw faction; and endgame participation in Warcraft invariably involves running the same instances and raids over and over until your guild basically attains mastery of them and you get all the gear you need from them to try the even harder raids.

        I think a lot of modern CRPGs though largely do without grinding in this sense. You don’t need to finish all the quests in any Mass Effect or Dragon Age to successfully fight the final boss; and there’s no repeatable content. There is content that gets a bit samey after a while – say the Deep Roads in Dragon Age drags on a little long – but these games aren’t big on the kind of random encounters or randomally generated dungeons that are the staple of a true grindy RPG, so I’m good with it.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

        I love grinding, but I understand that many find it tedious as opposed to relaxing. I don’t think level-scaling is a good compromise, though. The balance is invariably off. Either enemies get too powerful as you level up, or they don’t grow powerful enough. The latter happens much more often than the former.

        I think games where you get stronger by finding things (Zelda, Metroid, Mega Man X, for example) are a good alternative way to give players the sense of progress. You’re constantly going to new places (maybe with some backtracking), but you’re not running in the same circle for hours on end.

      • SamPlays

        Fallout 3 (and I assume New Vegas) is a pretty good example of an alternative. Though it’s not a traditional RPG by any means, it relies heavily on the same mechanics for leveling-up your characters. But I never felt that I was “grinding”. Part of it might have to do with the open-ended nature of the game, particularly outside of the main narrative (i.e., gotta go to Point XYZ to move things along). Every location is littered with some type of enemy but there’s an inherent sense of progression as you make your way though the main missions, side quests and exploring non-essential buildings, caves, junkyards, etc. Upgrading your stats seemed directly tied to how much time you spend exploring the world. If you focus on exploration and not plowing through the main story, your character is pretty bad-ass by the end of the game. This is very different from the grinding I remember in the 8-bit/16-bit days where I would spend hours walking/driving around hoping to initiate a random battle just to gain XP points. Back then I would be travelling randomly across the same locations and everything became sort of boring (the “grind”) until a battle started. Fallout 3 had me engaged all the way because I was constantly exploring new areas AND earning XP simultaneously.

        • EmperorNortonI

           Yes, modern RPG’s are definitely better about giving you ways to get the requisite XP’s and loot without making you fight endless random encounters for XP’s.

          But that poses an alternative problem – if you really like walking around and exploring stuff, as I did in Fallout 3, then you end up maxing out your level long before the end of the game, making the remainder a ridiculous cakewalk.  That’s no fun either – it’s like I’ve been punished for taking my time.

        • SamPlays

          @EmperorNortonI:disqus Hmmmm, I guess I didn’t walk around as much as you in Fallout 3. I maxed out by the time I got to DC, which was pretty close to the end. It would be better to have a cakewalk than a struggle – at least you know you put in your time!

        • http://acksed.myopenid.com/ Colin

          I was a physical god in Fallout 3 by the time I reached level 30. As a result, nothing could challenge me and I was bored. Playing through the DLC made it worse, what with the advanced weapons, increased level cap and indestructible power armour.

          New Vegas thinks 3 is a wimp. The player is mortal and should feel mortal, which is why they introduced cazadores.

    • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

      Piggybacking on yours!  I’m not adamant enough to declare it a dead mechanic, but I think MP has much better alternatives these days.  After playing Xenoblade, Dragon Age, Final Fantasy XIII and The Last Story, I vastly prefer cooldowns as the pacing mechanism for spellcasters and power moves.  It alleviates the grind a bit not having to worry about buying the always-way-more-expensive-than-health potions, and it heightens the strategy as we move more into active combat systems.  I have so much fun just running around and getting into fights in Xenoblade that if there is a grind, I haven’t noticed.  That’s not to say it’s been a cakewalk… I’ve been splattered many times, by bosses and normal foes alike.

      Edit: I realize that isn’t exactly what the original question is about, but I already wrote this!

      • DrFlimFlam

         Oh man, half of grinding is just getting powerful enough to keep some MP around.

      • inamine

        I agree, MP is awful in most every RPG. Ni No Kuni has been annoying in that respect for me thus far. I can replenish it, but not at the rate where I can use abilities with any regularity, so I end up just mashing attack through every random encounter.

        I think one of the only series that it works well in is Persona 3/4, since MP loss works as a natural ending point to your daily dungeon exploration, is easily replenished if you really need it in 4, and major boss battles can use up all of your MP so it is necessary to strategically use abilities in those battles.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

        I like MP. To me, part of the fun of RPGs is long-term planning and resource management. In Final Fantasy XIII, you never need to think more than a few minutes ahead.

    • DrFlimFlam

      I didn’t mind grinding as a child, but now, as an adult, I do not have time for this, and it ticks me off. I would love to enjoy the games of my childhood, but it’s hard to put that time in.

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4

         seriously.  Forget about porn, I think congress should legislate FAQS/walkthrough pages to have age-verification.  Walkthroughs just teach kids to be lazy about games, but adults don’t have time to wander around forever.

      • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

        whoop I just said the same exact thing down below!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000590707081 Chris Ingersoll

      Yeah I’m with you there. Although oddly I don’t mind it so much in Pokemon games, where I can call it “training” and somehow that makes my mind accept it.

      The worst part of grinding, though, is when it gets paired with a crazy difficulty spike and thus forced upon you. FF3 (DS) was the most recent offender that I can recall, but at least that had the semi-excuse of being a primitive NES Famicom game that was just prettied up for modern hardware.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

        Yeah. It took a while for games to balance. I found that Square’s 16 bit RPGs actually require very little grinding. As long as you don’t run from battle very often, your characters should grow at a good pace.

        The only kind of grinding I really hate is gear/drop grinding. You never know how long it will take to earn a 1/128 item. It could be 5 fights, it could be hundreds of fights.

        • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

          Yeah I feel like with FF 4-6, if you just fought every random encounter that happened, you would be fine and never really need to grind. The only times you really had to grind were if you were trying to level up a certain job/ability or learn a particularly slow magic. 

          I think the most grinding I did in FF6 was to break the curse of the Cursed Shield and turn it in to the Paladin Shield and then to learn Ultima from it at a rate of 1x. The only reason I did that was because I turned Ragnarok in to the sword instead of magicite, because I wanted to get the Illumina. 

      • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

        Oh god, FF3 DS was abysmal with that. Every damn boss you just had to spend several hours grinding first, and the shit job system just made it even more of a slog. The worst part about it is that no other aspects of the game were compelling or rewarding. That has to be one of the most bland RPG’s I’ve ever played. Boring cliche story, flat uninteresting characters. Probably one of my most regretted purchases and wastes of time.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000590707081 Chris Ingersoll

           Yeah in retrospect I could have lived with never playing an 8-bit-era FF other than the original.

        • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

          @facebook-100000590707081:disqus agreed. They don’t really hold up over time. I can see them being exciting to kids back in the day, but coming back to them after the glorious storytelling and stuff in the later iterations turns them in to garbage. I also played FF1/2 on the DS, and while they weren’t maddening like FF3, they were still pretty dull. 

    • dmikester

      I’m always of two minds with grinding.  It feels so essential to RPGs that I just accept it as part of the experience.  But I also get highly annoyed by it, especially when the grinding just takes forever to do when it really shouldn’t have to.  Despite a lot of misgivings that I have about Ni no Kuni, one of the things it does right is grinding.  You almost never have to do it, and the few times that you do, there are areas where there’s one rare enemy you can find that gives you an enormous amount of experience (and it’s not even difficult to defeat), turning what could be hours and hours of grinding in other games into about twenty minutes or so.  I wish more RPGs did this.

      • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

        Funny, I’ve read that NNK is one of the grindiest RPG’s out there

        • Citric

          NNK is super grindy unless you cop out and do it on easy. Eventually I got sick of grinding and did that and it all worked out well.

        • dmikester

          I’ve grinded twice, both to prep for big final battles, and both times I went for the super rare totoro creatures, and it took about twenty to thirty minutes each time to go up three or four levels.  I’m playing it on normal too.  What I’m also doing though is every single side quest and bounty hunt as they unlock, which give you lots of experience and super-powered items that make battles a lot easier.  If you go that route, it doesn’t have to be grindy at all; in fact, it stands out as the least grindy JRPG I think I’ve ever played.

    • The_Misanthrope

       I don’t really grind if I can help it, at least on the first playthrough.  I prefer to let the party grow naturally.  If I run into something that beats my party consistently, I figure either that I wasn’t meant to go that way or  that my tactics are wrong or that there’s some McGuffin I need.

      When playing FFVII for the first time, one of my friends couldn’t figure out the chocobo-breeding minigame so he just  level his party up until they could get past the MidgarZolom.

    • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

      This didn’t used to bother me as much, but as I’ve grown older and found myself with less spare time, it definitely pisses me off. It has really proved to be a giant barrier for me to play some JRPG’s that I really want to.

    • Professor_Cuntburglar

       That is my least favorite thing about Borderlands, a game I only bought because you can actually play it with other people in the same room.

      Killing skags gets old really, really quickly.

  • HobbesMkii

    I’d like to escort the inventor of the escort mission off a cliff.

    • George_Liquor

      I remember stealth missions being staples in a lot of space sim games, like X-Wing and Wing Commander. They all sucked huge galactic space-ass.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        The escort mission in Robotech: Battlecry for the PS2 is the one that both taught me what an escort mission was AND how fucking awful they are.

      • Professor_Cuntburglar

         Escort missions in flying games (looking at you, Rogue Sqaudron) are the worst. Especially since you’re usually protecting something like a base or a ship that can’t exactly dodge bullets.

        I came here to blow stuff up, not stop stuff from being blown up.

    • Cloks

      So you can respawn and escort him to the end of the mission proper, right?

    • EmperorNortonI

      Like grinding in RPG’s, I just accepted the escort mission as a critical component in space sims, and never thought to question them.

      That doesn’t mean I wasn’t frustrated by them.  X-Wing and Tie Fighter seemed to be little more than an endless series of escort missions.  No, that’s not it – the hardest missions, by far, were the escort missions, so that the other missions were barely memorable in comparison.  It was an escort mission that stopped my progress in X-Wing – there was a single shuttle, that had to dock with another shuttle and then escape, while in the meantime, squadron after squadron of Gunboats jumped in and started dumping torpedoes on this defenseless shuttle.  Brutally unfair.  And what player of Wing Commander did not gnash their teeth in despair over the simply un-winnable “save the Ralari” mission, where it was inevitably destroyed before you even got within engagement range?  I did actually figure that one out on my own, but in a later play-through, and only after having given it up as impossible before.

      • valondar

        Yeah I actually enjoy those kind of missions in space sims (there’s a good one in Starfleet Command too); but they’re downright intolerable in first person shooters.

        Which may be why I’m not at all looking forward to Bioshock: Infinite, which looks like it’s Escort Quest: The Game.

      • JohnnyLongtorso

        TIE Fighter only had one egregiously bad escort mission that I can recall. It was in the campaign with the two warring factions; in the mission you had to disable their diplomatic shuttles and have Imperial transports capture the crew and escape. I loved that game but that mission was terrible.

    • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

      I suspect the inventor of escort missions went on to a career at Rockstar where one day in a development meeting he said to the whole GTA team: “Hey, how about we have a mission where you have to follow a guy on a motorcycle and somehow kill him even though the controls for shooting while driving a motorcycle are complete shit? And if you fall off you almost instantly fail! People will love it! And then we can do at least one of these missions in every game!”

      The worst sort of escort mission is where the character you are supposed to be protecting helpfully starts telling you that you are failing and aren’t you even trying god damn it? Rage worthy.

      • GaryX

        To be fair, most of those levels in GTA will eventually have the dude get on foot if you just chase them long enough.

        • HobbesMkii

          I believe the particular mission @NakedManHoldingAFudgesicle:disqus is referring to in this case does indeed end that way, but only after a motorcycle odyssey around Liberty City that includes driving over elevated rail tracks while dodging incoming trains.

        • GaryX

          @HobbesMkii:disqus Oh I remember (or at least that’s the first one I thought of) and I agree that it’s annoying, but I just wanted to point out that there is SOME respite.

