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Anchorhead

by Michael Gentry profile

Horror
1998

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Number of Reviews: 24
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Unfair, January 7, 2019
I'm not at all sure that Anchorhead has any "fair" puzzles in Emily Short's sense. https://xyzzyawards.org/?p=386

I played Anchorhead about four-ish years ago, but I gave up on it and used the "Guided Tour" walkthrough linked from IFDB. I never felt like I could trust that I was actually solving a puzzle. For many of the puzzles I "solved" by following the Guided Tour, I never understood the solutions at all.

Even for Anchorhead's relatively accessible puzzles, the vast majority of them only make sense in "adventure-game logic" (e.g. the very first puzzle of the game, (Spoiler - click to show)breaking into the real-estate office), but those puzzles are surrounded by red-herring "you can't solve this yet for no known reason" puzzles, so it's unfair to expect the player to apply adventure-game logic to just that puzzle and not any of the other red-herring puzzles.

Good puzzle solutions need to make sense in hindsight. Why does it make sense to break into the (Spoiler - click to show)real-estate office, and not the (Spoiler - click to show)asylum, or the slaughterhouse, or the church, or whatever? Why can I break in on Day 3 but not on Day 2? It just never makes sense.

I'd give Anchorhead one star, but its prose and story are pretty good. So, do as I did: follow mjhayes' Guided Tour. Don't worry one second over the puzzles. Just enjoy the ride. (Note that the Guided Tour hasn't been updated for the 2018 re-release; you'll have to use the 1998 original release, instead.)

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Joey Jones, January 7, 2019 - Reply
I think the design of Anchorhead, perhaps more than many games, works to the exact degree to which you've internalized the same adventure game norms as the author. I had no trouble with the majority of the puzzles myself because at all times I was following the hidden dictates of convention. (I've only played the original, mind.)

For me, the alley next to the estate agency was clearly a push-object-to-climb puzzle, the likes of which I had played many times before.
Dan Fabulich, January 8, 2019 - Reply
In isolation, it would be a fair puzzle, but when surrounded by dozens of rooms full of not-yet-solvable puzzles, it looks like yet another not-yet-solvable puzzle.

Guessing that this puzzle is solvable is what makes it unfair; it forces you to read the author's mind. Note that if you talk to Michael in the library, he just tells you to keep waiting for the real-estate agent, which suggests that you should wait, or that the puzzle isn't solvable yet.

On the other hand, if you happen to get lucky and go southeast to the alley, maybe you won't happen to have seen dozens of unsolvable puzzles before this one; at that point, the puzzle is perhaps acceptable.

But that's just the first puzzle; none of the rest of the puzzles in the game are solvable on Day 1, whereas many of them (but not all of them) are solvable on Day 2, for no reason. Some puzzles are solvable on Day 2 and not Day 3, which is even worse.
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