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The Game: Space Quest IV
The Problem: Roger Wilco, intergalactic janitor, defeated Sludge Vohaul, intergalactic overlord, in Space Quest II: Vohaul’s Revenge. Feeling a little miffed, however, the resurrected Vohaul of Space Quest XII: Vohaul’s Revenge II sends his Sequel Police back through history to preemptively kill Roger in Space Quest IV. Our hero has hidden in an enemy time pod and must now enter the correct coordinates to escape to Space Quest X.
We know, we know. But if you’re confused and annoyed now, just wait.
The Logical Solutions:
• Those symbols are completely random and unintelligible. The answer must be written somewhere in this vehicle, right?
• No? On a different screen, then.
• No? In our inventory, probably.
• No? Maybe in the manual... or on the game’s box...
• No? Well the damn code has to be somewhere, doesn’t it?
• No?! What the hell.
The Stupid Solution: The answer is... there is no effing answer. The correct code is randomly generated every time. Far worse, the correct method for discovering that code is equally arbitrary.
Go ahead and search for the solution online. Nearly two decades after the game was released, people are still confused. Here’s a sampling from GameFAQs:
“It's either six times the first symbol or six times the last symbol.”
“The first six symbols or the last six symbols backwards.”
“Six random characters from the bottom row of the keypad.”
“The current code backwards.”
“Input the copyright protection.”
“Now try some codes at random.”
Our feelings exactly.
Why would anyone craft something so devious and unfair? Why would anyone place such frustration at the beginning of a game, denying players most of the experience until they solved an unsolvable puzzle? How could anyone get past this obstacle in 1991, when the game was originally sold and when access to the internet was rare?
Easy. Space Quest IV’s publisher, Sierra, sold a hint book and promoted a pay-by-the-minute hint line. See? The answer was staring us in the face all along.
The Game: The Longest Journey
The Problem: April Ryan, an art student, can do more than paint. Turns out she also has this talent for shifting between parallel worlds. Oh, and she’s the daughter of a dragon. And she can talk to trees. And she’s destined to restore peace, balance and order to the universe. Both of them.
Right now, though, all she wants to do is grab a random metal key off the electrified subway tracks for no apparent reason. Here we go again...
The Logical Solutions:
• You can’t shift between dimensions yet, so that won’t work.
• You can’t talk to dragons or trees yet, so they can’t help.
• You don’t even know you’re supposed to be restoring peace, balance and order to the universe(s) yet either, so umm...
• Why are you risking your life to grab a random metal key off the electrified subway track for no apparent reason?
The Stupid Solution: Ah, that’s right - you’re a videogame character. So of course you need to get your greedy little mitts on every last meaningless object you pass by.
We understand – now let’s make it happen!
Okay, this might sound strange, but maybe that unremarkable iron clamp we noticed back at your apartment could do the job. On the infinitesimal chance that we’re right, why not go to elaborate lengths involving levers, air pressure valves and a priceless gold ring to secure it?
What’s this? An inflatable children’s toy? Why would that have washed up at your window unless it was absolutely crucial to saving the world?
Better yet, after tricking the seagull into popping the rubber ducky with a trail of bread crumbs (don’t ask), you find a clothesline on the same chain. Hmm, couldn’t we have just used the clothesline or the chain to grab that metal doohickey off the tracks?
No, no, you’re right. This solution is much more logical.