Solving puzzles in 'Thimbleweed Park' was a lot of fun... until it wasn't.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/playing-with-a-walkthrough-is-totally-fine-on-todays-open-thread
Solving puzzles in 'Thimbleweed Park' was a lot of fun... until it wasn't.
Definitely a last resort, but still a resort. I mean, if I get truly stuck, I’m not gonna just…not play anymore. I usually just get past whatever I was stuck on, then put the walkthrough away.
I did this with Broken Age a few times, and I didn’t feel bad about it after - I was able to convince myself that I never would have figured it out (something about a snake).
It doesn’t even have to be a full walkthrough. I’m playing Persona 5 right now and am looking up the answers to the dumb school questions.
Is this image an optical illusion? I don’t care!
What I do care about is needing enough Knowledge to be able to advance a certain part of the story! That’s why I look up the answers
I use walkthroughs regularly if the game I’m playing is from a certain era. The worst offenders of this are Sierra adventure games. Not only do some have some ridiculously obtuse puzzles (Looking at you King’s Quest), but the constant dying doesn’t help.
In more modern games I tend to use walkthroughs way less, but if something is proving frustrating, I’d rather use a walkthrough than drop a game that I am (presumably) otherwise having fun with.
I might be doing something dangerous here, but there exists an entire TVtropes category for this: Guide dang it
Warning: click on the above link if you’re okay with losing several hours of productivity. Shit is weapons grade procrastination fuel.
I like very minimal guidance when playing CRPGs. It’s nice to know what areas will just completely kick your ass so you aren’t paranoid about saving every 5 minutes.
I remember playing adventure games with walkthroughs as a kid because holy moly, how are you supposed to figure some of that shit out. And as an adult I had to do the same thing when I tried Grim Fandango again. I think it’s totally fine if it gets you through the story and you still find it enjoyable, though I would say that needing a walkthrough because your puzzles are so gat deng hard is a failure in the game’s design.
I’m not sure that I’ve actually played anything else with a walkthrough. I read some strategy guides, like the first Sims strategy guide which I would bring to school and read for reading time pretty much every day.
It’s kinda backward anyway. Getting something right means you already knew it, and thereby gain no knowledge. Getting it wrong and being corrected is what makes you smarter IRL.
If the point of a game is solving puzzles I try to only use them as an absolute last resort, but if I find myself just not seeing the way forward in a game and spend more than 5 minutes running around looking for the next ledge or where I have to run to trigger the next part of the game to start I will be onto a guide pronto.
Oh man, absolutely.
Aside: I do think sometimes the reputation adventure games in particular get is a little unfair (can’t comment on Thimbleweed Park, haven’t played it) because I think much like other genres, adventure games are a thing that with practice you can become ‘good’ at. So for example sometimes I watch streamers who don’t play many adventure games really struggling through stuff which as an adventure game veteran seems pretty basic to me, and I think all it is is that you get used to the sorts of things adventure games expect from you, and the kind of basic things to get used to doing, how a puzzle is structured, picking up everything that isn’t nailed down, picking up on the sorts of environmental and dialogue clues those games give. There’s no doubt that some adventure puzzles are also just total bullshit, but I think in most games it’s just a handful of puzzles that stick out as memorably bad because people get stuck on them for so long.
Back on topic: I absolutely use walkthroughs when I’m not having fun figuring something out any more. In one of the later Persona 5 dungeons there’s a really, very annoying puzzle mechanic that they repeat over and over again, and while it wasn’t that difficult to work out what to do, it was increasingly long and tedious and involved a lot of backtracking and unwanted fights - so I referred to a walkthrough in order to take the path of least resistance.
If it’s an older game I’ll often keep a walkthrough handy if I’m expecting some unforgiving old-game bullshit to hamper my progress.
I like having the knowledge of how to get to all of the content in a game if I decide I want to see it. So I usually have a faq handy.
I love how Monkey Island remakes handled using a walkthroughs, on the phone at least you could shake your device three different times for every single step in the game. The first being a vague hint, second more direct and the last literally using arrows to guide you.
Not a huge deal or anything but the three tiers of clues gave me that sensation similar to when I played then as a kid with an open FAQ.
I remember seeing the clock work design of The Last Express (my favourite adventure game) opened wide for me as a kid and marvelling at the design and effort.
Without that walkthrough I at the least wouldn’t have got everything out of that game, and at the most maybe would never have gotten bitten by the design bug for narrative driven games and thus never study to be a designer.
I think there’s an argument for walkthroughs/guides enhancing your experience with a game rather than detracting from it, depending on the kind of game. I recently played through Final Fantasy VI for the very first time, and some of the mechanics of specific characters would have completely been lost on me had I not looked at a guide after feeling a bit confused by them. My feeling was more “oh wow, I would never have noticed these systems can interact in this way, this is cool” and less “I am sad I won’t have this epiphany by myself”.
