Puzzle game

5 years later, I’m still looking for a puzzle game as good as Witness

Have you ever played a game that you just can’t stop thinking about? Even when you put the controller down and step away from the screen, it seems to follow you everywhere. You find yourself talking about it in a conversation, excited when you find out that someone else is playing it. And when you lay your head at the end of the day and close your eyes, you see sparkles of the game dancing in your mind before you fall asleep.

Thekla has been The witness was released on January 26, 2016, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. It was the long-awaited sequel to Jonathan Blow’s Marvelous Braid, which in itself was one of the earliest independent hits of the Xbox Live Arcade era. As a big fan of Braid, I followed the development of The witness for years before its release. On its surface there were many things headed exactly for my tastes – a mysterious island to explore at the Myst, a palette of bright and beautiful colors, and the same almost pretentious philosophical reflections of Braid which I actually liked.

However, after I finally had the opportunity to immerse myself in the game, it became clear that it was more than the sum of its parts. The witness hooked me up with its world, puzzles and mysteries, both inside and outside of the game. And since its release, I’ve been looking for another puzzle game to come up and take full control of my game. life with the same fate he did.

The witness is a first-person puzzle exploration game set on a sprawling, colorful island filled with a dozen different unique and fantasy biomes. Once you’ve completed the brief introductory section, you’re free to explore the island at your leisure – from its abandoned village to winding hedge mazes, desert ruins, and weird bunkers. Each area is filled with puzzle panels that lead to the power-up of a large turret that shoots a beam of light towards the top of the mountain in the center of the island. Turn on enough turrets and the light eventually opens up the mountain, revealing the last area of ​​the game.

The puzzles themselves start out fairly simple, asking you to draw a line from the start to the end of a maze. But once you get established on the island proper, rules start to be added to these scenarios. Small dots dot the maze and you need to make sure your line crosses them before you reach the exit. Multicolored squares should be segmented and separated by the lines you draw. Tetris blocks require you to draw these specific tetromino shapes before exiting the maze – these are just three of the ever-changing rules that are relatively easy to understand.

First of all, the puzzles of The witness are a language. The game starts by teaching you the basics of its nouns, verbs and adjectives. But then that brings grammar into the equation, forcing you to figure out how to combine the separate rules you’ve learned into fully functional sentences. It doesn’t tell you any of these rules directly, but instead trusts you to understand them through contextual clues and the gradual construction of the difficulty of the puzzles. In the end, I really felt like I had learned an alien language filled with colorful lines, segmented grids, and distinct patterns.

But the real magic of The witness does not fully start until you have discovered one of the countless puzzles that exist outside of the prescribed panels. Scattered across the island, environmental puzzles take shape when viewed from the right angle. I found my first one after deciding to head back to the opening area and see if there was anything I might have missed. I was able to climb to the top of a rampart and have a beautiful view of the island. It was here that I noticed that a path along the floor was strikingly similar to the lines I had drawn to solve my panel puzzles. Sure enough, I clicked on the area that appeared to be a “starting point”, only to find that I was able to draw a line over the environment itself. From that point on, I constantly viewed the island as a puzzle in itself.

The Witness 5 Years Later: Still an exceptional and unique puzzle game from Jonathan Blow and Thekla, Inc.

The witness was also one of those rare single player games that I played together with friends. We never played it together or in the same room, but we were in a constant thread, giving updates on progress, theorizing on mysteries, and venting our frustrations with difficult puzzles in a form of therapy. of group. I had this with other games – we were relaying our experiences and discoveries at the start of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Red Dead Redemption 2. Or wait anxiously until everyone is credited on God of the war Where The Last of Us Part II so that we can start talking about how we felt during specific beats in the story. But never has a puzzle game invaded our lives like The witness made.

All in The witness culminates in The Challenge, which is one of my favorite video games… uh… challenges of all time. Once you’ve mastered each of the rules and puzzle types and unlocked the mountain itself, you’re tasked with completing a series of algorithmically created puzzles that you must complete within a strict time limit. I remembered how good it is by The Last Jediby Rian Johnson tweet about it few months ago.

Throughout the challenge, Edvard Grieg’s iconic “In the Hall of the Mountain King” plays, becoming more and more intense as your time goes by. I will forever associate the song with The Challenge, as well as the incredible scene from Social network where the Winklevoss twins face off in a crewed match. And honestly, those two things hold a special place in my heart.

The Witness 5 Years Later: Still an exceptional and unique puzzle game from Jonathan Blow and Thekla, Inc.

More than any other puzzle game I’ve played, I felt like the mechanics of The witness followed me into the real world. I saw linear puzzles scattered about the architecture of San Francisco. I would notice the involuntary patterns formed by certain objects. I tilted my head slightly to see things from a different perspective. The only other time the rules and mechanics of a puzzle game came true for me like this was after playing Catherine. For a brief period of time, whenever I looked at an imposing structure, I began to mentally work out which pieces to pull out and push in order to create a climbing path to the top. Fortunately, I never acted on it, and the effect wore off after a little while.

That’s not to say there haven’t been some amazing puzzle games since. The witness. Puzzles like Gorogoa, Baba it’s you, and Wilmot’s warehouse All caused me both frustration and elation when I bumped into a wall that I considered impenetrable, only to find a door. Tetris effect remains a synaptic interpretation of the iconic game. And games like The return of the Obra Dinn, Outdoor savages, and Tell lies all of them did a terrific job of mixing the story, the atmosphere and the mechanics in a way that made me feel like a real detective.

But even though I love them, and even though they are some of my favorite gaming experiences of the past few years, they just didn’t consume me in the same way as The witness. It has been five years since The witness released, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about it somehow. And if that’s not the mark of a good game, I don’t know what it is.