What’s better: different puzzles on different difficulty levels, or bullet grazing?

Last time, you decided that asymmetrical outfits are better than playing on an old patch. As a seasoned Destiny fashionista, I can respect this decision. However, as a fan of mods, I should point out that in many games, being forced onto a new patch might break compatability with a mod which added hundreds of pieces of stunning asymmetrical couture, and the developer hasn’t updated in years, and might never again. We continue. This week, I ask you to choose between two ways to picking your own level of challenge. What’s better: different puzzles on different difficulty levels, or bullet grazing?

Different puzzles on different difficulty levels

I appreciate games which change the difficulty of puzzles, whether they’re puzzle games or not. It’s nice, for example, that the RPG CrossCode lets you adjust a slider to slow down its puzzles. But best of all is when different difficulties have different puzzles. How much do you like puzzles? How good are you at puzzles? How good are you at guessing the workings of a designer’s brain? Adjust the difficulty to match and away you go. An easy puzzle to breeze through. A normal puzzle to provide pleasant friction. A hard puzzle for serious thought. Maybe even another on top for absolute maniacs?

The most staggering example of puzzle difficulty scaling that I know comes from Silent Hill 3. One puzzle in Konami’s 2003 survival horror game involves arranging five Shakespeare anthologies on a bookshop shelf to discover a door keypad code.

With puzzle difficulty (sorry, “riddle” difficulty) on Easy, you slot book 1 into the gap where book 1 should go then book 3 where book 3 should go and hooray, here’s your code written across their collective spines. On Normal, the books weren’t in order when the code was written, so you have to shuffle them until the sliced numbers align. On Hard… you have to decipher a poem describing five Shakespeare plays to discover the book order, then run the resulting number through semi-mathematical manipulations to discover the actual code. You not only need knowledge of Shakespeare to identify the plays, you need to twig that lines such as “Two youths shed tears for three” are prescribing a further stage of obtuse numberfiddling.

You can read the solution in full on this wiki, or might fancy having a crack at solving it yourself with some background, guidance, and explanation from YouTuber VoidBurger:

Cover image for YouTube videoSilent Hill 3’s Shakespeare Puzzle EXPLAINED!

The esteemed sandwich, who worked at Giant Bomb, does great Silent Hill ‘Tubing

If you want that, I am so happy for you that you’ve got it. A level of difficulty for people who really, really want it. Everyone else, hey, you’re welcome to pop the books on the shelf, give them a satisfying shuffle, then go back to hitting dogs with a pipe.

Bullet grazing

Dodging a bullet? Cool. Parrying a bullet? Extremely cool. Intentionally dodging a bullet by as little distance as you can? Monstrously confident.

Bullet grazing is best known from shoot ’em ups. Grazing gives bonus points in many shmups, such as Radiant Silvergun and many of the many Touhou games, and can be vital for the high scores. It’s not sufficient to dodge and survive, you must showboat to thrive. I respect that. In some shmups, grazing actively helps you survive, such as in the Graze Counter games, where grazing charges up a super attack. Undertale follow-up Deltarune also borrows bullet grazing for the shmup-esque minigames for dodging enemy attacks, causing attack sequences to end faster as you skirt with disaster.

I wish I were better at shmups but I fear I’ll never put in the effort to accomplish that. Instead, I shall stand back and hugely respect the genre which decided that it wasn’t skillful enough to dodge intricate patterns of squillions of shots, you should really try to almost get hit too. Death or glory.

But which is better?

While I’m usually well into opportunities for hubris, puzzle difficulty takes this one for me. I welcome all sorts of accessibility settings, and I like when difficulty scales up as well as down. I won’t solve the Shakespeare puzzle myself but I am glad it’s there for anyone who’d love to stare baffled at a poem for an hour. Fair play to you! But what do you think, reader dear?

Pick your winner, vote in the poll below, and make your case in the comments to convince others. We’ll reconvene next week to see which thing stands triumphant—and continue the great contest.

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