Try This ...

By Bonnie Collins (January, 1997)
(Last updated September, 2005)

Every day the number of people entering the realm of adventure games is growing. With this in mind I have compiled a few helpful hints and tips. This collection will be most advantageous to the novice gamer. If you are an experienced gamer, there still may be something here you can take away with you, or you may have a tip or two that might be added to the list.

Which game?
No one wants to plunk down large sums of money for a game that is poorly designed or one that has mediocre game play or is technically flawed in some way. So before purchasing a game read at least two independent reviews. (One of these reviews should be from the folks at Quandary, of course. Eds. J) Ask others who have played the game for their opinion, the Quandary Forum is a good place to start. More adventure sites with forums can be found here.

Demos are another source for evaluating a game. There is a plethora of websites that offer demo downloads free of charge. Gaming companies often make them available on their sites. Or you can purchase a magazine that has a demo disc on the cover. If it is a good game it will withstand scrutiny.

Once you have chosen your game it is a good idea to check out the website of the publisher or developer or a repository like The Patches Scrolls to see if there are any patches that need to be applied before you start playing. Patches are (usually) small files that fix up bugs and glitches that were discovered only after the game was released. Sometimes the patches won't work with any previously saved games so you may need to start from the beginning once you apply the patch.

Starting out
The best advice anyone can give to a gamer, whether new or seasoned, is to read the manual. Generally information on the game philosophy, the story so far and how the game controls work is contained in this very fine book. Troubleshooting tips will also be found here. If your game does not come with a manual, there should be a readme file on the disc itself.

Pay attention during the introduction. Important information could be revealed at this time. The first thing to do after viewing the introduction is to find the save, quit and restore options, and learn how to use them, then save your game. In case of early, unexpected demise you will not have to start the game from the very beginning. Once saved, "noodle" around in the game options (if available) to see how you can customize the game to your preference. If permitted, try playing the game with the voice and text options on simultaneously. This option is very useful as sometimes voices can be difficult to understand because of accents or overly loud music and sound effects. Adjust your walking and text speed, brightness, music and sound effects and any other game functions. Save your game to save the new settings. Check out all the icons as to their functions. Refer to the manual for more information on how they can be used.

The inventory
Most adventure games come with an inventory or some sort of container to hold the items you carry with you. Locate your inventory and check out what items you are starting out with. During your travels pick up everything that is not nailed, glued or bolted down (and even then do not be too quick to give up).

Examine items in the inventory if the game interface permits. Often you will find more clues as to their intended use. Try combining inventory items, it is quite possible you will get an entirely new object (sometimes the zaniest combinations work). In some games you can also "uncombine" previously combined objects.

Study your inventory items and think about how each one may be used. When in a situation where an inventory object has to be used and you are unsure as to which one, process of elimination works very well. If none of your current items work, come back later when you have acquired new ones. Sometimes inventory items may be used more than once, or they may have different uses in different locales. Click your inventory items on everything and everyone. Sometimes doing this will trigger new dialogue with other characters and lead to clues. Or the results can be surprising, anything from mildly humorous to quite hilarious (who knows what goes on in the minds of game designers?). Don't be put off if you get ridiculed for doing silly things, this happens to the best of us. Many experienced game players delight in trying the "unusable" on the "unthinkable" just to see what happens.

The game world
Examine everything. This is no time to be shy. My personal favourite is to look behind doors wherever possible. Look inside cupboards, drawers, desks, receptacles, etc. Have a pen and paper at hand; you will most likely need it. Jot down any messages, numbers or unusual markings you may come across as you may need this information later in the game. Take notes about people and places. You can save yourself a lot of backtracking by meticulous record keeping. If the game contains a journal or diary be sure to read it often. Vital clues for solving puzzles may be found here, or new information may be added as the game progresses.

Speak with everyone. Be persistent and talk to them until they start to repeat themselves or you have determined they have nothing more to say at this time. Be sure to return later as they may have new information.

Watch cut scenes all the way through at least once. They are another important source of information. Many games support scrolling so use your cursor to check the edges of the screen in each scene or you may miss an important location. Unfortunately some games require the exact pixel to be touched before an object will highlight or an action will be carried out, so be persistent when you are sure there is something to do but the game is not responding. When playing a game that automatically identifies active areas or "hotspots" (eg with a flashing cursor or a text tag) run your cursor slowly, carefully and methodically over the entire scene. If there are no automatic alerts then you must use your own eyes and click on EVERYTHING to see if you get a response.

