The spooky app no one has solved!

Do Not Believe His Lies.

Sounds ominous, doesn’t it?

It’s the name of an app that has baffled solvers for more than a year with increasingly complex riddles, puzzles, and challenges.

It starts out simply, with the messages “We were expecting you,” “Your journey begins now,” “We await you on the other side,” and “Good luck” in simple white text on an otherwise pitch black screen.

From the very start, it’s an evocative presentation. It sets the mood immediately.

Then the first puzzle starts. You have to find a code word or phrase hidden on the screen (which is easy if your phone or computer’s brightness is turned all the way up.) When you input the code “The first time,” you get the second puzzle, which is in Morse Code and reads “I saw him there.”

The next puzzle was a scrambled grid, similar to the tile-shifting games many puzzlers know. One player inverted the colors, printed out the puzzle, cut it into squares and solved it that way, leading to this solution:

“The first time I saw him there, I was just a child.”

Here’s where the Halloween-appropriate element emerges. Each solution to these puzzles provides part of an ongoing narrative. Later messages include “I have to go now” and “Be careful friend.”

Anagramming, braille, music theory, cryptography, chemistry… as the puzzles increase in difficulty and complexity, they require an ever-growing skill set, challenging users in impressive fashion.

A dedicated community of solvers has come together to tackle the challenge of Do Not Believe His Lies, and they have fought, clawed, collaborated, and ingeniously solved their way to Puzzle #48, which they believe they’ve cracked, but they’re unsure of where to proceed from here.

[Another DNBHL puzzle, apparently a constellation…]

In an update on October 1, one of these diehard solvers posted this:

Welp, as most of you who have stayed logged in to our IRC channel can attest…we are pretty much out of ideas. But I’ll give a quick update for those of you who don’t regularly sign in…

The newest activity we have noticed has been the “Puzzle Solved” counter on the official DNBHL website. It’s not automatically updated, so we know that the Dev has been lurking around still. But whether it’s just a sign of life, or an unintentional “push” to let us know we have everything we need to progress further…none can say.

He goes on to discuss some of the lingering clues they’ve uncovered, as well as the theory that they’ll have to leave “the app and the old puzzles behind,” meaning the game will venture into the real world and involve physical locations!

The general theory going forward seems to be that the next puzzle is somehow time-sensitive, and cannot be solved before December 31. This does support what the app’s designer said in an interview with IO9:

Matablewski says that he does expect people to beat the game…but not anytime soon. “Not this year though, it’s not how it has been designed,” he told me. “If they work together, and only then … they will find the answer and complete the whole riddle someday next year.”

[These wavy words, upon closer inspection, are mathematical formulas. But to what end?]

Although solvers of this diabolical horror-fueled puzzle app are frustrated, they aren’t disheartened. The same diehard solver quoted above concluded his post with this:

So…until we get something a little better to work with, I think we’re all just taking a break…waiting for a Eureka moment to strike. Don’t get too disheartened though…I’m sure all the friends you’ve made on here will jump right back in to the fray as soon as things get busy again.

You can try Do Not Believe His Lies for yourself here. (For other stories on immersive online puzzle experiences, check out my previous posts on Cicada 3301 and the Portal ARG.)

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A hallmark of puzzles to come…

Cleverness abounds in the puzzle community, both in those who create puzzles and those who solve them. But the advent of the Internet has truly raised the bar in what you can accomplish with a puzzly mindset and some serious ingenuity.

From Easter Eggs concealed in DVD menus (like the blooper reel hidden in the silver box DVD release of the original Star Wars trilogy) to viral marketing campaigns that conceal plot details and exclusive scenes for industrious fans (as Christopher Nolan’s Batman films frequently employed), there are delightful little entertainment nuggets secreted away in all sorts of media these days.

But only a select few of these hidden puzzles reach the level of complexity and elegance embodied by a series of puzzles lurking within the game Portal (which eventually unlocked details regarding the upcoming sequel).

Portal, itself widely regarded as a masterpiece of outside-the-box puzzle-solving wizardry and gameplay, demands a great deal from its players, so any hidden game designed for these players would have to be something special.

Adam Foster did a thorough and fascinating write-up on both the hidden puzzle game itself (known as the Portal ARG) and the process behind creating this dastardly electronic scavenger hunt, and you can read the full details here.

What’s particularly brilliant about this particular multitiered puzzle is that it incorporated rewards for both mid-level gamers — collecting all the radios in the game and locating where they received broadcasts — as well as the stunningly devoted fans who were willing to chase the puzzle farther down the rabbit hole, delving into top-tier decryption and deduction puzzle-solving.

This sort of chain-reaction puzzle-solving is becoming more and more commonplace. For a simpler example, you need go no further than PuzzleNation’s own Guessworks game. You start with a Hangman-style guessing and deduction game, which leads to clues to be solved, which then lead to a quotation to be unraveled.

As you build upon these earlier steps, you not only challenge yourself in new ways, but you develop multiple puzzle-conquering skills at once. Tackling a puzzle as wily as the Portal ARG is some serious mental exercise.

By pushing the boundaries of what form puzzles and games can take, people like Adam Foster are redefining and rejuvenating the puzzle-solving experience for a new generation of savvier solvers.