Resident Evil 7 released in January of this year, making now the best time to write about it. Gotta catch these titles at the height of their internet buzz, right?
The game represents a return to the horror roots of the franchise, and is, quite frankly, really damn good. The atmosphere, setting, inventory management, scarce ammo, and jump scares all evoke the early entries. Also present are puzzles, a sort of hallmark of the series. Usually taking the form of a locked door, these roadblocks serve to slow down the action and encourage exploration of the Baker estate. They are also very illogical and make very little sense, even in the context of the game world. I’ve picked out a few of my favorite puzzles in the game, and have assigned them an arbitrary rating because this game randomly popped into my head today and I had a free hour. Spoilers follow.
The Puzzle: Getting into the garage.
After meeting with a local deputy, Ethan makes is way to the garage, where, presumably, he’ll get help. Until now, the garage has been blocked off by man’s mortal enemy: some tape. The box housing the garage door opener has been taped off, preventing Ethan, a human with opposable thumbs, from getting inside.
The Solution: A fucking knife.
Upon agreeing to meet Ethan in the garage, the deputy offers up his pocket knife so Ethan can defend himself from the immortal cannibals occupying this hell prison. That should do it, deputy, thanks. Anyways, the knife is able to do what Ethan’s fingers were incapable of: removing some tape from a thing, making the knife a literal key to the garage. This is also the precise moment the knife stops being useful as the ensuing boss fight rewards the player with a gun.
The Rating: One dumb knife out of ten fully functioning human fingers.
The Puzzle: A painting and a spotlight.
After accessing the main hall of the Baker estate, Ethan is presented with several new rooms to explore, as well as a handful of puzzles. Off to the east side of the hall is an alcove with a pedestal, a spotlight, and a painting with a silhouette of an eagle. Games logic dictates that this is an obvious puzzle, but finding the solution requires a bit of hunting around.
The Solution: a weird ass statue.
In the upstairs bathroom is a bathtub filled with mystery goo. Obviously this is a prime hiding spot for a puzzle key, some kind of warped stone statuette thing that, when held to the light at the right angle, casts a shadow in the shape of an eagle. Doing so back in the main hall activates a locked door and allows Ethan access to another wing of the house.
This solution is baffling in a couple different ways. First, why was the key in the bathtub upstairs? Did Jack Baker bring it up there to enjoy a bubble bath along with his Kindle and a glass of merlot? Second, how exactly did a shadow manage to unlock a door? Black magic? A child’s wish? And was the shadow lock there before the Bakers went all Donner Party on us? This is something that has kept me up at night, and practically begs for its own fanfic. This puzzle is repeated one more time in the game, so obviously some designer was pretty proud of it. I’ll award them points for creativity, sure, but deduct for logic.
The Rating: Two uses of the same puzzle out of ten relaxing baths.
The Puzzle: The literal same shotgun puzzle from every Resident Evil game ever.
The Solution: Come on, you’ve done this before. Use a fake shotgun in place of the real one. I’m not even going to go into detail here.
The Rating: Zero original ideas out of ten broken shotguns.
The Puzzle: The incinerator room.
In the incinerator room in the Bakers’ basement is a locked corpse furnace that, I mean, HAD to have been there before they went crazy. Like, what down home, simple family has a fucking corpse furnace in their basement? Anyways, one of the corpse furnace doors is locked and presumable holds something of value (surprise, it’s a key to a locked door).
The Solution: A note literally in the same room.
Luckily, there’s a note on the wall that explicitly details how to solve the flaming corpse room puzzle: just interact with the hatches with a handprint and a name with three ‘A’s in it. Thanks for giving the player some credit, Capcom.
The Rating: One reading proficiency out of ten corpse furnaces.
The Puzzle: Lucas’ fucked up birthday party.
Resident Evil 7 draws inspiration from all manner of horror, including the gore-trial format from Saw. When the player meets Lucas Baker, they’re forced to participate in his twisted little game and solve a series of puzzles in order to get a lit candle onto a birthday cake.
The Solution: Play the terrifying game.
This is arguably one of the best sequences in the game. The puzzles put the player in all manner of uncomfortable situations, from interacting with some kind of disturbing clown-corpse-robot, to sticking your hand into a filthy toilet. It plays brilliantly with your expectations, and forces you to steel yourself in the face of almost certain violence. Knowing what’s coming and activity participating in it is simultaneously cruel and brilliant.
The Rating: Ten poo telescopes out of ten porcupine balloons.