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Puzzle adventures are adventure games that put a strong emphasis on puzzle solving, at the expense of elements such as item gathering, item use, character interaction, or plot. Instead, they typically emphasize exploration and deciphering the proper use of complex mechanisms, often resembling Rube Goldberg machines.

The plot of these games can be obscure, and may be conveyed only through interaction with the puzzles. Many puzzle adventures are played from a first person perspective with the player "moving" between still pre-rendered 3D images, sometimes combined with short animations or video. Examples of the genre include Schizm, Atlantis: The Lost Tales, Riddle of the Sphinx, Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure, and Myst, which pioneered this game style.

One kind of puzzle adventure is the Escape the room sub-genre, consisting of short games where the sole object is to find a way to escape from a room. These games are typically implemented in a graphic point-and-click style, which (owing to their popularity on the Internet) are often delivered in Adobe Flash format. Examples of the sub-genre include Submachine-series, Mystery of time and space and Crimson room.

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