There comes a point in any reviewer's writing career where they'll wish they'd scored something differently. Personally, there are a handful of games I've tackled for Push Square over the years which deserve higher or lower scores than I gave them. I won't be going through all of them here, although let's just say my first ever review for the site is definitely on the generous side.
However, one review I wrote for this very site frustrates me every time the game is mentioned. With March's PlayStation Plus titles now out in the open, there's every chance I'm going to hear more about this game in the next couple of weeks than I have for years. The Witness is free for Plus members this month, and it should've been scored a 10.
Indeed, one of the first games revealed for PlayStation 4 is also one of its best. Jonathan Blow's first person puzzle game was a long time coming, but it was absolutely worth waiting for. It's an exquisitely designed game with countless puzzles to solve across the gorgeous island setting. To take such a simple concept - tracing a line through maze-like grids - and unpack it to such an extent, exploring every possible facet of the idea, and have it be consistently engaging, genuinely compelling, and never frustrating -- it's a work of pure genius.
Going back to early 2016, when The Witness released, I had been reviewing games for roughly six months at that point, and honestly, I was still finding my feet. I was offered the game to review for the site, and I was thrilled, naturally, as I'd been excited to play it for years already. When it came to sitting down and writing the review itself, I landed on a 9/10 score. It's certainly a score not to be sniffed at, and I still agree with many of the things I said. The fact is, I very nearly did give The Witness a 10, but frankly, I was afraid of a 10.
A perfect score is a big statement to make about any game, but to adorn a relatively obscure puzzle game with one? I talked myself out of it. I was too inexperienced, I thought, it would be naive to award a 10. And so, a 9/10 is forever emblazoned at the bottom of my review, a point less than I truly felt, because I simply shied away from the idea of giving it full marks. Fast forward three and a bit years, and I'm now Associate Editor, an embittered, wisened sage of a man who has learned that a 10-point scale really does have 10 points on it. I now of course make a concerted effort to use the full range, as it was intended.
But why do I really think The Witness deserves a perfect score? The fact is, there's still nothing else quite like it. It takes some inspiration from the likes of Myst, but with almost all interaction restricted to myriad panels peppered across the island, it's very much its own thing. A brilliantly weird, quietly atmospheric thing that ingeniously provides the player with answers at the same time it provides puzzles. It's pensive, deeply satisfying, and filled to bursting with intrigue and secrets. If you have PS Plus, I implore those who haven't played the game to give it a try. It certainly isn't to everyone's tastes, but you'll never know until you give it a shot -- and at no extra cost, now's your chance.
Stephen likes The Witness so much, one of the puzzles is his avatar. What do you think of Jonathan Blow's latest? Will you be giving this 10/10 experience a try this month? Solve the puzzle in the comments below.