The Witness


In a small way writing a public reflection on the Witness feels dishonest – on several levels there is always something you’re not getting, some puzzle you did not even realize was there or some layer of the narrative you had not discerned. This is true for the vast majority of games I play, I suppose, but it calls attention to itself in a game that is more than anything inviting you to discover its secrets.

The Witness has puzzles in the form of mazes, but typically the maze is not in itself the puzzle – it feels more like the language you use to communicate to the game that you have solved the puzzle. Which does not seem like a fundamental difference at first, but it makes the game more about observing the world – witnessing, if you will – and finding patterns. If puzzle games are about the joy you feel when figuring something out, the Witness gives it to you from many different directions and then again when you figure out how it all fits together.

It is mechanically very solid. There are a few frustrating moments with timed puzzles and failed attempts forcing you to re-do earlier mazes, but ultimately this is to discourage the player from trying to brute-force them. On occasion the solution to a puzzle may be finicky to perform even though you have found it, but removing all but the most user-friendly puzzles would make the game less varied.

I don’t pretend to know the depth of its mysteries, but as a puzzle game the Witness is very elegant.

… I don’t usually write about really small games – there are a few different reasons for this but to say a few words about some of the games I played for the last month or so…

Ninja Pizza Girl is a pretty neat precision platform game with multiple paths, sadly the 3D visuals skew perspective a bit and make it less precise than it needs to be. In addition, the anti-bullying message with accompanying game mechanics feel very tacked on and hugely detrimental to the gameplay.

Jotun is a really good looking boss rush game with light exploration in between. It has some gameplay in the levels but the real challenge lies in the bosses that offer some neat action-RPG gameplay bordering in bullet hell at times.

Read Only Memories seems like a pretty straightforward sci-fi adventure game at first, but it later becomes clear that your behavior matters more than figuring out the puzzles. This adds more weight to the central story, a story fundamentally about privilege.

The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human was much like Jotun, only the areas between bosses are more focused on Metroidvania unlockables than challenges. Both games had solid boss fights, but not very engaging gameplay between them – considering they take a cue from Shadow of the Colossus which had no gameplay between bosses I’m wondering if this is a bad thing.

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Posted on Feb 02/16 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »