Moon Logic Puzzle

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Just wait until you have to figure out where to use the cross-stitch itself...[1]
I know that this game took a lot of work, but you can't make people think they'll need to take the cat and cover it with gasoline if they want to proceed...
0EndlessNameless0, Pursuit user review

Sometimes, it's easy to see how to Solve the Soup Cans - give the chicken noodle soup to the guard with the cold, trade the tomato for the red orb, and pour the cream of mushroom into the chalice with Mario engraved on the side. The puzzles may be challenging, but given enough thought, the solution follows a logical progression.

And then sometimes, standard logic just won't get you to the right answer, no matter how hard you try. To find the solution, you have to look at the problem in a way that may seem entirely unintuitive on its face. This is not a Guide Dang It; all the information you need to complete your objective is right there in the source. Some people will be able to make the intuitive leap almost immediately, others will struggle for hours and still never spot the bend in logic that leads to the answer.

If a frustrated player eventually does reach for the strategy guide, there will be two common reactions on discovering the answer: If the puzzle is well written, the answer will make complete, brilliant sense in hindsight, and the player will respect the puzzle designer, perhaps curse themselves for giving in to the strategy guide, or for needing it in the first place. Other times, the clues that would have led to the solution seem so out of left field that it leaves the player wondering "how was I supposed to know that?" Such "out of left field" examples might entail figuring out the third meaning of a Double Entendre someone you talked to 20 hours ago made or listening to the unlisted audio track included on the bonus disc that didn't come with the rental. It makes sense after you read the answer, but you still don't think anyone could possibly solve it on their own. Even a highly skilled, Genre Savvy puzzle-solver will occasionally get stuck on one of these. When this is bad enough that hundreds of players will get stuck on this puzzle, it's That One Puzzle.

In real life, the genre of brainteasers known as "lateral thinking puzzles" or "insight puzzles" often fall in this category. As a character trait, the Cloudcuckoolander may best display the skills necessary to tackle these kinds of problems; anyone else will have to rely on Bat Deduction.

Examples of Moon Logic Puzzle include:

Video Games

  • Inverted by Infocom's Nord and Bert Couldn't Make Head or Tail of It, where the opposite of Moon Logic must be applied - that is, complete and utter literalism.
  • Riff's ocean puzzle in Kingdom of Loathing took the player base months to figure out: during exploration of the sea, 43 islands were found that each had a single strange tiki idol, and when those islands were plotted on a grid and connected with lines, they spelled out a name which could be used to summon the tiki god himself.
    • And the reason why? Because one player thought to include an apostrophe.
    • "Big Rock + Hot Buttered Roll = Heart of Rock and Roll" almost makes sense in retrospect, but there are others, like "bunny liver + popsicle stick = liver popsicle", that seem to strictly come from left field.[2] And there are others, like lihc eye pie (that's the correct in-game spelling), that are based on puns. These also make sense in retrospect, but first have to be found by trial and error.
    • Some of the puzzles require the player to know what the devs' favorite band is. This would be the Brick Joke variant, since hints at that very fact are sprinkled throughout the game.
  • King's Quest I Quest for The Crown contained one puzzle where the player had three attempts to guess a Rumplestiltskin character's name, with the sole hint in the game being a letter saying "sometimes it pays to think backwards". In the original edition, this implied spelling "Rumplestiltskin" using an alphabetic cipher where Z=A, Y=B, and so on (the answer was thus "Ifnkovhgroghprm"); this proved too difficult for most players even in its time, so for the game's Enhanced Remake the solution was simplified to just spelling "Rumplestiltskin" backwards.
    • The "Make Rain" spell in King's Quest VI Heir Today Gone Tomorrow might qualify. You need to combine three different liquids in a teapot. There are no teapots in the game, and the only hint (not explicitly mentioned in the game itself) is that the old hunter's lamp looks a bit like a teapot. Considering that in a previous game (King's Quest III to Heir Is Human) spells had to be cast exactly according to the instructions (it doubled as the game's Copy Protection, so failure meant Have a Nice Death), it's easy for veteran gamers to be Wrong Genre Savvy on this one.
      • Later on there's an even more unintuitive puzzle: Jollo informs Alexander that you can get the Big Bad's right hand genie out of the way by switching the genie's lamp with an identical one. Conveniently, there's a peddler selling lamps out on the street but you don't know which lamp to pick. What's the solution? Go to the pawn shop where the genie is there in disguise and make Alexander drink a fake death potion so that a cutscene appears where the genie goes to report this to his master and the player can get a look at the lamp and choose it when Alexander wakes up. What makes this completely out of left field is the fact that not only have the prior cutscenes between the genie and the Big Bad not shown the lamp meaning there would be no reason to believe this would work, but the puzzle itself breaks the fourth wall since the knowledge of the lamp's appearance is only shown to the player, meaning that from an in story perspective Alexander got the right lamp via a lucky guess (Alexander himself claims this when he is later asked how he chose the right lamp).
    • Don't forget King's Quest V Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder and its cheese-powered magic-transferral drive.
  • The underground train from Myst where there are small noises at each intersection, each different noise indicating a different direction.
  • That codec number from Metal Gear Solid is an odd intersection of this and All There in the Manual, in that it's literally in the manual (well, on the packaging at any rate). Many people thought that when they told you to look on the back of the CD case, they meant the case of the CD you just got in the game (which you can't look at), or another similar in-game item, leading players to wander all over the levels either trying to use the disc, or finding whatever item was being referred to.
    • There is a way around not having the game case: call Campbell about four times and Meryl's number will be added to your list of Codec frequencies.
  • While the puzzle isn't particularly difficult or strange in terms of effect, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake: Solid Snake deserves a special mention for containing one of the best/worst puzzles ever to be placed in a video game. It is replicated here in text form for your troping entertainment:

You are attempting to bypass a gate, which has a high-voltage laser across it. Behind the gate, there is a guard, who has the ability to shut the gate off, and has been instructed to do so only at night. Your task is to somehow trick the guard into shutting off the gate. Thought about it? Good. Look behind the spoiler tags for the solution.
You must backtrack to a laboratory, where there's a pair of eggs which can be taken. One egg will hatch into a snake, which eats your rations - the other will hatch into an owl, which will eat the snake if it hatches while the snake is in your inventory. Hatch the owl, and head back towards the fence. Then, equip the owl. The owl hoots, the guard, despite the BROAD DAYLIGHT, declares it night-time, and switches off the gate.