Problems and puzzles
When you come up against a puzzle that has you absolutely stumped after hours of trying to crack it, try moving on to another location then come back later. Sometimes you may see a different approach to the problem. Remember, some puzzles may have more than one way to solve them. Also, some puzzles are solved in stages. Save your game after successfully mastering each stage. If you come to a point in the game where you are up against a blank wall, retrace your steps. You may have forgotten to try something or missed exploring an area. Two heads are better than one. Ask a friend, spouse or significant other to play along with you. No two people think alike, so when faced with one of those mind crunching puzzles the other person's slant on the problem may be quite helpful.

With timed puzzles save your game immediately before you start to solve. Once faced with the puzzle, find out what has to be done. As you figure out bits of the puzzle, write it down. When you run out of time restore the puzzle and start again. Eventually you will get the entire puzzle solved on paper. Memorize it then solve. Save your game when you are finished. Note: this method does not work with all timed puzzles.

Musical puzzles where you are required to replicate a series of musical notes can be the hardest to solve. Of all gaming puzzles, these are the most unfair and probably the least favoured as they exclude a particular segment of game players. For the tone deaf, they are near impossible. There is no easy solution to these puzzles. Put on your headphones (if you are fortunate enough to own some) and turn off any sounds not required for the actual puzzle. Listen to the tune repeatedly until you have discerned how many different notes are in the tune (usually between four and six). When you can detect differences in pitch, assign numbers to the notes ie: the lower sounding the note, the lower the number. As the tune plays try counting it out and writing down the sequence. When you have your sequence try to find the same numbers (sounds) on the device you replay the tune on, using the same numbering system. If you are deaf or tone deaf about the only thing you can do is look up the solution or get a musically-inclined person to solve it for you. You can also write to the game designers and ask them not to exclude you in future.

When inside a maze the best advice here is to map your way through on paper. Graph paper is excellent for this. Do not forget to mark down anything unusual in the maze, as it is usually put there for a reason. Landmarks come to mind. Upon entering a chamber inside a maze, examine it carefully. Permanently placed objects within the room may indicate the next direction to take.

Some adventure games have combat sequences. In many instances they are better fought using the keyboard rather than the mouse. If you fail miserably at fighting try getting an aggressive friend to fight the scene for you, or some games may allow you to override the sequence altogether. Check the manual. Avoid needless combat. When given a choice of fight or flight, choose flight. Most often that will be the wiser choice and you may be able to complete the game with minimum or no fighting. Of course if you want lots of fighting then adventure games are not for you. Here you can also write to game designers and complain. Remind them that there are plenty of combat games to satisfy the cravings of dedicated sharp-shooters and sword-wielding barbarians.

And more ...
Always save your game before attempting anything dangerous. In any event it is a good idea to save from time to time as some games are prone to crashing at the slightest provocation. When saving under Windows "Save As" file, try numbering and naming your saved games. Windows will arrange your saved games alphabetically so if you are away from your game for a few days you may not remember where you left off. With numbering, you can restore the highest number and you will be taken to your last position in the game. If the game interface allows limitless saved games, avoid saving on top of other saved games. This will make it easier if you have to jump back a few games to replay a scene.

Still cannot figure it out? Don't be ashamed to ask for help. There are several sources for hints. Some game companies may have a hint line and charge a small fee by the minute. Others give out hints on their website. You can also purchase a hint book. These might contain maps and other information not included with the game documentation as well as the solution. Look in the manual for addresses and phone numbers. Other sources are the adventure game newsgroup and the adventure game forums mentioned above that have many members who will be only too happy to help if they can. Also there are many web sites that offer walkthroughs. Resist the temptation to download the complete walkthrough as you may fall into the trap of finding it easier to look up the solution rather than trying to figure it out on your own. That is the surest way to take all the fun out of the game.

The intent of this article was to give the game player "general rules of thumb" rather than strict guidelines. Each game has its own unique characteristics just waiting to be discovered thus it would be impossible for every suggestion to work in every game.

There is nothing more satisfying than the feeling of accomplishment after solving a particularly tricky puzzle. To play an entire game without resorting to a single hint is indeed a wondrous feat. The game is there for your enjoyment and every puzzle really does have a solution.

Happy gaming.

Copyright © Bonnie Collins 1997. All rights reserved.