      • Citric

        The worst part of GTA is the follow missions which are clearly designed to lead to a cutscene, so every time you get close enough to potentially do some damage it automatically slows your car down so you don’t interrupt their plans. So basically you’re commuting.

        • His_Space_Holiness

          The proper response is to turn on a blues station and recreate the opening credits to The Sopranos.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          GTA is basically a commuting simulator for psychopaths.

      • Professor_Cuntburglar

        I think Rockstar tries to incorporate every awful and irritating game mechanic possible into their otherwise awesome games because they secretly hate us.

    • Chum Joely

      It can be done well. There were a couple in the first Infamous where you’re on top of an electrified bus (so you can charge your powers at any time), and one early on in Saints Row 3 for which I don’t remember the details, except that I had a rocket launcher (I think a helicopter may have been involved, or some kind of shooting from a height).

      What those two had in common was that the escortee was on a very controlled path and therefore didn’t do anything stupid as mentioned in Cory Casciato’s entry in the article… and much more importantly, they both featured lots of enemies, in well-spaced waves, who were decently challenging but not too overpowered, and who blowed up real purty in the face of whatever awesome long-range explosive weapons were provided to you in each.

      • Chris Hansen

        I actually have not been able to get past that bus mission in Infamous and thus have not finished Infamous.  Enjoyed Infamous 2 though.

        • Professor_Cuntburglar

           The secret is to jump off the bus, run around and kill all the enemies, get on the bus until it runs into another wave, then repeat. If you stay on the bus the enemies will just keep on coming until you’re overwhelmed (also the bus stops when you get off).

    • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

      LEON! HEEEEELP! LEON! 

      • The_Misanthrope

         Actually I found RE4 did a decent job with the escorting of Ashley, since you could just stow her away in a bin until you cleared things out.

        • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

          Plus you could look up her skirt!!!

          That totally wasn’t weird, her being a minor and all.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      One of the funniest escort missions – funny in a bad way, I mean – is in Command and Conquer: Renegade. You have to escort a kidnapped scientist out of the bunker where he’s being held. He can be damaged by enemy fire, but once he’s left with a sliver of health, enemy fire will no longer damage him. The only way to kill him is to hit him with friendly fire. You may wonder why this curious setup exists. It’s because the scientist’s AI is so terrible that he runs straight into enemy fire to fight off the baddies with his shitty, useless pistol. It wouldn’t have been fair for the devs to let the bad guys be able to kill him, but making him invincible would have made the mission too easy. So, they came up with a compromise: he can only die by your hand. Now you have to be extra careful that none of your stray bullets hit him when you’re firing at the fray.

    • Effigy_Power

       http://www.cracked.com/video_18319_every-video-game-escort-mission-ever.html

  • Citric

    On the flip-side, I suddenly have an appreciation for those “Combine one thing with another seemingly unrelated thing to accomplish a task in a somewhat silly manner” puzzles, as I needed to clear snow off my kitchen roof but needed something that could fit through the window. It was that experience which lead to me putting a shoe on a tripod to move snow, and it might have even worked a bit!

    • feisto

      Oo, that reminds me of the time I needed to leave the flat, but had lent my key to a friend who was staying and who wasn’t home yet. I hooked a plastic sellotape holder to the thumb turn latch and used tape to secure it, tied a string around it, passed the string through the mail slot, and pulled the string from outside. Boom! Door locked, without key! And all thanks to my years of adventure gaming. (Fortunately, my friend was home when I came back,  thus preventing my moment of glory from becoming short-lived.)

      • Chris Hansen

        So you…left your door unlocked, essentially?

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        I’m a huge cheap-ass. Always have been, always will be. So I have tendency to make adventure-game-esque repairs to broken items instead of repairing them. My two favourites:
        - Back in middle school, my whiteout tape ripped, so I used twist-ties to attach a spool to the outside and attached the free end of the whiteout tape to the spool with clear tape.
        - A few years ago, my old MP3 player broke (an MP3 player I got for free, mind you). The toggle switch to lock the device had fallen off. So I replaced the switch by bending a piece of a paperclip and shoving it inside. It worked for another year and a half before finally giving out late last year. (My replacement for it? A $10 off-brand MP3 player.)

  • caspiancomic

    Sly gypsy slyly spryly tryst by my fuck you The 7th Guest in what fucking mental patient’s version of English is that even a fucking sentence!?

    (Double condemnation for the fact that simply spelling the non-sentence isn’t a sufficient solution, you have to solve the puzzle by moving every can in a specific order.)

    This puzzle specifically is public enemy #1 in my more broadly selected category: puzzles in which there are multiple conceivable solutions, but only the solution the developers thought of, or ordained from on high “counts”, will allow you to proceed. Plenty of adventure games, for example, will require you to use a very specific item to perform a relatively general function, regardless of whatever else you have lying around that could do the job perfectly well (for example, you need to cut a rope, and the game will only allow you to use scissors, not the sword you picked up earlier, or a pocket knife, or a piece of glass, or whatever).

    • George_Liquor

      Post-Internet, that one’s not so bad. The real travesties in 7th Guest are the chess puzzles. You know, the ones that make you grind away for hours swapping white & black knights or bishops? The ones that have painfully slow, unskippable animations that play every damn you move a piece, and if you click on the wrong chess piece, you have to waste even more time correcting your fuckup, andthenyou’realmostdonebutthenyouaccidentallyclickthatfuckingbrainandresetthewholepuzzleeebleaarrgh!!!

      • caspiancomic

        Oh, I consider it perfectly bad internet notwithstanding. Although I agree with you that the game’s “look at these graphics! gee whiz!” animations that play with every single move are a sin almost on par with my dreaded soup cans. Towards the end of the game there’s that one puzzle with a train set where the second the puzzle fires up the solution is immediately obvious, but because the thing animates so sluggishly and the puzzle controls so badly, it takes well over an hour of sheer tedious busywork to complete.

        • George_Liquor

          I think the train puzzle was in The 11th Hour. I certainly agree it was terrible, as was everything else about that game.

      • duwease

        What about that @*$&#(*%& microscope puzzle??  Thank god it was skippable, because I feel like I remember finally tracking down a strategy guide eventually, and even it basically just said “Oh yeah, fuck that puzzle, you don’t have to solve it”.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      Aw, gosh, I eat that up, even if we aren’t talking about graphic adventures.  Konami was always my favorite of the companies that bridged arcades and consoles (the Neo Geo was a home arcade and Pockets weren’t enough; sorry, S.N.K.), and it’s because of devious stuff like Moai.  (As such, I think the Gradius series is worse than both of its major spinoffs, for whenever that Inventory comes around.)  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cmv8G2GHg48  It’s a puzzle platformer with simple commands and rules.  Unlike most puzzle games with these conditions, the fields are small enough that the conceivable solutions are near-infinite. Oof, just look at those later stages.

      I don’t ever want you going near that game, dear Caspian, because you’ll get your NES taken away from you for reasons of self-harm.

    • Aaron Riccio

      This is how I felt when playing Mario: Sticker Star and wondering why *my* solutions weren’t as good. But I get it from a coding perspective — I’ve been doing some QA lately and for anything more open-ended than a straight multiple choices (especially when you allow someone to input an answer), the number of answers you need to provide for the computer to recognize as “correct” grows exponentially larger. 

      But yeah, I hate puzzles that don’t make SENSE.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      The ‘best’ of those kind of “read the designer’s mind” puzzles are the classic adventure game ones that punished you with unforeseen death, or worse, an uncommunicated shift into an unwinnable game state, for doing anything that wasn’t the prescriptive designer-chosen solution. 

      • His_Space_Holiness

        Like not closing the locker in Leisure Suit Larry 3, thus losing all your items forever. Just a big old “Fuck you, player!” from the creators.

        • George_Liquor

          Along those lines: Missing some inventory item critical to finishing the game and not realizing you did until it’s way too late. Sierra adventure games were notorious for pulling that little stunt.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

      Even games as brilliant as “Phoenix Wright” suffer from this on occasion. You know what evidence you need to present, but it’s not entirely obvious to which sentence you must present it. 

    • duwease

      Be GLAD modern games don’t let you use any object that works in a scenario, only to use up said item that is the *only* item that will solve a puzzle three hours later.  I used to puzzle uphill, both ways, in nothing but a text parser dad gum…

  • http://www.avclub.com/users/mattman-begins,89632 Mattman Begins

    I’m with Ryan Smith all the way on this one.  I recently finished–just in time for its tenth anniversary!–Star Wars: KOTOR after a regular two-year cycle of, “hey, let’s fire this up again…what a great game…hmm, I suddenly remember more pressing matters I need to attend to”, ever since the game was brand new.  I was determined to play straight through this time, no ifs, ands, or Hutts.

    When I reached the Outcast Colony in the Taris Undercity, with its paralyzed populace in need of four journal fragments scattered throughout a generic landscape of gray and white clickable lumps that only a Chosen One capable of defeating endless anonymous hordes of poorly-conceived “rakghouls” could access…I remembered, “ahhh, so this is the point in the game where I realized I had better things to do with my life.”  Get your own journals, people.  There’s one searchable corpse every ten gray, rocky kilometers; where could they really be hiding?

    I powered on through, to much better puzzles later on (the murder trial on Manaan?  Great depth to it, and even some real suspense on the outcome), but I was still miffed that such a supposedly pivotal RPG had so many quests–one on each planet, it seemed–where I was a postal worker with a lightsaber.  Which makes for a seriously disgruntled postal worker.

    • valondar

       KOTOR2 has some even harder puzzles. One of them actually requires you to be good at maths. MATHS! The indignity.

      • djsubversive

        Although, to be fair, a lot of the KoTOR 2 puzzles can be short-cutted by having a character with a decent Intelligence score, since then the game just gives you an “[Intelligence] I’d like to solve the puzzle.” option.

  • Aaron Riccio

    I wrote about this in my review of “The Bridge,” and you guys have touched on it with block-pushing puzzles, but I hate solving puzzles in which my character moves like molasses. 

    I also hate solving puzzles — especially sensitively controlled ones — that do not have some sort of undo or rewind action. If I understand the fundamentals of the puzzle but am hung up on execution because of your sloppy coding, don’t hold me responsible!
    Puzzles should feel organic and ultimately intuitive (even if they don’t make sense at first), which is why I love “Antichamber” (even though it has no undo) and am so looking forward to “The Witness.” 

  • TheKingandIRobot

    I’m gonna go with “Poorly Translated Puzzles.”  Specifically the one in FFVII where you have to jump onto the swinging beam while trying to climb to the upper surface of Midgar.  You know the one, where you should time your jump to when the swinging beam is farthest from you?  The hardest boss in that game?  Yeah, that one.

    • caspiancomic

       That and the one where you have to sneak into the parade in Junon brought me closer to tears that Aeris’ death ever did.

      See also:
      “Attack while his tail is up!”
      *Attacks while his tail is up*
      *Dead*

      • Citric

        That parade can go straight to hell.

        • caspiancomic

           I do, however, like the one where you have to follow the commands to do a little dance for Rufus, because you can stagger drunkenly around the entire time and never fail. You won’t get a cool item, but you get to make a big conspicuous tit out of yourself and damn near ruin your infiltration attempt.

      • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

        ufff that fucking thing

    • EmperorNortonI

       I’m not sure if we’re talking about the same kind of thing or not, but this reminds me of puzzles that expect you to see or understand the challenge in a manner that is obviously counter-intuitive.  It’s been a while since I played that sort of game so I don’t remember an example myself, but I read here about an example from Shadow of the Colossus, where you had to run your horse onto a bridge that you knew was going to collapse, without jumping – so that a cutscene would take over and make you jump.  If you jumped before the cutscene, you’d die.

      I was particularly bad at this kind of thing, and almost every time picked some odd way of solving a puzzle that was simply impossible due to a perceptional mis-match between me and the designers.  It’s actually gotten to the point where, nowadays, I simply refuse to engage with puzzles in non-puzzle games.  I’m too busy second guessing the nature of the puzzle and solution to see the obvious hints right in front of me, and get confused between “blocked off exit” and “puzzle needing solving” and “irrelevant distraction that I mus-interpreted as a puzzle.”