  • These are quite common in Ace Attorney. For instance, there's one testimony in the third case of Ace Attorney Investigations where Lang tells you to prove that two characters didn't know they were related. The correct answer is to... prove there were three kidnappers?
    • It's still an absolutely valid contradiction, though; the problem is that not only does Lang challenge you to prove the thing that you're not supposed to prove, but Edgeworth's inner monologue seems to point in the direction of you proving that as well. If the testimony was just presented without any of that, the way forward would be much easier to spot because you'd be coming at it with an unbiased mind.
    • It's worth noting that in this series, your goal during cross-examination is seldom to disprove what the other person is saying directly. It's to find anything, anything at all that's contradictory about their statements and jump on it. Phoenix admits to himself (and the player) that he's just blindly bluffing a lot of the time.
  • The first Discworld adventure game. Most of the puzzles don't make sense even in retrospect. Terry Pratchett jokingly summed it up as follows:

Pterry: "To get the walkthrough, you have to take the sponge from Nanny Ogg's pantry and stick it in the ear of the troll with the tutu, then take the lumps and put them in the pouch with the zombie's razor."

  • Professor Layton and the Curious Village
    • One puzzle which frustrated many players literally requires knowledge of the QWERTY keyboard layout—which is, of course, not actually used within the game, but which can be found within PictoChat on the DS if someone doesn't have a keyboard at hand. It also requires seeing that the candy bar on which the puzzle is written has bite marks in it which are easily missed, but which make up part of the solution, and which are not mentioned in any of the in-game hints. Oh, and also, the puzzle is phrased in terms of SMS messaging, thus suggesting a completely different keypad layout that's entirely a Red Herring. This puzzle was so absurd that it was completely changed in the European release of the game, replaced with a mathematical puzzle.
      • It was probably changed because the QWERTY keyboard isn't consistent throughout Europe. Germany's top row says QWERTZ and France's says AZERTY, for example.
    • One puzzle mentions a device that makes a hole in a piece of paper and then marks the whole with a line. The answer they're looking for is "compass" as a compass is used to draw a circle by hinging a pin with a pencil. Of course, if you think "line" means "straight curve" (arguably the correct definition) you're never going to figure it out and this puzzle comes off as a particularly bizarre jump in logic.
  • The Trapped Series (no, not *that* trilogy; these games have entirely different subtitles of "The White Rabbit", "The Dark", and "The Labyrinth") employs many instances of "dream logic" to fit with the odd setting the main character finds himself in. Just one of many leaps in logic you need to make is what to do with the mutant pear you get in the first game; turns out you need to dip it in red paint to make it look like an apple and then place it on top of a frightened-looking boy statue so that the second statue(?) of a rabbit aiming an arrow can shoot it off his head a la William Tell. An even more unintuitive case in the second game involves a rabbit Statue of Liberty: you need to use an icepick and a dead frog on it, so that the icepick will catch a bolt of lightning and make the frog come back to life. Who'd have guessed that?
  • The Fool's Errand. Sure, most of the riddles still had text in the help menu, but while that might have provided theory, ambiguous wording obfuscated mechanisms. The Death Puzzle in particular is a huge leap from anything else in the game (mostly wordplay and logic challenges). Players needed to catch a fast-moving symbol with the mouse pointer (while avoiding another). The only way to solve the puzzle is to interfere with the mini-game by activating the program's pull-down menu, halting the animation and allowing the user to align the mouse for the payoff click, or find a way to move the symbol without moving the mouse (the latter was the intended solution, but the former, a glitch caused by the Macintosh's single-tasking nature, was deemed a valid alternate solution by the developer).
  • An example of when this goes wrong can be found in an obscure puzzle game called The Crystal Key. At one point, you're in an alien docking bay, trying to get a ship to take off before a Darth Vader Expy can find you and force-choke you. All the keys on the ship's control panel are labeled in an alien language. You're supposed to have written down the coordinates of the ship you docked at the very beginning, then you're supposed to enter in those same coordinates. Apparently, it's taken for granted not only that you remember the coordinates, but that you'll know the aliens use base-10, arrange their keys in the same order as on a telephone number pad, and use the same coordinate system as is found in your ship. Note in particular that the keys are arranged as on a telephone keypad, with 123 at the top. Which, of course, is different from the layout of the PC keypad that's likely to be closer at hand for someone playing the game.
  • One that may take hours or be solved instantly, depending on how you think: in Blades of Exile you encounter a group of GIFTS: Giant Intelligent Friendly Talking Spiders, each named Spider. One acts as a Beef Gate and won't let you past unless you can prove you know the chief. The proof is to tell him the chief's name.
  • A puzzle in the "oddly-angled" room within Zork II required the player to traverse it in the traditional directions of a baseball field, starting from home plate: southeast, northeast, northwest, southwest. Though hinted with various baseball puns and equipment in the room, the concept seems out of place in the fantasy setting, not to mention kind of unfair for non-American players.
  • Infocom's Leather Goddesses of Phobos starts out with the player in a prison cell. Some players have been stuck in that cell for hours -- the cell door isn't locked. When you go into Trent/Tiffany's cell, they admit they never thought of trying the door.
  • Scooby Doo Mystery Game involves a puzzle where you actually have to microwave a cowbell that's lodged inside a block of ice. Metal. In a microwave. Yeah. That makes sense. Also, you can't enter a maze until you hang one of those little tree-shaped air fresheners on a tree branch. Then, in order to see once you're in the maze involves building a homemade flashlight, one piece of which is behind a refrigerator. Which you're supposed to just push out of the way. That wouldn't be such a leap if you played Fred, but you play Shaggy...
  • Death Gate had two infuriating puzzles of this type.
