Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Universal Hint System: (Almost) Spoiler-free walkthroughs

Maybe you graduated from one of the most prestigious universities in the nation; maybe you have decades of military and tactical training under your belt; maybe you're the world's foremost expert on playing chess and solving Rubik's Cubes... no matter the circumstances, there almost always comes a time when you find yourself stuck on some video game puzzle or challenge that only a walkthrough--written by a kid who's barely old enough to shave, no less--can help you through.

It's not uncommon to read a walkthough and then slap your forehead, saying, "I'm so stupid! I can't believe I didn't think to dodge the monster's attack!" It's also not uncommon to read a walkthrough and accidentally spoil half the game for yourself while looking for the information you need.

That's why the Universal Hint System exists. UHS is a website that allows you to gradually learn more about how to solve any given puzzle or challenge; instead of straight-out telling you what to do, UHS has a tiered hint system that starts out giving you vague and general clues that become more specific as you press on. You control how much information you see, and sometimes all it takes is a single vague clue to inspire you to try something you never even considered... and sometimes you need to beat yourself over the head with the full list of clues because you'll never figure things out on your own.

So, if you're looking for video or computer game help that spoils only as much as you're willing to spoil, check out the Universal Hint System. You'll find hints for games of all genres and ages, so it's definitely worth a look.


Scott said...

The idea reminds me of the old Sierra Hint Books with the red plastic decoder.

"How do I escape from the cellar?

Maybe you need a little help.

Someone who could undo your ropes.

See a mousehole in the corner?

A mouse would be a good friend.

Save the mouse from the cat outside the inn and he will help you by gnawing your ropes. If you did not save the mouse, then restore a saved game. You did save, didn't you?"


Flashman85 said...

You know, tarepanda, I almost mentioned that, along with the InvisiClues that helped so many folks through Zork. It's a much better way to get hints.

Scott said...

People were also complaining about Nintendo's plan to allow a game to play through itself so that they could skip difficult sections... but another Sierra game series, Dr. Brain, had much the same thing.

It was a puzzle game, so it was much more structured; you could solve puzzles, each of which would reward you with a "hint coin". A hint coin could then be used for a hint; on some puzzles, it would be a suggestion, on others it would be a part of the solution, and sometimes it would just outright bypass the puzzle.

It was also increasingly helpful -- if the first coin simply gave a suggestion, each ensuing coin would give a better suggestion or a piece of the solution.

Man, I loved that series.

Flashman85 said...

Well, I was one of those people complaining about Nintendo's plan, but mostly because I envisioned a big "Help me, I'm a n00b" button on the side of the screen that you could press at any time to bypass anything. I don't mind a built-in hint system if there's a game mechanic built around it, like with Dr. Brain.