Confusing, awkward, or disappointing moments in classic point-and-click adventure games

Let’s look back to the golden age of point-and-click adventure games. I do not want to talk about games of today, or even of recent memory, because I don’t want to risk throwing cold water on active development. I propose that we consider King’s Quest 8: Mask of Eternity the cutoff.

In Scope:
Any game released on or before November 24, 1998

I will blur spoilers, since the community has made them accessible! Thanks to everyone–players, concerned members, and admins/mods–who contributed to solving this problem. Happy Disability Pride Month!

For whatever reason, this morning I recalled the “climactic” conclusion of The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery. In its day, it was my obsession. I played it whenever I got the chance and loved the Bavarian setting–accurate or not.

Reviewers were critical of Grace’s actor, but her performance didn’t diminish my experience.

The FMV graphics were truly a treat. I was a huge Jane Jensen fan, and The Beat Within was one of my favorite games in recent memory. However, the final moments of the game were a crushing disappointment. The opera scene held so much promise. I loved the setting, the rationale behind it, and the preparation efforts. Unfortunately, the game ends in a dingy basement that, for whatever reason, is divided into a grid of nearly identical rooms, some of them containing locked doors. It was a crude maze in other words, and it required a gameplay style completely different from the rest of this conversation-based exploration game.

The final moment of play involves clicking on a leaping wolf, in motion. I really dislike games that suddenly require reflexes after a sizable portion of play without this requirement. I was amazed–in a negative sense–at what seemed a drastic shift in play and narrative technique.

How about it? What are some memorable moments in which a point-and-click game let you down?

[image description: a thirty-something man with reddish hair smiles broadly, winking. He looks rather silly. The player would recognize him as Gabriel Knight.]

[image description: Two persons look in the direction of the camera. The two, a man and a woman, are dressed in formal wear. The man wears a tuxedo with matching patterns on lapels and bowtie. The woman wears a dark green dress with exposed shoulders. The player would recognize the pair as Kriminal-Kommissar Leber and Grace Nakimura.]


I was actually recently contemplating a cut-off date for the end of the classic point and click game - or alternately, when you might consider the much-vaunted “death of the adventure game” to have occurred, and came up with November 19, 1999, to accommodate Gabriel Knight: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned.

Back on topic, the cat hair - mustache - passport puzzle in Gabriel Knight: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned.

(I really like those games, and know development wasn’t happening under ideal circumstances, but still there are some stinkers in there - beyond the one you flag in Beast Within, I remember some of the tape recorder puzzles being very finicky).

One other I’ll mention is The Dig - there’s a puzzle there where you need to reassemble a turtle skeleton, which seems like the sort of thing you should be able to mostly figure out by trial and error, except it’s quite hard to do if you don’t notice one non-obvious hint. And then the way you check whether you’ve got it right is you use one of those magic resurrection beads on the turtle, meaning that trial and error sees the thing briefly come back to life, moan in horror at the internal trauma it’s experiencing from all its bits being in the wrong place, then die in agony so you can try again. It starts off horrifying, then got darkly hilarious as I kept failing, and then just became deeply sad.


You beat me to the punch—I was going to mention the cat hair mustache puzzle.

Mine, though, is the music room puzzle on Starship Titanic, which makes the fiddly-levers organ puzzle on Myst seem trivially easy.


The “monkey wrench” in Monkey Island 2 is a classic to complain about, but considering that I first played that game in Italian I think I have every right to do so.


Yeah, that’s a totally valid position to take. For me, King’s Quest 8 just felt like Roberta Williams had given up on the old design model. I guess that can be a good thing, innovation and what not, but I experienced it more as a capitulation to market realities.

In any case, the mustache puzzle is so famously bad that it has its own Wikipedia article! That certainly is a rare achievement for an adventure game puzzle, good or bad.

I’ll name another one: the optional speedometer calibration speeding ticket puzzle from Police Quest 3. I didn’t understand it until years later, when I was randomly reading guides at GameFaqs. Maybe I was just dense. A shortcoming of those games was their focus on simulations, even if they were completely out-of-scope for the plot.

PQ 4 is a separate case that merits a discussion of its own, but that’s not really part of today’s game design discussion.

note: you can include images without uploading them! just paste the image url.

[id: a police officer talks to a pulled-over motorist. He says, “do you know why I stopped you?” The player would recognize him as Officer Sonny Barnes, the protagonist.]

I can see how idioms could cause a lot of frustration. Or cultural assumptions in general. Zork II has received a lot of criticism for its baseball puzzle over the years.


I believe the sale of Sierra to CUC ruined it for everyone. Not the first time somebody with money mismanaged a company.