    • One was opening the treasure room in the tower of the Brotherhood. You have a code list, but all it says is "Buy their time to die" above a list of in-universe Arianus continents. You also can find a book that explains the codes change based on the time of month. To open the wall with lots of hands, you have to look at what continent currently obscures the sun from that place, then use that continent to figure out what word to use from the "Buy their time to die" phrase (it's the word above the name of the continent) then if it was for example "die", you have to press Diamond Iron Emerald hands. First letters for the materials they're made of. Aside from the Brotherhood book, and the code list itself, there are NO clues about this whatsoever. Good luck getting this without a walkthrough. They do show you the materials in the item descriptions at least.
    • The second is even more Egregious, especially because it's the final puzzle. You have to continuously fend off Sang-Drax while figuring out the correct starting rune for the Interconnection spell. Fending off Sang-Drax is simple enough (figuring out which elemental storm to use against his current form, which isn't hard) but figuring out the starting rune without trial and error is nigh impossible. The character who could tell you the rune is dead so the logical option is to resurrect him. Problem: he only says "the heart, the heart" which is a very obscure reference to a back-then-didn't-seem-important conversation near the beginning of the game. Again, good luck. Fortunately this time there are only six options, logic whittles it down to five, and a possible in-universe logical trick diminishes it to four, so trial and error (along with save scumming) gets there FAST.
  • Hotel Dusk: Room 215 has a puzzle similar to the one in Phantom Hourglass, where you have to close the DS to give someone CPR.
    • This comes up another time in the game too: when you have to close the DS to flip over a jigsaw puzzle you just put together to see a note written on the back of the pieces.
  • Trace Memory had a puzzle where you had to close the DS enough so you could see the reflection of one of the screens on the other without closing it so much it went into standby mode. It also had no hints other then the fact that it was simply a photo frame that folded the same way. Also, should you be playing without a backlight on, good luck seeing the reflection- or, for that matter, be using one of the more recent versions of the DS, in which case the two halves of the clue will not line up properly.
    • Fortunately, simple brute force also works for solving the puzzle. The reflected image is supposed to tell you which section of the nearby bookcase to inspect, but if you systematically click every section of the bookcase, you'll eventually find the one that triggers the puzzle solution.
  • One optional battle in The World Ends With You pits the player against a pig lying asleep on the battlefield which wakes up and instantly escapes after a single hit. Pigs can usually only be killed by the weakness shown in their thought bubbles. The solution is to close the DS, thereby putting it in "sleep mode," which instantly kills the pig since its weakness was apparently sleep.
  • Though solvable, some of The Legend of Zelda games technically fall under this principle. (Even The Legend of Zelda. Blowing a whistle causes a windstorm to suck you to another area, and defeating all enemies in an area somehow opens the doors. Just because this stuff is old news to puzzle gamers doesn't mean it wasn't mind-blowing to people in its day.)
  • The Secret of Monkey Island has Guybrush being thrown off a bridge attached to an idol. You have exactly 10 minutes to solve this problem, that's how long he can hold his breath (as was stated earlier, and indeed after 10 minutes you die, one of the few times you can actually die in a Monkey Island game). There are TONS of sharp objects all around you, just barely out of reach, so the solution is...? Just do what you did in Space Quest and Larry all the time: pick up the idol and walk away. You had in your pockets for a while before that sequence. It could be less of a Moon Logic Puzzle and more of a Late to the Punchline moment.
    • If you wait long enough, you get a scene where two guys meet up on the bridge. One of them has a knife he just committed a felony with and thinks about throwing it in the water. If he dropped it, it'd be right next to Guybrush. He decides to keep it and walk away.
  • Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge. At a certain point you have to find something to turn off a pump to reveal a pathway behind a waterfall. The solution was to plug a hypnotised monkey into the pump and turning its tail. Yup, it's a monkey wrench. (Bonus points for non-English players - that's not a puzzle that translates very well.)
    • Also in the second game, near the end you have to use an elevator, but the door won't close because the combined weight of Guybrush and a huge immovable crate exceed the weight limit. Guybrush has to be holding a balloon and two surgical gloves filled with helium in order to be light enough to ride the elevator.
    • The Curse of Monkey Island has an even better one. You need to make a snake throw up (let's ignore for a moment whether or not snakes can throw up). So what's the answer? Put an ipecac flower into a carafe of pancake syrup!
  • Laura Bow: The Dagger of Amon Ra has this. The player will be hinted toward two questions throughout the game "What room do you leave without entering?" and "What room do you enter without leaving?", twin riddles that will come to haunt you near the end of the game in the cult of Amon Ra's secret meeting room. The answers are given, but in a slab found in Olymia's office. In hieroglyphs. Even if you take the time to decipher the message, it is told in a long passage that still doesn't directly give you the answers and, to the ones that don't know the answers otherwise, will sound interesting but otherwise useless and will be very easy to overlook what the answers were. womb and tomb.
  • A Vampyre Story has a lot of Moon Logic Puzzles. The solution to almost every puzzle is hidden either in dialog (when you look at a critical item, its ingredients will be described; you will later need to replenish this supply, and to complete a different puzzle you collect the source of these ingredients), in characterization (you need to distract a man; he's a bit of a womanizer, and if you're willing to stretch your imagination real hard, the courtesan outside could be considered mildly attractive), or in the expectation that you will possess some bit of knowledge which is fairly common, but easy to overlook because it's not brought up in conversation much (I shit you not, one puzzle requires you to know basic color theory and the attendant terminology).
  • Assassin's Creed II
    • The glyph puzzles, where a common theme must be found between paintings, a code cracked, or anomalies found in photographs. Most of them are fine, but one or two of the painting puzzles are outright frustrating if you don't pick up on the weird hints they give you, or haven't been following the framing story too closely. Luckily, if you get it wrong enough times, Shaun Hastings can give you some advice that makes it clearer, but until then, who knows! (and sometimes that doesn't help much) The codes can be even worse.