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

        That segment in SotC was horrible! Especially since nowhere in the game or the manual were you told you could save at shrines, so, since I wasn’t reading any on-line walkthroughs or anything, I was playing the game in such a way that each time you died, you respawned back at the temple in the center of the game world. This meant that no less than three times, I would die on the bridge, not knowing what I did wrong, then respawn a 20-minute horse ride away from the bridge. UUUUUUUGGGGGGGHHHHHH.

        • valondar

           Also nominated: The entire fucking genre of adventure games.

          I like the idea of adventure games far more than I actually like adventure games. Almost all of them are full of asinine puzzles with peculiar logic where things only work a very particular way but you can’t solve it that way. You pretty much have to get inside the head of the developer to know what the fuck is going on.

          Conversely my favourite puzzles in games tend to be the ones in puzzle platformers. Any puzzles that have a couple of simple, internally consistent rules and expect you to apply those rules in different ways to complete the puzzle is just a stupidly addictive kind of play.

        • Halloween_Jack

          @google-ad11b5fc6e812fcfddafc59b953591fe:disqus : Obligatory link to classic Old Man Murray article.

      • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

        I’ve definitely found that more often than not, I completely overthink what turns out to be a stupidly simple puzzle. My brain gives these games way too much credit. Then I feel even worse for not figuring out something so obvious.

        • caspiancomic

           This reminds me of my first attempt to solve one of those Templar hidden puzzle things in Assassin’s Creed II, where you’re shown a big selection of paintings and have to determine which five of the ten form a set. My degree is in art history, so I immediately started making estimates of when each painting was executed, organizing them geographically by artist, trying to find patterns in historical vs. mythological vs. biblical subject matter, separating frescoes from oil paintings, etc etc. It turns out you had to choose the five paintings with apples in them.

        • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

          @caspiancomic:disqus ha, that was pretty much the exact puzzle I was referring to

        • http://www.facebook.com/david.macharelli David Macharelli

          As another art history guy, I did the same exact thing.  Then when I finally got the solution by accident, it occurred to me that “You Idiot! As much as you’d like to think that you’re a special target audience, they need it to be accessible for more people than just those with a very specific range of knowledge”.  I still liked the puzzles in ACII & Brotherhood, as there are not many games that would incorporate Renaissance art.  

    • PaganPoet

      FF7 in general is too stuffed with half-baked minigames and challenges.

      • TheKingandIRobot

        Whistle to call this dolphin! 

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

        Snowboard your tears away!

      • Crusty Old Dean

        Bitch-slap with O!

  • PaganPoet

    I will say, in defense of John Teti’s complaint, there is one really effective “button mashing” quick time event near the very end of The Walking Dead that I think is brilliant. The horrible thing your character is performing is made more effective by the fact that you really have to work for it.

    • Histamiini

      True. It can be used to heighten the tension. Amnesia is a similar example of complicating a simple action. It forces you to open drawers and doors and valves by hand, and even though there’s usually nothing at all immediately threatening near you, it adds to the atmosphere and you feel the effect of the mechanic right from the start. Even though there’s nothing behind you as you turn a wheel to lift a door, you’re already imagining the panic you’d feel if there was something there. That’s a significant part of the game.

      It’s an interesting concept in general. It’s easy to assume that good design is making everything easier and smoother, but obviously it’s not a game unless some things are difficult, and you should be clear on which parts of the game are in the former category and which are in the latter. So maybe you shouldn’t have puzzles whose solutions you simply give to the player. And maybe a vehicle like the Mako shouldn’t handle like a beach buggy, even though that would make it easier to drive. I think the reason some games have meaningless busywork is because they’ve misunderstood the reasons why something needs to be complicated or because the rest of the game doesn’t support the effect it’s supposed to create. If there’s no tension, there’s nothing there to heighten.

    • valondar

       I think the difference is QTE is a core mechanic of the Walking Dead game. It doesn’t come out of nowhere, it’s basically fundamental to how Lee interacts with the world.

      Perhaps if the game had a regular way for you to kill zombies being reduced to killing them in a QTE would be annoying.

    • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

      I think you made this same comment yesterday…?

      • PaganPoet

        Nope. I just finished the game on Tuesday, as a matter of fact. Not that that proves you wrong, but I don’t think I’ve talked about this game since the last WAYPTW thread.

        • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

          then somebody else made that exact same comment, hehe

  • PaganPoet

    What game do you all consider did puzzles very well?

    For me, it’s Alundra, the old Zelda-alike action game for PS1. The puzzles in that game were brutally difficult, but very logical. I had the patience back then, I guess, to stick with it. I felt like a genius when I finally solved that sliding ice pillar puzzle in the Ice Manor.

  • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

    Now I feel pretty dumb, I played through that whole Dead Space 3 alien noise door section and didn’t notice the answer was written there next to each puzzle. I just joylessly solved each puzzle, found it tedious, moved on to the next bit.

    So anyway this is a good question, and the answer that came instantly to mind was Donkey Kong 64. I bought a Nintendo 64 for one reason, and that was Goldeneye. Sure there were other games, such as Mario Kart 64 and Phantom Menace Pod Racer (don’t judge me) but at some point DK64 was released with a bit of hype and I picked it up, and ended up playing it a lot more than Goldeneye. I played that sucker a lot. One of the challenges in Donkey Kong was to get all of the golden bananas scattered around the worlds. Some were just hidden somewhere on a level, others you got for beating challenges, and others you got for beating a puzzle. I think there were 201 golden bananas. I got 200 golden bananas. This is the story of the one that I didn’t get.

    I think it was a Diddy Kong level, you throw a switch somewhere, way over on the other end of the level a door opens up and releases some mechanical fish thing that swims around a big water area. You have a time limit to make it to the area, find the fish, enter the fish and commence another timed puzzle, which you have to beat to get a golden banana. I tried this many times, and on the rare occasions I actually found that fish and entered it (that sounds wrong, but stay with me on this), the puzzle inside would defeat me every time (and I still blame the finicky controls to this day). And then you had to start again from scratch. I eventually gave up, but that damn thing has stuck with me nearly 15 years later. Modern games are criticized for many reasons these days, but the checkpoint system is above reproach, it may even be the greatest innovation ever. With a checkpoint before that last puzzle I would have eventually got the 201st and last golden banana and known true inner peace. But no. Just typing this out has reopened old wounds.

    • AnonymousBosch

      Far worse for me:  I never, EVER figured out just what exactly my controller input had to do with that Beaver / Crocodile minigame.  I’d move the stick, push the buttons, and it would have no discernable effect on the stupid beaver’s movements.  Awful, and unintuitive, or, perhaps, bugged.

      • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

        See I have no recollection of this, or even 95% of the rest of the game. I remember the final boss fight which I think involved a boxing ring and a cannon, and the golden banana story I shared. I remember a constant feeling of frustration, oh the frustration, but can’t tie much of it to anything specific.

        I still have the ol’ Nintendo 64 and all the games stored under my folks’ house. One day I’m going to go and retrieve them and smash the DK64 cartridge with a hammer, just for the catharsis.

        edit – But I will keep Pod Racer because that was totally wizard. I think I also had Kobe Bryant basketball, what the fuck. And indeed I did. That’s one I’m saving to throw off a highway overpass.

        • fieldafar

          Geeez, DK64′s final boss stage. I still haven’t defeated him!

    • PugsMalone

      I never managed to beat the original Donkey Kong a second time to get the Nintendo Coin.

      • GaryX

        That shit was infuriating. I got it, but it took me goddamn forever. I’m pretty sure I threw my controller a few times.

    • JohnnyLongtorso

      Even more ridiculous regarding DS3: If you have subtitles on, it will tell you the answer.

      • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

        Yeah I didn’t realize that until today when I was writing my post in here. I kept saying “wait, why is this even a thing if they keep showing me the symbols on screen?”
        That feels like something they forgot to QA… unless it’s to accommodate deaf players or something?

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          If it’s just a matter of swapping in or swapping out subtitles, the devs probably should have implemented a hearing-impaired mode. But all too often, devs simply ignore disabled gamers (as evidenced by the fact that the perennial complaints about UIs from colourblind gamers always seem to go unnoticed).

        • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

          The developers got some bad publicity for Dead Space 2 initially not having customizable controls on the PC version to accommodate one dude who has cerebral palsy. I suppose the last thing they wanted to do with the third game was create false outrage for theoretical deaf players.

          Dead Space 3: Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Edition coming soon.

      • AnonymousPosterChild

         That’s not so ridiculous, considering that a deaf person (or someone who plays with the volume off) would have no way of playing a sound-based puzzle.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

      I bought Donkey Kong 64 with the intention of just getting far enough to unlock the original arcade game, but I found it maddeningly addictive. I think the reason the game gets such a bad rap as a collect-a-thon is that you actually WANT to get all those little trinkets.

      • GaryX

        Yup, basically. See my other comment.

    • Aaron Riccio

      Yeah, checkpoints are pretty cool, unless the entire game is meant to challenge endurance (see Super Hexagon, for which checkpoints would ruin the experience). But along this line, how about puzzles that begin as one thing and then shift to something else, but if you fail the new and unexpected second part, you have to do the first part *all over again*. This is particularly annoying when combined with the trial-and-error that others have mentioned, and it’s why I quit playing Sticker Star. I don’t mind experimenting with stickers to find potent combos, but I *do* mind if I have to keep buying/stickerizing my things all the way back in time, and if all of my items are disposable. 

    • GaryX

      UGH UGH UGH FUCK Donkey Kong 64. It was the only game at that point I ever tried to 100%, and I was missing one grip of 5 bananas for Chunky on the mushroom level. I still remember running around that level for hours and never finding them despite doing ALL THE OTHER BULLSHIT in that game. I was fucking pissed.

      I never 100% any other game ever up until I got absorbed in Red Dead Redemption.

    • jordan tucker

      Pod Racer is my favorite racing game ever. Actually I usually hate racing games. The physics are excellent, and the appropriate sense of speed combined with solid controls makes it really fun!

    • Professor_Cuntburglar

       The goddamn minigames for that game were awful. And, in order to actually beat the game, you had to beat both the original Donkey Kong and some ancient jetpack game. I only know this because I read about it, because I only made it about 1/3 of the way through.

  • onantiad

    Its not used much anymore, but when RPGs used to hide items behind buildings that, due to the static camera position, couldn’t be seen by the player, I would get so mad. They would be completely visible to the actual character, and I strongly doubt that whoever was hiding it would realistically be planning for a nearly omniscient thief with a distant viewpoint.

    • EmperorNortonI

       Or “maze” puzzles in 2D adventure games, where the maze was entirely based on not being able to see the path, because it’s obscured by the scenery graphics?  I remember being utterly stumped by this in the cave in Space Quest 1.

      • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

        Ooh, how about Forest Mazes!  The same repeating screen with little to no indication which way to go, until you find yourself at the start again.  It’s like a more tedious version of the Simon puzzle.

        • EmperorNortonI

           Actually, I don’t mind these so much, when they’re designed properly.

          What do I mean by designed properly?  Well, there’s a maze in Zork I that’s a good example of this kind of maze done right.

          1. When you enter a room for the first time, a description of the room appears, even if it’s identical to every other room.  So, you know when you’re in a new room, and have made progress.

          2. When you step off the path, you respawn at the beginning.  No getting stuck at dead-ends.

          3. There are a couple points in the maze with something.  These give you bits to aim for.

          4. You can drop things in the maze, to create a path for yourself.

          Given these criteria, the maze becomes a little puzzle to solve, and can be kind of fun.  Or at least not aggravating.

        • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

           @EmperorNortonI:disqus #4 goes a long way, but it’s very much the exception to the rule.  I mean, ultimately, the forest maze is in emulation of Hansel and Gretel, right?  But you hardly ever get to lay down a trail of bread crumbs.  The only recent game that comes to mind is Paper Mario: Sticker Star, which lets you leave a marker on the correct paths as you work them out.

        • aklab

          “Forest Maze” was immediately what I thought of. That or the time you get thrown in jail and have to escape, or you have to fight your way out in the coliseum, or you have to cross the neverending desert…

        • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

          I usually don’t mind these too much unless there’s some tedious thing like a long loading screen between them. Phantom Forest in FF6 was pretty cool.

