Assuming that the player follows the standard progression of the game, the Forest Temple will be the first time the player sees small keys. It puts small keys in a variety of places, yet limits its locked doors to a single path, expressing the impact both have on player progression.
By looking at the keys and locks of a dungeon, we can better understand its themes and motifs. Here, I'll show how this line of investigation works on the Forest Temple.
The Locked Path
A small key can open any door with a small lock. However, they will not open barred doors or boss doors. On the following map, green arrows represent doors with small locks. This shows every small lock in the Forest Temple.
Every small lock in the dungeon is along the same path. Link enters the dark blue room, continues along the blue path, and eventually, he reaches the light blue room. The Forest Temple uses these locked doors to funnel you forward along one path. To this end, each room along this path only has two doors; you enter through one door and exit through the other. This also goes for the rooms on this path that do not contain small locks.
Note that I do not mean that each room on this path has only two exits. I only mean that each room has two doors. There are two side paths accessible from the blue path accessible from other exits.
From here, we can already start to make observations about the Forest Temple. In terms of opening up new rooms, it's a largely linear dungeon. Provided that you find the necessary keys, you'll focus your forward progress on one path. Never is there a choice of which door to unlock. There's a sequence of one lock after another, and it's impossible to approach the sequence any other way.
The blue path is also the crux of the dungeon. In order to access the basement and face the temple's boss, you must kill the four poes haunting the temple. The first two poes are on the blue path in the map above; in specific, between the third and fourth small locks. The path to the third poe is opened using a switch in the light blue room. The last poe appears in the center room once the first three have been killed.
Even though the third poe is not on the blue path itself, it is on an offshoot from it. It's in the room below the light blue room; to get to it, you must hit a switch in the light blue room, go back one room, drop down, and continue forward on the floor below.
The dungeon uses poes and small keys to focus your attention on this path. In order to make progress in the dungeon, you must kill the four poes; to see the four poes, you must travel further and further along the blue path; to travel further along the blue path, you must find the necessary keys.
The Small Keys
Unlike the locked doors, there's no cohesive element behind the placement of the small keys. In fact, they seem purposely varied. There's one key you can find before you see a locked door, and two other keys you can find without entering any locked door. There are two keys you can find once you earn the bow, one earned for killing a poe and the other earned for taking a non-door exit in one of the blue path rooms. While the locked doors stick to one path, the small keys are in as many different places as possible.
The Forest Temple employed the simplest possible placement of locked doors. You never have to choose which locked door to go through, and you never have to find a locked door. On the other hand, you can pick up keys in almost any order, depending on whether or not you have the bow and how far along the blue path you've traveled, and they are all hidden independent of each other. This means you won't have any trouble finding locked doors, but you'll constantly need to stray from your path to find small keys.
The Lock and Key Relationship
Keys in and of themselves provide no forward progress. The Forest Temple's key placement reflects this--you wander around, searching for keys, and even when you've found some, your position on the map is no closer to the end than when you started. The keys only have potential; they let you make progress at some point in the future, once you reach a locked door. Because the keys in the Forest Temple are placed so aimlessly, the player will make no forward progress towards anything in finding them; each key is on its own.
On the other hand, locked doors are the barrier to forward progress. They stand on the border between the explored and the unexplored. Once you unlock a door, you make use of a key's potential and open up a new portion of the dungeon. To reflect this, the Forest Temple places locked doors in a deliberate linear sequence to make the progress as tangible as possible. Each time you unlock a door, that single path grows longer and longer.
In most other temples, small keys are not so far off the path forward through a dungeon. For instance, in the Fire Temple, small keys are often closer to locks than they are in the Forest Temple. This blurs the distinction between keys and locks; even though the key itself still does not offer forward progress, it is close to the path forward. The Forest Temple, on the other hand, exaggerates the distinction between key and locked door by separating them.
The Block Puzzle
Up to this point, I've indirectly discussed how rooms work with each other. A series of rooms comes together to create the blue path, and the small keys are in rooms that are not necessarily on that blue path. I haven't discussed how any room works within itself.
There's one room in particular I'm interested in. This is the first room along the blue path, the dark blue room. It contains a block puzzle, and instead of trying to describe it, I've decided to record a video of it.
Both of the blocks in this puzzle work similarly. You can only push a block forward so far before having to turn around and take an alternate path in order to find an alternate angle to push it from.
The way you need to push blocks from two different directions reflects the need to go find keys. Just entering a room along the blue path is part of going forward, but you'll find yourself stuck if that's all you do. You'll come across a locked door, and as a result, you also have to traipse to some other corner of the temple--taking an unrelated path--to find a key.
Just like you can't just enter a room without a key and expect to go forward, you can't push the block one way and expect to go forward. You need to go out of your way to get the key, and you need to go out of your way to push the block from a different angle.
Once the block is in place, you never take the side path again. Similarly, once you find a key, you never go to that part of the dungeon again; you can go straight through the blue path without thinking about keys.
Compare this to the block puzzles from Great Deku Tree and Dodongo's Cavern, which are solved only by pushing from one direction.
The Forest Temple in its entirety is about the relationship between lock and key, and this block puzzle is the same, just within the space of one room.
The Forest Temple exaggerates the relation between keys and locks, placing keys aimlessly and locks on a linear path. By doing so, the roles of keys and locks become that much clearer, and the temple's structure itself stands as a representation of that relationship; keys provide potential, locks provide progress. What's more, the temple features a block puzzle that takes this concept and condenses it into a single room.
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All original content on VG Thought was written by Greg Livingston AKA Golem.