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Can Too Many Hints Ruin Your Game Experience?

By aquizero on Dec 03 2012 03:05 PM

One more time and I'm gonna...
Every so often, I read online comments in regards to "how guided" or "non-guided" the story of a video game was. More specifically, if there should have been a hint system in the game or not. This subject seems to be one that people are very passionate about. So, I think it's time we stop hinting around and discuss it.

I would like to focus my personal experience on one of the most beloved Nintendo franchises; The Legend of Zelda. I'll start by sharing my thoughts about the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) title, The Legend of Zelda.

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The best way I can describe how I feel toward this game is frustration. I have yet to finish the game because, more often than not, I find myself lost; almost completely disconnected from everything else that's going on in the game. In my opinion, if you lose too much of the story, for the sake of an exaggerated amount of exploration, the game becomes dull and uninteresting. To this day, even with all the gaming experience I have gained, I still find it difficult to enjoy this title.

I thought that Nintendo was onto something great with the addition of a companion character like Navi in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, for the Nintendo 64. This character was always readily accessible and by your side, steering you in the right direction when needed. Unfortunately, Navi became more of a nuisance than anything else by constantly telling you where to go, even when you didn't request her assistance. Her unenlightened assistance, coupled with nagging neediness, further fueled her annoying presence.

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Most of the helpful hints were just reminders of what someone else already said. Luckily, with the re-mastered release for the Nintendo 3DS, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D introduced the Sheikah Stone. This was an in-game, optional feature that allowed players to figure out where to go, or how to complete a puzzling task. Ultimately, the addition of Sheikah Stone aided in my completion of the game. I didn't heavily rely on them, but there were a few times that they unraveled my confusion and set me in the right direction.

In closing, my thoughts on this subject are that there should always be some sort of in-game hint system; especially for lengthy, open-world games with side-quest enriched gameplay. This allows for everyone, regardless of their skill level, to enjoy the game. I understand that too much “hand-holding” can really be a deterrent for certain gamers, and I agree. It's all about balance. I hope that we see more hint systems similar to the concept of the Sheikah Stone; unforced, simple and available if needed.

What are your thoughts on storyline hint systems?


About the Author

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Benjamin is a true gaymer. For nearly a decade, his interest in Nintendo has grown exponentially! He's not extremely skilled at any particular genre of games, but mostly enjoys RPG, strategy, and fighting games. His true obsession within the Nintendo universe is Pokémon, followed closely by Zelda. Ever since he watched the first episode of Pokémon, he's been hooked. To this day, he plays the main-series Pokémon games and watches the anime religiously. He's as close as it comes to being a Pokémon Master. His true passion for Nintendo makes him excited to write new topics for you!

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Comments: 9

I like it but not constant.. like in paper mario sticker star you can press a button and kertsi will pop up and give you a hint. That kind of on-demand hinting is really awesome.. cus why put a puzzle in a game if you are gonna have a character practically solve it for you?
I'm not sure how I feel about this.  I think that it is kind of cool to not give any hints, and let players figure it out.  Especially in this day, when you can easily find what you're looking for online if you really need it.  If we are talking just in game, I would say a little bit of hinting might be a good thing.  I would also say, it would depend on the demographic of the game.  A child oriented game could use some more hinting than a more complicated teen/adult game.
I don't care if I'm spoiled on how to complete something. Being the youngest of three, most of my gaming goodness came from watching my older brothers play.

Then I subscribed to Nintendo Power and got hints that way too. I don't feel like less of a person not being able to go through a whole game start to finish without looking up something to help me get past a sticky spot.

Then there is games that you basically need to sit down with a walkthrough to get through. I don't know what kind of person that had enough patience to go through some games I've played that were hard to get anywhere in,

Skitty843, on 03 December 2012 - 04:25 PM, said:

I like it but not constant.. like in paper mario sticker star you can press a button and kertsi will pop up and give you a hint. That kind of on-demand hinting is really awesome.. cus why put a puzzle in a game if you are gonna have a character practically solve it for you?

I am glad you brought up that example of Paper Mario Sticker Star because I feel the same way. The online reviews I read stated that the one flaw of the game is that there were places that you felt stuck and there was not enough help to figure it out. I was like that for a while even with Kersti but I figured it out.


quijas31, on 03 December 2012 - 05:55 PM, said:

I'm not sure how I feel about this.  I think that it is kind of cool to not give any hints, and let players figure it out.  Especially in this day, when you can easily find what you're looking for online if you really need it.  If we are talking just in game, I would say a little bit of hinting might be a good thing.  I would also say, it would depend on the demographic of the game.  A child oriented game could use some more hinting than a more complicated teen/adult game.

That is a great point. The issue in many games is if the game caters towards children/teens or adults. Many times games try to hit a large age range and then things like too many hints happen. I do think Zelda suffers from that. The age range for those games is pretty spread out. So they struggle to keep everyone happy.


Classicgamer, on 03 December 2012 - 11:03 PM, said:

I don't care if I'm spoiled on how to complete something. Being the youngest of three, most of my gaming goodness came from watching my older brothers play.

