An optional puzzle included in Double Fine’s 2014 hacking game Hack ‘n’ Slash (opens in a new tab) has, eight years later, finally been resolved. The problem has been known as the SecretRoom.lua puzzle, named after an encrypted file among the game’s files that no one could figure out how to decrypt.
Someone finally has, and the news comes via the blog of software analyst Guillaume Fortin-Debigaré (opens in a new tab), who seems to have a real fondness for these kinds of mysteries. The problem with this one is that the puzzle was known almost immediately, and much about it was solved except for one key element: the decryption key. Try as the most hardened puzzlers might, they couldn’t even find a clue of what to look for.
“As such, players hit a wall,” writes Fortin-Debigaré, “and despite brute-force attacks, despite inspecting the game’s original prototype in great detail, despite analyzing every piece of promotional material and merch released , and despite reverse engineering major. parts of the game, nothing obvious was found to help.”
A reward was offered, but despite the best efforts of some, interest eventually wavered. Until now. A player named Glenn “Netrix” Anderson cracked the password on December 9, and was rewarded with an Easter egg that provides additional information about the game’s development and some insight into the missing Act 1.
The password was surprisingly simple, and here is Fortin-Debigaré’s full explanation of how the riddle was finally solved (opens in a new tab). The starting point was a hint from the game’s lead designer, Brandon Dillon, given at the request of someone who asked if brute-forcing this would be practical.
I don’t think it would be practical to brute-force it. The password appears in the game.2 December 2022
Near the end of the game, there is a room that contains a pedestal with a book on it. Books have unusual file-related properties, and usually in the game a player “jacks” the pedestal, enters a password, and if successful gains access to new elements in the game world. The book in question here can be decoded “normally”, but it can also be replaced with another book that points to the mystery file: SecretRoom.lua.
Spoiler ahead for how it’s resolved, in case you’ve already spent seven years on this.
The player must switch the books on the shelf, enter the correct password, et voila. The password is hash, but turned out to be right in front of the players the whole time. The game’s loading screen message reads:
“Hack ‘n’ slash is dangerous. Be brave.”
The password is the last two words.
It was really cool to take part in this experience. The incredibly talented team that made Hack ‘n’ Slash a reality has been an inspiration to me as a programmer and game developer. https://t.co/bXV2H1GX7d13 December 2022
Well, it wasn’t as easy as you might think. The room contains new images, information about the game’s origins and more. All credit to the player who finally cracked it, Glenn “Netrix” Anderson, and Guillaume Fortin-Debigaré’s blog (opens in a new tab).