Alright I’m really going to bare my gaming soul here to ya’ll waypointers so let’s do this. I’ve only completed two Zelda games in my life, Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons. The interesting thing about these games are the way they interact, you can enter a code in each game to transfer your save from the other game. The only way to get the “true ending” is to beat one long story line across both games. I ended up using an FAQ from the very beginning of Seasons, followed it exactly through the end to Ages and follow that to the “perfect” ending.
After I finished this task I thought I’d feel pleased with myself that I had completed this long gauntlet of playing both games and getting all the secrets and all the cool weapons, but I just felt…empty. I felt like I had cheated not just at the game but myself of the experience of figuring this out. To this day I can’t go back to either of those games without feeling pangs of guilt, which bums me out because they’re both really fun games!
Sometimes it enhances my enjoyment of a game but it depends on how the walkthrough is laid out. I like having all the possibilities laid bare rather than one showing a unique path. It makes me compelled to think things through.
Though for L.A. Noire, the game was so obtuse that even a walkthrough couldn’t help me understand the logic of witness interrogation.
I prefer not to use walkthroughs in adventure games and Thimbleweed Park has really good puzzles (and is soo good), but in an equivalent attitude I would love an option to remove all combat from games like Dragon Age Inquisition or Mass Effect. Specially DA:I because a loved almost everything of that game except the game. I remember playing the part of the party with a huge smile on my face and finishing it euphoric “I LOVEEE THIS” and an hour later rage quitting because I couldn’t stand wasting time killing another wolf with that dull combat.
So yes is nice to have options to enjoy games in different ways, even not intended ones and our own pace.
I definitely use walkthroughs on most “find the item” sidequests (I think I had one open for most of Xenoblade Chronicles, which is full of those). I also wrestle with using them for Bioware games or similar “character interaction” games like VNs- I want to roleplay as my character, but also worry about ruining things for my fictional friends, so sometimes I crack and cheat
With puzzle and adventure games, I will try my damnedest to steer clear of looking up a solution - even if that means stepping away and coming back later. I didn’t finish Day of the Tentacle when I first played it as a youngster, and it wasn’t until almost ten years later that I returned, restarted and was able to get past the point that had stumped me first time around. Similarly so with games such as The Witness: I really enjoy the process of smashing my head against a thing, leaving to try a different puzzle, and returning later only to stumble into the solution this time around.
A different case: Dark Souls. I played the first one having already watched several full walkthroughs. I had dabbled prior and enjoyed the combat, but it was watching other playthroughs which convinced me to finish the game for myself. Afraid of the unknown, I clung to wikis and watched videos all the way through both that game and DSII.
It wasn’t until Bloodborne that my hand was somewhat forced (by the guide not being available until a while after launch) and I ended up learning the joys of self-discovery in FromSoft’s worlds. I deliberately avoided all guidance for Dark Souls III and had an incredible time with it - uncovering that game’s deeper secrets with no guidance or suggestion (even having gone so far as to disable the in-game messages) was a true pleasure for me.
To flip back to the other side of the coin, however: I have played every single Final Fantasy game that I have touched (barring XIV) with the official guide on my lap, making sure to pick up every item, nail each enemy’s weak points, and craft the optimal gear at any given moment. This isn’t something I do for all JRPGs: I played through Persona 4 and Tokyo Mirage Sessions quite contently with minimal guidance aside from a rare glance at fusion tables and such.
I think there’s something about Final Fantasy in particular which encourages me to grab everything (Persona, on the other hand, almost actively discourages this with its time-pressure mechanics). Yet, with such a hefty time investment, I don’t want to miss out on any part of the content. I still make my own decisions in battle, but I like having every possible grain of information at my fingertips.
I do the same thing with the Pokémon games, as well. Interestingly, I didn’t do so in the time-rich years of my youth - instead careening frivolously through the fields and forests in search of adventure. As an adult with a desire to see this lengthy RPG through and an aching compulsion to not miss anything along the way, but a more limited timeframe to fit my adventure into, I relish the comfort of having a guide by my side just to let me know that I haven’t missed that Master Ball or rival battle; that I can grab a Ralts in this early zone with just a little patience; that I’m coming up to a big battle sequence and should make sure to save ahead of time.
Yeah I’ll jump onto an FAQ the second I start to get frustrated about something in a game. The last thing I wanna be is mad at video games.
I managed to beat Thimbleweed without a guide. There were a lot of moments where I spent an hour trying to solve one puzzle. It was challenging.
However, I recently looked at a guide to get past Full Throttle’s combat sequences. Man, that part did not age well AT ALL.
If you’re not having fun and just getting frustrated, there is absolutely no shame in using a guide to get out of a rough spot.
Honestly I am not a fan of the mentality that using a guide is “cheating” or that you should feel ashamed for using one. Above all, playing games are about having fun. If you’re not having fun, you should do something to fix that instead of just continuing to struggle. If that means I’m “not a true gamer” or something, then whatever.