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"Have you ever had a video game character talk back to you and say, 'No! I'm not going to do that.'"

The combination of Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence and I Can't Use These Things Together, found primarily in Adventure Games. A character is incapable of doing something which would theoretically be possible in the real world for somebody in the same situation. Common manifestations of this occur while reaching for and taking objects, or while attempting to use non-useable objects.

This trope can overlap with Moon Logic Puzzle, Solve the Soup Cans, and Alphabet Soup Cans, where a player cannot advance until a particular puzzle is solved. There is no taking a third option. The player must solve the problem as the developers intended or simply go somewhere else.

Examples of I Can't Reach It include:

Lucas Arts

  • This trope is named after Maniac Mansion, where a chandelier hangs just inches above your head, yet you cannot jump or climb up on a sofa to grab the key up there. The playing character's response is always "I can't reach it!" This also happens when a character dies.
    • When you attempt to grab the stain on the tablecloth, the character says "I don't do table cloths." When you try to use the stove, he/she says, "I'd rather use the microwave."
    • Nobody can ignore the "STAIRS OUT OF ORDER" sign in the library
  • Day of the Tentacle:
    • Hoagie will not look inside a drawer inside Ben Franklin's room, saying that he doesn't "look inside other people's underwear"
    • If Bernard puts the sweater inside the washing machine without setting it, and Laverne in the future picks it up, she will say that it is not her size and she will immediately put it back in.
  • The Secret of Monkey Island:
    • Guybrush cannot pick up the rat belonging to the Low Moral Fiber Men. No explanation is given beyond "I can't do it".
      • You aren't supposed to be able to do that. Once you move the cursor over the rat, one of the Men of Low Moral Fiber admonishes you.
    • When he speaks to Otis, Guybrush doesn't want to speak to him because he has bad breath.
  • Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, when Guybrush is back in the dark alley on Mêlée Island (with the circus poster), he doesn't want to move the traffic cones blocking his way because it'd be breaking the law. [1]
  • Special mention to the treasure hold at the start of The Curse of Monkey Island: There are tons of items scattered about the screen, and Guybrush will come up with a different excuse to ignore each one except the two items you need to take. Most amusing is his objection to a purple, horse-shaped children's floaty: "No self-respecting pirate would be seen wearing that!" Guess what he's wearing two minute later...
    • Curse also has a variant of the Idol puzzle mentioned above. You enter a new area, and there's a bunch of stuff for killing snakes. Before he has time to pick up anything, Guybrush is eaten by a snake. He then can't reach any of the snake-killing stuff, due to well, being inside the snake. (He can still comment on all of it, though.)
  • In Grim Fandango, Manny doesn't want to take some painkiller from Naranja's bottle (in Toto Santos' tattoo parlor) with his pipette because he has "enough booze at home", even though he is going to leave the city.
  • Sam and Max Hit The Road has an amusing example: while trying to get a book from a shelf that's just barely out of reach, Sam says that he could just about reach it if he felt like exerting himself. Which he doesn't.


  • Sierra adventures loved these to make you carefully eke your character as close as possible to some deadly peril in order to perform an essential action.
    • Worst of all was when in King's Quest VII, Queen Valanice goes, "Blast! I can't reach it!" if you try to get her to retrieve an object a foot away from her in a calm, two-foot deep fountain. Well, not as much of a "fountain" and more of a "decorative pool of still water". the solution requires Valanice to get a shepherd's crook to fish it out; the animation that shows her doing this only shows her using the curved end, but not the actual length of the stick, to get it out. Evidently she just didn't want to get her hands all icky.
  • In Laura Bow: The Colonel's Bequest, Laura cannot reach the rope that rings a bell inside a belltower. Instead of just jumping, she is supposed to use a cane to do it. That fire poker that could serve the same purpose with its hard curved tip? Nope. Ain't gonna do it.
  • In Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love For Sail, Larry cannot do a lot of things just because the narrator doesn't want him to.
  • In Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned, Gabriel doesn't want to pick up a red cap in a "lost and found" box in a museum because he finds it unattractive. And yet, the player is supposed to pick it up later - this time Gabriel agreeing - for a disguise.
  • In Quest for Glory IV, the Thief can find a mug in one of the houses he can rob, but the game won't let you steal it because 1) it's the ugliest mug you've ever seen, and 2) there's nothing you can do with it anyway.

Coktel Vision

  • Gobliiins game series:
    • The first Gobliiins game is particularly hindered by the fact that the heroes do not jump and Dwayne (the only character that can pick up items and use them) can only take objects if they are on the ground, right under him. Several puzzles in the game could be avoided if he could just stretch out his arm to pick something.
    • In Gobliins 2, Fingus and Winkle will often just do "No, no" while shaking their head and fingers when attempting some action.
    • In Goblins 3, the main character is at one point turned into a giant and yet, he still has troubles getting to things which should normally be easier to do when in giant size.
  • In Woodruff And The Schnibble Of Azimuth, the main character (Woodruff) has to go past an acid liquid river but is barefoot. If he has one boot (which is acid-resistant), he says that he can cross it by hopping on one leg. But not being the sharpest pencil in the drawer, he hops in the acid with his bare foot and is forced to go back. He could simply try again and hop on the booted foot this time, learning from his mistake (even an idiot can think this), but no, he will repeat the same mistake again and again. The player is meant to find another boot so he can cross the river full-booted every time. But then, Woodruff is an Idiot Hero.


