Sierra Entertainment (later Sierra On-Line) was a computer game company that was pretty popular for its adventure games. Many players would navigate their puzzles and stories until finding that happy ending. However, there were a number of puzzles and tasks that had to be preformed that were just totally unforgiving to the player. Either you couldn't figure it out or the sheer amount of time that it took to do so was beyond forgiving. Sometimes, this led to the dead end situtaion and you'd have to go back. Here (not in any particular order) is the list of the top ten most unforgiving puzzles and tasks in Sierra adventure games.

WARNING: Major spoilers ahead.

"Gold Rush!" was one of the lesser known Sierra games. In this one you play as a man who wants to get to the California Gold Fields so he can strike it rich and reunite with his long lost brother. As in real life there are three routes that he can take either via land, around the Cape or through the Panama Jungle (the canal didn't exist in this period). The trip through the Jungle is actually the only one that can grant you extra points and a unique item.

Unavoidable random deaths notwithstanding you eventually find yourself separating from your group. Now you learn why that is NEVER a good idea. First you run into a bunch of "dreaded jungle ants." With this situation it's not too hard unless you have the game on its fastest mode because you have to type in your commands while the game is still going.

Pass the ants and then you find out why this is an unforgiving situation in the game. There is a section where you find yourself faced with four paths through the same area. Not only do the graphics make it look like there are only two paths, two of them will kill you. The obvious path causes you to die immediately. The other path that kills you is where it gets bad because there is NO INDICATION it will do that!

Even if you manage to get past this part of the jungle, you now have to ford a river. If you think there's any clue as to how to get past that without sinking or getting eaten by a crocodile, you don't know the game very well.

This one's not really a puzzle, but it was still a task that you had to deal with in King's Quest IV. So, to get to Genesta's island you have to swim across the ocean for a few screens and you crawl onto the island no problem. Or perhaps you have to get through a cave to get to a special area in the game required for the "true" ending to the game. Navigating the cave is something of a hassle if you try to take it too fast or you fail to bring everything but it's doable.

So what makes these things unforgiving? They both have UNAVOIDABLE deaths in them! When you're swimming in the ocean you tend to run into sharks. Oh no! Better swim back to shore! Right… out swim a shark! Most sharks can swim faster than humans can run. Good luck with that! Of course you get killed just because you ran into a totally random and unavoidable predator of the sea! The same sort of thing happens if you run into the troll in the cave. You can't run from him. Yes, you can leave the screen, but you're not going to make it a whole 'nother screen, you'll be lucky to make it two pixels in!

Even if you don't run into a shark while trying to get into Genesta's island you have another problem: the whale! I'm not going into what happens when you actually ARE supposed to get caught by the whale (but that would've been one on the list had I done one game more than once) but if you get caught by the whale too soon, you are at a dead end! Can't you just swim four screens without getting killed? Apparently not.

Arguably, the Thief is supposed to be the "hard" way to play the game and there are several situations where lacking the proper tools gets you killed, but this one is the only one that is absolutely necessary to win the game.

With the exception of the Fighter, each character has something he must have done in order to beat Ad Avis. For the Magic User, it's to become a wizard. This of course, is a natural thing to do especially if you read the manual. There's also the nicety that both the Magic User and the Fighter just go in from the front door. The Thief has to go in the back way. This requires that you have a magic rope (it's easily seen), a great amount of agility, and no less than three daggers in your inventory.

Okay, so why is this unforgiving? Because to walk the tightrope is really hard and slow and you do have a time limit, and there's the problem that the magic rope does have a limit on how long it will keep its magic. If you had used the magic rope to improve climbing skill (it was the only way) then you're likely to end up with the thing running out of magic. Even if this didn't happen, if you didn't bring up your agility to nigh perfect, you will probably fall off either from the end of the time limit or you made a mistake. Then there's that idea you didn't get the extra daggers. If you run out of daggers, you won't die immediately, but you'll never beat Ad Avis.

There's also that problem that you have to time your ducking just right or you'll die when Ad Avis attacks you. And whatever you do, NEVER save just before he throws a fireball. You'll never be able to dodge it then!

Yes, fist time players can succeed in doing this, but it's really not that forgiving if you make a mistake.

Combat is a part of some of the Sierra adventure games. It's fun too if it's done right. Then comes this one in Conquests of Camelot. Although you do have to draw Excalibur and kill a few characters in this game, they're not true combat situations. The Mad Monk protects himself from you with an illusion and it takes three hits to kill him. You MIGHT also run into Jabir who will try to kill you and this takes only one strike and good timing to kill him.