      • Of particular note is the code wheel in the 18th glyph- for one thing, it involves Sumerian Numerals, and it's highly unlikely you'd know what they were in the first place until Shaun gives you the hint, but even with the hint, it's still an absurdly difficult puzzle.
      • And then there's the code in the 20th glyph, which gives no real hints to the solution, and even Shaun is so puzzled he can't give you any help.
        • Not really. If I remember correctly, on the screen it says "Nothing is true, Everything is permitted", a line commonly used to describe the assassin's beliefs in the first game. When you look at it as part of the solution as opposed to something random the answer becomes obvious. The answer (for those still confused) is any combination. "Everything" is permitted indeed.
      • The glyph puzzles seem to be targetted directly at players familiar with the puzzle style of alternate reality games, and as they're off the critical path you don't actually have to solve them to complete the game.
  • The Hell's Gate dungeon in Tactics Ogre. Checking the Warren Report has a rumour about Hell's Gate opening up, but a player would have to specifically check for that rumour in particular in order to access it. The Shaman sidequest also has a similar example, as well as recruiting all the four sisters - If one has Sisteena and Seleye, they will show up in a scene when Olivia is recruited (she is the only one who joins by default), then before one fights the fourth sister, Shelley, you are given a large hint that she's playable and that you shouldn't kill her. Of course, after that, it's a wonder how people discovered it.
  • The Nancy Drew game Danger By Design requires purchasing an ancient decoder from a vendor and a book of ciphers from another vendor, then finding a message in the final room, then encoding that message with the date shift cipher from the book, then inputting the encoded message into the decoder to eventually get a message in French with the numbers to unlock the door.
  • Beating the Final Boss of Chrono Cross (correctly) requires spells with certain colors and sounds associated with them to be cast in a certain order. Without casting the spells in the correct order, beating the boss correctly would be impossible. It would be a Guide Dang It, but the correct order is found in the game... in two random rooms of the final dungeon, the order the second last boss first attacks in, the order you face the previous bosses, or the order of the solutions to a side boss' riddles, with no indication that they would be important later on.
    • Also of note is that the tune that the Chrono Cross plays is composed of the first few notes that make up what is arguably the theme song of the game: The Unstolen Jewel.
    • Additionally, the order is intentionally hinted at and countered by the final boss, who will use the opposite element of whatever the next in the order is until he is low on health. When his health is low, he will instead casts the elements in the correct order, allowing you to simply use the MacGuffin when the pattern is done.
  • Temujin. Can't figure out how to fix the painting? Have you tried heading into that other museum room, throwing the ball to break off a bit of horn from that one goat head, and then adding that to the paint? What do you mean you didn't think of that?
  • Pretty much any question on The Impossible Quiz that isn't an outright Guide Dang It (or an Unexpected Gameplay Change) is this. For example, one question asks you to "Pick the smallest" of several circles. The correct choice? The dot on the "i" in "Pick", which is, indeed, the smallest circle.
  • Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People makes it clear, at one point, that you need to steal an item from Bubs and pin it on Coach Z to progress. Bubs has a solid gold record sitting on his counter and is away, but if you try to take the record, a flashing alarm appears with a robot that summons Bubs (and the record is super-glued to the wall, so it can't be removed no matter what you do). Would you believe you have to steal the flashing alarm?
  • At one point in the Sam and Max episode Moai Better Blues, you have to return to Stinky's Diner from Easter Island within a short time. Striking a magical red gong on Easter Island will open a portal to another red gong, and among the various trash in Stinky's is a nondescript gong. So what to do? Paint that gong red too!
    • Humorously, Sam and Max comment on how gullible whatever mystical force controlling these gongs must be for that to work.
  • One of the first interactive-text games, Colossal Cave (aka Adventure) required you to state what weapon you were using to attack an enemy. If you just typed "attack monster", the game would reply, "With what? Your bare hands?" Normally, you'd have to enter "attack monster with sword". An exception to this rule was when you were faced with a fire-breathing dragon ...
  • The Trapped Trilogy consists near-entirely of unintuitive trial-and-error puzzles, but each game has its own That One Puzzle:
    • In Trapped, the player is stuck in a room with a locked door, and finds an amputated finger in a wallet, along with some matches. Turns out the finger is artificial, and the player has to use the matches to burn the flesh off the finger to reveal the metal bone, and use that to pick the lock.
    • In Pursuit, the player has to feed a fish to a storekeeper's cat. To do this, the player has to go down to the sewers, coat a banana and a piece of rope with glue, attach the two together, then stick a knife through the banana to make a fishing rod to catch the fish with. The storekeeper thanks you by giving you an empty blowtorch.
    • In Escape, one of the first puzzles involves putting a valuable silver coin in a sink to let the water pour on the floor, and then summoning a guard so that he can slip on it. But that's nothing compared to a later puzzle that involves busting a square-shaped hole in a wall with your bare hands, taking a photo with an inexplicable pinhole in it, hammering a nail over the hole with a toilet lid, putting a lit lamp in the hole then covering it by hanging the photo over it, then clicking where the light shines on the opposite wall to reveal an instant cache with "evidence" in it. There is nothing in the game that hints to this in the slightest.
  • Everything about the recently unearthed old PC game that time (wisely) forgot, Bloodwings: Pumpkinhead's Revenge, follows a form of moon logic that even the developers probably didn't get it half the time.
  • Every part of every single Myst game ever. Well, except the Scenery Porn bits.
    • Some of it's a bit closer to plain ol' soup cans but especially terrible bits include, in Uru, when you have to take hydrophobic one-jump fireflies into a cave behind a waterfall to have enough light to see. You're an explorer, and you don't have the sense to bring a flashlight? Or go back to Relto and grab a firemarble? And even if you DO get through with some other light source or by feeling your way through, you can't activate the triggers until you come back with fireflies!
