This week on Extra Punctuation, Yahtzee discusses the Monkey Island franchise and the complicated art of puzzles in video games. This video is sponsored by Talespire, a tabletop world-builder that lets GameMasters craft expansive worlds with exotic characters for online campaigns that can fit any game type or rule set! Check out TaleSpire on Steam.
Extra Punctuation Transcript
In my recent review of Return to Monkey Island I drew a comparison between its puzzle design and that of Monkey Island 2, its predecessor. Those of you who saw my previous Extra Punctuation about point and click adventure games will recall that when we talk about puzzles in such games we usually mean inventory puzzles, and very frequently these tend to be a bit insipid. You pick up object A and use it to resolve situation B, at its worst it just boils down to a linear sequence of finding keys or key equivalents to put in locks or lock equivalents.
The survival horror genre in particular is lousy with this sort of puzzle design. Even my horror game waifu Silent Hill 2 is guilty of it. The objective is usually to explore every room that’s currently accessible, find all the random pickups lying around in them, then figure out where to put them all like you’re looking for the right-shaped holes to fit your collection of pegs, and it’s frequently instantly obvious what you’re supposed to do once you’ve got all the pieces laid out. This is very boring puzzle design. Survival horror gets away with it because it’s also got survival and horror. The inventory puzzles are really just a framework, an excuse to get you moving from room to room so the game can have more opportunities to fling zombies at your head.