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Puzzle Theory
Written by Blake Speers

Okay, before I knew that "other" puzzle document was out there, I came up with *this* puzzle document. What's funny is that we have almost all the same definitions, except I have more in numbers, and the other one is more succinct. We even use the same terminology!!

Still, this has some things the other has not. So here it is, my puzzle tutorial!!

Puzzle Theory : A start

Ever been stuck for a new puzzle, one that isn't just "give item to man?" Well, below are some of the accumulated puzzle theories from various people here at the AGS pages. I've compiled them into categories and come up with some of my own. A good puzzle maker should combine many of these ideas and her or his own.

A good puzzle should not just be fun to solve, but be intimately linked to the game, to the style and tone.

All puzzles should be in some sense original, or repeated for parody effect.

This is not a comprehensive list and it is not complete, but it is a start.

All puzzles can be in same room or multiple rooms, and should be chosen to span either short term or long term based on context.

In my document, if one puzzle references to another, that reference is in capital letters.

In alphabetical order (because I can't think of any other)

WARNING: Some of the examples are spoilers.

Action Sequences:

Jumping, rolling, swinging out of the way, climbing, driving, etc.


The "Indiana Jones" games had many of these (obviously), and the Space Quests had a few (in one you have to dodge the villain in your son's body).

Action sequences really add dynamism to games, but are difficult to script in AGS and many adventure gamers would rather they could be skipped, since their intention is to think, not dash.

Angle Adjustment:

There are various games where adjusting the angle of a thing is the key.


In "Monkey Island" you have to push a cannon the right direction to shoot the correct target. In "Myst" you have to turn many things to the correct angle or direction, including a lighthouse and a star-map.

Experiment. Some KINETIC PUZZLES would really do well mixed with Angle Adjustment.

Arrange Objects:

Different from the various COMBO puzzles, this involves not creating a new item or affecting some item on screen, but creating a structure from the shapes of items.


No famous ones come to mind, but some ideas include making an arrow from sticks and stones, or creating a bizarre monster from moss and other strange objects (used perhaps to scare villagers. A bridge could be built from individual stones or boards.

All right, this one is fairly overlapping, but I'm trying to spur thought here!

Big Quest:

Not strictly a puzzle, but I had to include it here. Basically, any series of smaller puzzles can make up a single bigger one, such as getting 3 magic items, completing 3 tasks, finding the Golden egg of the apocalypse, You may need to solve *many* puzzles on your big quest.


Rarely used, except in the context of KILLING AND DESTROYING, some puzzles can be solved by simply ignoring the problem.


None come to mind, except one invented by Mods and one by me. You have a box standing in the way and nothing will break it... but you can actually walk around the box (though that option is not obvious). A similar example would be a horrendous monster who promises to destroy you that you simply walk around and never encounter.

Children's/board/gambling Games:

Children's/board/gambling games are apt for many puzzles. Hopscotch, jump rope, races, checkers, chess, poker, fish, battleships, slots, etc.


In "Conquest of the Longbow," you play a board game for money. In "Kyrandia 3," you have to *lose* at tic-tac-toe.

There are so many other opportunities, none of which are easy to script.


Sometimes colour matching is used as a way to add to a puzzle, or as a puzzle in itself.


In "Sam and Max Hit the Road," you need to go through a series of door in the right order based on the door's colour. In "Edge of Reality" you have to match Spray Paint to the colour of the wall.

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