  • Limbo of the Lost has the now-infamous Soul Vial puzzle, where the player has to obtain a green-tinted vial containing the also-green soul of a warrior. To do this, the player needs to find an empty green-tinted vial, fill it with water (which is rendered as thick blue instead of clear) and mix that with saffron to create a substitute to make the exchange with. This puzzle, of course, not only relies on the fact that the player assumes that the Water Is Blue instead of clear, but also assumes that the player knows what saffron is and what it does—and by extension, you would also know that putting saffron in water makes it yellow, not green!
    • It makes clear water yellow. Therefore, blue water would become green.
  • At one point in Stupid Invaders you have to get down a hole in the middle of the desert. In order to do this, you have to use a garden hose as a rope. Fair enough. However, instead of throwing one end of the hose down the hole and climbing down, as any normal person would do, the character decides to hold onto the hose and jump down the hole. Since he held onto a point of the hose that was too low, he smashes on the ground and dies. So what do you do? The interface doesn't allow you to tell him to just climb down the hose or to hold onto a higher point of it. Turns out, you need to find a skull in the desert and use its teeth to cut the hose shorter. Yeah, that's right, the character simply refuses to hold onto the correct point of the hose until it has been shortened for no good reason at all! Guess they call the game Stupid Invaders for a reason...
  • Some of RuneScape's quests have puzzles like this. Some just plain have ridiculous logic, while others are just stupid hard.
    • Just one example. At one point, you find yourself in a prison cell. You need to attract the attention of your deaf neighbour through the window between your cells. To do this punch a hole in an accordion with a broken ink bottle, put a pipe into the hole, airproof the hole with inky paper, use your makeshift vacuum pump to catch a seagull, then play the accordion to fire the seagull into your neighbour's room.
  • Collecting a footprint clue in Murder on the Orient Express requires that you cast the thing in cake batter, then prevent the batter from falling apart by putting it in a big bowl of ice. Even your character's own dialogue admits how goofy the resulting "evidence" looks.
  • Many puzzles in the Silent Hill series, such as the hospital keypad and crematorium puzzles in 3 on Hard Riddle difficulty.
  • The video game adaptation of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? has a puzzle requiring the player to call Jessica Rabbit for clues on how to progress. As noted in the Angry Video Game Nerd's review, most players would think to find a phone in-game to call Jessica with, when they actually have to call her toll-free number in real life and get the clues from Jessica's recording. But don't bother calling nowadays; it now leads to a porn line.
  • In The Longest Journey, at one point you need to get a large piece of iron off an electrified metro track. How does one accomplish this feat? By combining a clamp, a clothesline and a rubber ducky. Did I mention that to get the clamp you need to use the ring your father gave you to close an electrical circuit to fix the plumbing system of your apartment building so the clamp isn't needed to hold a pipe shut? And the duck requires the player to feed a pigeon outside their window, and it will fly down to the grate in the canal the duck is trapped under. The pigeon jars the grate, which both releases the duck, and the chain the clothesline is on. The worst part is that this action is prone to a bug in which April will act as though there's something missing from your Rube Goldberg contraption—so that even if you managed to figure it out, you still might be told that you're wrong (incidentally, this is one of several game-breaking bugs which can only be got around by restoring a previous saved game). Also, there's a band-aid on the duck. April has to remove the band-aid, blow up the duck, and then remove it so it'll deflate and the clamp will close automatically. This puzzle stands in stark contrast to most of the other ones in the game, seeing as they are generally based on actual logic, instead of a college student, for no good reason, meddling with several pieces of machinery she has no business operating.
    • Later on, you have to take some candy from the jar April works at. Problem is, if the player chooses to look at the bar instead of manipulating it, April specifically says her boss doesn't like the employees eating the candy. The player might reasonably assume that this is just for the characterization of April's boss, and they shouldn't or can't take the candy, and not even bother to try. The player, admittedly, might decide to go all the way back to the bar just to retrieve the candy when they need it, so they can roll it in stinky ooze and give it to a cop. The cop spits it out, and the guy he's watching thinks it was on purpose and chases him off. Yes, April will decide to, as far as she knows, poison a police officer to meet her admittedly-desperate goals.
    • How do you remove a police officer from an accident scene?Bribe him with a soda, which the game indicates is the right thing to use? Nah, that won't work. Ride the subway clear across town to put the soda in the paint shaker you may have noticed some time ago, then ride the subway all the way back, then walk to the cop and hand him the soda which has somehow not gone flat so that it sprays him in the face, forcing him to leave to change his armor? Correct! Please note that the solution is, in essence, intuitive, but the game forces the player to go about it in a really convoluted way. The game could've simply had April shaking up the soda behind her back before handing it to the cop. It would've been a bit of a Deus Ex Machina, but given that the audience knows April is an intelligent and capable young woman, it would probably be a more logical solution than the one that made it into the game.
  • In Phantasmagoria 2, one of the first puzzles you must solve is getting your wallet out from under the couch. You can very clearly reach all the way under there with your hands (though the actor makes a valiant effort to pretend otherwise when you try), and could likewise move the couch itself without difficulty (this option doesn't present itself). The solution is to entice your pet rat to fetch it for you with a granola bar. If you listed the hundred most intuitive ways to retrieve a wallet from under a couch, this almost certainly wouldn't be on there.
  • Police Quest: Open Season: The skeleton key you have to obtain from a mundane-looking soda can, and the lighter in the mouth of the severed head in the refrigerator, which you combine with a can of hairspray to make a flamethrower to neutralize the Big Bad (the lighter isn't there the first time you look in the fridge, Guide Dang It).
  • The following quote for the Zero Punctuation review of Zack & Wiki is actually talking about how the game averts this by only holding one item at a time.