        • PaganPoet

          I remember being stuck in the forest maze in Secret of Evermore for days; I actually had to go to the bookstore at the mall to read the strategy guide to learn that you had to follow the little goblins in the trees in the foreground.

        • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

          @twitter-259492037:disqus : How smart/stupid did you feel when you discovered the trick to the endless loop in Cyan’s dream?

        • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

          @twitter-493417375:disqus I think by that point in the game I was just using the strategy guide so I kind of cheated that one

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4

        Yeah, well they could do a whole article on the frustrations of the Sierra Quest games.  When they were new and I was young, I would put up with it because it was better than homework.  But I tried replaying them recently and the fun of the storylines really does get overshadowed by the large amount of suck.

      • SamPlays

        Worst offender ever for “maze” puzzles was, hands down, Magic of Scheherazade on NES. It was a sub-par, Middle Eastern-inspired RPG that had these terrible mazes with hidden pits. Maybe it was because I was so young but the location of the pits always seemed random…

        Terrible, terrible game.

      • http://twitter.com/mackiejunior Mackiemore

        Worst offender: The “3D Maze” in the Sunken Ship in Super Mario RPG. You have six axes to move about and zero visibility of any of them. GOOD FUCKING LUCK.

      • His_Space_Holiness

        I detest mazes of all kinds in all games, for a simple reason: I am utterly, irredeemably shitty at them. Although that did lead to one amusing discovery: I was playing a rerelease of Myst, that came with a hint/solution system (I don’t know if it was part of the original game, so this may be old news). I got to the mine maze section, wandered through screen after identical screen, and said “Fuck this” and called up the solution. It said simply, “I hope you appreciate how much work I put into this,” and gave me the solution. Guilty hilarity ensued.

        • http://twitter.com/MasterPrudent Glen

          The original game did not come with a hint system. My brother and I spent days trapped in that fucking maze before we figured out the sounds.

  • Juan_Carlo

    The lockpicking puzzle in Still Life.  It’s endless, tedious, trial and error and memorization.  And when I finally broke down and used a walkthrough, it still took like 1/2 hour just  to solve:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ld4JI4pcCZY

    Plus, I can’t believe no one mentioned the stupid, “Disguise yourself as detective Mosley by collecting hair from a cat” puzzle in Gabriel Knight 3 (I actually liked GK3 as a whole, but that is a notoriously bad puzzle) or the “your wallet is under the couch so send your pet rat under there to grab it for you rather than just moving the couch which weighs like 20 pounds” puzzle from Phantasmahoria 2:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKzfvXNWsH4

    • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

      “‘Disguise yourself as detective Mosley by collecting hair from a cat’ puzzle in Gabriel Knight 3…”
      Is that the one that involved taping a broken-off side view motorcycle mirror to a drumstick, then shimmying it under a door to distract some animal in a hallway?  I recall something along those lines as the highlight of a “worst game logic” write-up a while back.

      • Electric Dragon

        Bonjour! Francis the talking France is here to remind you of this Old Man Murray classic.

        • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

          Of course!  How could I have forgotten that was an OMM piece?  I was delighted to see Francis the Talking France make an appearance on the Team Fortress 2 blog a while ago.  They didn’t even bother to clean up the MS Paint art.

  • http://twitter.com/vowelsagogo Kilzor

    This is similar to having stealth sections in non-stealth games, but I loathe suddenly new mechanics that are only used once and with no explanation on how to use them otherwise you can’t go forward in the game.  Two examples, in L.A. Noir: twisting the chandelier to get to the ledge before it falls.  The game gives no indication on how you’re supposed to twist the dman thing to get to safety, and if you don’t read the game’s mind, you keep dying every fifteen seconds until you somehow almost figure it out.  I was this close to rage quitting the game at that point.

    2nd example: in ACIII, Connor is fighting A Certain Someone and you have to use environmental stuns to win the fight, but no explanation is given on how that exactly happens, so even if you’re fighting DIRECTLY IN FRONT of an environmental item, you somehow just need to know to be at one specific angle, otherwise you lose immediately, over and over again until you rage quit yet again.  

    In closing, screw you, ya’ jerks.

    • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

      That chandelier part of LA Noire was aggravating, but still nowhere near the worst part of the game. 

      Example: Soooo, I’ve collected all of this incriminating evidence, but presenting one of these pieces of evidence to the perp at the wrong time makes me inexplicably fail the case which then makes the bipolar Irish Captain yell at me? Okay! (It’s ok Cole, he’s not angry he is just expressing “Doubt”)

      • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

        Yeah, I love the logic implied behind those interrogations. Say one wrong thing and the entire case gets thrown out! Really?

  • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

    Timed Anything in the middle of a game that is otherwise time-agnostic.  Especially timed action challenges through unfamiliar terrain… run like hell and execute this elaborate platforming sequence in an area you’ve never seen before!  It’s okay, the first five times you fail it will count as practice.  The next three times you fail it will be because the collision detection fluxed and your character decided he didn’t want to grab that ledge after all.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

      You and @Kilzor:disqus above have hit on my pet peeve in game design: when a game suddenly forces you to learn a new set of skills. It’s frustrating to hit a wall in the form of an out-of-nowhere bit of stealth, timed, vehicle, rhythm, etc. 

      The one that sticks out most to me is the laser field in Pandora Directive. The way you move around in that game is a little clumsy, especially if your hardware is just above the minimum specs, but it doesn’t become an issue until a sequence halfway through the game.

    • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

      And it’s always those challenges that appear in games with collision detection bugs, isn’t it? CLOCK IS RUNNING DOWN, YOU ARE STUCK ON A BUSH! DIE! 

      I’ll jump on to this and mention “on rails” running sequences, or maybe they should be dubbed the Indiana Jones Boulder sequence. Basically you are moving rapidly along a track of some kind and having to dodge obstacles, but if you stop you get killed by the big thing behind you. Sometimes the obstacles themselves even kill you directly. And sometimes these go on forever, and if you die you have to repeat the whole fucking tedious sequence again, complete with opening cut scene, and worse, tedious death animation.

      • SamPlays

        On rails can be fun if done well. I’ll be honest and admit I’ve enjoyed a few of the rail shooter sections in a handful of the Call of Duty games. But the kind I hate most is in the Ratchet and Clank games. These are the sequences where you have to grind down a rail (literally), dodge obstacles, jump to other rails, etc. It doesn’t help that they seem like an eternity to finish. It wasn’t even that fun the first time around but there’s like 2-3 major rail segments in each game. You’d think with all the spaceships and teleportation devices available that there would be an easier way to get around. 

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        I know I mentioned this upthread, but the chariot sections of Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones are some of the most aggravating examples of these. They almost made me give up on the whole damn game.

    • caspiancomic

      An amazing example of this is that game D, originally for either 3DO or Saturn. It’s a pretty typical first person adventure style inventory puzzle solvey game, but it’s game over if you spend more than two hours playing. Absolutely nowhere does it indicate that this would be the case, and your character’s glacial walking pace and the early CGI sluggishness of the entire game would actually lead you to believe you have all the time in the world.

  • Flying_Turtle

    Any kind of “hunt-the-pixel” situation. I loved Darklands, and from time to time, the game would tell you that there were reports of a dragon near one of the towns. I would scour the area, and sometimes get reports that I had found ground that looked like it had been burned unnaturally or something like that. I wasted a lot of time searching for that stupid dragon, and I never did find the right pixel. Why bother putting an encounter in the game that’s (at least for me) impossible to find, while at the same time letting me know it’s in there?

    Turns out someone found the dragon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_GivBxuG7A the fight starts about 8:15). Maybe this person’s characters are really tough, but the fight in the video is ridiculously anticlimactic. I’m not sure if I find that comforting or not.

  • http://twitter.com/tedkindig Ted Kindig

    I played Pokemon Blue a lot as a kid. I recently revisited it, and hands down the most idiotic puzzle in gaming history is the random pair of switches at the Lt. Surge gym. The first switch is in one of fifteen random trash cans, the second one is one of the adjacent ones. You need to get both of them, otherwise they reset to another random location. Not the slightest bit of skill or thought required. I remember thinking of it as a really hard part as a kid, but I haven’t that slightest bit of patience for that shit as an adult.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpReI0Y-o-Y

  • Captain Internet

    Turret sections. Nothing says “FILL THIS IN LATER” in the mission design than a turret section.

    It wasn’t always like that- the first one I can remember was in the original Half Life, and that was a great moment of catharsis. The combat in Half Life was pretty cerebral and intense, so being given a big gun that you can shoot endlessly without thinking made for a wonderful change of pace.

    The trouble is that most modern shooters give you a big gun and lots of ammo to start with, and many of the turrets have some kind of ‘overheat’ or ‘reload’ mechanic. This essentially makes them just like any other gun in the game with added boredom, since the rules say that you can’t move whilst you’re using a turret.

    Extra points deducted if a gruff military type shouts the words “Get on that turret!”

    • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

      The asteroid blasting sections in the first Dead Space were the worst thing in the entire game series. 

      • SamPlays

        I’ve said it before but this is the sole reason why I stopped playing Dead Space and have since ignored the rest of the series. Simply an awful decision. 

        • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

          Dead Space 2 completely removed all that bs. It improved the gameplay quite a bit, but I think the atmosphere in the first game is still the best.

  • Wearedevo

    The early-game asset tour. Invented and perfected in the tram ride of Half-Life 1, and gradually ground into the dirt ever since.

    • SamPlays

      I think a variation of the “tour” that’s pretty commonplace in console platform/third-person games is when you enter a new environment and the camera zooms from your characters along the path you need to take until it reaches the end goal (usually a door or lever). Alternatively, some games will cut immediately to the end goal and track backwards. I’ve never benefited from this technique because most times it’s pretty obvious where you can or can’t go. 

  • Wearedevo

    Any puzzle that treats you like a second-grader. Oh, three buttons with symbols, and then the same three symbols in order on wall of this ancient temple? Better call fucking SIGINT because this code’s uncrackable.

    • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

      Whale, Snake, Eagle…. where have I seen these puzzle parts before? Oh that’s right: Every. Single. Other. Dungeon. In. Skyrim.

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4

         Those ancient Nords weren’t nearly as clever as they thought they were.

        • Dan Reynolds

          i ranted on a another board about this … ancient nords seal away incalculable evil using a tremendous engineering feat of clockwork and millions of tons of rock so well-built that the mechanicals still function perfectly after thousands of years, yet they lock the damn thing with a combination lock CAPABLE OF ONLY 27 TOTAL COMBINATIONS, MEANING IT CAN BE BRUTE-FORCED BY A TODDLER IN UNDER 10 MINUTES.

          but not to worry!  SOME of these doors require two-factor authentication!  a key AND a combination! 

          …except that the combination is invariably engraved on the key itself.

          i guarantee that if the ancient nords had any luggage, the combination on them would be 1-2-3-4-5.

        • Mach0KingRandySavage

          Those locks aren’t meant to keep people out.  They’re meant to keep the Draugr IN.

      • SamPlays

        No, there’s a note in your journal. Press “select” to open your journal. 

      • Professor_Cuntburglar

         THIS DUNGEON HAS BEEN SEALED FOR A MILLENIA BY THIS UNSOLVABLE PUZZLE.

    • Chris Hansen

      That’s my main issue with the Uncharted series.  For all the comparisons to Tomb Raider, the puzzles sure were a joke.  They usually involved reading your notebook for the answer, then implementing that answer in the room you were in.

      • Professor_Cuntburglar

         Yeah. I usually took those as a chance to relax after the insanely hard shooting sections.

  • feisto

    I’d like to add real-time destruction sequences in JRPGs where game time otherwise doesn’t move in real time. (I’m looking at you, Final Fantasy V and VII). It’s completely jarring, and there’s nothing more annoying than being inches away from the exit with just seconds left, when a bunch of suicidal enemies randomly decide to attack you instead of, you know, getting the hell out of the place.

  • http://twitter.com/SquizAfterDark Mount-It Miko

    Anything that gives you the solution at the same time as the puzzle. “Maybe that button opens the door!” No shit?

