Stephen’s Sausage Roll: Compound Puzzles

I’m still in what I believe to be the final stretch. It’s a long stretch, and the puzzles are getting monumentally difficult. Clearing just one per session feels like an accomplishment.

The DROD fandom uses the word “lynchpin” for a puzzle’s crucial insight, the non-obvious realization that enables you to solve the whole thing. A lot of DROD puzzles consist of a lynchpin plus a bunch of tactical maneuvering. I’m finding that a lot of the later puzzles in SSR have multiple lynchpins. You tinker with a puzzle for a while without getting anywhere, and then you realize “Wait, I can push this thing over by this ladder and stick my fork in this gap and lift the whole thing out of the water!” or whatever, and that opens up new possibilities, but it doesn’t solve the puzzle. It just gives you the tools you need to start thinking about the real puzzle. I’ve also seen a puzzle or two that are just outright multi-stage affairs, where you have to get a sausage from its starting position to the grill with a series of unrelated mini-puzzles along the way.

Once again, this stands in contrast to A Monster’s Expedition, where every island is small and elegant. Ah, but AME has larger puzzles that span multiple islands. I suppose the difference in feel has to do with the sense of what the smallest unit of puzzle is. In AME, where boundaries are fluid and every change persists, you can frequently think of the different parts of a compound puzzle as separate puzzles. SSR doesn’t allow that. Puzzles are sharply defined, with discrete conditions for entering the puzzle and leaving it, and if you leave without solving all of it, you haven’t solved any of it.

1 Comment so far

  1. matt w on 20 Sep 2020

    I have a feeling I know which puzzles you’re referring to! Which is another difference between SSR and AME. The AME puzzles don’t have names–can’t, in fact, since sometimes identifying the boundaries of a puzzle would spoil it. SSR does have the stretch where you have to set things up in the overworld but, as you’ve just seen, discovering what’s going on there is one of the biggest wow moments of the whole game. If not of all games.

    Even beyond that, the individual AME puzzles aren’t that memorable to me. I can look at a list of SSR puzzles and recall at least half of them to some degree, but with AME what I remember is the gestalt of the island clusters.

    One thing here, and something that reflects the design genius of AME and of SSR as well, is that AME’s style is in general far more frightening and intimidating for me than SSR’s. There are other puzzle games like Corrypt and Promesst with moments that blow away your assumptions about what you can do in the world and open up new vistas of possibilities–and in those games, when I reach those moments I gasp in admiration and stop playing. Because they tie together all the different parts of the world, so that every puzzle is connected with every other puzzle, which means that I need to keep track of far more stuff than I can hold in my head, and I never know whether I’ve just made progress or done something that will require a dozen screens’ worth of undo later. When Stephen’s Sausage Roll introduces movable blocks, that opens up the possibilities a lot (particularly with some of the complex things like the thing that I think you’re lifting out of the water), but at least you can be sure that you have everything you need to solve the puzzle within the puzzle. And you discover this by being confronted with a puzzle that’s obviously impossible as is, and also named Dead End, so you know that you need to be doing something unprecedented.

    (All that said when I first saw Folklore, with the grills on an island in the middle of the sea, I thought it was some kind of joke and tried a lot of meta things like dropping sausages into the level from the structure that looms over it before I realized that you could solve it with what you were given.)

    AME does have this structure where you don’t know how things are going to interact, but it does an amazing job of gently nudging you along and rewarding trust in the game. Even though I knew there were going to be places where I would have to do things across a lot of islands, I had faith that if I just kept solving things naturally I wouldn’t lock myself out. Now that I’m going back to try to reach some more islands there are several puzzles where I literally don’t know where to start, and I feel like the solution is going to involve bridging a bunch of things that I can’t see all at once. But I know this is something I’m doing to myself.

Leave a reply