Puzzle Pet Peeves

It’s no great secret that I do enjoy a good puzzle game, but some of them just don’t do anything for me. Here’s a few of my peeves in no particular order.

The Sliding Block Puzzle

I’m sure there’s a more proper name for it, but I’m talking about the kind of puzzle where you have some object and some kind of frictionless floor covered with obstacles. You push the object and it slides along until it his something and stops. Your goal is to slide it in such a way that it lands on a particular location on the floor. That explanation probably doesn’t really make a lot of sense, so here’s a little video to illustrate.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that particular type of puzzle… other than the fact that I’m not particularly good at it, so I tend to avoid it whenever possible. Now, I do like a good Role Playing Game, up until they throw a ridiculous sliding block puzzle in it to eat up a few minutes. This is one of the few times that I’ll reach for a walkthrough instead of trying to muddle my way through it. Which, yeah, I know that it sounds like I’m just avoiding using my brain for a few minutes, but those puzzles frustrate me to no end and the game would cease being fun by the time I’d get the puzzle solved.

Puzzle Mode

Most puzzle games will have something called ‘puzzle mode’ which always sounds redundant to me because you’re already playing a puzzle game, the whole thing’s a puzzle mode. What ‘puzzle mode’ actually means is that you take an action puzzle game and turn it into an extremely limited ‘passive puzzle’, I guess.

Typically you get some kind of prefab layout and have an extremely limited amount of whatever that puzzle game’s resource is (pieces, moves, whatever) to solve it. Now, the problem with these puzzles isn’t that I’m awful at them, which I totally am, it’s calling it ‘puzzle mode’ in the first place. It’s just a little bit too redundant to me.

Puzzles solved via trial and error instead of logic and reasoning

Going back to Tales of Symphonia for a moment, I remember a particular puzzle a good way into the game that had five pinwheels arranged kind of like this, where each asterisk represents a pinwheel:

|*   *|
|  *  |
|*   *|

You have to activate the pinwheels in a particular order to open the locked door. Now, I’ve already suspended enough disbelief to be OK with the fact that the builders of some kind of ancient temple have decided to use ridiculously circuitous locking mechanisms to keep their temple doors sealed. But they also apparently destroyed all their keys and all instructions on how the locks work. But, somehow in this game the old forgotten civilization did just that, and you’re stuck with a puzzle that has 120 possible solutions, and no clues in sight. At least none that I could find. I scoured that dungeon for a couple of hours and couldn’t find anything that resembled a clue anywhere in it, and after a couple dozen attempts at brute-forcing the proper pinwheel sequence, I decided to just go look up the solution. Ridiculous puzzles to eat up a few minutes are fine, but at least give me some clues so I can piece together the solution.

Final Thoughts

Even with all the pet peevery going on, I’m still going to be a sucker for a good puzzle. So long as that puzzle is solvable, and doesn’t make me have to sit there and try every permutation of maneuvers to successfully solve it. Which, I know, sounds like I like puzzles where I don’t have to use my brain a whole lot, and that’s not exactly true. I like puzzles that I can solve quickly, or with lots of action, not puzzles where I have to stare at it until the solution pops into my head, or one that I just have to keep plugging away at to finish. Then it goes from fun brain exercise to boring tedium.