Yeah, I Cheated In A Puzzle Game, Don't Judge Me

Yeah, I Cheated In A Puzzle Game, Don't Judge Me

January is a great month for catching up on last year's games, and I've been using the lack of new releases to make my way through Croteam's fiendish puzzler, The Talos Principle. Everything is not what it seems in The Talos Principle, but if there's one constant, it's how difficult the puzzles become as you progress. This has resulted in some occasional cheating.

To be clear, I don't think there's a problem with cheating. You should play games however you like! Be happy, people. But if you're reading Kotaku, if you clicked on this article, chances are the idea of walkthroughs and guides make you, in most situations, a bit uneasy. Most of us cheerfully embrace the thrill of conquering whatever challenges are placed in front of us. Puzzles are different too. There's not much finesse required, typically; it's all in your head. It provides a particular satisfaction that's radically different from employing finger dexterity.

Some games occasionally feature puzzles to mix up what the player's being asked to do, but The Talos Principle is all puzzles, all the time. In the opening moments, it's clear what the next dozen-or-so hours are going to be about. You're gonna be directing lasers, stacking crates, disabling turrets, and more. Believe me, it's far more interesting than it sounds, especially when it's revealed an omnipotent voice in the clouds is watching and observing your every move. Yep.

The Talos Principle's brain teasers take place in small arenas, and the game doesn't go out of its way to keep things hidden. All of the pieces required to solve any given puzzle are right in front of you. Putting them in the right order, thus allowing you to move on, is altogether different.

Yeah, I Cheated In A Puzzle Game, Don't Judge Me

When a puzzle is presented to us, early experimentation is a delight. Poking and prodding results in ideas, albeit usually wrong ones. Bad ideas can lead to good ones. Good ideas can lead to solutions. And, weirdly, we often work out the solutions to puzzles by taking a break. The Talos Principle is filled with hundreds of puzzles, and it never forces you to spend time on any specific one. Another puzzle is usually only a few seconds away. How often have we walked away from something that's totally stumped us, only to realise the solution was so frickin' obvious?

But this bothers me. Gosh, it bothers me so much. It's impossible for me to complete more than a puzzle or two before I have to return to the scene of the crime. "I can't let this beat me," is the irrational thought running through my head. So it's back to the puzzle room that broke me. In both cases, I ran out of ideas. There was no more experimenting to be done, and I headed to YouTube. I tried to watch only until the solution would slide into view, then I did the rest.

One time, the solution came out of left field. It never would have occurred to me it was possible to bend the game's mechanics that way. I remember feeling the same way during a Braid puzzle, too. If you can't imagine having thought of the solution, is that really cheating?

Another time, it was clear I'd become mentally exhausted, and forgot to employ one of the more common solutions to a basic part of the puzzle. That's on me, Talos. But in a game with literally hundreds of puzzles, am I supposed to get emotionally hung up on failing one or two?

I wouldn't take the same approach to most other games, though. If I was dying over and over in a shooter, I'd keep playing until success was achieved -- or I'd give up. I wouldn't skip the level.

I've slammed my head over and over into a puzzle before. Have a look at my notes from Fez:

Yeah, I Cheated In A Puzzle Game, Don't Judge Me

It looks like gibberish, but it's beautiful gibberish. I'd come in to work and compare theories with other people in the office. If someone else was further than me, I'd ask for a small hint. I wanted to feel the rush of adrenaline stemming from solving a problem on your own, but I'm not opposed to a nudge in the right direction. The Talos Principle could use some better hints.

To unlock hints in The Talos Principle, you actually have to solve a series of puzzles, and even then, you only get a handful. So far, I haven't used any of them, wary of deploying the hints inappropriately. I suspect it's going to mirror my approach to playing survival horror games, though. In any given Resident Evil game, the credits will roll with my character packing a million pieces of ammunition and health. In The Talos Principle, it will be a box of unused hints.

