It never fails. Just as you're really getting into an adventure game, right at the point where you're enjoying the flow of the story—you run smack into a puzzle you can't solve.
What can you do? Sure, everyone knows you're supposed to sit there, happily remaining stuck, until you figure the puzzle out for yourself. In many cases, though, your patience fails. You can't take it any longer. You want hints or a walkthrough, and you want them now.
Never fear. Help is available, if only you know where to look—and more importantly, what you're looking for.
The first decision you have to make is whether you're interested in a hint or a walkthrough. Hints give you gentle nudges to help you get past points where you're stuck, gradually suggesting the solution to a puzzle rather than giving blatant solutions right away. A walkthrough, on the other hand, is more like a recipe: do step A, go to location B, pick up object C, and continue until you win.
On the whole, hints are much harder to come by than walkthroughs, because they're more time consuming to create. Even so, I recommend that you try to find hints for a game so as to avoid having the entire game's solution handed to you.
One of the best places to get a hint is from other people who have already played the game. To find these people, you'll need to visit a Usenet newsgroup or online bulletin board. You can get hints for text adventures on the Usenet newsgroup rec.games.int-fiction; for graphic adventure games, check comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.adventure or comp.sys.mac.games.adventure. When it comes to bulletin boards, there are a number of good general-purpose adventure game hint boards, like the one at GameBoomers. Also check the publisher's web site, as more and more companies are offering game-specific bulletin boards where fans discuss the games in question and answer hint requests.
If you can't find help at any of those sources, or you feel uncomfortable flaunting your ignorance to the world by asking for hints, you might be able to find on-line hints. The most notable source of hints is the Universal Hint System (UHS), a shareware reader which presents gradual hints for an amazingly large collection of games. A while back UHS began making a number of their hints freely available as web pages, as an alternative to registering the reader. Though the web pages are free, they're not nearly as convenient as the UHS reader.
Then again, you may be more interested in a walkthrough, especially given how difficult it can be to find true hints. If so, your options are much wider.
For text adventures, the best place to look is the /solutions directory of the IF Archive. In that directory are solutions for just about any text adventure you're likely to play. Walkthroughs of newer text adventures take a while to appear, though; if you can't find what you're looking for, you'll probably have to ask for help at one of the places listed above.
Graphic adventure walkthrough sites are a dime a dozen. Some of the better ones are:
- GameFAQs, which not only has a lot of walkthroughs, but also often has more than one walkthrough for a given game.
- The Spoiler Centre, which has walkthroughs organized by company rather than by game name.
- GameBoomers. Not only do they have a thriving bulletin board, they have an extensive collection of adventure game walkthroughs.
- Linda's Walkthroughs. Along with MIDI background music and startling background pictures is a collection of a large number of walkthroughs, and Linda is very good about helping you find what you're looking for if you can't find it on her site.