I’ve spent a lot of time on mysterious islands filled with puzzles, but none as pretty and bright as the conundrum-filled setting of Jonathan Blow’s The Witness. It’s lush and welcoming and seems to have tiny maze puzzles on wee panels sprouting everywhere.
Blow himself walks us through the first ten minutes of the game below, recorded during an event last year but only just appearing on YouTube now.
There’s nothing approaching a migraine-inducing puzzle, but this short glimpse is merely the first moments of The Witness, teaching players how to interact with the world and demanding only very basic problem solving skills.
Even with these first steps, there’s a hint of greater things to come. Blow zooms out, revealing a significant landmass filled with potential head-scratchers, and there’s a pleasing organic flow to how The Witness appears to prepare players for more challenging puzzles.
Blow gets to a door with yet another wee maze panel, but the previous puzzles hadn’t bestowed upon him the mental tools he’d need to solve it. Nearby are a series of simpler mazes, with obstacles increasing in complexity - though never becoming tricky - which subtly instruct the player on how to solve the greater puzzle.
The key to a good puzzle isn’t difficulty, it’s creating a sense of satisfaction. With simpler tasks instilling more confidence and increasing one’s ability to tackle the more challenging conundrums, there looks to be no dearth of that satisfaction. And plenty of exploration of the rather gorgeous island too, as trickier tasks require the player to explore the island for clues.
Blow says The Witness will be about 20-30 hours long depending on how difficult you find the puzzles, but that more content is being added all the time - and this was back in November - so it could be longer. It’s coming out later this year, he says, and while it’s a console exclusive on PS4, it will also launch around the same time on PC.