The Witness (XB1) Review

Ken McKown

Brain games.

Jonathan Blow’s latest creation has finally made its way onto Xbox One. For anyone who missed out on it on PC and PS4, stop reading, go buy this game. Puzzle games are often looked upon as the same experience over and over, but as anyone who has played The Witness will tell you, this is no ordinary game. It is a cerebral experience that will make you feel like the smartest, as well as the dumbest person on the planet at the same time. The puzzles are unparalleled, and the mystery behind the game will have players scratching their heads for months.

On the surface The Witness doesn’t seem difficult. The first few puzzles are pretty simple to solve. The concept is simple: draw a line from point A to point B and that’s it. The catch is the way the lines can be drawn, and there is no text, or explanation on how any of it works.

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MSRP: $39.99
Platforms: XB1 (reviewed), PS4, PC
Price I’d Pay: $39.99

The ambiguity of each puzzle is its brilliance. Figuring how the game wants me to solve each puzzle is only half the battle. There are environmental clues everywhere. The game tells players how to solve every situation, it just takes time and patience to figure it all out. That is the hook. This puzzle game is upwards of 40 hours, and by the end brains will be melted.

The simple satisfaction or “ah-ha” moments are more satisfying in The Witness than almost any other game I have ever played. The world is quiet, and calm. Solving puzzles in a dank underground cavern is extremely mood setting. Every single piece of the world feels hand-crafted. There is a reason this game took so many years to come out.

It is a fine line to talk. Brute forcing puzzles also doesn’t work, how the team managed to accomplish that, I will never know. It is almost insulting at times knowing the people that crafted these puzzles are almost mocking me. Showcasing how much smarter they are than me. Still, when I solve one, I feel accomplished, I feel smart, and that reward loop is addicting.

The entire game takes place on an island that players are free to roam at their leisure, the only gates are in the form of puzzles. There are no explanations, only weird audio logs, statues and architecture that showcase something happened here. There are also areas with video puzzles, yes it sounds weird, but I bet no one forgets that puzzle once they manage to solve it.

Being open world can seem daunting, but in another genius of design, the island never feels large. It is contained, set pathways make navigation simple. Every step players take in this game feels planned out.

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I also love the art direction. Things are colorful and simple. The world feels empty and yet somehow alive. The ambience is mood setting, wandering around this mysterious island solving line puzzles should not be this engaging.

The Witness is an example of superlative game design. Carefully crafted and mentally challenging. Everyone should dive into this world, it is the perfect game for several players to sit on a couch and solve. It will make your head hurt, it will tease your brain more than any game before it, but it also delivers satisfaction in solution better than anything else before, and perhaps after it. Play this game.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Good

  • Amazing puzzle design
  • Great world to explore
  • Tons of content

Bad

  • Some puzzle solutions are extremely obscure
9

Excellent

Ken McKown
Ken is the Editor-in-Chief of this hole in the wall and he loves to troll for the fun of it. He also enjoys long walks through Arkham Asylum and the cool air of Shadow Moses Island. His turn-ons include Mortal Kombat, Metal Gear Solid and StarCraft.
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