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Best and worst *final* puzzles?

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Joined 2017-12-19

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I just remembered another one. Sort of.

In The Detective Game you have to arrest the bad guy in the end. The way to do that is a bit anticlimatic: you have a couple of seconds to use a gun on that guy, assuming you have picked up the gun earlier.

But the best(?) part is that if you didn’t swap real bullets for planks earlier elsewhere then the bad guy is going to shoot you first.

So if you have played for hours and reach the end, you can still fail the game in three ways in the very last moment. And two of those are consequences of something that you did or didn’t do before, and one is failing to react superfast. Note: you don’t need to react superfast earlier in the game, so the game mechanics changes in the very last puzzle.

As the game was released in 1986, I suppose most of that can be seen as having been a good puzzle design back then. Without any save game options in Commodore 64, I wonder how many players threw their joysticks at their televisions at that last point…

Regardless of all that, The Detective Game was ahead of its time. It had point-and-click GUI icons (not a LucasFilm-style verb list) and somewhat independent NPCs in 1986, so there’s that!

     
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tomimt - 11 September 2020 04:58 AM

The problem with puzzles is that it’s pretty hard to make them feel climatic. They aren’t, by nature similar to end boss fights you can ramp up in order to make them feel more epic. That’s why most adventures just kind of fizzle out instead of end with an epic puzzle. Or go with an epic cinematic instead of a puzzle.

That said, one of the worst endgame sequences I’ve played is in an old adventure game Future Wars. It ends with a timed maze you have to first run to the end and then again to the middle point in order to escape. The kicker is, you’ll only find out through trial and error if you have enough time to go back to the middle point after you’ve completed the first part, as the timer doesn’t reset at any point.

You make an interesting point, but solving puzzles in Phoenix Wright does become increasingly more satisfying as you reach the climax of the story.

     

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Thanks for your input, everyone!

I’ve made a video that tries to tackle this topic as a result of your collective thoughts:

 

     
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Very nice video.

For me personally, I never have any “last brilliant puzzle” in the end of an adventure game. I prefer it when it is the story elements (atmosphere, a shocking reveal, etc) that takes the spotlight there. This is accomplished in many of the classic adventures. In Riven we finally meet Gehn and we have the opportunity to hear his viewpoint for his actions, in Gabriel Knight 1 we are give with the decision to save Malia or not in the climax of a failed voodoo ritual, in the Longest Journey we finally get to visit the Tower of Balance, etc. No one remembers Portal 2 for the final fight with Wheatley, but everyone remembers the last “moon” sequence. Even more recent adventure games like SOMA or Anna’s Quest have given greater value in revealed story elements or shocking moments in the end than puzzles that differate from the majority of the rest of the games’ riddles.

EDIT: For the record, the most classic example of Final Riddle I think it is in Darkfall: the Journal. Basically the entire game is collecting information in order to correctly solve the last riddle. Grin

     
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I also think it’s a very good video. But I think part of it misconstrues your own original question which are the best and worst final puzzles. The video premise is that there are design considerations that must be met. (Of course. The whole game is made up of design decisions.) And one of those decisions is how the game will end. One design decision might be to just let the game end. If everyone is happy, e.g. the hero marries the heroine ... cut to credits. Your decision to never end a game with a maze or action scene is admirable. But it misses the third most hated ending, and that is the virtually impossible to solve puzzle. If your game ending objective is to leave the player with a sense of satisfaction, that cant be a way to end a game.

     

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Not a lot of positive examples here, so I’ll mention that the recent Paradise Killer has got me revisiting its court sequence finale several times now. Not only is it a great way to put all the pieces together and dispense justice (and one that doesn’t take too long to go through a second time because it has a good judge who’s on top of things and standards of evidence that seem kind of in your favor honestly), there are also a lot of permutations based on who you accuse of what crimes and what evidence you bring to bear, even letting you conceal or twist evidence if you feel it leads to a more just outcome in the end.

     

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It’s a classic position amongst adventure players, but I can’t stress it enough. I hate it when a game ends with a timed or action sequence, especially when there haven’t been any of this kind before. Full Throttle is a prime example of this.

