Touché!: Usability Shenanigans

Like most point-and-click adventures, Touché! lets you use inventory items as verbs, applying them to environmental objects or other inventory items. To a game designer, this is an easy way to create enough potential actions to prevent the player from simply cycling through them all instead of solving the puzzles by understanding them. But as a player who’s currently stuck, I naturally want to subvert this, pruning the possibilities to something I can deal with.

A while back, I noticed a pattern that should help, and I spent my last session confirming and exploiting it. The pattern is this: If an environmental object can have an inventory item usefully applied to it, using any object on it, right or wrong, will provoke some reaction, if only just Geoffroi saying “I can’t use that there” or the like. If not, clicking an inventory item on it will just return the object to your inventory as if you had clicked it on nothing.

Realizing this cuts down on the things I have to think about a lot! For example, in Geoffroi’s room at the inn in Rouen, there’s a locked door leading to a neighboring room. There are several little clues pointing to the importance of gaining access to that second room (starting with the fact that it exists at all, when the same space in the near-identical inn in St. Quentin is empty), but I haven’t done so yet. If you examine the door, you’re told that nothing short of a crowbar will get you through. So… I’ve been kind of hoping that a crowbar would show up. But now, I know that won’t happen. The door doesn’t respond to using a handkerchief or a cantaloupe on it, so it won’t respond to anything else. Perhaps I’ll find a way to reach that room through the window and open the door from the other side or something, but I’m not getting in the straightforward way.

Realizing that you don’t need to bother interacting with something in a particular way is a sort of negative discovery, one that spares you wasted effort but doesn’t move you forward at all. More interesting is the positive discovery of a possible interaction you hadn’t considered. And so I’ve been through all the rooms to see exactly what items are locks that need keys. In the process, I discovered a few anomalies. The blacksmiths in St. Quentin and Amiens respond to objects, but the one in Rouen does not. One and only one of the two guards outside the Louvre does — and he’s also the only one you can talk to. The doorway to the Musketeers headquarters accepts items and I have no idea why. Maybe it gets locked later on? I can believe that characters might be false positives, that the designers may have just decided to handle the case of “what if the player tries to give them something” because it’s something the player might plausibly try, not because it ever does anything. But that door is another matter.

At any rate, the two most intriguing use points I found were things I was already kind of aware of: a pot of purple paint in the Amiens smithy, and a pot of soup hanging over the fire in the Rouen inn. (An identical pot in the St. Quentin inn doesn’t accept items.) And so I’ve experimentally tried everything in my inventory on them. Result: partial success! Most things used on the soup pot just make Geoffroi say “Why would I want to get that covered in soup?”, but use an altar cloth snaffled from a church, and it’s transformed into a sticky altar cloth. Which… doesn’t seem like an improvement on the face of it. I have no idea why I want this. But I suppose that’s what happens when you try to skip straight to the solutions without understanding the problems first.


5 Comments so far

  1. matt w on 10 Aug 2019

    Might you be able to stick the cloth to a window and then smash the window? A similar gag involving brown paper and treacle figures largely in Joy in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse, though IIRC the window never actually gets smashed.

  2. Carl Muckenhoupt on 17 Aug 2019

    By now, I’ve found the use for the sticky cloth, and no, that isn’t it.

  3. matt w on 20 Aug 2019

    Having looked at a walkthrough, it seems as though the reason the locked door was interactive may have been gung ng fbzr cbvag n abgr trgf cbfgrq ba vg?

  4. Carl Muckenhoupt on 21 Aug 2019

    Now that I’ve finished the game, I can confirm that the door in question does in fact become locked at one point, and you have to apply a key to it. (The note that gets stuck on the door at the same time that it becomes locked is beside the point. You don’t need an inventory item to read a note.)

  5. Doug Orleans on 30 Aug 2019

    “A similar gag involving brown paper and treacle figures largely in Joy in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse”

    Ohhh, that explains an odd puzzle in a recent IF game! (unnamed to avoid spoiling it but you can probably guess which one)

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