Some games have such a strong sense of style that they can be remembered long after many others have been forgotten. That’s why games like Super Mario Bros. or Zelda or Metal Gear Solid or Halo are iconic and successful time and again. Even Sonic can be remembered fondly. The Witness isn’t a classic like those games, but it is one worth experiencing. There really isn’t another puzzle game or indeed any game like this on the market, one that drops you in the middle of nowhere, isolates you and makes you work it out on your own. But its not afraid to let you go because it’s designed intricately every step of the way, a nurtured experience like a baby transitioning to a teen and then an adult. You learn the rules as your go along, all without the use of any language.
The Witness is a puzzle game. There are lots of line puzzles in this game. You’re going to want to put your thinking cap on. What are line puzzles? In the game, you walk up to a panel, and you need to draw a line through the puzzle correctly. Some may ask you to wrap your line around dots, others may ask you to draw tetris pieces as your line, and as they get harder you’ll need to combine all the rules you’ve learned to solve the puzzle. Once you solve the puzzle, your reward is another puzzle and you move on until there’s none left.
The game is set on a large island, with different areas, each of which have a different theme to the art style and the style of puzzles. As I said in the opening paragraph the game is really unique to look at and is rather beautifully designed. It’s not making a GTX 1080 or a PS4 work hard but the bright saturated colours make the game stand out.
The game isn’t really for anyone who isn’t interested in puzzle solving. If you don’t like the thought of standing in front of a puzzle for minutes (or hours) on end, this is not the game for you. It’s the perfect game for sitting down on a rainy afternoon with a cup of tea and getting lost in the world of The Witness. And just a tip don’t be shy about getting a solution. About 95% of the puzzles were ‘straight forward’ for me, but some were real doozies. There was one puzzle for sound, and I didn’t even have my speakers turned up.
The Witness is also a pretty long game, you’re looking at around 25 hours to complete the game, and maybe about 35 hours to complete every puzzle. There’s 300+ puzzles to solve just to beat the game and another 100-150 extra after beating the main ‘story’. I put story in quotes because, there isn’t much story to speak of.
One final thing I do want to mention is that the designer Jonathan Blow talked alot about communication without actually using language, and if that was his intention, I think he did a great job. There are some audio and video clips that can be discovered, but everything to get you through the puzzles is conveyed by the puzzles themselves. It starts off really basic, and slowly ramps up. It’s not long before he really tests your understanding. So 10 months after its release, there really isn’t anything like it on Steam. Its $40 in the US, but if you like puzzles, there’s plenty to chew on here.