I love a good puzzle in video games – but the makers of these games clearly didn’t. These developers decided that instead of people having fun, people should be reduced to weeping masses of frustration and misery.
Some puzzles are just really, really, REALLY stupidly hard, but for the ones in this list, it’s basically inconceivable that anyone who doesn’t routinely write a hundred lines of complicated-looking maths stuff on a chalkboard will solve them at all.
So then, have a look at these, activate your post-traumatic stress and then share your own worst experiences in the comments.
What the hell, Silent Hill?
This is a game franchise that one doesn’t normally associate with puzzle solving. When that bowel-evacuating P.T. demo came out with the PS4, people didn’t sit around discussing the deductive abilities required to complete it – it was less mental fortitude and more bladder control.
And yet, somehow this series has birthed not one, but two puzzles that would drive the Dalai Lama to domestic violence.
The first is some absurd poem about black and white birds that somehow corresponds to piano keys – everyone gets the gist of it, but nobody seems capable of actually getting the order right. It’s a bit like half the men in Joburg cutting their hair like Miley Cyrus – you can understand that it is happening, you’re just not sure why it’s happening (is this happening in other cities? I don’t get out much).
Then, if you decide to ramp up the difficulty, you can take on the Shakespearean riddles in the third game, which requires alarmingly extensive knowledge of 17th century playwrights.
Japanese developers appear to have a pretty high estimation of gamers’ familiarity with old English literature, but nevertheless it’s still a pretty baffling method of introducing difficulty into a survival horror game. It’s a bit like deciding the best way to design a really difficult golf course would be to make everyone play tennis instead. With hockey sticks.
Anything in anything ending in “Quest”
The Sierra series of text-based adventures is loved by masochists the world over. Unlike vapid, talentless actresses however, we choose to punish ourselves with unsolvable puzzles rather than a whip-wielding Irishman.
The worst thing about these puzzles is often they don’t really feel like puzzles at all. It’s like going on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, sitting down and instead of getting asked questions Jeremy Maggs just stares at you for 45 minutes until you get up and leave.
I distinctly remember trying to replay a Space Quest game a couple of years ago, and I got to a point where there was a laser blocking a certain section. In true Space Quest fashion, I had no idea whether I was supposed to simply ignore it, go around it or try and get through it.
After finally caving and consulting a walkthrough (I lasted less than an hour, weak in my old age), I found out I was supposed to steal a piece of glass from my crashed spaceship’s broken windshield – about forty-five minutes ago. Of course, you really had no way of knowing glass was even available to steal.
My favourite absurd puzzle however is from King’s Quest, where some asshole with a cane demands you guess his name, Rumpelstiltskin style. Which, by the way, is not the answer.
The answer could be found again, in a totally different place to where you are now. It’s on a random note in a random house, telling you this fortune-cookie gem: “sometimes it’s wise to think backwards”. So of course, the answer was actually Rumpelstiltskin backwards.
Hahahaha, no it wasn’t you simpleton. It was actually, “Ifnkovhgroghprm”, which you may recognise as something that is in no way at all a name for anything. It turns out “thinking backwards” meant using each letter of Rumpelstiltskin with its reverse in the alphabet, which may or may not require a machine built by Alan Turing.
Oh, and just as a final f**k you, when the developers designed this puzzle they used the wrong spelling of Rumpelstiltskin.
Pretty much all of Riven
This 1997 sequel to the hugely successful Myst had several puzzles worthy of this list. Honestly, at times it felt less like a game and more like a MENSA entrance exam.
Still, if you had to highlight one it’d probably the system of five overlapping glyphs which you needed to figure out in order to solve some of the puzzles.
These glyphs were, wait for it, designed around a base-25 number system. If it’s been a few years since you left school, you probably won’t even recall what the hell that means exactly.
Like me, right now. I think our regular number system is base 10? Maybe?
F**k this game.
Gabriel Knight wants you to abuse animals
This one earns the top spot on the list not just for being insanely difficult, but also for being so absurdly counterintuitive that frankly I don’t believe it’s actually possible to do legitimately.
Somewhere in this turd of a game you need to rent a motorbike – except the one you want has been reserved by a doofus called Mosley.
So logically, you have to steal the bike.
Oh sorry, I forgot we checked logic at the door. What you actually have to do is impersonate the guy who it’s reserved for in order to fool the minimum-wage-earning Keeper of the Motorcycles.
This is where things get out of hand. You need to steal his jacket, steal a hat from the lost and found of a nearby church (stealing motorbikes is not cool, but apparently robbing a church charity is A-okay on this protagonist’s morality scale) and steal Mosley’s passport from his back pocket by getting him to happen upon a sweet you planted in the lobby. Seriously.
What comes next though is a scheme clearly designed by the writers of the second Mortal Kombat movie while on a three-day meth binge.
You need to, and I wish I was kidding here, find a door with a hole, attach some tape to the hole, spray a cat with water so it runs through the hole, collect up the fur the tape ripped off and glue it to your face using a sachet of syrup.
Now you have a moustache sure to fool anyone with dark glasses and a seeing-eye-dog, which is great except for one thing – Mosley doesn’t have a moustache.
I’m just going to end this here, because nothing has ever spoken for itself quite so loudly.