"Most of your average adventure game experience was spent carting a truckload of miscellaneous knick-knacks around, patiently rubbing them all one by one against everything else in the hope of hopping onto the train of logic unique to the game's designer."

  • Douglas Adams's text adventure Bureaucracy is filled with this; in order to progress, you frequently have to use Insane Troll Logic to deal with a world designed and run by demented Obstructive Bureaucrats. (For example, what good is a check for negative three hundred dollars?) On the other hand, there's one puzzle, consisting of a Locked Door, for which the solution is so straightforward that being too familiar with adventure game tropes can be a problem. To get inside, just knock on the door.
  • In Time Gentlemen Please, there's a moment where you have to uncork a bottle, obtaining both the cork and the bottle's contents. The bottle is made of glass. However, Ben pointedly refuses to break the bottle with any of the heavy or sharp junk in his inventory, and refuses to open it with his bottle opener magnet, insisting on uncorking it. Turns out uncorking it requires a pig's corpse and a time machine.
  • Starship Titanic can be like this at times. Even one of the developers admitted "These are not the thoughts of a normal person" when discussing a puzzle that involved a chicken and a suction tube.
  • In Super Paper Mario's fifth chapter, all the Cragnons are kidnapped by the Floro Sapiens. Now, seeing this, you'll more than likely go ahead and follow them, hoping to save them. Your progress will then be stopped by a series of three blocks. Seeing this, maybe some rather Genre Savvy people will realize that you need to hit these in a specific combination. Not too difficult, you only had to hit each of the three blocks once. However, you'll later come across another series of blocks. If you tried to hit them once each again, you'll be waiting a while. Turns out this combination is much, much longer. So how does one figure out this combination? Well, it turns out the Floro Sapians didn't kidnap all of the Cragnons, just a lot of them. If you go back, you'll find several, specifically one named Jasperoid, who will give you this combination. But only if you'll ask for it nicely, by that I mean manually type in the word "please" five times. He'll then give you the combination. Also, some may be tripped up by the fact that the combination is spread on two different text sheets, which you may think implies that there is a third series that the second sheet is for. It's all for that one, second series.
  • Strife features an interesting mess. A man at the tavern asks you to steal a chalice from the Order's sanctuary and bring it to the governor for a reward. This will probably get you killed when the governor locks his office door and sics several dozen Order mooks on you. You can escape out a window but it's still a pretty bad idea. You wouldn't figure this out unless you talked with the guy you were sent to kill by another man and managed to put two and two together. Notably, doing this early on makes the game unwinnable since after finishing a few Front missions, you need to talk to the Governor to get your next mission. So even if you survive the attack you cannot advance the plot.
  • EarthBound has a few of these. Getting past a giant statue of a pencil, for example, requires you to obtain and use a Pencil Eraser.
    • And to get past an eraser statue? Eraser Eraser.
  • Grim Fandango mostly plays fair with its hints (and changed the genre by trying to make it obvious what objects could and could not be interacted with), but it has a few of these, mostly late in the game:
    • At one point, you're trying to get into the lair of a psychotic florist without him shooting you. He's holed up, yes, a florist shop, where everything is covered with cloth and/or tape. How do you get him to calm down and stop taking potshots? cut the tape off the bell above the door, go out, and come back in. The noise of it ringing makes him go into "florist mode," and talk to you normally.
    • At another, a bouncer is keeping you from meeting with the mob boss who runs the casino you're both standing in, unless you prove that you know said mob boss by answering a series of number-based questions about him ("How many Limos does Hector Le Manns own?"). You know none of these things, but you will inexplicably succeed if you always answer the number that just won on the roulette wheel behind you.
    • And then there's the one you solve using something an NPC said to you in passing in an optional conversation 8-ish hours (or four in-world years) ago.
  • Albion has a weird little example. You are in a room. There are two doors and a sign on the wall saying you may go through the doors if you want. Naturally, if you try to open the doors, they are locked. The solution? Well, if you try a door a second time, it will open with no problem. Likely, you'll puzzle over it for some time the first time and try everything (there's not much you can do), and then manage to get out without knowing how you did it, but if trying it a second time immediately see what the trick was.
  • The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy text adventure. All of it.
  • In order to beat the next to last level of the first X-Men game for Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, you need to destroy a computer terminal and wait for Professor Xavier to tell you to "Reset the computer now!" How? By pushing the reset button on the console itself. This made the game impossible to beat on the Sega Nomad since that system didn't have a reset button. Way to think ahead, Sega.
  • Doodle God is this. It's all that is. There is no plot except you combining random objects, sometimes sensibly (lava+water = steam and stone), sometimes randomly (fish + knowledge = octopus?).
  • 7th Level's Monty Python And The Quest For The Holy Grail involved this throughout the whole game. A parody of point-and-click adventure games, this involved a reeeeeally long registration process at the very beginning. Guess what? The registration is necessary to complete a later section. Fortunately, you get to go back if you didn't complete it the first time around.
  • Gabriel Knight 3 was accused by Old Man Murray of being an excellent example of what killed adventure games: themselves. It featured a very nonsensical puzzle that includes using honey on an old piece of tape to steal hair from a cat, to make a fake moustache, to impersonate someone, to get a motorcycle, because the hero refuses to drive a scooter. The guy you are impersonating doesn't have a moustache. You also need to steal his drivers license and find a pen, to draw a moustache on his picture.
    • Disregarding the overcomplicated process of making the moustache, it actually makes a bit of sense; by adding an eye-catching feature like a moustache to the person you're impersonating, you're drawing attention away from other facial features that would've been much more difficult to emulate, such as jawline or nose shape.
  • The Sub Machine series has a lot of point and click puzzles going on. Often times it makes sense; you put the "Lightning Stone" into the exactly-same-shaped-hole in a device to power it up, that sort of thing. But then there are the times that you patiently mouse over the entire screen of 12 different areas to find one background stone to shift aside which gives you a seemingly normal rock that you use to counterbalance a seemingly immobile statue's set of scales to open the door and let you fill a basin with lava and... The scary part is that this sort of trail is less of a Mind Screw than the overarching story of the series itself.
