The Point-and-Click Puzzle Pinnacle: my response

As announced last month, the awesome Quietschisto from RNG and I are on a quest to find out which point-and-click puzzle is the best – and which we never want to see again. From minefield bunnies to aggressive goats to monkey wrenches, let’s get this challenge started!

I’ve been a fan of adventures since picking up The Secret of Monkey Island when I was nine-years old and even now, almost three decades later, the genre still holds a special place in my heart. That doesn’t mean I believe all point-and-clicks are great games and that all puzzles within them are well-designed however. It took some time to decide which challenges to put forward as the best and worst, but I think I’ve picked some worthy options below. Bring on the conversation trees and pixel-hunting!

The best

The puzzle:   Insult-swordfighting from The Secret of Monkey Island

The set-up:   Guybrush Threepwood must complete the Three Trials set by the pirate leaders in order to fulfill his dream of becoming a buccaneer. These include defeating the mighty Sword Master – but it’s not just about how you handle a lesson weapon, as he finds out during a lesson with Captain Smirk.

Why it’s so good:   Comedy, logic and creativity combine to give players a puzzle fit for a pirate: this challenge contains everything we love about point-and-clicks. Our hero has to track down opponents on the roads of Mêlée Island and challenge them to a fight, picking up new insults and testing out collected responses to build his repertoire. The lines are legendary in the gaming world: I’ve spoken with apes more polite than you – I’m glad to hear you attended your family reunion! You make me want to puke – you make me think somebody already did!

LucasArts perfectly captured the cerebral nature of the adventure genre and the excitement of a classic movie duel, while letting us all express our inner-pirate with the insult-swordfighting puzzle. The formula is mixed up when you’re finally good enough to take on Carla; you can’t just use the lines and responses you’ve already heard in the same way and instead have to consider what would be the best comeback to her new challenges. If you’re good enough, you’ll be rewarded with a ‘I beat the Sword Master’ t-shirt.

The outcome:   Guybrush completes the Three Trials, fulfills his ambition, beats the zombie ghost pirate LeChuck (sort of) and falls in love with Governor Elaine Marley. Adventure gamers everywhere are inspired to create witty insults, and tell other fans they fight like a cow with knowing nods of appreciation.

The worst

The puzzle:   The cat-hair moustache from Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned

The set-up:   Our hero must pretend to be someone else in order to fool a moped-rental clerk into giving him the last available vehicle. To do so, he must make a disguise that includes a moustache. Made out of cat-hair. To impersonate a detective whose only facial hair is a bit of stubble.

Why it’s so bad:   This puzzle has to be the worst ever dreamt up for a point-and-click because all common sense flies out of the window (or catflap). First, the person we’re impersonating in this section of the game doesn’t have facial hair – and surely an important part in trying to fool people into believing you’re someone without a moustache is to not create a fake moustache? Gabriel must therefore take the additional step of drawing one onto Detective Moseley’s driving license so his furry-cat-face resembles that shown on the identification.

Next, consider where this part of our hero’s disguise is derived from: you must attach masking tape to a hole beneath a toolshed and then chase a cat through it. I’m not sure what’s worse; the fact the game’s designers want us to believe that tape with a few animal hairs stuck to it is going to pass as a moustache, or that Gabriel attaches it to his face using maple syrup. This puzzle deserves to win the ‘worst’ category because I don’t know anybody who hasn’t resorted to a walkthrough to complete it – and it’s this type of senseless challenge that gives the point-and-click genre a bad name.

The outcome:   Players are left wondering whether the game can get any more absurd, while Gabriel ends up getting his moped. Presumably he has to stop at a supermarket on his way out of Rennes-le-Chateau to pick up one of those sticky hair-removers. Surely he could have just used more maple syrup?

Is insult-swordfighting the pinnacle of the adventure genre? Does Gabriel Knight deserve to be punished for thinking he can get away with a cat-hair moustache? We’re asking the community to help us find the best and worst point-and-click puzzles by voting. Be sure to check out the answers from Quietschisto of RNG, Sebastian of The Platformer and Jonez from NekoJonez’s Gaming Blog, then cast your votes in the polls below before the end of November. The results will be announced on Saturday, 01 December 2019 over on RNG.

  • Vote for the best puzzle here
  • Vote for the worst puzzle here