I solved puzzles. I stopped solving puzzles. I solved puzzles again.
I think I have solved the puzzle as to why Jonathan Blow’s newest game is called The Witness. Much like the War Boys in Mad Max: Fury Road were looking for recognition as they were about to ride into Valhalla, I wanted someone (ideally Jonathan Blow, but one of my dogs, Luna, would suffice in this case) to witness how clever I was to figure out the last puzzle. Seriously, I bet no one else has figured it out. I mean, who cares that 20% or so of players have unlocked the Endgame trophy. I did it the “right” way. They probably just guessed and got lucky, or something…
In all seriousness, I have not had a game make me feel this smart since Portal 2. The premise of The Witness is straightforward: Solve the maze on the panel in front of you. There are hundreds of panels scattered throughout the island (around 650 – I solved about 450 when I “finished” the game), and as you progress your way through the different environments on the island, new rules are introduced. This process continues until you have panels where you are often trying to satisfy two or three different rules in a single puzzle. Once you have finished all of the puzzles in an area, a laser is activated the shoots a beam of light to the mountain top. Once enough lasers are activated, you can begin the endgame…which is more puzzles. The rest of the time, you are wandering around a beautiful island checking out the environment and seeing what story (and maze) clues you can glean from your surroundings. That really is about it.
A common question about The Witness focuses on “the carrot.” What is moving you forward in the game? Is there a compelling story, interesting characters, or groundbreaking visuals/sound? In short, no. What moved me forward? The desire to figure out the next puzzle; the feeling of satisfaction when I solved a particularly complex panel; and the intrigue of what new rules might be introduced in the future. Is this any different than a book of Sudoku puzzles? To me, yes. How everything is weaved together, the different environments on the island, the quality of the presentation, and the community that has formed around this specific experience are all things I appreciate more than a book of puzzles.
Oh…AND the price tag. When the $40.00 price was announced, many people seemed to think this was far too expensive. Having played the game, I do believe it was easily worth $40.00. I tend to ignore the dollars-to-time ratio (I did not see anyone volunteering to pay extra for The Witcher 3) because in general, games are as cheap as they have ever been. My question is: “Did I have $40 worth of fun?” My answer: Absolutely.
Have you played the Witness? What did you think? Is the $40.00 price justified? Let me know your thoughts below or on twitter.
Did I enjoy The Witness? Yes. Should you play it? Maybe. If you enjoy puzzle games, you will likely enjoy The Witness. If you do not like puzzle games, I do not think The Witness is going to change your mind.