A thread for my wishful thinking puzzlehunt design project: a puzzlehunt themed on La-Mulana.
La-Mulana is an "archaeological exploration" 2D adventure platformer, in metroidvania format, first released for PC in 2005, with an updated/reworked re-release in 2011 (and subsequent years) on multiple platforms. It is strongly inspired by the MSX game Maze of Galious. The most distinctive feature of La-Mulana is that it basically contains a large number of "puzzles" -- usually riddle-like clues that hint at how to properly operate some sort of mechanism in the game in order to unlock a certain treasure, or to defeat a certain enemy in order to open up a door.
It contains a number of areas, each of which has a major boss "guardian", all of which have to be defeated in order to open up the final area of the game and defeat the final boss. Unlike many other games, though, finding the boss room is not sufficient to encounter the boss -- it actually requires you solve puzzles that result in two things: the appearance of an ankh, which when activated actually produces the boss fight, and an "ankh jewel" item that allows you to activate an ankh. Usually, this means two separate sets of puzzles...sometimes spanning multiple areas.
The game lends itself rather well to becoming a puzzlehunt, in my opinion, because of its emphasis on puzzles, and its existing metapuzzle-like structure in the form of these bosses. Defeating all the guardians gives access to the final puzzles of the game, which include a meta that incorporates elements from all the areas. Each area is also strongly themed on something, which lends itself to hunt-style theming.
SPOILERS WILL BEGIN TO OCCUR BELOW THIS LINE
The game consists of eight major areas, plus a starting area and a final area, numbered from 0 to 9. No, actually, it consists of 19 major areas, because it turns out that each of the major areas has a "backside" area that corresponds to itself (that's 16 areas), plus two versions of the final area, where one turns into the other permanently when all the bosses are defeated. Plus the starting area (the Surface). And plus a cameo area that was taken from Maze of Galious (in the original version) or from the original La-Mulana (in the remake). Plus a bonus dungeon that only exists for the sake of heaping trollish dickery against the player. So I guess you could say there are 21 areas. I'm going to ignore the bonus dungeon because it is merely trollish dickery, and there's quite enough other material to work with for even just 18 rounds, or even just 17, where the last round is a set of metas.
Each pair of areas, which I will label as 1F, 1R, 2F, 2R, etc. up to 8F, 8R, consists of one ankh (boss) metapuzzle, and one ankh jewel metapuzzle. Well, mechanically, in the game, they're just specific puzzles, but you may have to solve other puzzles to get to them. But they certainly feel like metas, because they're like the culmination of a bunch of puzzles. Sometimes these bunches of puzzles even span different areas -- but that might be too confusing for an actual hunt.
In the game, you start off at the Surface, and you need to solve a basic puzzle to get the ruins open. You can also collect an item that tells you when you've solved a puzzle or activated a trap. It's standard puzzlehunt practice to be allowed to confirm answers, so let's just skip this.
In the game, the puzzles that you need to get those ankh and ankh jewel "metas" are pretty much...anywhere. In the first area, they're self-contained and easy to find. The second and fourth areas are still self-contained in this sense, but are more complex; however, solving the third area's puzzles do require at least one puzzle in the fourth area be solved -- though I can't remember off the top of my head whether this is necessary to fight the boss. After these first four bosses, though, the game really blows open, with partial access to the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth areas, pending the solving of various puzzles.
And then, it's at this point that the game reveals that each area also has a backside. Another full-size area that corresponds to each of the major areas. So basically the size of the game doubles. These backside areas are themed in related ways to their frontsides, and contain more puzzles, of course, and you need these puzzles plus the remaining frontside puzzles in order to navigate the rest of the game and solve the remaining metas.
Roughly at the same time as the backside areas are revealed, the final area is also revealed, and it contains a few puzzles, but cannot be fully solved until all of the eight other areas' metas have been solved, which permanently transforms the final area, gives access to more metas, and then the final boss.
I don't think it's a good idea to have puzzles from everywhere going into a meta. It gets messy pretty darn quickly, and no hunt has ever done this, except for that one dossier in the 2008 hunt that was for "you" as the suspect, which actually pulled in one "wrongly filed" puzzle from each of the other dossiers. But if we don't do this cross-contamination, and stick slavishly with the original game's structure, we get problems like Area 1F providing both the ankh and ankh jewel and Area 1R being irrelevant. So let's just deviate from the game's structure a bit, since we're not designing a game, we're designing a puzzlehunt.
Let's make it so that each pair of areas forms a supermeta that combines two elements. You can solve each ankh or ankh jewel meta separately, but to solve the supermeta you need to combine both. For example, Area 3F is themed on the male gender and and Area 3R is themed on the female gender. The meta answer for 3F could be "SARGASSUM", and the meta answer for 3R could be "BIOREACTOR", and using the theming as well as perhaps some clues having to do with reproductive systems -- e.g. presenting the meta answer for 3F in the form of segments of the tail of a sperm cell, and presenting the meta answer for 3R in the form of portions of the exterior of an egg cell -- one could potentially come up with the phrase "insert tab A into slot B" (i.e. sexual intercourse), from which one could get the action phrase "INSERT SARGASSUM INTO BIOREACTOR", which might reveal that the supermeta solution for 3F/3R has to do with building or somehow presenting an algal fuel cell that probably uses the seaweed Sargassum.
This would allow us to make each frontside and backside round independently solvable (with one key exception), but also make them combinable.