  • Simon the Sorcerer 2 features a puzzle that is relative straightforward: Use a pair of fuzzy slippers to sneak past a monster. But the way of GETTING those slippers is absolutely bizarre, you have to use the "wear" command on a dog, which turns said dog into a pair of slippers via magic. Note that while Simon is a sorcerer that is the only point in the game where you can do magic just like that.
  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: In order to cross through the final Miasma Stream and face the final boss, you need to find the Unknown Element hidden in the desert. Getting the Unknown Element involves casting certain spells on certain landmarks in a certain order throughout the desert. Said order is disguised as a poem told to you by Gurdy. Problem is, Gurdy tells you the poem in a sequence of Random Encounters with him. This combined with the extreme non-linearity of the game means that the player might not have gotten the poem from Gurdy before reaching the desert -or worse, gotten it so long before that by the time it becomes relevant they've forgotten about it. Once you've triggered the random encounter the only way to see the poem again is to flip through your journal... Assuming you even remember you have it.
  • A well written one appears in Final Fantasy Adventure. Eight and Palm Trees, got it? Some people got it right away. Others spent years trying to figure out the puzzle. The solution? Walk in a figure eight path around some palm trees in the desert.
  • The final puzzle in System's Twilight, your goal is to reboot the system by quitting and reopening the game but requires a giant leap of intuition since there are no hints given and most(if not all) game guides only partially reference the solution.
    • Or, more likely, you get frustrated by it to the point where you Rage Quit in mid-puzzle, thus solving it accidentally.
  • "THE GOAT LEAVES NO TRACE BEHIND." The puzzle consisted of three goat statues with differently-shaped bases, three correspondingly-shaped holes they needed to go into, and a floor that would change colors where one goat had passed, so the others wouldn't cross its trail. It would be an impressively tough puzzle anyway, but the hint pretty much tells you the opposite of what you need to know to solve it. However, Insight Psynergy actually does something useful for this one.
  • Megaman Battle Network 3 features one combined with Lost in Translation and They Just Didn't Care. There's this sidequest called "Legendary Tomes", in which an NPC asks you to find the three legendary tomes that were stolen from him, and bring them back to him. The three tomes are Earth, Sky and Sea, and you eventually find them in the posession of random Undernet thugs. But you're told a few vauge hints about a "secret" the tomes have, and you're given fragments of a riddle (Sky upon Earth upon Sea) to go with them. Turns out, they point to hidden treasure. But there's a catch. Several, in fact:
    • In order to get the treasure, you need to have the tomes on you. Which means you need to solve the riddle and hunt down the treasure before giving the tomes back to your client, or it'll be Lost Forever. Nothing hints at this, and it runs contrary to RPG sidequest logic, which generally rewards you for being nice and returning the NPC's lost items as soon as possible. (and neraly every other job request in this game has pretty much played that straight)
    • Secondly, that "Sky above Earth, Earth above Sea" thing? It's not as obvious as it sounds. If you look at each tome in your key items menu, you'll see their description, followed by a seemingly random series of black blobs and dashes. What do you need to do? Stack the three tome's lines on top of eachother, in the order the riddle says. Then you'll reveal a message...
    • And herein lies the third problem. You see, the message is in Japanese. So if you haven't studied that language, you're stuck here. Furthermore, it's a Hiragana word written in Katakana, which could throw off even fluent speakers. Presuming you can read it, you now need to know what it means. It says "Haniwa". Translation: "unglazed earthen objects fashioned in ancient Japan". So now what?
    • As it turns out, this refers to a random object that appeared to be nothing but decoration in an area you visited right at the start of the game. In the Teacher's Lounge is a statue that fits the description of a Haniwa. Except it was never referred to as a Haniwa before. And if you're not Japanese, you probably don't know what a Haniwa looks like anyway.
    • What makes this even worse is that when you FINALLY find it, which REALLY isn't likely without a guide, Megaman Handwaves the whole thing by claiming the statue has symbols on it that match the tomes. Symbols that are not visable to the player! Thankfully, the reward for all this is just money. An absolute fat ton of money, but still nothing required for 100% Completion. See it in all it's glory here.
  • So, you're Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, and you've just beaten the boss halfway down the last dungeon and found yourself in a huge, open area full of platforms supported high in the air on stone pillars. You explore a bit and... you're stuck. The path just ends. You can check everywhere for hidden doors, examine your automap for suspicious-looking squares with a missing wall, but to no avail (and the game itself gives you absolutely no hints). The solution? Walk onto the empty air.
  • Devil May Cry 3 on the fourth mission you enter in a room with two doors, a statue and a staircase which leads to another door. The doors before the staircase are locked including the one you just came true so you have to go through the staircase but once you're in the middle of it it will break send you to a room full of enemies and then back to the room you were but with the doors unlocked. You fight the miniboss after the door in the middle and the mission ends. On the next mission you will eventually acquire the item soul of steel which hints to the statue in the mission before. So, of course, you go back there but nothing happens if you try to use the item on the statue. What to do? after you acquire the soul of steel an invisible platform will be formed on where the stairs crumpled earlier on! You can walk on the air now and reach for the next door.
  • Might and Magic had quite a few situations like this in the earlier games. For instance, completing the second game (something very few players were expected to do at the time) required gaining an artifact called the Elemental Orb, which is located in a hidden part of Dawn's Mist Cavern. However, to access this hidden room, you need four items found in the game's four castles. Once you get into this room, you find the Orb itself prevents magic from working while there, and you have to fight some powerful Guardians to get to it. Once you defeat them, then comes the hard part; even after claiming the orb, magic still doesn't work, meaning you're trapped in the room unless you leave it behind! Soution: Bring a hireling along - preferably a powerful one who doesn't need magic to fight - and once you have the Orb, give it to the hireling. Then Dismiss the hireling.[3] Leave the dungeon using magic, then meet up with the hireling and hire him again. He'll have the Orb in his inventory. And yes, this little bit of meta Loophole Abuse is the way you are supposed to do it.

