Stephen’s Sausage Roll: The Fork

Puzzle spoilers ahead. (Puzzle spoilers are the worst kind. According to studies, plot spoilers actually increase people’s enjoyment of a story. I’m a bit skeptical about that myself, and suspect that it doesn’t really apply to all kinds of story, but even so, it’s undeniable that plot spoilers hurt a story less than puzzle spoilers hurt a puzzle. The pleasure of a puzzle lies mostly in the process of figuring it out.)

The puzzles in world 5 become a lot easier once you’ve solved even just one of them, because once you’ve done that, you know their uniting theme. It’s even a theme that I was anticipating: the first time I accidentally lost my fork back in world 3, my reaction was “There are going to be puzzles based around making you do this deliberately, aren’t there?”

And that’s a tricky thing to require of the player! When it first happened, I didn’t really understand what I had done wrong, or how to reproduce it. It turns out to be fairly simple, once you know how. You just have to put yourself into a situation where you’re falling but the fork isn’t, separated by a cliff edge. And since you’re not permitted to just walk off cliffs directly, the only way to fall is to do it while riding a sausage.

After you’ve dropped your fork, you can pick it up again just by being in the right position to do so, standing at the handle end and facing it. In fact, this happens automatically, and that can be a problem. You can’t tell the player character that it’s not time to pick up the fork yet. One of the reasons to drop your fork is to get it past an obstacle that you can’t pass while holding it. To do this without inadvertently picking it up, you might need to walk backwards, so the player character can’t see what they’re pushing.

I spoke before about how the controls are alienating. Fork-dropping puzzles are alienating in the specific sense that they clash with the instinct to identify with the player character. In these puzzles, you’re tricking the player character into doing what you want. The PC has a number of automatic behaviors that aren’t under your direct control — not dropping the fork, not stepping off cliffs, picking up the fork whenever possible — and your job is to fight them. In a strange way, it reminds me of The Fall, an adventure game where you play an AI with constraints on its behavior, where the puzzles are largely solved by deliberately provoking emergencies for the sake of the emergency powers they grant you.

1 Comment so far

  1. matt w on 17 Sep 2020

    I found that the game made it pretty easy for me to pick up on the fork-dropping theme, because the bridge to the fifth island takes you straight to the Gorge, and in the Gorge there’s a fairly natural thing to do at the beginning that results in you dropping the fork. Which did not mean that I solved the Gorge anytime soon, but it alerted me to fork-dropping possibilities in the other levels on the island.

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