    Being patronized by a video game is the worst. Nintendo in particular need to get their head out of their ass where it’s been marinating for the last 20 years or so and at least have an opening “Are you less than six years old? Y/N” choice. Hey! Listen! How about I don’t listen and you die in a fire?

    • ChicaneryTheYounger

      Uh, Miko, I think you used the wrong Twitter.

  • doyourealize

    I get supremely annoyed whenever I come across sliding block puzzles. Not as in sliding a block to gain access to a new area, but sliding blocks around a board to make some sort of picture. I know people like these, but there are a million places to go and get these without having to invade my Resident Evil 4, thank you very much. Not only is it annoying, but it’s about as uninspired as you can get. It takes longer to figure those out than it does to create them.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4

        My dad used to get those from drug company reps, so whenever I do one of those I still expect it to spell out “gleemonex” or something.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

      I got really good at doing sliding block puzzles like that. They were the easiest way to get rupees in “Wind Waker”.

  • DrFlimFlam

    I often don’t like puzzles in general. I really liked Legend of Grimrock when the puzzles were simple and it seemed like a dungeon crawler. Then the puzzle got stupid hard and I will likely never play it again. Also there were lots of pressure plates.

    I really don’t like any mission that asks for perfection and punishes you severely for not meeting that expectation. Puzzles that can’t be fixed by the player, stealth missions where being seen is death, etc.

    But my LEAST favorite trope that remains unmentioned is the “Supposed to fail” one (though someone did mention it, in a way, while referencing Shadow of the Colossus). Sometimes, and this was especially common in old JRPG’s, you were supposed to fail. Properly tuned, you’d get shelled right away, but sometimes, the player is able to limp onward with an encounter, pulling out every trick in the book to stay alive, when the entire point is to just die and see what happens next.

    Kill me or don’t. I don’t care. Just don’t let me waste time and effort trying to win when it’s imperative I lose.

    • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

      You’d love Dark Souls!

      edit – actually i meant Demon’s Souls, where the whole tutorial is all about teaching you that whatever you do is futile and you’re going to die. Now that’s a sentiment I can get behind!

      • GaryX

        Is it just Nietzsche quotes?

      • AnonymousPosterChild

        A friend and I were discussing earlier how while there is a well-executed moment in Dark Souls that you are supposed to lose, it is also shitty because players could feasibly use a lot of resources trying to figure out this fight that you can’t win.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

      The only time I’d get bent out of shape over battles that the player is supposed to lose is when I deplete my inventory of elixirs. And I legitimately like it when you get a special award for winning such encounters.

      • His_Space_Holiness

        The original Xenosaga had a nice example of that: Early in the game, two characters fight a really tough enemy. Whether you win or lose, you escape and it’s the end of that level. You have barely any items to begin with, so you can’t waste lots of loot, and if you win you get a nice bit of gear. That’s the perfect way to design that kind of fight.

    • Aaron Riccio

      I was actually going to mention Legend of Grimrock as having rather perfectly placed puzzles. There are hints appropriately scrawled on the walls (which adds to the ambiance) and most of the time they make sense anyway. If you’re complaining because you didn’t realize that you could throw objects *onto* pressure plates, I’ll admit that the tutorial could’ve been better in regards to what you can actually do, but the only puzzle that annoyed me in its precision was for an optional piece of gear, so . . . . 

      But yeah, I hate must-fail boss battles: let the boss kill me in one hit, otherwise I’ll keep limping through, wasting all of my items. 

      • DrFlimFlam

        I get lost a lot in games. I know a lot of people like Grimrock for what it is, so I don’t say that as a real drag on the game. I think it’s quite good at what it is, and lots of people seem to love it. That’s just when I realized it wasn’t as for me as I once thought.

        That theme song is awesome, though.

    • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

      Yeah these are pretty bad. Like if you really have no idea and use up a ton of shit in your inventory trying to stay alive. This sort of ties in with bullshit game narrative tropes, like where your badass character somehow gets easily overtaken and disarmed in a cutscene by a generic goon. Or where the story actually calls for your character to die, but you can’t die until you reach that story point or it’s game over (call of duty seems fond of that). 

      • DrFlimFlam

        I know it’s part of game design from a functional standpoint, but yeah, the arbitrary scene where your character can’t fight back, because somehow six scripted enemies are tougher than the hundreds you’ve defeated, has always driven me nuts.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

        Speaking of annoying videogame story tropes, how about scenarios where it’s pretty fucking obvious that a certain character is a liar and a traitor, and yet your player character still blindly trusts them.

        • DrFlimFlam

           I KNEW that was Zio all along!

      • Professor_Cuntburglar

         Even worse are the bits where you should still have all of your weapons, but the game just won’t let you use them, because the developers wanted to have a sword fight. There was a boss fight in Saints Row 2 that did this, and it was the worst part of that game. Far Cry 3 does this too.

  • Raging Bear

    AI partners are definitely my least favorite trope of at least the last 5 years. I don’t think I’ve played anything since Ico where having an AI controlled character tagging along didn’t utterly fuck up the entire experience.

    Obviously, this is worst in shooters, where your AI partner(s) either 1: constantly wander into your line of fire, or 2: stand behind you or generally cut off your retreat, or (especially if you have more than one) both, and anything else they can think of to prevent you from playing the fucking game.

    I just got Spec Ops: The Line (free with PS+, but still) and an hour in, I’ve already lost count of the times the AI squadmates have completely screwed up a firefight, which reminds me of Bulletstorm, which reminds me of those missions in Half-Life 2 (where I eventually got into the habit of just shooting the bastards myself to get rid of them), and RE 5, and on and on and on and on…

    • Aaron Riccio

      No, I think bad team AI is certainly an obstacle. It’s a puzzle that the developers have failed to solve, and you get stuck with the results.

    • GaryX

      I agree, though I remember being astounded how much I didn’t hate Ashley in Resident Evil 4. She at least had the goddamn decency to duck which, somehow, still isn’t a video game standard.

    • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

      I like the games that at least have the decency to let you kill the friendly NPC’s without punishment. There are some where if you accidentally shoot a friendly it’s game over. Or the more patronizing route, where your gun/weapon auto-lowers and locks when you aim at a friendly. 

      • GaryX

        I remember in Morrowind you could just accidentally kill someone super important and it would say “Uh oh, line of destiny has broken. You fucked up, idiot.” 

        Or something like that.

        • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

          TIME PARADOX

      • Canadian gamer

        THIS! I remember wanting to defect to the Nazis then Call of Duty 2 punished me for the fourteenth time for shooting at a fellow Soviet who just APPEARED in front of me in a cramped apartment in Stalingrad. When you play on Veteran, even a half-second of hesitation can kill you, so as soon as you see something move, you shoot. And it’s Game Over. 

  • duwease

    These sorts of articles make me feel for game designers.  Not because it’s criticism, but because it’s legitimate criticism, and it speaks to the difficulty  inherent in creating something in this particular medium.

    “Good gameplay” is like “common sense”.. it seems obvious to each individual what it should be, yet no two people fully agree on what it encompasses.  Each individual has their own limits as to what difficulty and what actions hit the sweet spot where it is interesting enough to be engaging, but not too taxing to strain the emotion of someone trying to do something enjoyable.

    It’s extra hard for big-budget games, as financially you need that wide audience.  That means you need a central gameplay conceit that is complex enough to maintain attention over a couple dozen hours, but not too complex that it loses people.  Many designers, faced with a simplified central system to keep new and casual audiences, try to flesh out and vary the game with these quick or optional side games.  Which, as we see, are subject to the same issues.

    It’s unique to the medium.. a linear narrative’s finer, more esoteric artistic flourishes may be lost on some, but they can still enjoy the basic plot.  Game progression hinges on the input of the person instead of having them be an observer, and the skill, preferences, and engagement limits of each player is endlessly variable.  I don’t know if we’ll ever have a good solution to that, unless the market is willing to fracture into smaller and smaller focus in games catering to more and more niche markets.

    *cue ‘It’s A Hard Knock Life’*

    • Professor_Cuntburglar

       Sometimes I think that developers just use playtesters who lack the ability to experience frustration.

    • http://www.facebook.com/JamesMauriceAlexander James Alexander

      The only thing you can do with any piece of art is “make the thing you would enjoy yourself” and let the universe take it from there. You can’t please everyone. It can’t happen.

  • Swadian Knight

    If Silent Hill does such a good job of building tension, why should it throw all that away to give me a break in a perfectly safe room so I can figure out the right notes to play on a piano? Why does Silent Hill 3 suddenly do the same thing and decide to have me analyze poetry?

    Why should I suddenly find myself pushing statues around in a Resident Evil game? Also, this isn’t Hardware Store Simulator 2013, so why the hell am I spending three hours looking around for a goddamn valve handle?

    I’d have no problem with these puzzles if they made a little bit of sense within the game’s universe – I don’t mind being forced to fix a centrifuge in Dead Space because it fits the game, even if it’s not quite that interesting. But it’s difficult to keep invested in a game when it willingly abandons the tone it set out to build just to wring another half-hour of gameplay out of thin air.

    • DrFlimFlam

      Been replaying Code Veronica (not my idea) and dumping a bunch of junk into a storage bin so I can pass a metal detector and later find a non-metallic metal to make a badge out of and… RAAARGHHHHHH

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4

         wait, someone else is deciding what you play?  Is this one of those side effects of having relationships?

        • DrFlimFlam

          Sometimes. It means I play Skylanders and sometimes survival horror games instead of Skyrim and Mass Effect all the time based on who wants to game with me.

        • GaryX

          @drflimflam:disqus Survival horror games make you a better person though not a more logical one.

      • The Contrarian.

        I hope you’re playing that on the Dreamcast.

        • DrFlimFlam

          That’s how we did originally, but we got it on XBL on sale for $5 last week. We have it on PS2 as well, but come on – HD output.

    • Aaron Riccio

      I don’t know — the old Resident Evil “puzzles” feel as if they make sense to me. Remember when you have to kill that giant plant in the first one by crafting some herbicide? I mean, yes, it’s weird that there are puzzles hidden in statues, but it’s also weird that there’s a laboratory elevator hidden in the mansion’s fountain, and I never found the game abandoning its tone — the whole point was that you’d have to wind back and forth through a zombie-infested house as you attempted to find various keys. I’m sort of glad the game eventually shifted from simply looking for keys to looking for plates or handles. 

      • GaryX

        I think it also helps in the first one that it’s supposed to be the combination of a lab and a–I think–intentionally crazy fucking mansion.

        • Swadian Knight

          And that kinda works until you realize that the craziness extends to everything built in the RE universe. RE0 has a train with emergency brakes activated through math puzzles, RE2 has a police station full of statues and chess piece puzzles (and where the armory is more easily accessible than the sewers), RE3 has a gate that requires you to mess with the city’s power grid to open and RE4 has a door that only opens if you shoot a wine bottle set into a painting that only appears after you ring a bell (and that’s not to mention that giant robot in the castle).

          I haven’t played any RE game after 4, but I think it’s safe to say that the real villains of the series are civil engineers.

        • GaryX

          @SwadianKnight:disqus Yeah, that’s why I only mentioned the first. I was going to add that the police station in the second, though, defies any explanation.

          Had forgotten about the giant robot though.

        • PugsMalone

          My favorite part of RE4 are the restraints in the wall that trap Ashley. What were the odds that she would just happen to get right next to the wall?

        • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

          You are correct: the mansion designer intentionally filled it with batshit traps and stuff for some sweet trolling from beyond the grave

      • Swadian Knight

        I guess the Resident Evil series really isn’t the best example. Looking back, it’s always been quite goofy, and it only got goofier over the years.

        It is the series that stands out in my mind when I think of bad puzzles, though, which is why it ended up in that post.

        • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

          Even though they were pretty bizarre in context, the puzzles in RE never took me out of the experience. Just their macabre symbolism was enough to make them feel “right”

    • exant

      The puzzles in Silent Hill 3 on Hard mode are difficult on a level I’ve never seen before or since. I played about thirty minutes when I found a puzzle that seemed to require a doctorate-level understanding of Shakespeare (knowing intricate details of minor characters of minor Shakespeare works). 