I don’t need an extra-special puzzle to end a game if the story reaches a satisfying conclusion. A type of final puzzle I appreciate a lot though is an ending “à la Poirot”, where you have to piece together everything you’re learnt and observed so far to solve the mystery. Phoenix Wright does a bit of this, in a way. Cruise for a Corpse did (but the game is hardly excellent). And well Poirot mostly does it for you in the Poirot games and that’s a shame, really Grin

And nice video by the way Smile

     
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The puzzle-centric games tend to have pretty good final puzzles that use everything you’ve learned throughout the game in the final section, most often without being overly difficult.
Portal, Portal 2, The Talos Principle…


For “regular” adventure games, I don’t care what the final puzzle is and whether or not it’s even a good puzzle or not. I just want the story to unfold and see some cutscenes…

     

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I think Simon the Sorcerer 3 had the worst final puzzle. it was timed and you couldn’t see anything and it was horrible.  I played the game 3 times already but the last 2 times I stopped at the final puzzle. It just wasn’t worth it, IMHO.

     

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The Top Ten Best Adventure Game Ending Puzzles/Sequences I’ve Played:

10. Gateway
9. Portal or Portal 2 (take your pick)
8. Spider and Web
7. The Secret of Monkey Island
6. Memoria
5. 999
4. Loom
3. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
2. Quest for Glory 2
1. Trinity

The Top Ten Worst Final Sequences/Puzzles in Adventure Games:

Note: I only include bad ending sequences from generally good games, not bad endings from bad games. A bad ending on a good game really hurts the experience. A bad ending sequence on a bad game is just more of the same.

10. Jigsaw
9. Zero Time Dilemma
8. Gabriel Knight 3
7. Journey (the Infocom visual novel, not the console game)
6. Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth
5. The Pandora Directive
4. King’s Quest 7
3. Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments (or, if you prefer, the Testament of Sherlock Homes; both have pretty underwhelming ending sequences.)
2. Myst
1. Star Trek: 25th Anniversary

     

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Advie - 10 September 2020 09:08 AM

it was always a theme to make the last puzzle dreadful, look MI3, 5 amazing chapters and a dreadful ending last chapter puzzle.

Yes, there are some games where I don’t even attempt the final “puzzle” on a replay. Instead I go straight to YouTube to watch a Let’s Player suffer through it.

     

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Subject 13 had an awful Minesweeper puzzle at the end. I was so annoyed I didn’t finish the game and up until then I was enjoying it.

     
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furgotten - 06 October 2020 09:40 PM

Subject 13 had an awful Minesweeper puzzle at the end. I was so annoyed I didn’t finish the game and up until then I was enjoying it.

That was one of the best puzzles in the game!

The problem was that whenever you hit a mine, you needed to take the orb, and then place it there again, which was annoying. Had there been some automatic way to do that, it would have been much better. The game itself didn’t reset though, so even hitting a mine was actually a step closer to completion.

It can be that they made the orb thing on purpose to prevent players from just randomly clicking through the puzzle, which is still of course possible, but requires repositioning that orb a couple hundred times or so.

But otherwise it was a very enjoyable puzzle, then again I like Minesweeper so I’m biased.

     
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WitchOfDoubt - 06 October 2020 07:57 PM

The Top Ten Worst Final Sequences/Puzzles in Adventure Games:

Note: I only include bad ending sequences from generally good games, not bad endings from bad games. A bad ending on a good game really hurts the experience. A bad ending sequence on a bad game is just more of the same.


5. The Pandora Directive

Why?
You’re given everything you need to work out the code and it’s completely logical. Yes, it’s timed but many are and the time allotted is fairly reasonable.
Far worse “puzzle” in PD, although obviously not the final one, was the fire maze which was totally physically impossible, not to say tedious.

     

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For clarity, when I include PD, I’m including the whole final chunk of the game - not just the code, but the stuff running up to it. I suppose in hindsight that would have made more sense for a list of “worst final sections” than “worst final puzzles!”

     

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