No cheating, for the love of God!
First posted on 17 September 2000. Last updated on 25 February 2006.
I have been recently browsing through reviews covering some of my favorite computer games and, upon reading about an article on Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle, I immediately fill with a regret that I am never going to be able to undo. I am talking about the regret that comes from cheating on an adventure game. Adventure games are a special breed of game, in that figuring them out is most of the fun. In a game of another genre such as Quake, for example, a person can easily cheat to see the end, but afterwards that person can play the game from beginning to end without cheating, accepting the challenge that the game creates. That, however, is impossible with an adventure game. Once the only puzzles which belong to an adventure game are part of your physical memory there is no way to forget them. In other words, the game is ruined beyond repair.
I remember stages in my life according to the kinds of computers I own at the time. Not coming from a financially stable family, I have never upgraded to the latest hardware simply to keep up with the gaming industry. Of course, 10 years ago the change has been much slower, but there has been a time when all I have is an EGA graphic card, a floppy disk drive, and 640K of memory, but all the newer games are starting to require VGA and a hard drive. So, there has been long periods of time where I am forced to miss out on the newer games, occasionally browsing game magazines and drooling over the colorful new games like King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder! and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge. For a long period of time, it seems utterly hopeless that I am ever going to get to experience these new worlds and go on their quests. Finally, the day has come when my 486SX/25 (very adequate for its time) arrives and the world of gaming is reopened for me. The first game I happen to buy is the CD ROM version of Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle, and anyone who has purchased this version knows that it comes free with a hint book.
The problem is that I am more into exploring than figuring out puzzles as a younger gamer. Even though I speak of the travesty of cheating on this game, the concept is nothing new to me. I have played almost every adventure game before that, including every game from Sierra On-Line, both AGI and SCI0, and I cannot think of a single game which I have won without consulting the long distance (which eventually became a 900 number) hint line for an answer at least once (some more than others). However, there has always been a single limiting factor—the fact that calling for hints costs me money! This hint book, however, is free and staring me in the face. On top of that, the game has some horribly clever puzzles indeed, and I simply do not have the patience to tolerate them. I am sure you have all experienced the feeling of being stuck. Not only can you not figure out the solution and move on, but the illusion forms that there is no solution, which is, of course, a ludicrous thought, but when you have spent hours wandering around and trying items on items randomly it begins to seem reasonable. So, in the end, I give in to the hint book on almost every puzzle.
It may not seem to be a terrible loss at the time, but 7 years later I regret it beyond measure. I regret it for many reasons as I regret the similar attitude I treat all the other adventure games I cherish. Firstly, I never know if I can ever figure out the puzzles on my own. Adventure game puzzles can be considered similar to IQ tests which test flexibility, inventiveness, and creativity. Giving into giving up makes me feel like a quitter and, even though it is just a game we are talking about, it is still, on some level, a test of my mental abilities which I have given up on. Secondly, it is disrespectful to the games, especially games which we hold in highest regard. Whenever I brag about how Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle is the one of the best adventure games made, I feel a small sense of guilt because, in a way, I have trashed the game by not giving it the attention it deserves. It is very much like praising a novel that you have either never read, have only seen the movie, or have skimmed from front to back. The creators of the game have put a lot of time and effort into the puzzles and want people to enjoy discovering the solutions, not race through the creation with a hint book in left hand and a mouse in the right hand (or vice versa). Finally, I shall never get to truly enjoy the game because I have stripped from it the most essential layer—a layer that I cannot restore—I can never get the same thrill from it that others have gotten, and there is always going to be only 1 Maniac Mansion, 1 King's Quest, and 1 Monkey Island.
I think my deepest regret comes about after I have played The Curse of Monkey Island. In these days of the internet, a gamer does not even need a hint book anymore to ruin a game; all that is needed is to conduct a light search and a multitude of appropriate walkthroughs shall appear. As such, I have made a resolution with myself regarding this game. It has been a long time since I have come across a decent adventure game and, remembering how I have spoiled so many virgin adventure games before, I promise myself to play on the extra hard level and never consult a walkthrough. I stay true to the promise and beat it within a week. No matter how stuck I may become I have not given in to cheating. Instead, I wander for hours, revisiting the same places continuously until the solution finally strikes me, and the feeling of winning a game like that without any help is gratifying. It is at that time I wish most dearly that I can go back and have a chance to do the same with all the games I have once played before.
A word of warning
So I submit this as a warning to both old and new adventure gamers. If you have yet to play the classics, if you are relatively new to the world of computer games, take this opportunity to enjoy the classics to the fullest extent. If you are an older gamer and have played all that there is to play, then you know just how badly the future of adventure games is becoming, and you also must realize that the rare occurrence of a new adventure game should not be taken for granted, quickly spoiled because of a lack of patience.
I realize that my words are rather heavy and dramatic. There are exceptions, of course. I find some games, Darkseed II for example, are so tedious and dull with such inane puzzles and dialog that they deserve to be cheated on. On the other hand, I hope that anyone who has read this article is going to think twice about giving in and cheating on a really great game, because I guarantee you this—it is a mistake that you shall regret and it is a mistake that no amount of technology or effort can fix.