Hunt-the-pixel

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Hunt-the-pixel (also pixel hunt) is a term used to describe some computer game interfaces involving point and click with a mouse. The term is usually applied to adventure games in which the primary difficulty with some portion of the game lies in finding an object on the screen. In some cases, the required object is quite small, and may be only a few pixels in size. The player may not have any idea what to look for, but often the game cannot progress without finding it. Players often apply the term to any game in which the gameplay is hindered by the frustrating task of determining precisely where on the screen to click.

An example of pixel hunting appears from The X-Files: The Game, where a vital clue is a bullet exactly 2x2 pixels in size. Other examples can be found in Dark Seed, where the player must locate a small bobby pin lying on the floor of a library, or in Beneath a Steel Sky, where the player must identify and use (without prompting) such tiny items as a 2x2 pixel lump of putty, a thumb-sized metal plate in a poorly lit club, and a barely distinguishable light socket in an abandoned metro tunnel. Pixel hunting is also crucial in Future Wars, where items are not only hard to find and required relatively late in respect to their original location but also, to successfully find an item, the player character has to stand close to its location on the screen. Dreamweb actually incorporates a "magnifying glass" effect with a sighting reticle into its interface to assist the player in locating the many infinitesimal hotspots scattered thickly through its rooms. The problem was endemic in the controversial adventure Limbo of the Lost, which featured minuscule, crucial objects in deep shadow, sometimes off the edge of the screen or obscured by the game's status bar.

Missed objects will not always lead to an unwinnable situation, but sometimes will offer just better alternative approaches to future puzzles, being thus something like Easter eggs.

Some games made by Sierra On-Line, including Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers and portions of the Space Quest and King's Quest series, featured interfaces that at times required a hunt-the-pixel approach. One situation in LucasArts's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure, which required the player to locate a particular book among several screens full of book stacks. However, LucasArts games have the advantage of a status line indicating the object the cursor is currently over. Another remedy was to make essential objects flash, or some other method to make the element more visible against the benign background, as is done for example at the beginning of King's Quest VI with Alexander's twinkling insignia ring on the beach. In LucasArt's Sam and Max Hit the Road the cursor will have a red border when above a clickable location. The Simon the Sorcerer series avoided pixel hunting all together, by allowing the player to press F10 at any time to highlight all the hotspots on the current screen.

Pixel-hunting is extremely common in games of the escape the room genre. Players must not only find and click on very small items, but sometimes must also find very small arbitrary, and invisible hotspots in order to trigger a change in point of view. Many authors of on-line Flash point-and-click adventure games have disabled the tab key to prevent players from easily cycling through all the hotspots.

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