      At that point, the game felt more like a puzzle delivery system than an atmospheric survival horror video game, which is what I wanted.

      • hastapura

        I love that bookstore puzzle in Silent Hill 3 – imagine this place owned by a couple of smug assholes who lock their wares down at night with arcane, insurmountable puzzles predicated on Shakespearean minutiae. 

        But then I like puzzles in survival horror games in general – but I can see where you might want them less silly and more integrated with the tone of the game.

    • His_Space_Holiness

      I actually enjoy standalone puzzle rooms in horror games, as a breather from the constant danger. I assume that’s what they’re meant for. But I can see how they can be aggravating if that’s not what you’re looking for.

    • ChicaneryTheYounger

       Full disclosure: I found the Shakespeare puzzle incredibly easy, I don’t know why everyone complained about it.

      • Swadian Knight

        I had a little bit of trouble with it at the time, but it was mostly due to not being a native english speaker and thus having very little exposure to Shakespeare’s works. I’d have aced that thing if it had been about Camões, though.

        • ChicaneryTheYounger

          Oh, I understand that, but I’m only a little familiar for some Shakespeare, and it was pretty obvious to me (though I study English).

  • Mercenary_Security_number_4

    What a lot of the staff is really getting at is annoying genre-breaking moments.  And I totally agree.  Genre-bending when done thoughtfully and consistently throughout a title is awesome, turning the game into a whole new experience.  But throwing some retro callback into an entirely different game is the height of annoying.  Because if I had wanted to play *that* kind of game, I would have picked up *that* kind of game.  I hate, for instance, when an RPG suddenly has me making complicated jumps from platform to platform with no other way through an area.  That’s called a PLATFORMER and there is a reason I don’t buy those.  I hated that San Andreas had an unavoidable rhythm minigame.  I also remember the pipe-dream minigame in the first Bioshock.  I love pipe-dream so I was cool with it, but I can totally see how grinding a cerebral shooter to a halt in order to play a circa 1990 Amiga game.

    • Aaron Riccio

      There’s always room to play Snake, right? I’m still bummed that Metal Gear Solid hasn’t really capitalized on this.

    • GaryX

      So it sounds like you like genre-bending depending on the genres that are being bent.

      • Mercenary_Security_number_4

        I like it if its consistent throughout the game.  Because then I’ll play it when I feel like playing that.  But I don’t want to sit down with one type of game because I feel like playing that kind of game, and then be told I can’t progress in that game unless I temporarily play a different sort of game first.  It’d be like wanting to spend a night playing poker and behing told you have to play checkers instead.

    • His_Space_Holiness

      My favorite example of that is Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, where Arcade brings everything to a screeching halt and forces you to play the original Pitfall. Why? Because he’s god damn insane. It’s so purposefully silly that it’s hilarious rather than jarring.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

      My beef is when a game has a sudden, clumsy genre shift in the middle (or END) of a game.

      I do, however, enjoy games which deliberately seek to cross/bend/switch genres. Battletoads, for example, changes its genre with every level. Persona 3 and ActRaiser have two discrete game elements, but these elements complement each other in interesting ways.

      • Aaron Riccio

        I miss ActRaiser, even though I enjoyed SoulBlazer more.

  • Switters

    At the other end of the spectrum from a lot of these are puzzles/QTE where you only get ONE SHOT to do it right. Indigo Prophecy, I’m looking at you. Granted failing to hit the buttons in the correct order at the correct time didn’t lose the game for you, but it did change NPC responses and limit the available information you were given.

    • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

      on top of that, the game used that hideous Simon interface for it. It was intellectually AND visually offensive.

  • LoveWaffle

    Nothing, NOTHING is worse than the Ball Puzzle from Sonic 06.

  • dmikester

    In general, I get very angry and frustrated with anything that feels clearly designed to make a game longer than it really is i.e. busy work.  Mandatory fetch and delivery quests, missions that suddenly make you use a new skill that you never use again and therefore practically force you to repeat them, inane puzzles… many of the things that have been said here.  

    But one thing that particularly irks me, and this is specific to RPGs, are bosses that are designed to take forever to beat, but aren’t challenging.  It could be a boss that heals itself constantly, or one that just has a ridiculous amount of HP so you’re just doing the same thing over and over and over again.  It just feels like lazy game design to me, like hey, I can make a boss battle “epic” by making it take a long time as opposed to anything involving the word “fun.”  

    I particularly have this on the brain because of Ni no Kuni, which has had many a boss battle and bounty hunt that’s more about mindless attrition than about a legitimate challenge and the need to use effective strategy.  And, just to present a counterpoint to this, Final Fantasy XII, despite having some of the most ridiculously strong bosses in RPG history in terms of HP (Yiazmat with your 50 million HP, I’m looking at you), mostly avoids this due to the boss battles often requiring a lot of thought and strategic adjustments mid-battle rather than the too common mindless hack and slashing or endless casting of the appropriate elemental weakness spell.

    • DrFlimFlam

      I have lots of problems with FFXII, but the involved boss battles are not one of them.

      There is a magma turtle boss in Skies of Arcadia that can, at least once, heal itself in entirety.

      Awesome.

      • dmikester

        In Ni no Kuni near the end, there are three boss battles in a row where the bosses fully heal themselves after you beat them and get “stronger,” meaning now you have to defend against one new attack and then just go back to what were you were doing before and beat them again.  Sigh…

    • doyourealize

      Is Yiazmat that huge dragon in the underground cave whose HP would stay depleted if you ran away? I loved that fight, and you’re especially right about how it forces you to change tactics several times. It’s not about mindless whittling down of HP over hours that any grinder can complete. It’s skill and thought, too.

      And unlike a lot of the hated puzzles on this list, it’s a puzzle completely consistent with the type of game it’s in.

      • Aaron Riccio

        It’s actually what I miss most about the Final Fantasy games, is that they went from having tricks to beating some of the bosses (casting reflect on a boss, for instance, so his healing spells heal *you*, or casting reflect on YOURSELF so that you can cast magic on yourself that will hit — and not reflect — off the boss) to mostly being grind-fests, or skill-squeezers in which every character more or less fulfilled the same roles. The more I think about it, the more I enjoy FFXII, even if I wasn’t all that good at getting the gambits to do what I wanted them to.

  • ItsTheShadsy

    The worst puzzles are the ones you can only brute-force. There’s a mediocre 3D Myst knockoff called Sentinel: Descendants in Time where you have to press a certain combination of buttons to activate a bridge. The problem is that there’s about 20 buttons. The instant I realized what the puzzle was doing, I stopped playing the game altogether.

    • Aaron Riccio

      Straight-up brute force is awful, sure. But I can remember “The Dig” and an early puzzle in which you have to program an alien machine without knowing what any of the buttons do. You have to figure it out through trial and error and then piece it all together, and I thought that was pretty fitting, given the theme of the game and all.

      • ItsTheShadsy

        I’ve got no qualms with trial and error puzzles as long as they’re logical. It’s just the ones that there’s no coherent way to solve without trying a billion combinations, but thankfully there are very few of those.

        Also, The Dig is infallible, so…

      • http://twitter.com/vowelsagogo Kilzor

        I just want to say that this is one of my favorite puzzles in any game and that “The Dig” is amazing, especially the soundtrack.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000590707081 Chris Ingersoll

    Pretty sure Cory nailed this one with escort missions.

    Using the word “escort” to describe core game-play is like using the words “bloody and viscous” to describe a urine sample. –Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw (specifically re: AMY, but globally applicable)

    • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

       And yet, Resident Evil 4 and Ico.

      • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

        Are you saying you enjoyed the parts of RE4 where you had to escort Ashley? Those are pretty universally mentioned as the worst thing about the game.

        • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

           Maybe not “enjoy”, but certainly “didn’t mind”.  She was manageable, which is more than can be said about a lot of escorts.

  • neodocT

    I bought the Mass Effect Trilogy a few months back. I’m currently halfway through ME3, and each game has surprised me with an entirely different type of stupid puzzle mechanic.

    In ME1, locked containers have a stupid thing to open, that I can barely call a puzzle. When you press the containers, a screen pops up with the controller’s face buttons, and you have to press the corresponding button whenever the button on the screen lights up. It’s uninspired as hell, and for whatever reason, you have to do it really fast or you miss the prompt and have to use omnigel to open the container. In retrospect, I had so much omnigel that I don’t even know why I bothered with the puzzles. I honestly didn’t mind the Mako too much, except for those planets where every mountain was an Everest.

    ME2 brought the oh-so-fun planet scanning. It was dull, unchallenging and necessary to get resources. On top of that, I always ran out of probes, so I had to jump to another system, buy probes, and go back to the system with the unexplored planets. Blurgh.

    And ME3 is full of fetch quests! What the hell?! Who thought this was a good idea? On top of there being a shit-ton of fetchquests, if you don’t do them before completing Priority missions, you can’t deliver the fetched objects!

    Oh, and I also hate sliding block puzzles, which are thankfully missin in the ME games.

    • GaryX

      I still think that while the Mako controlled like crap it was a key component in generating the atmosphere that makes Mass Effect 1 so special to me.

      • PaganPoet

        If the Mako had better controls, especially for traversing steep hills and mountains, I would have actually welcomed those sections back in the sequels.

        • GaryX

          Totally. The controls were a mess. I don’t understand why they didn’t just brush it up instead of cutting it out completely. I felt like the scope of the universe shrank drastically in the sequels because of it.

          Plus there was just little cool touches, like finding distant planets where, if you were quite enough, you could hear the Rachni singing in the distance.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

        My only beef was the combat.

      • http://www.facebook.com/JamesMauriceAlexander James Alexander

        @GaryX:disqus 

        They cut the vehicle sections completely because people are so sensitive when it comes to vehicle sections. 

    • Halloween_Jack

      ME1: The main reason to bother with trying to open locks is that you can sell the gear that you get and possibly purchase better gear with the funds, instead of melting it all down into omni-gel to pick more locks (to get more gear to melt down into omni-gel) and fix the Mako. Of course, I wasn’t fast enough to get the lock, most of the time. If you had more omni-gel than you needed, you were probably better at the Mako combat stuff than I was. (I’ve never been into driving games at all, unless you count old-school Spy Hunter.) I ended up playing ME1 through once, on the easiest setting, just for the story choices that could be imported into ME2.

      ME2: Planet-scanning is so simple and requires such little attention that you can easily hold a telephone conversation while doing it. It’s also fine for winding your evening down.

      ME3: Hey, at least it’s more exciting than planet-scanning, once you’ve attracted the attention of the Reapers and have to dodge around them to get all the assets in a given system.

      • neodocT

         But the ME2 plant-scanning is SOOOOOOOO dull! Yeah, it was easy, and I do agree that it gave me a zen-like meditation feel, but it also made me think I could be better using my time.

        I absolutely prefer the scanning in ME3, I just don’t care for having to go back to the Citadel and hunting down whoever game me the fetch quest in the first place. I think the game could have simplified this whole process a bit. My main gripe, actually, is that the journal no longer tells you which quests you’ve completed and where to deliver the item.

        • Halloween_Jack

          I agree with you in both cases, pretty much. Being able to chat with someone while planet-scanning was more of a coping mechanism, really, and I totally agree with you on the journal–not sure why they got rid of the full mission/assignment information thing. It’s kind of like how, along with a bunch of stuff from ME1 that I didn’t want, they also got rid of a really useful function on the squad selection screen that gives you an idea of each squad member’s relative strengths vis-a-vis combat, tech, and biotics–stuff that would have been pretty useful when selecting squads and special assignments for the suicide mission.

  • http://www.avclub.com/users/paul-kinsey,71501/ Paul Kinsey

    Max Payne times a million. That blood trail maze was the worst thing ever. Not only is it a random maze in a shoot ‘em up game, but there’s a baby crying in the background and a blood-curdling scream every time you fail. And then after you finally figure out which random direction in space to jump and make it through, you get knocked out again three levels later and have to do it again.

    • exant

      I played Max Payne about a decade ago, and that level is the only thing I really remember. Rage and frustration have a way of creating indelible memories, I guess.

