A puzzle is anything that impedes a player's progress towards a goal. One element of a "good" IF game is puzzles that seem integrated into the plot; if the player finds either the puzzles or the prose too difficult to wade through, the gaming experience suffers.
Puzzles are often solved by manipulating items in the inventory, figuring out how a simulated machine works, or performing some task to defeat or befriend an NPC. Puzzles are sometimes solvable only by blind experimentation (see babel fish puzzle), and some poor puzzles make no sense (see soup cans). Usually lateral thinking is required and puzzles are layered on top of each other, getting harder as the game proceeds. Clues for solving puzzles are usually given in the game, but hints are available online. Puzzles are sometimes unsolvable or make no sense.
A puzzle may be considered solved when the player is given a reward. Rewards can be in many forms, for example: a new inventory object, new important information, a new skill, the removal of a barrier or dangerous object, or transportation to a new area.
Types of puzzles
- Inventory management puzzle
- Hunger puzzle
- Baseball puzzle
- Light source
- One-use key
- Escape From Monkey Island's Puzzles - Article by Stephen Granade with three parts: The Evolution of Puzzles, Why EMI's Puzzles Are Good, and Where the Puzzles Go Wrong.
- Puzzles in the IF Gems review quotes collection (also available from the IF Archive).
- Discussions about puzzles on the rec.arts.int-fiction newsgroup