Playstation Experience: Hands-On With The Witness

One of the more shameful games in my ever-growing backlog of games is Braid. It is heralded among many peers as a modern classic and is credited as being one of the inaugural titles of last generation’s indie boom. As I type this up for you all with feelings of shame and regret deep inside me, I can also tell you with great pride that I have played Braid creator Jonathon Blow’s new game The Witness, and it is awesome.

The game boots up with you in first person staring at a doorway from inside a dark tunnel. The loneliness that surrounds the whole experience hits you right off the bat and it never let up once throughout my sojourn with the game. There’s no music, no other character, there isn’t even a run button! Walking through what seems to be an abandoned island gives you an odd feeling the whole time. You never feel comfortable being where you are. The sheer beauty of the world surrounding you plays in great contrast with the ever-present feeling of unwelcomeness that follows you every step of the way. Fans of  the legendary video game Myst will notice a lot of similarities in this regard.

This is just the beginning.

This is just the beginning.

The Witness is presented to the player in two parts, the first being exploration. You walk around the island looking for pretty much anything you can interact with. When you do come across an interactive object, usually there is something in your way preventing you from reaching your goal. Here is where the second part—puzzle-solving—comes in. The puzzles are almost laughably simple when you look at them from an untrained eye. You have a line. It’s your job to get that line to the other side (kind of like an exit) of the grid using analog controls. Sometimes you have to control two lines at the same time, others you have to cross certain mandatory marks on the grid on your way to the exit point, and yet other times you don’t know what the hell you’re supposed to do and trial and error is your only savior.

I stood in line and watched people play The Witness and I really didn’t get it. The instant I plopped myself into a chair it instantly made sense. The puzzles never stray from their simplistic core, but what begins as a remedial test of thumb dexterity quickly evolves into a brain-churning journey of epic proportions. I’m sure with the sheer mass of the world developer Thekla has promised, coupled with what I’ve played so far, the possibilities are endless for how insane some of these puzzles can get. I can’t wait to play the final build. I guess I should probably go play Braid now.

The Witness is slated for release on PC and PlayStation 4 in 2015.