Friday, February 05, 2016

The Witness

This past weekend Ian and I played a new video game: The Witness by Jonathan Blow. It's a 3D open-world maze-like puzzle game that is set on an island composed of a variety of environments. When you start the game, it's as though you've been dropped into this other world and you have to figure out how things work on your own.

Because so much of what makes the game enjoyable is discovering these mechanics for yourself, I don't want to get too specific about the puzzle mechanics. I think I can give you a general overview, however.

Most of the puzzles are made up of some kind of grid with at least one start point and at least one end point. The goal for each puzzle is to trace a correct path (sometimes more than one correct path is possible) between a start and an end point, and every correct path is subject to constraints (ie conditions that must be met). Some of these constraints include avoiding a particular segment in the path, being required to use a particular segment in the path, using the path to divide one type of object from another, or using the path to keep objects of a certain type together. The way these constraints are combined and and defined creates new puzzle mechanics throughout the game.

As each new puzzle mechanic is introduced, the game does a pretty good job of teaching you how that particular mechanic works, all without giving verbal or written instructions. Although the constraints can be fairly easily defined, the puzzles themselves could be quite difficult. Quite often we used pen and paper to figure out how to solve the puzzles.

In addition to having great puzzles, this game is gorgeous. Each environment is beautifully designed and rendered and is a pleasure to look at and explore. Speaking of the environment, I can give you one hint: everything is specifically designed and placed and nothing is random.

We loved this game: really, really, really loved it. If you like solving maze-like puzzles, we highly recommend The Witness to you. Currently it's available for the PS4 and Windows.

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