Meta-Review: The Witness (PS4)

the-witnessJonathan Blow is a polarizing figure within the games industry. Seen as a forefather of modern indie-gaming, the designer of the beloved Braid has become an outspoken critic of modern game design and publishing. Most notable for his appearance in the great documentary Indie Game: The Movie, Blow has derided the video game industry for years. The Witness, his follow-up to Braid, has been in the making nearly since the completion and release of Braid. While Braid was a tremendous success, Blow has funneled nearly all of his profit from that game into The Witness’ development. It has been a passion project in which the gaming public has been anticipating since it’s announcement at the launch of the PS4, and now, after nearly 8 years of development, we finally have it in our hands, and it is amazing… kinda. The game is really winning over some critics, though it’s narrow focus on puzzle design (ie. that is every puzzle is a square maze of some form or another). If you enjoy that style of puzzle, great. If not (cough… Games Radar), this game many not be for you. Check out what the reviewers have to say below:

The WitnessGiant Bomb: It’s hard to believe nearly eight years have passed since Braid came along and helped elevate ideas about what smaller indie games could be, and while I don’t think I’d say any game is worth waiting eight years for, there’s also not a whole lot I’d change about The Witness or the time I spent with it. Slowly and deliberately exploring this resplendent island, picking my way through its elaborately constructed secrets, and occasionally bathing in the warm glow of revelation all cohered into a singular experience I’m not going to forget, or even stop thinking about, anytime soon. The Witness isn’t just an example of how video games can be similar to other creative works; it’s also a great reminder of the special things only games can do. (5/5)

Video Gamer: Coming from Jonathan Blow, the man behind puzzle platformer Braid, it should be no surprise that The Witness isn’t exactly as it seems. After a slow start (I’ll admit that I wondered how such a simple-seeming game had taken so many years to make) the whole thing builds and builds until your mind has seemingly no space left. You have no quiet moments; Tetris shapes, black, white, green, blue, orange, grids, lines, are everywhere. I’m so caught up inside the world of The Witness that it’s hard to think about anything else: like Tetris, this is its true power, and it is one of the best games I’ve ever encountered. Playing The Witness is a real emotional rollercoaster, with flashes of anger, despondency, jubilation, awe, smugness and admiration. Who would have thought you could get all that from a game about drawing lines? (10/10)

The Escapist: As frustrating as the experience might be, it’s hard to fault The Witness entirely for that. While we have all kinds of puzzles and exploration games, this is a highly unique blend, the likes of which haven’t been pulled off so naturally since Myst. It’s challenging, it’s rewarding, it’s beautiful, it’s frustrating, and it gets into your head in that wonderful way only games can. Whether you blaze through its puzzles, or slowly to struggle with them for hours,The Witness is undeniably worth playing. (4/5)

Games Radar: There are fleeting moments of fantastic achievement as you work through this world and it’s definitely a fascinating experience. It’s also obtuse and protracted, running interesting ideas into the ground until they feel like work and grinding your time through a mill while giving little back. With more judicious editing in each area’s design this could have been a slightly smaller but infinitely more enjoyable challenge. But, as it stands, the demands made, and the returns given, stretch out the reward to the point of transparency. (3/5)

Follow Tom on Twitter @thomaskagar

 

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