Alternate Reality Game

  • Many Perplex City cards of higher difficulty.
  • Junko Junsui/She Stirs, which was only arguably even an ARG (it insisted it was not) was notable for being heavily investigation/communication based and only rarely involving puzzles, but it STILL gave into this several times. Resulted in several Face Palm moments for all of the major players when the solutions to each puzzle turned out to be obvious looking back, but only if you happened to guess just the right thing.
  • where.gif. Friggin where.gif! The image was a mirror image of a circle, with the square root of sixty four inside it. From this, the ARG gamers were supposed to figure out to find the digit location of eight eights in a row in the number pi, not including the 3 point. And then type it, backwards, in the admin box.
  • In The Groove 2 released their song-unlock codes this way every month or so, but no matter how hard the puzzles got the rabid fanbase could always solve them in a matter of hours, if not minutes.


Game Shows

  • Some of the more esoteric clues from Jeopardy! will be like this, mainly by throwing a "tease-out metric" that all but gives away the right response in what would otherwise be a much harder clue (e.g. "As Popeye's adopted baby could tell you, April brings this flower." "What is Sweet pea?")
  • Only Connect drifts from unusual connections into this at times - The most infamous example probably being a sequence question, the answer being the next in the sequence: Central = 1, Circle = 2, District = 3, ??? - The answer being Bakerloo = 4. London Underground lines sequenced by the correspondingly coloured snookerball value.
  • Wipeout had one in the form of an obstacle known as the Shape-Shifter, a spinning wheel with three shaped cutouts in it that had to be traversed past. By how the hosts explained it, it inferred that you had to jump through the circular disc to make it to the other side utilizing whatever they gave you that way to do it (trampoline, zip line, swing, etc). However, in reality, it ended up being hard to do so without using the shapes as an assist of some form.
    • Then again, in a moment of disbelief that left even the hosts stunned, Rico "Rolling Thunder" Curtis actually horizontally dived through the hole and landed on the platform with a tummy slide.

Tabletop Games

  • Mindtrap: A well-known fashion designer wanted to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city. She decided to spend a few days at a rural resort. Feeling like some fresh air after a day of reading and relaxing, she decided to go for a winter stroll. That was the last time anyone saw her alive. The autopsy revealed that death was due to the pack she had on her back. What was so deadly about this pack? Answer: It was a wolf pack. And this is one of the simpler puzzles in the game.
  • There's apparently the special sort of bad gamemasters who turn games into "read my mind" puzzles. Usually the players either get too frustrated and never return or go loonie and ram everything they can Off the Rails with extreme prejudice on general principle. As posters on /tg/ described the experience -

poster 1: At first, we described it as having to jump through hoops to get anywhere.
poster 1: Then it became jumping through hoops in a particular order in a room full of hoops, some of which are dummy hoops.
poster 1: Then it became jumping through hoops in a particular order, in a room full of hoops with some dummy hoops that'd reset your attempt, and the hoops were all invisible.
poster 1: Then: the hoops were on fire too.
poster 2: The description I got from a friend who had to deal with a DM like this went "It was like playing Sherlock Holmes in a sensory deprivation tank."


Web Original

  • This trope is parodied heavily with the Game Helpin' Squad's Time Travel Understander.
  • The much-hated "Rockbusters" segment on The Ricky Gervais Show.
    • Karl also thought up a few "lateral thinking" puzzles. They prompted Ricky Gervais to respond with this one:

"A bloke, just in his swimming trucks, walks into a swimming pool full of man-eating sharks. He walks around for a bit, and slowly gets out the other side, and he's not bitten or anything. Why not?" Answer: I was lying about the sharks.

Other Puzzles

  • Lateral thinking puzzles, when they actually give you enough information to solve them on your own and don't have an out-of-left-field Tomato Surprise.
  • There is one particular puzzle which you will either get right away (if you have the right mindset) or be stumped on for hours (if you don't). As explained by the article writer:

There are logical puzzles that are very difficult, and some that are trivially easy. But there is one that is both. At least in my experience. I have told the following to a substantial number of people. About half look at me in bafflement and do not know what the question is. The solution is so obvious to them that they have to see someone ponder over it for an hour to believe that anyone could not see the solution instantaneously.

    • The answer is: if the grandfather died immediately, how do we know what he was dreaming?
      • This is the basis of a Twilight Zone episode, sort of. A man comes into a room, feverish, ill, lies on a couch, and falls asleep. He dreams of terrible tortures, and running from his unseen tormentor, before dying by falling off a cliff. When he is discovered to have died of a heart attack in his sleep, someone comments that he wants to go like that, "Peacefully," in his sleep.
  • During an episode of Pokémon, the gang come across an exam center that grants a badge if you score high enough on their exams. Unfortunately for them, most of the questions are these. For example, in a silhouette question, they're given a circle. You'd expect it to be one of the Voltorb family, but nope. It's a Jigglypuff shown from above.
    • This particular question is repeated in Hey You, Pikachu! during the Pokemon Quiz. Even when the player knows it's Jigglypuff, the player still needs to specify that it's the top of Jigglypuff.

Real Life

  • Zen Koans. Consider: A monk asked Zhaozhou, "What is the meaning of the ancestral teacher's coming from the west?" Zhaozhou said, "The cypress tree in front of the hall". This is an actual koan from The Gateless Gate.
    • The real trick is, that's not the answer. That's a question. The student is expected to learn and understand this exchange, and come up with the proper response.
  • The MIT Mystery Hunt is practically made of these types of puzzles.
  • Think of words that end with "-gry". The first two are "hungry" and "angry". There are three words in the English language. Which is the third one?.[4]
    • Another variation that works best when spoken uses the pronounciation of "-gry", in which case the answer is "agree", "degree", "pedigree" or any such word.
  • Which weighs more - a pound of gold or a pound of feathers? [5]


  • The Ace Attorney online gag-trial "Glase Canon: Ludicrous Lawyer" is full of (failed versions) of this.
  • Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School is built around weird puzzles. How much is EARS plus HEAR?
  1. Stick the cat hair in the honey and apply to face.
  2. Actually, that one's pretty justified. In the tutorial, you learn how to combine items to make food. The items you have are lemons, oranges, strawberries, popsicle sticks - so you are expected to make popsicles out of those. But, you can also have bunny livers from killing bunnies earlier - so the game's trolling you by saying 'yes, that combination works too! There you go!'
  3. No matter where you are in this game, even after traveling to an Elemental Plane or to the past via a Time Machine, you can always dismiss a hireling, which sends said hireling back to the last inn.
  4. "language", of course
  5. The feathers weigh more, being measured in avoirdupois pounds that are somewhat heavier than troy pounds.