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Escape from Monkey Island's Puzzles, Page 3

by Stephen Granade

Where the Puzzles Go Wrong

There are some lapses, though. The only reason to use the chess clock is because it's the only available clock in the game, not because it makes sense to do so. For one, chess clocks run forward when the button is pushed. For another, why does the clock magically switch to match the direction you need to move in?

Worse is how the pirate scent puzzle is clued. If you examine the handkerchief Pegnose Pete left behind, you'll be told that it smells of something. Fair enough. But you need several scents. How do you figure this out? By examining the handkerchief repeatedly.

This is bad. The description of every other item remains constant, as long as you don't do something to it. Not so with the handkerchief -- but there's no way for you to know that short of stumbling on this fact by accident. The clues are there, but so well-hidden that most people won't find them except by luck.

This creates a large problem: such lapses make you lose faith in the fairness of the game, and once that happens, you'll turn to a walkthrough as soon as you hit a tough puzzle, like the one involving how to tell Jumbeaux's parrots apart.

The problem is, these lapses are nearly inescapable. In a game of this size, you just can't keep the puzzles perfectly tuned, not for everyone. That's why the adventure community's changing taste in puzzles is so important. We've lost our patience for complex puzzles, and the ready availability of walkthroughs on the Internet doesn't increase our patience.

Given the popularity of Escape from Monkey Island, perhaps other companies will create similar adventure games. If so, perhaps the puzzles in those games will be as well-designed as the ones in EMI. That's a lot of "if"s, though, more than I'd want to bet on.

The puzzles in Escape from Monkey Island are no worse than the ones in any of its predecessors, from The Secret of Monkey Island to Monkey Island 2 and The Curse of Monkey Island. They haven't changed. It's us who have changed.

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This article copyright © 2002, Stephen Granade

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