Then I subscribed to Nintendo Power and got hints that way too. I don't feel like less of a person not being able to go through a whole game start to finish without looking up something to help me get past a sticky spot.

Well to each his own. Some like to the hints so they never feel disconnected from the game. It is not a bad thing but a personal preference. I do dislike games that nearly force you to purchase a strategy guide. A guide like that should be an option and not required for game completion just because they made the game too difficult.
Liked the article a lot and I do agree with it. I found the most annoying game to play due to hints has been Skyward Sword. I really really really did not like Fi at all. Especially when you're playing a second time and you can not shut it off or skip text. I think any hint related features in a game need to be optional but should still be there. I do not think hint things should help to progress the story such as Fi and Navi.
To answer the title of the article...

"Can Too Many Hints Ruin Your Game Experience?"

...my answer is yes. I've never played a game, though, that force-feeds hints that spoil or ruin my experience though. As long as the option is available, I'm OK with that. Small, subtle hints along the way are OK because they're usually wrapped in Captain Obvious gift wrapping.

Unless I misunderstood Classicgamer, he was saying that he doesn't welcome any challenges for games? I guess I really didn't understand that. One of the things I look forward to most in games, is the challenge that it presents. Some games are just insanely difficult and it wouldn't even matter if you had hints or not.

I'm bull-headed and refuse to give in to the temptation of looking up a hint for a posing challenge. I've used them in the past, but you must admit; it feels damn good to figure something out on your own. Good problem-solving keeps your mind sharp and working. I've used an occasional Sheikah Stone, but it was my last resort. I've resorted to that option while trying to figure out the correct passage in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D. It was my first time ever playing OoT and I must have tried a dozen different times before I finally gave in. If I remember correctly, I only gave in to save me from never playing the game again.

Other than that, I try my best to not use any hints. Challenge is nice.

View PostTaliZorah, on 05 December 2012 - 01:22 PM, said:

Liked the article a lot and I do agree with it. I found the most annoying game to play due to hints has been Skyward Sword. I really really really did not like Fi at all. Especially when you're playing a second time and you can not shut it off or skip text. I think any hint related features in a game need to be optional but should still be there. I do not think hint things should help to progress the story such as Fi and Navi.

Well Fi was a bit annoying at times but there were moments she did not spoil things for you. When you were stuck or fighting a boss enemy the sword word shine and vibrate stating that she had some info but it was up to you to call on her or not.

View PostKevin, on 06 December 2012 - 03:07 AM, said:

I'm bull-headed and refuse to give in to the temptation of looking up a hint for a posing challenge. I've used them in the past, but you must admit; it feels damn good to figure something out on your own. Good problem-solving keeps your mind sharp and working.

Other than that, I try my best to not use any hints. Challenge is nice.

Yes I agree. Challenge/ Problem Solving is a beneficial part of gaming even if there are few other benefits in certain games. It does feel great when you finally figure out that puzzle!
It's not that I don't welcome challenges, games are hard even if you know where everything is. Like, for example, killing darknuts in Zelda or getting the hammer or killing the shadow in Zelda II.

The Dragon Warrior games I pretty much used a walkthrough/map to get to places as I just had the game and no instruction booklet or anything else that came with the game new.

The games I don't have an instruction book or anything else that came with the game are harder to deduce.
Excellent Article!

I think that there are very unique ways to figuring hard games out. Sometimes to the point where you need to get creative & draw a map on a piece of paper (yes I'm talking about you Legend Of Zelda NES).

Or you're running around in the game doing the same things over & over & over again that are wrong or out of confusion, till you finally figure out how to accomplish the task that was right in front of your face the whole time after hours of running past it.

I personally love hard games, because with certain ones you can do something completely different from what your friends or other people have done.

I can understand though how some hard games are put together in very harsh ways to a lot of us, but you can grow as a gamer or even a person & learn from it.

There have been so many times where I have played a game & just thought I would never get past a part that I was "stuck" on, but then all of a sudden I got past it after trying maybe over about 20 times. But I usually learn from my mistakes, or just finally see the obvious.

I often see at times that we can make something way harder for ourselves than it really is.

But it takes a lot of patience most of the time when playing a difficult title, I mean do you really want to finish something in one night? Or have an experience that you can remember for years to come as well as have something to talk about for the rest of your life?

But as far as hints go, I think it's really awesome to not really have them. I personally enjoy it, when not "everyone" can beat a certain title. I like it, because much like music or movies.. I think gaming should be a preference & certain titles shouldn't be for everyone.

Not a whole lot of people are like this, but I find it rewarding if you can either truly get through certain games or not. There have been games I've accomplished beating even after years!

There is of course still one title that I need to get back to, just to get my redemption from & that's Majora's Mask.

But this is just all my opinion.

Great article, Benjamin & if you want some tips from The Legend Of Zelda NES, draw on a big piece of paper a map of the whole entire Hyrule & the Dungeons.. May sound crazy! But it works & you'll eventually get that Triforce filled.