The same can be said for Blow's latest offering "The Witness." Taking place on an uninhabited island, the game thrusts you into a land that is begging to be discovered. The main concept of The Witness revolves around drawing lines to solve puzzles as you explore the unknown terrain. Right from the get-go the environment of the island is something to marvel over and the peace and tranquility portrayed within it is like no other game I've played. (All you hear are your character's footsteps as he walks and the sound of the wind and water running through streams). The puzzles start off easy enough as you're introduced to the basic concepts of how to solve them. After leaving the first tutorial-like area you are given the freedom to explore and visit whichever part of the island you wish. Wandering never felt so good! The beauty of having this freedom, allows you to move on when met with an overly tough puzzle or one that you just don't understand how to solve at that particular moment.
Oftentimes I found myself not even caring about the puzzles that were waiting to be solved around me, but instead the colorful and majestic pieces of scenery that were presented to me with each footstep I took. Each new area offered a different feeling of awe from the last, as well as new puzzle types. After admiring my surroundings for longer than I'd like to admit, I dove face first into the new puzzle presented to me. Despite not having any in-game guides or support characters to assist along the way, The Witness does a pretty good job of teaching the player the new rules that are introduced within new areas, but not always. Drawing a line from point A to point B will no longer suffice when new ideas come into the mix and you'll have to use your noggin to its full potential. Without spoiling too much, some puzzles require separating different colored squares when solving them, as well as drawing specific shapes in your solution.
That being said, The Witness is in no way an easy game to complete. Some of the puzzles I encountered, especially later in the game, were mind numbingly difficult and frustrating to boot. Some felt unsolvable and made me feel extremely dumb as I haplessly tried drawing line after line with no success. Even when I was successful, I found myself running out of steam as I got to the end of an area and had to resort to looking up one final solution as my brain could no longer function. I did have a lot of Aha! moments when I finally figured out how to solve certain puzzles, but at the cost of feeling like my head had a Vacancy sign posted outside it. Nevertheless I felt extremely accomplished when I did solve them on my own.
When first introduced to the orange explosion shapes I was dumbfounded
The Witness is a type of game that is mentally draining and will put your problem solving skills in overdrive. Taking breaks in between playing for an hour or two were necessary for me to get my wits back in order and progress further through the game. When returning a day later, I found that some solutions came to me a lot easier after I had some time to rest my mind. Sometimes all I needed was a different perspective, especially when it came to the environmentally-based puzzles, which there were plenty of.
The main draw for me to The Witness was the sense of wonderment it offered and the mystery of why this island exists and who was here before you. I had a continuous inclination to go further and solve puzzle after puzzle to find new areas and uncover more information. There are various structures that are on the island including a series of tree-houses, a pyramid and a quarry to name a few. Statues of humans also exist as well as audio recordings that can be found and offer quotes from historically famous individuals that may offer some insight to what the island holds.
The Witness cannot be completed in one sitting (at least not the first time playing) and took me a whopping 25 hours to complete from start to finish. That's not including every puzzle that was available as some weren't mandatory to complete to get to the end. As confusing and frustrating as the puzzles found in The Witness were I enjoyed my time with the game and was glad I got to the end of it.
Blow and his team's latest release continues to encompass the same high quality standards that were set with Braid almost 8 years ago. That being said its not for everyone, especially those who don't like puzzles or lack the extreme amount of patience required to do the ones found in The Witness. For those who love beautiful looking games and a sense of mystery/exploration, The Witness will be right up your alley and is highly recommended by this game reviewer.
I give The Witness 4/5 Stars
The Witness was developed by Jonathan Blow and his team at Thekla, Inc. It was released on January 28, 2016 on both Windows and the PlayStation 4. It is available to download for $39.99 USD.