The Zelda developers are trolls, and i love them.
A really well designed aspect of Tears of the Kingdom is that the game will teach you how to play it. I don’t mean through explicit tutorials; instead, during my downright embarrassing amount of play time, whether in sanctuaries or the overworld, the game presented me with obstacles and the tools to overcome them. And every time I solved a puzzle, a more complex version of that same kind of puzzle appeared later on, forcing me to piece together what I’d learned to take on this new challenge. It makes Tears a kind of Metroidvania in that my progress is sometimes blocked until I master a certain skill or problem-solving mechanism.
The game also gives you a full lesson in a single puzzle. Take, for example, the Iun-Orok shrine. Now, I’m going to pollute the solution of this shrine, so if you want to test your mettle against it unaided, goodbye.
The shrine presents you with a handful of items: metal balls, slanted surfaces, and a target at the end of that slanted surface that unlocks a door when hit.
When you put it all together, what the puzzle asks of you seems simple: roll the ball down the ramp to hit the target. And that solution works well for the first puzzle:
Where the real lesson comes in is for the shrine’s final puzzle. There are three balls of different sizes, a strangely inclined surface and a target. Judging by how the first two puzzles are solved, a player would naturally assume that the solution for this third one is just as simple: roll ball, hit target. But since the slope curves away from the target, the player must figure out how to Ultrahand the three balls together and roll them so that they hit the target before falling into an abyss, forcing a restart.
I had thought that, similar to the solution of the second puzzle in the shrine, I had to balance two of the glued-together balls on the edge of the ramp to prevent the whole thing from falling into the abyss, while the third ball stuck out far enough to hit the target. Essentially the “this is the more advanced version of a problem we already gave you” part of the lesson. I spent an hour banging my head on this puzzle trying to fidget and figure out the direction of the balls and where to roll them to make them hit the target. Nothing.
Then I noticed that no matter how I configured the balls, they would never roll the right way to hit the target. They would always fall off. Also, the balls can never be positioned correctly to hit the target – they are too short to reach. The solution to the puzzle, one I took in confidence, was never meant to be the actual solution, despite how the first two parts of this puzzle played out. I felt cheated, like I was a test subject in a human conditioning case study. “See how the dork keeps struggling because we taught her this was the way it should be done?”
This shrine is designed to be a teachable moment – but not in the usual way this game “teach” you. This was a lesson for never rely on the “solution” provided to find your own way. I’ve already praised the game for its indulgence. It doesn’t matter how you get your answer, just that you got it. And this shrine was a reminder to embrace that “nothing is true, everything is allowed” method of problem solving over accepting any “obvious” solution Tears presents to you.
Once I discovered the ‘troll’, I cursed loudly and then burst into maniacal laughter. I wasn’t mad about the time I wasted. (Really, what’s another 60 minutes to the 10,500 I’ve already amassed?) On the contrary, I was elated, like I was laughing with a group of friends after they played a good-natured prank on me. It’s even funnier when you think about the name of the puzzle: “The Right Roll.” The developers expected players to lose their minds trying to find that “right roll”. Brutal bastards. Once I let go of my assumptions, clear-eyed and clear-headed, the solution was simple indeed.