  • In the first Discworld adventure game, several times will Rincewind say "That doesn't work!" for any action he can't perform, without giving any explanation as to why (which could give you an idea to the difficulty of the game).
    • By the way, the other Discworld adventure game Discworld Noir referred Rincewind's "That doesn't work" with Lewton thinking at some point - when trying an ineffective item use - "I resisted the temptation to say 'That doesn't work'".
    • In Discworld II Rincewind graduates to actively hindering the player, saying "Good idea... but not just yet" whenever the player tries to do something that is part of a puzzle solution, but not the next part.


  • In Star Ocean the Second Story, in the item creation mode, you sometimes get a mystifying message that says "couldn't do anything." Not, "It didn't work," or "Those don't go together," or anything else that makes sense. "Couldn't do anything."
  • Travis Grady wins a Darwin Award for refusing to leave an abandoned monster-infested hell hospital in Silent Hill Origins until he checks on a girl who's almost certainly dead at this point.
    • The other characters aren't that much better, but their motivations are at least a bit more clear: Harry's not leaving Silent Hill without his little girl, short black hair, just turned seven last month; James is suggested to be subconsciously suicidal (and he is Driven to Suicide in one of the endings) and will refuse to leave town in the car he arrived in; Heather refuses to leave the bathroom via the front door because "that creepy detective guy" is waiting there (though of course one wonders if she considers monsters spawned from the Uncanny Valley to be worse than Douglas); Henry is just plain stuck in his apartment until he finds a way out and even then his travel destinations are limited to wherever Walter lets him go; Alex is doggedly looking for his little brother; Harry (again), is, well, guess.
      • This trope better manifests itself in each of the Moon Logic Puzzles in the game. For example, in one, a character who is carrying no small number of weapons cannot bust a few bicycle locks with brute force; they have to search out a number of clues. Sometimes, the character with a crowbar, chisel, shotgun, and Big Freakin' Sword can't break down a simple wooden door; they have to solve obscure riddles or make a handle out of some wax, a horseshoe, and a lighter. No one brings bolt cutters with them in Silent Hill; everyone prefers to Solve the Soup Cans. Even alien blasters are no match for a door if the plot demands you solve a riddle instead.
  • Tales of Symphonia has the infamous Ymir Forest, where Lloyd cannot reach a piece of fruit that is three inches away from him in the water. Instead, you have to go around the whole forest, coaxing little fish into pushing the fruit onto the shore.
    • This is also despite having a character who can fly in the party, and another who can summon beings who can either fly or move on water.
  • Justified in the old The Hobbit text game, in which Bilbo must frequently ask for help from Gandalf or (oddly) Thorin the dwarf, because he's a hobbit and therefore too short to climb out windows and the like.
  • Delphine Software's Future Wars has a point where you have to soak a robotic wolf with a leaky carrier bag of water before it runs dry, and you have to stand almost on top of it to do so. It's a good thing it's the world's laziest cybercarnivore.
  • In Peasant's Quest, attempting to "take plaque" gives the response "You have enough of that on your browning, rotten peasant teeth already," without saying a word about the engraved rectangular sign in front of Rather Dashing.
  • This happens to children in The Sims 3, who are too short to reach some things on countertops, like the goldfish bowl. This problem was avoided in The Sims 2 by giving the children a small footstool to use
  • Die Hard for the NES has a rope you can rappel down the building with, but only after a certain part in the plot. Otherwise you get John saying "I'd have to be desperate to tie that and jump off. No thanks." The same character has no qualms about leaping out of a window to his death at any time.
  • Early on, the hero of Phantasmagoria 2 cannot reach his wallet, which has ended up under his sofa, so you have to get his pet rat to retrieve it.
  • Metal Gear Solid features a cutscene in disguise. You're watching through the scope of your rocket launcher as the Cyborg Ninja distracts Metal Gear, so you can shoot it. You can control the camera just fine, but if you attempt to pull the trigger, Snake's response is "It's no good... I can't do it."
    • Unless you used up all your ammo prior, in which case it's a morally gray "It's no good, I'm out of missiles!"
    • Of course, given the funky logic the game runs on, it may very well cause a temporal paradox..
  • Shadowgate and the related games Deja Vu and The Uninvited featured this trope. Examples abounded, such as in Shadowgate, when a magic flute was in a fountain of deadly acid. Forget pushing it to safety with the butt of your spear; find the magic gauntlet hidden inside a well.
  • LA Noire's interrogations force you to choose one piece of evidence to catch someone in a lie. In some instances, multiple pieces of evidence in tandem could prove them wrong, but each one individually leaves doubt and thus don't work.
  • In Resident Evil Outbreak, the first map opens with you in a bar that gets attacked by zombies. You are required to flee to the roof, jump to the adjacent building and fight your way down to the street from there. You are not allowed to simply walk out the front door of the bar, even when the game gives you a hard time limit to reach the street.
  1. hint: Guybrush is a pirate