Games of 2022: Tunic held the best puzzle solving moment
The fox, the sword and the manual.
Contains spoilers for Tunic - you have been warned.
I love how Tunic uses the process of gathering the game’s manual pages to build anticipation for later experiences in the adventure. You may find a page mapping out an area you haven’t visited yet and, upon it, lie little hints which only make sense once you’ve reached the location. It reminds me of how I used to read Pokémon walkthroughs from cover to cover as a child, jotting down little notes in the margins about which Pokémon I’d like to catch in each route. Tunic’s manual is also where I found the secret which came to dominate most of my time with the game - the Holy Cross.
Due to its placement on the manual’s inventory page, I was convinced the Holy Cross was a type of special item hidden somewhere in the world. Yet, by the time I’d reached The Quarry - an area whose dark colour palette and industrial aesthetic made me think the game’s end was drawing near - I had seen no sight of the Holy Cross. (Or so I thought…) Not wanting to miss anything, I decided to put the main quest aside and instead set myself a limit of three hours to carefully explore every inch of the world in search of the elusive Holy Cross.
As this self imposed time limit was drawing to a close, I happened to look down from the screen and, out of the corner of my eye, caught a glimpse of my thumb, painted in gold nail polish, resting against the D-Pad.
I quickly took my little fox adventurer to the nearest set of the golden doors that are scattered across the world of Tunic. Doors I’d been ignoring, because I believed the Holy Cross was required to open them. Once there, I copied the pattern carved upon the doors with the D-Pad and - lo - the doors opened. I was, to say the least, quite pleased with myself; I had uncovered the method to solving a recurring puzzle and found the Holy Cross - it has been in my very hands the entire time! Though I will admit to being rather annoyed with myself at the same time, because the Holy Cross had been in my hands the entire time.
Holy Cross in hand, I set about opening every golden door I’d encounter. Along the way, I also realised the Holy Cross pattern wasn’t just confined to the door - it was woven into rugs, hidden on the sails of the windmill and even present in the geography of the world itself. It was a long while until I remembered that there was something in The Quarry I should get back to.
Realising the Holy Cross was already in my grasp is one of my favourite moments from playing Tunic. A close runner-up would be when I figured out the solution to the Golden Path lay in combining a certain aspect of the manual with the Holy Cross. (I won’t go into too much detail, since I’ve spoiled enough already, but I will say it involved a pencil, notepad and a ruler.) These puzzles are the magic which will bring me back to Tunic, because they ensured I was constantly engaged with the world, even if it was to simply search for a set of hidden lines.