There are puzzle games, and then there is The Witness. As those of you that have spoken to me over the past few days will know, I wasn't convinced that Jonathan Blow's long-awaited magnum opus was going to be for me. I hated predecessor Braid with a passion, for starters – but all of this chatter about mind-numbing brainteasers managed to put me right off. In fact, it was only the giddy reaction from the typically jaded Giant Bomb team that convinced me I had to give this game a try. And lo and behold, for the second time this month, I have to hold my hands up and say that I was wrong.
I write that sentence after approximately six or so hours with the game, so feel free to temper it if you like. However, having discussed the title with people who have played much more than me, I'm informed that it only gets better. Considering the kind of puzzles that I've solved so far, it's hard to imagine it possibly improving, but given just how surprising the first 150 or so panels have proved, I'm not ruling anything out.
The thing about The Witness is that it's hard to explain exactly why it's so inconceivably brilliant without spoiling things for those yet to give it a try. But the clue is in the name: the witness. The title may have been sold on the strength of its line puzzles, but it's about so much more than playing dot-to-dot. It's a game about perception, and looking at the world through a different set of eyes. The things that you see are not always the solution – it's the things that you don't that hold the hints. And it's masterful the way in which it teaches you these rules.
The Witness is a game about perception, and looking at the world through a different set of eyes
The game reminds me of a magic eye puzzle: it appears very one-dimensional at first, but once you have your eyes opened, it feels like you're being introduced to a new language. The Witness then proceeds to educate you in the intricacies of that not-so native tongue, before subverting your understanding and locking you into a stalemate again. It's winning that battle of wits with the title that becomes almost infectious – the lows are infuriating, but the highs make you feel like you've elevated to a higher intellectual plane.
And it never lets up. Like I say, I'm only six or so hours in, but I've already had my mind blown at least four or five times. Push Square's Simon Fitzgerald, who's been feeding me the most cryptic of clues when I prod for them, will vouch for a couple of those. To think that I'm only approximately a quarter of the way through the game is, I'll admit, a little daunting – but I'm already addicted to the sense of unbridled elation that fills my entire being when I find a solution, so I'm willing to battle my way through the frustration in order to have my eyes opened again and again and again and again.
The world looks different after The Witness – but I'd hazard that's sort of the point.
Are you infatuated with The Witness, or are you struggling to get into the brain-bendingly brilliant game? Draw a line in the comments section below.