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    dkirschner's The Witness (PC)

    [June 27, 2020 12:49:38 PM]
    Played this for 4 or 5 hours and am over it. This is a puzzle game from Jonathan Blow of Braid fame. It's set on a big, beautiful island that you explore in first-person. Scattered around the island are a number of "hubs" containing grid-based line puzzles with many different rules. These begin simply enough, but I quickly found myself scratching my head.

    A cool thing about the design is that there are no tutorials. Every puzzle follows some logic and you can figure them out by doing other puzzles and observing the world around you. At least, it's cool because you will have great "aha" moments, but it is also maddening because if you get stuck, there is no help.

    The first puzzles just ask you to draw a line through a maze. Then, black and white dots appear and the line must also separate the two types of dots. As you complete puzzles, you will usually see a power cable light up that leads to the next puzzle in the area. Eventually the powered cables open doors and whatnot. So although the island is open, and you are free to explore most of it at any time, it does do a decent job of guiding you through easier areas first. That is, until you discover the town in the middle of the map, which apparently contains the hardest puzzles. When I saw the town for the first time, I was so confused, though based on previous experience, I realized that the answer to "what are the rules of these puzzles" must be in other areas, so off I went to explore some more.

    Suffice it to say that there are many, many clever takes on the "draw a line" mechanic. Another neat thing that The Witness does is force you to use the environment to solve puzzles. In one area, I realized that I had to draw lines around objects in the background behind the transparent grid. In others, I realized that I had to trace shadows cast by tree branches behind me, or trace a line to an end corresponding to an apple on a tree in front of me.

    Despite being periodically like "wooow" and impressed with the puzzles, like I said, they were also maddening because I could not figure out for the life of me how many of them worked. What are all these colored shapes? What do I do with the tetris shapes? I sort of figured out the latter, but only on a surface level because more advanced tetris shape puzzles stumped me. My previous "rules" didn't work, so they must be incomplete. The island is so big that finding where to find a rule can be quite the challenge. Eventually, I discovered a boat, which enabled me to zoom around the island faster and see some things I had not previously seen.

    So, that's about where I stopped, just aimlessly looking at new places in the boat and not feeling like I was making progress. Progress toward what? You would expect a puzzle game in a 3D world to have some sort of story, but although I had the feeling that there was a story, I can't tell you what it is. I don't know who I am, what this island is, why there are line puzzles all over it. If someone said what's the story like, I'd say I don't know. My motivation to continue a difficult or drudging game is often bolstered by wanting to know what happens next, but that doesn't happen here. So I quit.

    Then I watched this YouTube video:

    First, this guy is phenomenal. I will be watching more. But, most importantly, this video confirmed that I made the right decision to stop playing. Watching it, I am certain I would have made some more discoveries, but also certain that I never would have finished because the game is so obtuse. While I appreciate Jonathan Blow's work here on an intellectual level, actually playing it through is not something I would subject anyone to. It turns out that you get no story until you beat the game, and that it's a game about perspective. Like, to get you to think about perspective itself, both in terms of observation and epistemology. Oh man. I don't want to play a 30-hour difficult puzzle game to think about perspective. I'll just think about it!

    If someone was interested in the game, I'd suggest playing it, but not pursuing it too hard. Struggle a bit, but if you really want to stop, stop and listen to someone smart talk about it.
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    dkirschner's The Witness (PC)

    Current Status: Stopped playing - Got frustrated

    GameLog started on: Tuesday 21 April, 2020

    GameLog closed on: Saturday 27 June, 2020

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Really clever puzzles so far. No idea what's going on. ------------ Too obtuse. I appreciate it intellectually but am glad to stop playing.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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