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The Point-and-Click Puzzle Pinnacle: my response

As announced last month, the awesome Quietschisto from RNG and I are on a quest to find out which point-and-click puzzle is the best that’s ever challenged players – and which we never want to see again. From minefield bunnies to aggressive goats to monkey wrenches, let’s get this challenge started!

I’ve been a fan of adventures since picking up The Secret of Monkey Island when I was nine-years old and even now, almost three decades later, the genre still holds a special place in my heart. That doesn’t mean I believe all point-and-clicks are great games and that all puzzles within them are well-designed however. It took some time to decide which challenges to put forward as the best and worst, but I think I’ve picked some worthy options below. Bring on the conversation trees and pixel-hunting!

The best

The puzzle:   Insult-swordfighting from The Secret of Monkey Island

The set-up:   Guybrush Threepwood must complete the Three Trials set by the pirate leaders in order to fulfill his dream of becoming a buccaneer. These include defeating the mighty Sword Master – but it’s not just about how you handle a lesson weapon, as he finds out during a lesson with Captain Smirk.

Why it’s so good:   Comedy, logic and creativity combine to give players a puzzle fit for a pirate: this challenge contains everything we love about point-and-clicks. Our hero has to track down opponents on the roads of MΓͺlΓ©e Island and challenge them to a fight, picking up new insults and testing out collected responses to build his repertoire. The lines are legendary in the gaming world: I’ve spoken with apes more polite than you – I’m glad to hear you attended your family reunion! You make me want to puke – you make me think somebody already did!

LucasArts perfectly captured the cerebral nature of the adventure genre and the excitement of a classic movie duel, while letting us all express our inner-pirate with the insult-swordfighting puzzle. The formula is mixed up when you’re finally good enough to take on Carla; you can’t just use the lines and responses you’ve already heard in the same way and instead have to consider what would be the best comeback to her new challenges. If you’re good enough, you’ll be rewarded with a ‘I beat the Sword Master’ t-shirt.

The outcome:   Guybrush completes the Three Trials, fulfills his ambition, beats the zombie ghost pirate LeChuck (sort of) and falls in love with Governor Elaine Marley. Adventure gamers everywhere are inspired to create witty insults, and tell other fans they fight like a cow with knowing nods of appreciation.

The worst

The puzzle:   The cat-hair moustache from Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned

The set-up:   Our hero must pretend to be someone else in order to fool a moped-rental clerk into giving him the last available vehicle. To do so, he must make a disguise that includes a moustache. Made out of cat-hair. To impersonate a detective whose only facial hair is a bit of stubble.

Why it’s so bad:   This puzzle has to be the worst ever dreamt up for a point-and-click because all common sense flies out of the window (or catflap). First, the person we’re impersonating in this section of the game doesn’t have facial hair – and surely an important part in trying to fool people into believing you’re someone without a moustache is to not create a fake moustache? Gabriel must therefore take the additional step of drawing one onto Detective Moseley’s driving license so his furry-cat-face resembles that shown on the identification.

Next, consider where this part of our hero’s disguise is derived from: you must attach masking tape to a hole beneath a toolshed and then chase a cat through it. I’m not sure what’s worse; the fact the game’s designers want us to believe that tape with a few animal hairs stuck to it is going to pass as a moustache, or that Gabriel attaches it to his face using maple syrup. This puzzle deserves to win the ‘worst’ category because I don’t know anybody who hasn’t resorted to a walkthrough to complete it – and it’s this type of senseless challenge that gives the point-and-click genre a bad name.

The outcome:   Players are left wondering whether the game can get any more absurd, while Gabriel ends up getting his moped. Presumably he has to stop at a supermarket on his way out of Rennes-le-Chateau to pick up one of those sticky hair-removers. Surely he could have just used more maple syrup?

Is insult-swordfighting the pinnacle of the adventure genre? Does Gabriel Knight deserve to be punished for thinking he can get away with a cat-hair moustache? We’re asking the community to help us find the best and worst point-and-click puzzles by voting. Be sure to check out the answers from Quietschisto of RNG, Sebastian of The Platformer and Jonez from NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog, then cast your votes in the polls below before the end of November. The results will be announced on Saturday, 01 December 2019 over on RNG.

  • Vote for the best puzzle here
  • Vote for the worst puzzle here

  • Kim View All

    Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.

    16 thoughts on “The Point-and-Click Puzzle Pinnacle: my response Leave a comment

      • They’re pretty good because the style of each of the three games is very different. Plus Tim Curry does the voice-acting for Gabriel in the first and third, and he’s awesome here! But the cat-hair moustache does give the series a bit of a bad name… I couldn’t choose any other puzzle for my ‘worst’.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yarr!! I seriously need to play more point-n-click Adventure games, including the entire Monkey Island series, haha. Thanks for recommending Paradigm and Ben There, Dan That a while ago, by the way! The sarcastic humour in the genre is amazing 😁

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    2. Gabriel Knight’s moustache puzzle succeeds in being the worst πŸ˜† I wrote this on Neko Jones’ blog, but I was also thinking of how Guybrush has to help Otis break out in Monkey Island 1 by pouring grog from one jug to the next as one of the worst puzzles out there. I used to be so bad at this and it’s not even a proper puzzle. In the end though, Kate Walker’s Kate Walkering won. πŸ˜†

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      • Oh no… I loved that grog puzzle when I was a kid! I started The Secret of Monkey Island at Christmas with my dad and grandfather, and was so pleased with myself when I managed to figure out the solution before they did. πŸ˜‰

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        • I just replayed that yesterday on stream and it wasn’t even half as bad as I remembered. I used to barely get the cell open after several tries. I think I’ve probably improved my mouse coordination since then πŸ˜…

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            • Haha, it’s okay. I was a bit tired, so it might not be the best stream out there. πŸ˜› I was playing the remastered edition with voice acting and stuff and got past the three trials in the beginning. I’ll have to continue the journey next time when Guybrush and co. are on their journey to Monkey Island. So, if you have time, you can just drop by then 😁

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    3. The damn cat hair puzzle. As I’ve heard and read it said (I think, if you remember, Katie Hallahan from Phoenix Online told us this via Skype during a Gameblast) that it was a producer who added this puzzle as a replacement for one that Jane Jensen wanted but was too expensive/complicated to work into the game.

      As for why it might have been that way, I point you to this, don’t know if you’ve ever read it, it’s the post-mortem Gamasutra did on GK3 and once you read it, you come to sympathise with the developers, even in terms of the cat puzzle.

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