    • dmikester

      That one stands out to me too, both because there wasn’t anything close to as frustrating in the rest of the game, but also because the controls were AWFUL due to not being made for precision and everything, including the jumps, slowing down and controlling like a tank because you’re in a dream.  Just terrible.

    • The Contrarian.

      Yeah, that’s where I stopped the game. Never went back.

  • Dan Reynolds

    WoW’s escort quests were theeeeeeeee worst!  The NPC you were escorting would walk at an absolute snail’s pace.  NOBODY in-game walks!  EVERYONE RUNS ALL THE TIME!  the LONE exception being NPCs who are ACTIVELY TRYING TO ESCAPE SOMETHING WITH YOU!  GRAHHHHHH!  and the NPCs were the laziest-programmed of all time.  they walked on a rail along a predefined path, with utterly no attempt whatsoever to feign intelligence, artificial or otherwise.  they are pure, rote artifice.

    Also, when on an escort mission, every couple minutes, a pack of enemies would appear literally out of thin air, about 3 at a time, surrounding you.  so it’s not like you could prepare, or snipe, or ambush, or employ any kind of satisfying tactical strategy or anything like that.  the NPC would be slow-walking along and then stop for no reason and you would be like “ugh now what” and three bad guys would materialize for you to kill.  sooooo inorganic and unnatural.

    at some point around the launch of wotlk or maybe cataclysm (2nd or 3rd expansion), they changed the escort quests so that the NPCs actually JOG instead of snail-walking, and if i recall correctly, some of them even follow you.

    they still sucked.  nobody likes escort missions.  nobody.

    • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

       It was around Lich King, I believe, but yeah, any ‘escort’ mission in WoW now has the character following you apace, like a pet.

      • GaryX

        I don’t know that it’s any. I checked WoW out for the first time in ages about six months ago and definitely had to escort some short-term memory challenged Gnome who was walking about on his own.

    • Halloween_Jack

      One of my favorite work-arounds to an escort in WoW was the one in/near Darkshore/Ashenvale, in which you have to escort a narcoleptic night elf, so in addition to the occasional ambushes you have to occasionally blow on this flute in order to wake him up and continue. Because you’re actually leading him and not following him(there’s another escort quest in this area in which you’re tagging along behind, and I was never able to complete it), you can drag him west to the coast and go for a pleasant stroll along the beach, only having to defeat the occasional weak mob and maybe even do a little gathering along the way. 

      There were also plenty of escort missions in City of Heroes, and although I loved that game I seldom enjoyed the escorts, as the NPCs almost always had one or more of these features: 1) they would aggro, or be aggroed by, mobs if you couldn’t keep them pretty far away; 2) they were really slow and easy to drop; 3) they had trouble with stairs and other minor obstacles; 4) if you had some kind of stealth you had to turn it off. On the plus side, they often had hilarious dialogue. 

  • The_Misanthrope

    I hate that freaking Tower of Hanoi game (it was in Mass Effect and I’m pretty sure it’s been in a bunch of others I can’t remember).  Or really any recursive puzzle.

    The QR Code bits in Fez really pissed me off.  They may or may not have been integral to the puzzles, but it irritated me none the less.  No, I’m not gonna pick up a smart phone just to get a few extra cubes in your game, Phil Fish.

    I’m also really bothered when I’m stuck on a puzzle and the game (Hey! Listen!) sees fit to give you its one hint for that puzzle over and over again. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/keleigh3000 Keleigh Hardie

    No hate for jumping puzzles? Worse part of Xen, the worst part of HL1.

    • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

      I think you’re referring to First-Person-Platforming, which is almost universally terrible (since the perspective and usual lack of a body make it difficult to gauge appropriate distances), but not what I would call a puzzle. 

  • Chum Joely

    On the topic of “classic puzzle out of nowhere”, how about the “Towers of Hanoi” puzzle in Mass Effect 1 to restore the “Mira” VI core on Noveria?

    I was amazed when I saw this puzzle come up all of a sudden with no explanation. The controls aren’t particularly clear, but since I had had to implement an automatic solution to this way back in high school computer science class (welcome to recursion, kids!), I was able to do it more or less on autopilot. Like my fingers were pushing the buttons with great confidence and my mind was watching the puzzle get solved, somewhat to my surprise. But if I’d never seen Towers of Hanoi before, I would have been completely baffled (and stuck– I might not have had 100 omni-gel to cheat past the puzzle at that point).

    • asdfmnbv

       It also randomly showed up in KOTOR. Bioware!

      • DrFlimFlam

        Well, they’re not too tough, so I’m all right with it as a puzzle. They just have no logical reason to be where they are.

        No one, in any galaxy, would design a power grid like this, BioWare.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

        **SPOILERS**

        And it shows up again in Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC.

        • Halloween_Jack

          Like the rest of the DLC, quite hilarious.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

      I had no idea until just now that it was supposed to be a Tower of Hanoi puzzle.

    • neodocT

       The weirdest part is that the controls were so unintuitive, and there was no explanation as to what the puzzle actually was. If I wasn’t a Prof. Layton fan, I’m not sure if I would have understood what I was supposed to do there.

    • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

      I just slapped on some omnigel and kept rolling. My Shepard has no time for puny puzzles.

      • Halloween_Jack

        Every other sex story in the ME universe has the line, somewhere in it, of “I just slapped on some medi-gel and kept rolling.”

  • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

    Oh God yes, Dan Whitehead, you hit the nail on the… whitehead!
    I am at the end of DS3 right now and those sonic door non-puzzles are the most absurdly inane things I’ve ever encountered. As you said, it seems like a cool idea in theory, but it is utterly pointless because the answer is usually right next to the door, and if you have subtitles turned on, the symbols show on your screen! But that’s just the tip of the iceberg with Dead Space. The entire game is rife with pointless non-puzzles for opening doors. There’s the one where you open a panel and have to spin the dial around 3 times to unlock a door, then there’s the one with the giant screen where you have to move nodes around on a timer. All of them are ridiculously simple and pointless, and add nothing to the game whatsoever. I think only one time on a side mission were they ever used to effect, where I had to open a door with one while regenerating monsters were chasing me, so it added tension.

    It occurs to me that these all might just be a way to mask load times. Dead Space 3 is riddled with seemingly superfluous anti-chambers and doors. I mean, how many god damned Telekinesis-wheel-doors were there? For a while it was literally every door. I feel like the only possible point to these was to let the next area load in seamlessly while you waste 30 seconds to a minute on opening a door. (and the only reason they need to do that is because of console memory limitations)

    • Chum Joely

      We would also have accepted “You hit the nail white on the head.”

    • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

      I agree that the doors puzzles were to mask loading times, but they also probably put them in to break up the necromorph killing a bit. Because people who buy a Dead Space game think “boy I really enjoy killing these space zombies, but I’d actually like to break up the monotony by doing some door opening for a while.”

      Disclaimer: I liked Dead Space 3.

      • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

        I enjoy it okay. I’m at the very end and it has become extremely tedious (although I do kind of like the Lovecraftian/ancient-aliens vibe). Everything in the game felt extremely telegraphed and most of it was just going through the motions of the previous two games. There was never a suspenseful moment. The plot isn’t engaging at all and one of the new features they added interest me (in fact, I kind of hate the weapon crafting shit). So it’s still fun to take down necromorphs in that environment (atmospherically, the game is still very good), but it’s also pretty middle of the road, and it definitely doesn’t feel like a step up from the previous games in any way.

        • Naked Man Holding A Fudgesicle

          You know what surprised me? The co-op was actually pretty great. Though I played with a friend who enjoyed making fun of the ridiculousness of the game as much as I did, so we spent the whole time laughing, which probably isn’t what the developers had in mind for a Dead Space game.

  • http://twitter.com/keris42 Matt

    Maybe it’s because I’m only now playing through Final Fantasy 13-2, but those goddamned clock puzzles. The earlier ones I could manage to do intuitively, but then you start getting to randomly generated 13-space puzzles that are replaced each and every time you fail.

    First I tried building a drawing in PowerPoint (yes, seriously) with the moves so I could see which spaces where least likely to be linked up and did trial and error there until I had a solution. Once I got to the last version of Oerba I gave up on honestly solving them altogether and started cheating. Given how ludicrously hard the puzzles are, I feel like that was the design intent. http://www.njohnston.ca/2012/02/counting-and-solving-final-fantasy-xiii-2s-clock-puzzles/ does a good job laying out the complexity of these things.

    • Crusty Old Dean

      Blergh, those clock puzzles were such obvious padding. Seemed like most of the back half of the game consisted of those.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

        To be fair, the clock puzzles that you NEED to complete aren’t so difficult. Oerba was optional.

    • neodocT

       I found a website where you could plug in your numbers and get a guide to solve them. So I had to play the game with an iPad, which I think defeats the purpose of it being, you know, a game.

  • Miasmariah_Carey

    Speaking of escort missions, the best/worst example in my experience came from Deus Ex 1, where you need to rescue the general’s daughter from the gas station. After about a dozen attempts to get her out of the building without being seen, I finally managed to clear a straight line from the building to the extraction point, and started moving forward.

    And then my genius-level PNC companion hangs a right, runs in *the opposite direction* away from the copter, and gets wasted by the cyborg gas attendants. Well done, AI module. Well the hell done.

    After two subsequent failures, I managed to get both of us safely to the copter, and then I experienced something I’ve never seen in any other game. The in-game cutscene began… *but the enemy AI was still active*. As the general is congratulating my success, an enemy rounds the corner, sees us, and *blows us apart* — and, this being a cutscene, my controls were inactive.

    So as our bodies are lying shattered on the hardtack, the guy in the copter is gushing praise for his daughter’s rescue.

    That was… impressive.

    • Fluka

      OH MY GOD.  Deus Ex cutscenes.  Where JC Denton gets whaled upon by very impolite men with guns in the middle of one of his monotone conversations.  Before abruptly going “AAAAAAAA” and falling down in a pool of his own blood while the camera circles. 

    • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

      There was some other game I played more recently with that same cut-scene active enemies bs. Now I’m trying to remember what it was.

  • Fluka

    No love (by which I mean hate) for hacking minigames?  I’ve been watching my husband play System Shock 2 recently, and while it generally comes across as a mean, lean, stress-inducing machine without any of the above modern fripperies, it does have a stupid hacking minigame which I’m pretty sure is responsible for like 50% of his SS2-based obscenities.  I can see why in theory developers add them – to add something resembling trial-and-error when you’re trying to get into a computer or door.  Or, if it’s taking place in real time, anxiety to get it done fast.

    Still, it’s extremely immersion breaking to be pretending to be all SuperAwesomeHackerish, and then to suddenly be playing Connect the Pipes, or Frogger, or the above mentioned Tower of Hanoi?  I think I prefer the original Deus Ex version, where you just pressed “HACK” and then had to move fast.  Damn it, JC’s a cyborg dude!  Thank you for just letting him just do his cyborg thing, and keeping me out of it!

    I admit I kind of like the Human Revolution minigame, though, as it actually *does* create some real-time tension that you need to get this done fast, both by being realtime and by having beat the backtrace countdown.  Gotta do this before that goddamn guard sees me because apparently Adam Jensen can’t goddamn crouch while he’s at a computer.

    Also, I am really really looking forward to Blendo Games’ new game, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXyx1wck65I.  Hacking, but with an actual command line!

    • neodocT

       I was ready to agree with you, but I can’t actually remember a hacking minigame that I truly disliked, aside from the one in the first Mass Effect. I mean, the hacking puzzles in Bioshock, DE:HR and ME2 weren’t awesome, but I didn’t mind them, and it felt like I was actually doing something.

    • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

      DE:HR was probably the only game where the hacking mini games were cool, for the reasons you stated. LOL at Jensen not being able to crouch at a terminal. That annoyed me so much. I remember the first time it happened was at the police station and I was just like “WTF HOW DID I GET AN ALERT? I BEAT THE HACK FINE!”
      Eventually I just stacked up a bunch of boxes next to the terminal which blocked the guard’s view. LOL

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      Confession: I loved the DE:HR hacking mini-game. In fact, I would hack into computers I didn’t need to hack into just to play the mini-game.

