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The Witness (PS4) review

On January 28, 2016 by Ash Meehan

SG Gaming Info reviews the engrossing and challenging open world puzzle game, The Witness.

When it comes to puzzle games I’ve never found myself playing them for very long due to frustration from constantly trying and failing to complete puzzles, but Thelka Inc.’s The Witness was different. It is one of the most challenging games, in terms of puzzles, I have played, but despite its difficult puzzles I didn’t find myself getting frustrated like I usually would in a puzzle game, in fact, the opposite happened, every time I failed I would try again and if I failed several times I would just leave the puzzle and move onto one of the game’s many other puzzles.

What reduced my frustration in the game were two simple things. 1) The game is set on an open world island, which means if you are constantly getting stuck on one puzzle you can leave it and search for another one. 2) The game’s sound, when completing anything challenging or just simply stopping to think I don’t like copious amounts of sound badgering my eardrums in an effort to distract me, and well The Witness seems to think the same about sound because the game has little to no sound with the game’s most distinctive sounds been ambient sounds effects, which includes the wind and birds chirping.

Ok, I mentioned why the game keeps me from going crazy trying to complete puzzles, but what are the puzzles? The game’s puzzles are essentially maze-like route puzzles with your objective to get from the beginning point to the exit point, now while this idea sounds simple the game likes to make things tough by adding mechanics that increase puzzle difficulty, some of these mechanics includes creating Tetris-like patterns before reaching the exit, separating colours and controlling two lines at the same time with the added bonus of one line being invisible. As you get further into the game some puzzles merge these mechanics together, for example, a maze puzzle that requires you to collect all the black dots while also separating the colours.

The Witness_ puzzles

The amount of work you need to do to wrap your head around some of the puzzle concepts can be daunting, but nothing beats the feeling of successfully completing a puzzle after what can feel like an innumerable amount of attempts.

However, while I praise the puzzles there is one annoying issue, the fact the game, in my opinion, could do a poor job of introducing the various puzzle mechanics you encounter. When it comes to introducing new mechanics such as separating colours the game gives you a series of puzzles that increase in difficulty, the theory behind this line of teaching is that players will notice the pattern required to complete future puzzles that contain the mechanic you are learning, but while this teaching can be considered effective to some, to others it’s not. The way the game teaches you each mechanic only focuses on one way of teaching, mainly teaching an action through showing with little to no telling, so if you aren’t the type of person who enjoys or is comfortable with this teaching method you may find yourself in some difficulty. Personally, I would have liked the inclusion of some auditory assistance explaining the puzzle’s mechanic for example, “to complete this puzzle you must separate the two different colours”.

While I disagree with how the game teaches players, new mechanics, I wouldn’t call it a deal breaker as its teaching method just means you will have to spend more time thinking or better yet using a brute force approach by getting some paper and plotting out the numerous number of combinations to complete the puzzle.

The Witness_ island screenhsot

Now I’ve mentioned a lot about the puzzles, but I haven’t said anything about the open world island the puzzles are located on. The island is very much a mysterious location as it contains various environments such as a desert, a swamp and plant rich fields, there are also numerous manmade structures such as a castle and small village, but despite all the structures you are the only living soul on the island. The island’s layout is simple yet effective, as it raises numerous questions and has you hoping that completing the puzzles will answer the questions that won’t go away.

Now as we approach the end of this review, let’s talk about the overall visual appearance of the game. The game uses rich colours, lighting and textures create a calming mellow experience that doesn’t distract you from your overall goal. The visuals also play a role in solving the puzzle, with players required to use the game’s lighting and objects such like trees to find the correct pattern to seemingly impossible puzzles.

Conclusion

The Witness is a challenging and mysterious puzzle game that will leave you playing for hours no matter how difficult the puzzles get.

SCORE: 9/10

Pros Cons
 + The game’s sound create a calming atmosphere  – The game could do a better job of teaching some of its puzzle mechanics
 + Puzzles are incredibly challenging
 + The island holds numerous mysteries
Developer Publisher Genre Rating Platform Release date
 Thelka Inc.  Thelka Inc.  Puzzle  3+  PlayStation 4, PC  January 26, 2016

*A review code was provided by the game’s publisher.*

For more information on The Witness or to find out where to buy it, visit http://the-witness.net/

Author: Ash Meehan

Hi, I’m the creator of SG Gaming Info. When I’m not working on my writing or creating content for this site’s YouTube channel, I like to relax and enjoy character driven story games.


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