Finally, when you are near the end of the game, you come across a Saracen (a Muslim during the time of the Crusades for anyone who doesn't know) who demands to fight you and offers you a helmet. Of course, you take the helmet but then comes real combat. That's where this gets unforgiving. This guy takes a ton of hits to beat, you can tire yourself out by swinging the sword too much which results in you being unable to attack for a period of time, and even if you can only hold up your own, you have a time limit after which you die due to a venomous bite previously inflicted in the game.

In a game where combat was mostly just swinging the sword at the right time and at the right character having one where you must now aim high, medium and low attacks, time it right so you don't miss and block incoming attacks, this is pretty unforgiving as it is the only time you have to do it.

Yes, there are other combat sequences, but these don't use your sword so they don't count.

There are a ton of games where you have to navigate a maze. However, one of the games that seemed to have one more unforgiving than any other? "Pepper's Adventures in Time" that's what! This game is mostly an educational game meant for younger players who can learn about the American Colonial Times through playing.

Puzzles are mostly straightforward in the game and you can learn a number of things. Then comes chapter five, "Pepper and Lockjaw in Penn Mansion". Suddenly, you find yourself in a maze of corridors and halls. Just about every hall looks the same, just about every door leads to another hall and there seems to be an endless amount of these rooms.

The way to navigate it? North. North. East. North. West. Open the door. North. East. Open the door. West. North. West. North. East. North. North. West. North. North. North. North. West.

This is supposed to be a kid's game! A perfect navigation requires twenty-two commands to be done in order. Any mistakes and you're lost! Unlike other games this one doesn't have a map, it doesn't have a character to guide you through, and it doesn't have anything to indicate if you're doing better or worse.

It's amazing that anyone could think this would be a good puzzle to put in a kid game.

One of the things that had plagued people playing Leisure Suit Larry II was that they ended up getting killed due to staying on the cruise ship too long. There is no clue that you have to get off the cruise ship until AFTER you get killed for staying on the ship for too long. Yeah, that's like Pandora shutting the box/jar only AFTER all the sorrows of the world got out.

Anyway, after figuring out how to get off the ship, you start the long journey across the sea. If you didn't prepare properly, you die of sunburn. Okay, this is avoidable enough, you did get the sunscreen BEFORE getting on the ship didn't you? No? Why not?! Wouldn't you think to get some sunscreen before going a cruise? Well, whatever, you go back to a previous save, get some sunscreen, put it on and try again. Suddenly, you find that your head catches fire because you have no head protection. Wear a hat right? WRONG! You have to wear a wig that you got on the ship. You also have to make sure you put it on after getting on the boat but before you lose control of the character. So you go back and do that. Now we're done right? Heh, heh, ha, ha! You die of thirst! If you didn't get that supersized drink back in the city, you lose! So you now have sun protection, head protection, something to drink and you knew that you had to have food so you got that spinach dip! Oops, that killed you. So you go with no dip. If you didn't bring the right food source with you that kills you too!

AURGH! I doubt ANYONE finished that puzzle on his first try!

"Gabriel Knight III: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned" was a game that was mostly based on the gathering of information. Sure there were puzzles in there that were a little unforgiving like trying to steal something from Mosley and having to be in the right spot to do so but most of it was just going around trying to figure out how do things like trace out hidden geometry on a painting and spy on other people.

The thing about this is, if you failed you could easily go back and do it again. It didn't much matter how many times you failed at the puzzle, you could always go back and do it again. Even if you got caught somewhere you weren't supposed to go the person didn't seem to catch on you were there on purpose.

Then comes the section where you have to navigate puzzle after puzzle to reach a sacred chamber. Now things get hard. The chessboard puzzle was the hardest one. This wasn't about watching for patterns or getting the timing right, just about any platformer player could do that. This one, was a chessboard in which you have to land on special tiles with a sword symbol on it which formed a diamond shape on the board. What was hard about this? You could only move like a chess knight! If you deviated AT ALL from this pattern, the tile would drop out and you'd fall. Even saving the game after getting some of these tiles it wouldn't help because there was pretty much only ONE solution to the problem. Even the starting point was something you had to figure out. A SINGLE wrong move would mean you'd eventually fail at the puzzle and have to start over.

If it weren't for the internet, most players probably would have to stop here.

Dead end situations are amongst the most annoying things you can find in games. This often happens when you find that you used an item you should have saved or you forget to pick something up. Often times you have to go WAY back to get the item. If you only had one save file you'd have to go all the way back to the beginning of the game.

