User Tools

Site Tools


Text Adventure Puzzle Types

This page outlines some basic types of puzzle encountered in games as well as some examples and ideas for how to expand upon them. The categories are based on those in this article by Emily Short.

Mystery / Research

The focus of these puzzles is locating and combining information. General themes which can occur:

  • Filtering salient details out of large amounts of information.
  • Discovering which topics to look up in libraries.
  • Combining disparate pieces of information to draw conclusions.
  • Discovering which of a set of facts are correct / self-consistent.


These puzzles involve collecting information about a subject until it can be identified or some other conclusion drawn. Examples include:

  • Diagnosing illnesses based on symptoms.
  • Discovering why a broken machine isn't working.
  • Learning a behaviour through experimentation and putting this to use in solving another puzzle.

Resource Management

The player must decide how to expend a limited resource (time, money, space, etc.) to achieve a set of conflicting goals in a satisfactory manner. Examples of the resources used are:

  • Time: typically a limited number of turns in which to carry out actions.
  • Money: often a quantity of notes or coins with which items, services, property or information may be purchased.
  • Space: a limited inventory is a classic example, also containers of limited capacity.
  • Weight: similar to size and potentially combined with it.
  • Health: a classic RPG challenge, also applies to other quantities such as “magic points”.
  • Uses: items may have a limited number of uses, such as a gun with limited ammunition.


Dealing with locations and their relationships.

  • Mazes are an obvious example, but should be avoided in their basic form as they're quite tedious.
  • Relationships between locations could be under the control of the player in some form.
  • Locations can look superficially similar and rely on the player to realise they're in a different place.


The timing and ordering of events.

  • The player must perform certain activities by a time limit, or at a specified interval from observed events.
  • The player must perform activities in a specific order.
  • These types of puzzles can be very frustrating if not properly cued, although this is a lot less important if the player has the opportunity to retry them as many times as necessary.


Secret codes and ciphers which need to be solved by the player.

  • The key to the code could be included within the game, or the player could be expected to crack it themselves.
  • Ciphers could be an optional extra which gives the player helpful but non-essential information.

Word Puzzles

The language of the game itself can become a puzzle, either in-game or beyond the fourth wall.

  • At the basic level, the player can be presented with puzzles soluable with word play.
  • The game itself could present ambiguous language to the player and challenge them to find the correct interpretation, or use it to mislead them.
text/puzzle_types.txt · Last modified: 2012/11/12 13:48 by andy