Hearing Jonathan Blow speak, you can tell he’s an incredibly outspoken, intelligent person. But it’s in his game design philosophies where you can really see those attributes in action. His new game, The Witness, will require some serious smarts to complete.
It’s an open-world puzzle game set in a serene, yet eerie, island filled with strange, maze-like puzzle panels. When you first arrive, you’re not told who or where you are, or what you’re there for. The game unfolds using non-verbal communication—the atmosphere, your surroundings and the puzzles themselves provide the answers to any questions you might have and teach you how to complete any puzzles you encounter.
The realization of how the game translates information to you without any real direction is mind-opening. Completing any of the early puzzles provides all the tools necessary to pick up on the more difficult, involved puzzles that will have you scratching your head at first sight, only to bring a smile to your face when you do crack it. And if for some reason the solution isn’t immediately apparent, you’ll often find it within the environment itself.
One such example was given after completing a few tens of puzzles, where all of the solutions learned thus far were thrown out the window. Up until this point all of these panels were presented as mazes, going from point A to a clearly marked point B—albeit with some catch—to finish. However, this particular maze wasn’t marked, and split into multiple branching paths. Since this was the first time being introduced to this panel type, you are left to your own discovery. The answer is right before your eyes in a tree that has a similar branching layout, yet with one branch bearing an apple. That apple represents the endpoint of the path you must take.
Not all solutions are so in your face and will take a lot of thinking, exploration, and curiosity to find. But that’s the beauty in The Witness—it’s a game about self-discovery and realizing you have all the tools to complete the task at hand. You only need to figure out how to apply them.
Releasing for PlayStation 4 and PC in 2013, The Witness is vastly different than any other puzzle game out there, and is shaping up to be an interesting one—promising enough to earn one GameRevolution’s Best of E3 awards.