One game that was notorious for this was "King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder". This gets higher up than its predecessors since it's not character specific and it's not just one situation. This starts out when you walk into the Tavern (which many first-time players would naturally do) and you immediately die because you don't have the right items.

Go on a bit and you enter into the Dark Forest. You die here. Okay, so you finally manage to get into the desert temple with only a limited amount of time and one shot at it. Of course, you'll be worried about losing here so you're likely to leave something. If you got the coin and not the bottle (which is less likely) you eventually die in the Dark Forest. Actually, a lot of things are required to go into the forest and if you fail to get it, you're stuck there.

If you manage to get out of there, you eventually run into a situation where you need to eat. If you eat the wrong thing, you later die. Not only can you not regain that food item, even if you could go back and get another, you're still trapped since you're not allowed to go back.

Then say, you forgot to do something important on the way here. Oops, you're dead. If you did do the important thing but didn't get that item before you're saved, you'll be dead much later in the game.

…Well you get the idea. This goes on and on and on throughout the game. All too often you can't go back and get the items so you're stuck at a dead end situation. Pretty much, the WHOLE GAME was an unforgiving puzzle!

Although gambling was a staple in many sierra games (Space Quest, Police Quest, Leisure Suit Larry) they all had something in common: if you lose, you can always restore the game to a point where you didn't lose and go from there. This was a great thing to have since in all the afore mentioned games, you die if you lose. Then comes this lost gem: "Codename: Iceman".

In this game, you have to gamble on a dice game that's pretty much like the popular game Yahtzee. You roll five dice, whoever gets the better roll (the one with the higher point value) wins. Sounds great doesn't it? Sure it is until you discover that you have to play it long enough to win all of this guy's money (about three games), his bottle of alcohol and a radio disruptor. So a minimum of five rounds doesn't sound too bad. It wouldn't be if you could only play the five rounds. Trouble is you don't always win and if you lose, that's yet another round you have to play because he won't gamble for a different prize (the money is actually useless in this game).

So you probably think all you have to do is restore to a game you saved during the dice game where you won and go from there right? WRONG! The game developers counted on this. He'll accept it three time and then he'll get angry saying that you're cheating and the dice game ends. It doesn't matter at what point in the game you restore from either. If you lose the dice game, you can't go back. Even if you restore from the end of the game you'll be treated as if you only went back to this point to cheat.

The worst part of this: you HAVE TO WIN! To win the actual game, you have to get the bottle and the disruptor from this guy. The only way to get them is to beat him and he won't play anymore if you quit, lose, or he claims you're cheating. So unless you're really lucky, you're going to be spending a lot of time on this game.

Ending note: he never explains the full rules either. Finding out that a straight doesn't count is up to you and can lose you many a game if you try it.

This one is the one that apparently caused the greatest amount of questions being sent in to Sierra. This is the equivalency of the old story of Rumplestiltskin. Of course, just about everyone has heard the legend so Sierra made it so that it was supposed to be a little more challenging. To that end, his name is Ifnkovhgroghprm!

SAY WHAT?! It turns out that in order to get the name you had to use a backwards alphabet z = a, y = b, x = c, etc. in order to spell out the Gnome's name. There were supposed to be two clues to the Gnome's name. The first one is the note you find in the Witch's house that claims, "Sometimes it is wise to think backwards." Okay… what does the Witch have to do with the Gnome? The two characters are totally unrelated and there's no reason for anyone to associate the two.

The second clue was if you do guess the obvious choice. In this case, the gnome would say, "That's close, that's very close…" Sure, you know you're on the right track, but it doesn't explain much of anything else. After a number of tries this sounds more like he's mocking you than trying to help you out.

Another thing that made this kind of difficult to deal with is that some people spell the name Rumpelstiltskin (the "e" and "l" reversed) and this just results in getting a message saying that you were wrong. This name isn't exactly that easy to spell and there is no provision for common errors.

Seriously, did ANYONE get this one right without outside help?

Well, that's my top ten list of the most unforgiving Sierra game puzzles and tasks. Most of them were fun after they got figured out, but they were really unforgiving and sometimes untold. Yes, there were others, LOTS of others that people could call unforgiving. However, if I were to do a list of honorable mentions this section would never end.

Also, the makers of the games did realize how darned irritating these puzzles were and fixed them in the remakes (such as the gnome's name) but those are very much different games.

Leave your ideas of what should've been mentioned on the boards, and remember this is for Sierra games only (and that does NOT include the unoffical remakes).

List by Xoneris (02/01/2013)

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