Game On: ‘The Witness’ challenges players to use brains, problem-solving skills to advance in the 3D game
I first learned about the game “Braid” from “Indie Game: The Movie” released in 2008, it was the last game from the creator Jonathan Blow. Blow’s newest game, “The Witness,” was announced at E3 2009 but it went silent for a while and now it’s finally here and it was worth the wait.
“The Witness” is a first person 3D puzzle game set on an island. In the ’90s I played my first 3D puzzle game on a PC. It was slow moving and the controls where clunky but many people fell in love with the game “Myst.” For many years, and several iterations, these games fell out of favor due to the lack of quality and innovation. Until now.
“The Witness” isn’t just a gorgeous looking 3D puzzle game, the whole thing is a mystery. You find yourself on a deserted island full of puzzles, and many different areas on the island have themes such as deserts, castles and many more. Throughout the game you find audio logs from another survivor who tells his story and the story of the island allowing you to piece together why you are there and how you can get home. “The Witness” isn’t really about the story. Most of the game is about wandering around solving a series of puzzles. Most of the puzzles look like simple line and maze puzzles, but looks can be deceiving. Completing these puzzles will test your problem solving abilities and they help you to open your mind to new ways of thinking in order to solve some really complex brain teasers.
“The Witness” isn’t just about solving line puzzles, the environment is just as perplexing. Everything seems quiet but as you complete puzzle screens it will activate machinery which will open up other parts of the island and unlock more puzzle panels. Navigating the island is a puzzle within itself, there are sometimes things that will block your path but there might be a hidden puzzle that will open it for you. Some of the puzzle panels are very hard and you have to change your way of thinking to figure it out, sometimes the solution is hidden somewhere in the environment and others you just have to learn how they work. After you solve certain puzzles a piece of machinery will make a laser that points toward a tower on the island, as you progress you will find a bunch of these lasers and it appears the main goal is to get all of them to point toward the tower. There are hundreds of puzzle panels to find and solve, there are many different types of puzzles. Some might require you to break out some paper to make graphs and charts, it may sound daunting but it made figuring them out feel like a real accomplishment. As you play you will experience some weird phenomenons or ghosts but they add to the mystery of the island and I don’t want to spoil any of the story.
In “The Witness” you really don’t want to look up the solution to a puzzle online or in a guide because you will be cheating yourself. When you do a puzzle and learn its rules you gain knowledge which you can use toward more puzzles, it’s similar to math, if you don’t learn the basics you will have a lot of trouble when it becomes more complicated. If you put the time in and think about the puzzles you will learn and figure them out which makes “The Witness” one of the most fulfilling experiences I have played in quite some time.
Robbie Vanderveken is the digital operations specialist at The Times Leader. E-mail him at email@example.com.
System: PS4, PC, Ipad ESRB
Rating: E for Everyone: Alcohol Reference
Developer: Thekla Inc.