The Difficulty of Writing about The Witness

This game is one of the most ‘pure’ games I have ever played. It rejects gaming norms and manages to be completely different from most other games. This makes it hard to compare to other games and the fact that anything one might say about The Witness or its puzzles is going to be a spoiler disaster. I will endeavor to avoid spoilers at the cost of vagueness.

The Art

Everyone seems to love the visual style of this game. No number of screenshots will ever do this game’s visual appearance any justice, so if you are unfamiliar with the witness, I suggest you watch the launch trailer embedded below.


The Witness is a puzzle game. At the core there are logic puzzles, with a logical difficulty akin to Minesweeper or Soduku. The difficulty lies more in discovering the rules for these puzzles than for solving the puzzles themselves. This is both the blessing and the curse of these puzzles. You will have epiphany moments while learning the rules that stun and amuse you… It’ll occasionally make you feel like a genius, however, the downside is that once you know the rules, the actual solving can feel like you are being used as a permutation machine.

<p>One of the more difficult puzzles</p>

One of the more difficult puzzles

I am a programmer, I consider myself a bit of a logical/mathy person. Learning the rules came somewhat easily to me, but I’m certain this type of game is not for everyone. I suspect the majority of humanity would be unable to finish this game without cheating (and from reading forums, there’s a lot of cheating going on). If you consider yourself intelligent, I implore you to reach the ending of this game without reading walkthroughs. I assure you that there is enough information to learn how to do it within the game itself.

For any programmers who decide to play this game, I recommend that you actually write a solver. There’s no better way to codify the rules than to write your own solver. A solver will not help with all the puzzles, but it should be fun nonetheless. On my playthough I avoided doing it because I wasn’t sure it would be worth it (but I now think it would have been). I only wrote a simple solver for a single puzzle at the end. Afterwards, I wrote a more complete solver which I enjoyed doing.

The Story

Throughout the game there are mysterious and cryptic videos that you can unlock. Unfortunately, they portray very little actual meaning, all of which is completely up to subjective interpretation.

At the end of the game you get some figments of a story, much of which is unsatisfying and probably would have been better without it at all. While the story is a weak link, it was intentionally reduced to not be the point of this game.

Overall Score: 95/100

This is certainly the best puzzle game to come out since Braid, a game by the same creator (Jonathan Blow). Braid is perhaps a better game in some ways but both are absolutely wonderful. This blog post-dates Braid, but now I think I owe that game a write up as well.