Hard Puzzle

by Ade McT profile

Episode 1 of Hard Puzzle Trilogy
Science Fiction

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A hard puzzle, November 20, 2015
by CMG (NYC)

As a rule, I'm not that enthusiastic about puzzles, and yet I was drawn into this game and beat my head against it for two entire days. This was more than a hard puzzle for me. This was a mini life experience.

What happened? I'm not that great at manipulating finicky things in parser games, and this game is loaded, loaded, loaded with them. I usually give up on puzzles, and although I talked with other people to make some progress by exchanging hints, I didn't make much progress that way at all. But I never considered stopping. I had to finish. I needed to figure out what the hell was going on, both on a story level and on a meta level.

Hard Puzzle is set in an apocalyptic world where you have been tasked with assembling a stool for "The Family" because they "like the look of it." This stool is intended "for milking." Even though the story is sparse, little details here and there worked their way into my brain like parasites and wouldn't get out. Whereas other puzzle games often lose my interest by requiring too much mechanical tinkering, Hard Puzzle's strangeness wouldn't release me, even while it was clobbering me with more and more mechanical tinkering nightmares.

But what made me truly unable to leave the game alone was that I didn't know on what level I could trust it. Hard Puzzle bills itself as silly speed-IF, but is this true? It has implementation errors, as you would expect in speed-IF, but it acknowledges these errors. And perhaps more than anything, it was written by Ade McT, whose game Map placed second in the IFComp mere days before Hard Puzzle was released onto IFDB.

Normally, not being able to trust a game means not wanting to play it because you think it might be unfair or broken. In this case, not being able to trust it made the experience even more compelling for me.

Now that I have solved Hard Puzzle, I look back at my time playing it these past two days and... feel inclined to say nothing about how right or wrong I was to suspect anything about this game. I think that some people might never solve it. I think that some people might solve it much faster than I did.

There is a famous murder mystery play by Agatha Christie called The Mousetrap that has been running since 1952, and although countless people have now seen the play, its ending is rarely ever discussed in order to preserve the surprise for new audiences. For that same reason, I hope that no walkthrough is ever provided for Hard Puzzle. I hope no solution is ever published. I hope that anyone who solves it will remain silent.

Comments on this review

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Deboriole, November 24, 2015 - Reply
I have been obsessed with this game for the last couple of days. I admire (and envy) you for being able to solve it! I am so totally stuck, but I don't want to give up. I am determined! :)
Andrew Schultz, November 19, 2015 - Reply
OK, you've made me want to read The Mousetrap now. (I never have.) And finish Hard Puzzle. I got distracted with other things. But I made some headway.

For me it's interesting being on the other side of a hard puzzle, and my implementation errors may not have been quite as--err--intentional.
Doug Orleans, November 21, 2015 - Reply
I had the great fortune of seeing a local community theater production of The Mousetrap earlier this year, and it was great. The audience was invited to write down our guesses for who the murderer was at the intermission, and I think there were prizes awarded randomly to a few of the people who guessed correctly. (I did not guess correctly.) I imagine reading the play is fun too, but definitely steer clear of the Wikipedia page, which unapologetically spoils the plot!

I am envious of CMG's solving experience with this game. I have banged my head against it fruitlessly, and I suspect I am not going to be able to solve it without big hints. But for now I will keep banging...
Andrew Schultz, November 21, 2015 - Reply
Thanks for not spoiling Mousetrap. I got the book from the library. It had a collection of her plays, so that may be nice to look at. That sounds like a cool way to involve the audience, too.

More on-point, congrats CMG on being the first to solve it! I admit that even using the cheat I did, I couldn't figure it when I looked through it.
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