Thepoorassgamer here again with another look into a Playstation exclusive, The Witness. The Witness is something we have been missing in games for some time now. It’s currently selling for $39.99 on the Playstation Store and if you are a fan of puzzle games like Myst or Riven you’re going to like this. This game sports a 100 hour play time and 650 puzzles total, so honestly for $40 bucks, I’d say your getting your dollars worth. The Witness is a game that brings to life the wonder and spontaneity of the eureka moment. I have been playing this game for a couple of hours now and have come across this awestruck feeling of power that Jonathan Blow, the games designer, is trying to open you up to.
The Witness is the follow up to Braid, which for most of the Playstation faithful is probably an afterthought. This game was a Xbox 360 exclusive and for myself, I never got much of a chance to really play this game all the way through. However, Braid was featured in one of my favorite documentaries Indie Game: The Movie.
In Indie Game: The Movie we get a first hand look at what it takes to release a game independent of larger publishing outlets. We especially see the toil of many a game designer including Jonathan Blow and his seemingly omnipotent need to explain his creation to those who did not understand it.
I don’t get any of that feel from this game. I don’t also really understand why some people don’t see why he felt the need to over-explain his game to people who took his creation on a simpler level. Braid was simply a game that could be played in two respects: 1. A loving homage to classic platformers and the heartbreak and desire that it takes to create a game and, 2. A game that allows you to use time to your advantage a la Prince of Persia.
It’s hard to get down exactly what I am trying to get across with this short review but after solving what I felt were some of the games first few hours of difficult puzzles, I ran across this moment, which ultimately struck me as something awesome for video games. This was Jonathan attempting to reach out to the player on another level. Up until this point in the game, we haven’t even seen another person, let alone an animal or anything else but trees and rocks and puzzles. Take a look at what I am talking about below:
Ultimately the power to do and change and understand something is up to you. The following quote is what stands out to me most: “..maybe, a good start would be to recognize within yourself the ability to understand anything, because that abilities there. As long as it’s explained clearly enough”. You have the power to solve these puzzles, even if there isn’t some force constantly telling you what to do. That is the important difference between this game and many others, you are the driving force, not a UI or a AI helper showing you what to do.
Most of the moments I have been struck with thus far can be viewed in the clip below this final paragraph. It’s a long video but they contain some of the eureka moments I am talking about. And I think that is what makes The Witness so important. That many of the puzzles in this game are inferred. That you need to discover many of the correct paths simply by eyeing your cursor as you search for the end of the maze. But other times, nothing is explained to you, and you simply need to react as if you were in that place and time, lost with no knowledge of who you are. All you have to go on are your instincts and what is around you. So what ultimately happens is your dependency on this environment. In one part, at about 1:00 to 1:05, you can see one particular moment where I start to figure this out. I realized how that the puzzle itself wasn’t going to help me. That I was left to see where one of the tracks went without being able to see it. It challenged me, and made think harder about how to progress further. At about 1:1o I finally figure it out.
The Witness is available now. As always, thanks for reading!