But puzzles are weird. You sometimes have to get inside the head of the designer. "What do they want me to do?" becomes part of the metagame. We've come a long way from the trial-and-error days of the earliest adventure games, but the root of the problem still exists. It's not a problem, necessarily. All of us aren't mentally wired the same way. How else do I explain being able to breeze through algebra but completely bomb at geometry in high school? It's tough to imagine how a game could have an option to make a puzzle become "easy." How would that work? A designer can drop the HP count of an enemy but the concept doesn't really apply to puzzles.

Enter a contradiction! I've had absolutely no problem cheating in a few other games. Specifically, visual novels. Readers turned me onto the genre with 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. These games are all text 'n puzzles. Unfortunately, not only are some of the puzzles overly boring and complex, finding the game's "true" ending is, in fact, its own puzzle. The true ending is crucial to understanding what's really happening, and I decided to look up how one unlocks it. My jaw was on the floor the entire time. It also remains unclear how a human discovered ever the ending, and I felt zero guilt for following the guide step-by-step.

Games aren't all about entertainment and fun for me. I want the whole emotional spectrum, including frustration, challenge, and regret. Something's gotta give every once and a while, though. I want to see everything The Talos Principle has to offer, so I'll cheat a little bit. Where that line falls is different for every player, every game, and every experience. Where's yours?


Comments

    Remember back in the day when you'd get stuck on certain section of an adventure game? Spend 3 days wandering the whole world trying to "pick up" every pixel you could see on the screen, or trying use every item in your inventory on everything possible.
    Then you give up and call the Sierra hotline and pray to god your parents don't notice that call when the next phone bill comes in.

    we are gamers, of course we will judge you :p

    I agree though, if it's a single player game do what you have to do to get your enjoyment out of it. if you have to cheat in a MP game, then you should stick to single player games.

    Last edited 15/01/15 3:30 pm

      We will judge.

      If someone is better at a game than us, they're a basement dwelling Virgin. If they're worse than us, they're terrible, a casual.

      If someone knows more of the lore than us, they're unhealthily obsessed, if they know less then we say "pfffft" and accuse them of not being a real fan and to "get educated"

      And so on it goes.

      Most nerds like to think they've got the balance perfect and then judge others with extreme prejudice.

    nope cheating/walkthroughs is bad and you should feel bad.

    I ruined my experience of Monkey Island Special Edition by relying on the hint button too much. Sure, I started without using it at all. Then, just once. Then maybe another cause I've been stuck on this for half an hour. Oh sure, why not? Another hint. Before I knew it, I'd spend a minute on a puzzle before using the hint button. I ruined the game.

    Nothing wrong with cheating on single player games as long as you do it in moderation.

    Puzzle games are played for the fun of the intellectual challenge, but sometimes the frustration factor reaches a point where the game ceases to be enjoyable to play. At that point you can stop playing and do something else, you can keep banging your head against the wall, which may or may not eventually be constructive - or you can cheat.

    If you're cheating on every puzzle, you're no longer playing a game. You're walking through somebody else's game. This applies to walkthroughs in general.

    Basically, if it's a single player game, play it however you like, and if that includes cheating, there's nothing wrong with that as long as you're honest about it. Just don't go and boast to somebody else about how easy the game was...

    The Talos Principle is not an Elder Scrolls game . I am very disappointed.

    if it makes you feel any better I always look up the code for the safe in Shinra mansion in Final Fantasy 7 because I am too lazy to bother solving or remembering it.

    My mates and i believe devs have a "frustration dept". Y'know that one level or sequence or area that totally bottlenecks a game? Yep. Thats them. Its more glaring when the rest of a game is easy and 1 section is a bitch. And never the last level, they're meant to be hard.

    I think i know the braid puzzle you're talking about, one level that used a mechanic that had never been in the game till that one puzzle, had it 99% except for that one puzzle and i could not figure it out and ended up caving, i felt bad but it was something that was never used or even clued at in the game, from memory it was letting a enemy bounce on another enemy to get double height or something. still kinda haunts me that i looked it up

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