      • Fluka

        I’m not alone?  Admission: I said “kind of liked,” but yeeahh….I actually meant loved.  

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

      I enjoyed the hacking minigame in New Vegas, but I did not enjoy the lockpicking minigame.

      • djsubversive

        I didn’t mind the lockpicking or the hacking games. It was a nice break from looting and killing. And it usually results in more looting. Or killing.

        My problem is with the arbitrary cut-off points where you’re allowed to even attempt a lock or terminal. I hate that. It makes Lockpicking ONLY useful at those 4 levels (25/50/75/100), or if you can reach those levels with drugs and magazines. Ditto with Science, but to a lesser extent, since Science is also used for making chems and energy weapon ammo, and has perks available that have nothing to do with the hacking minigame. Let me attempt an “Impossible” lock with 10 points in the skill. I’ll probably break all my lockpicks trying, or get frustrated and make a note to come back later, but there should still be a CHANCE to open that lock.

        The Bison Steve safe with Lucky is a particularly annoying example. I KNOW it’s in there. It’s ten minutes from the start of the game. But I need to buff my Lockpick skill before I can even try to open the safe.

        • http://www.facebook.com/keleigh3000 Keleigh Hardie

           Well, the game gives you a lot of reasons late game to revisit Primm and envirions. But, of course, you have to remember when you go pickup your pimped ED-E to pop into the Steve and see what’s in there. So, what I’m trying to say is, thanks for reminding me.
          And I too enjoy the hacking game. It’s a nice brain exercise and at least makes some kind of sense contextually, unlike say, a pipe game.
          I must also confess that Fallout’s terminals always make me a little nostalgic.

  • illuminatedwax

    I think they missed the obvious: every single “puzzle” in Assassins Creed. The puzzles come in two varieties: the insultingly easy “pick the pictures that have RED in them” kind that can be solved by a 5 year old, and the impossible-to-deduce “guess what I’m thinking” kind of puzzle that isn’t solvable by any logical means. Not to mention it reinforces the worst part of the game: the awful Dan Brown/Foucault’s Pendulum conspiracy theory trash. 

    • neodocT

       Of course you would hate those parts. You are clearly a waxy agent of the Illuminati.

    • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

      Yeah those were pretty awful. The ones where you had to turn various segments of a wheel to complete a picture were possibly the worst.

      Weren’t all of those optional, though?

    • Professor_Cuntburglar

       NOT REALLY A SPOILER AT ALL ALERT:

      IT’S ADAM AND EVE

  • exant

    I’ve been playing the original DOOM on my phone and I was struck by the complexity of the level design. Most levels are surprisingly branching, with lots of dead-ends and alternate paths. The secret rooms are many and deviously hidden. The level designers often seem to be taunting me, by placing secret rooms or the level exit within sight, but frustratingly inaccessible. My favorite secret room is the one with a chainsaw right behind the level spawn, where no one would ever look.

    Level design in modern FPSs does not seem to have evolved very far past this. If anything it’s worse; the designers clamp you firm to the rails in a series of straight-line paths, with a pause here and there for an arena-bound battle. Gone are the secrets, the ways to get good items early, or the sense of exploration and humor within the level design.

    Open world games like Skyrim come close to evolving this, but too often the open world is just a pretty loading screen between different rails-locked dungeons.

    I guess my answer to the Q&A is that I’m sick of straight-line level design that hasn’t evolved since DOOM (a 2D game made in 1993), or has actively become more restrictive.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

      It’s a shame. Thanks to the internet, secrets and Easter eggs are much easier to find, which has made developers more cautious about including things like the level-one chainsaw in Doom.

      As for the increased linearity in level design, the main reasons are twofold. One, it allows for more “cinematic” experiences (for better or worse). Second, it’s kind of a waste to design all sorts of content that 90% of players will never see. Developers used to have that kind of freedom, but they’re under much more pressure to lower costs these days.

    • Halloween_Jack
  • Chris Hansen

    Speaking of mashing to get things done and Dark Void, I guess the main issue is that it’s never just once.  You had to mash to hijack vehicles, which was supposed to be a major feature of the game.  Not to mention that you had to do the stupid dodging minigame every single time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=579674289 Morgan Filbert

    I hate puzzles that have no internal logic within their own universe. The greatest offender of this would be the cat-hair mustache mess in “Gabriel Knight 3.” You’re attempting to disguise yourself as another character and to do so you have to create a fake mustache… even though the character you’re disguising yourself as doesn’t have a mustache… so you also need to steal his passport and draw a fake mustache on his passport to justify you having a fake mustache… It’s circular logic at its most stupid and time wasting.

  • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

    -

  • http://twitter.com/djbeema beema

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  • AmaltheaElanor

    My least favorite escort quest is in Zelda: Twilight Princess when you have to escort the Zora Prince across Hyrule.  It’s a killer pain that stalls the momentum of the entire game, and always takes me forever to complete because the birds keep swooping down from the sky and knocking the wagon off-course.  My sister bought and was loving this game – but I think this escort quest was about the time when she grew too frustrated and gave up on the entire game.  Little did she realize that there are more of these kinds of things lurking in other games…

    • GaryX

      I think what makes it work in stuff like Metroid Prime is that you’re such an untouchable badass by that point, so it’s fun to go back and see how the game world does/doesn’t adapt.

    • Crusty Old Dean

      Ugh, those birds – haaate that escort mission! 

      And I love cruising through Tallon IV etc as an overpowered badass, unbothered by the possibility of persky bosses, just chilling and picking up power ups along with whatever mcguffin is needed to eventually, reluctantly, proceed to the bitter end. 

  • boardgameguy

    on the opposite side of this question, i love when puzzle games present me with the same puzzle setup multiple times, but the context has changed somewhat and thus the solution does as well.  the first example that jumped to mind for me was in Braid: the level Hunt! is played one way in 2-3, but then a new context is true when you encounter it in 4-4 requiring a new solution.  

  • stakkalee

    Any puzzle that requires me to go to another part of the game to trigger something.  Doesn’t matter what, but if the door is in this room, the stone I need to press to unlock it better be in this room, too.

  • Effigy_Power

    Levers/dials/valves in separate rooms, which have to be aligned by chance to open a door/hatch/grate in yet another room. Constantly walking forth and back at the game’s slow pace (if it is roughly 100% of adventure games) and finding the combination by chance 20 minutes in.
    Way too many adventure games, who legitimately have a lot of puzzles, feature this specific one and it makes me sick.
    “Home”, which is an interesting game to try out when it’s real cheap on sale, had several of those and it never felt like they were there for any reason other than to drag out a fairly short game. Which is fine… it’s a short little Indie adventure with a lot of suspense. I just wish the devs had been more confident about their product.

    • ItsTheShadsy

      I disagree with this to an extent. I think figuring out what a device does can be fun. It takes longer to solver, but those types of puzzles are usually more integrated into the environment. That’s infinitely preferable to standalone puzzles that pop out of nowhere.

      A really great example is a puzzle early in the Stoneship Age in Myst. There’s a large pump that can drain water from areas of the map, but you aren’t told what each of the three buttons on the pump do. By making you walk out of the room and check around the rest of the age (especially if you don’t know that it’s a pump), it really puts you into the world. Exploring is (IMHO of course) the best part of adventure games, and puzzles that integrate exploration are great. The pump puzzle would be much less interesting if the game told you what each button did.

      It all depends on how logical each puzzle is too. If you’re just arbitrarily pulling levers and hitting buttons, physical distance can be frustrating. And those are just poorly designed puzzles. But they make sense as part of the environment (as they tend to in the Myst games in particular), I love em so.

  • Long_Dong_Donkey_Kong

    I 100% agree with the Joe Kaiser slide puzzle rant – especially if it’s out of place. Resident Evil 4 is loaded with these types of puzzles be it slide puzzles or puzzles involving paintings or grave stone insignias, etc. Really? You’re going to set up mind-controlling parasites to take over the local population, and then you’re going to set up these random puzzles around your castles, churches, mansions, etc. just in case somebody comes looking for the president’s daughter? Why would you do this? Why rule over people who are now too stupid to come and serve your evil needs because they can’t get to you because they can’t figure out a slide puzzle as they no longer control their own brains?

    Maybe I’m thinking too much about plot holes in a game where the president’s daughter is kidnapped so she can be injected with a virus that would be disastrous for the U.S. when she returns home. Wouldn’t injecting some hobo on the street have the same effect?

  • igotbored

    nthing the hate for fetch quests. I recently finished playing Wind Waker, and while I loved the first 2/3 of the game, the last part of the game where I had to collect Triforce shards really took me out of it. When I learned that development for the game was cut short, the end suddenly made a lot more sense to me since it felt like they really phoned it in on the design of Ganon’s tower, compared to the other dungeons.

  • http://alixnoorchis.livejournal.com alixnoorchis

    This ended up in the wrong place.

  • http://alixnoorchis.livejournal.com alixnoorchis

    I love Tower of Hanoi, but I discovered last weekend while “coaching” a friend through Mass Effect 1 that while I can solve it pretty quickly myself, I absolutely cannot verbally explain it to someone.  I know how it works but only on an instinctual level.

    CITADEL DLC SPOILERS

    I was bummed that Shepard scoffed and walked away instead of letting me play Tower of Hanoi in the arcade.

  • Eco1970

    My ultimate hate for a puzzle in a game goes to Catherine. Loved the game, but it was too hard even on the extra easy mode given by the devs after a bunch of people complained it was too hard. Really pissed ne off. Onlybtime I’ve ever actually felt ripped off by a game company.

    Couldn’t finish it. Gutted.

  • Eco1970

    Catherine. Great game, too effing hard. Only time I’ve ever really felt ripped off by a game.

  • Jess Ragan

    There’s one puzzle I always hated from the 8-bit days of gaming, which I call “Magical Mystery Doors” (yes, I wrote the entry over at TV Tropes). It’s where the developers give you a million doors, and you have to walk through them in the right order to get to the end of the stage. Pick the wrong door, and you’re taken back at the start of the stage, or stranded in some forsaken corner of the game that leaves you feeling more lost than when you started. It’s extremely confusing, difficult to map, and impossible to enjoy.

    I think developers finally came to the realization that nobody likes Magical Mystery Doors, but they still worm their way into games from time to time… mostly Nintendo’s.

  • http://twitter.com/saintstryfe Saint Stryfe

    Back during The Burning Crusade, World of Warcraft had this mini-game you had to play to complete a faction grind. It was basically a Simon memory game. Not long, but have you ever tried forcing yourself to play Simon everyday? Annoying. Eventually some bright soul wrote an add-on to automatically record the results and make it fast. At that point it was just boring.

  • http://twitter.com/herrzrbo herrzrbo

    Two specific puzzles come to mind:

    Mass Effect’s Mira Core puzzle

    and two: puzzles where you aren’t sure you’re even at a puzzle.  I’m thinking of a spot in Half Life 2 where you get out of the boat so you can work your way through a building to open a gate to let your ship through. When you finally arrive the wheel to open the gate is missing.  I thought I had missed a wheel lying on the ground somewhere that I had to pick up and bring back.  I searched the entire building top to bottom, finally giving up.  Going online I was disappointed to find that all you had to do was shoot the barrels across the way which would cause some beams to fall and open the way.  There was no way I was going to figure that one out, aargh.

  • Matt Wamboldt

    “I can’t help but think that the world might get saved a little quicker if some people just used FedEx instead.” This is an awesome game idea! You play a sidekick in a fantasy setting whose goal is to set up a postal service so “the chosen one” can do his job.
    To the topic though, many of these are example of empty mechanics. If something doesn’t tie into the rest of the game in a meaningful way or promote the core reasons you play the game, then it shouldn’t be there. That goes double for poor implementation like the labyrinth puzzle. Pointless collection was a big reason Dark Siders 2, Assassin’s Creed 3, and Mass Effect 3 fell flat for me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.daniels.731 Mike Daniels

    Forced “race” missions that require you to win the race to advance the story bug the crap out of me.  Grand Theft Auto III and its spin offs are the obvious offenders but Assassin’s Creed II managed to worm at least one or two of those annoying chores through its storyline as well.

  • http://www.poraora.com/ Chester Benimton

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