Witness, The Review
Welcome to our CHEATfactor Game Review of The Witness. We review the game and then factor in how the available cheats affect the overall game experience. For better or worse, our reviews will help you decide whether or not to use cheats when playing the game.
I did a lot of wandering in The Witness, but I never felt lost. That's thanks to fantastic level design that kept me wondering what was around every corner but never made me feel like I was taking the wrong direction regardless of where I went. Jonathon Blow's sophomore effort couldn't be more different than Braid but it's just as engaging and had me guessing from the moment I started until the credits rolled, even if I'm still not completely sure what exactly happened. The Witness is different sure, but it's more than worth your time as one of the best puzzle games I've played in recent memory.
It's actually pretty difficult to explain just what The Witness is without getting your hands on it. You wake up on a mysterious island, deep down in a cave. The game doesn't give you much and never actually tells you what to do and that's part of the genius of The Witness, everything always feels like a discovery. Whether you're figuring out how a puzzle works or just finding a new location, I always felt like I was finding something worthwhile in The Witness, and at the same time I wondered what was around every corner and through every door. I kept a notebook near me with drawings of things I'd seen in hopes of going back to them and checking them out further. The Witness nails the feeling of being alone on a strange island and trying to find your way through.
The core gameplay of The Witness revolves around a series of puzzles that in turn unlock more puzzles and so on. You're never told how to solve any of the puzzles but the game is intuitive enough to nudge you in the right direction without holding your hand. Most of the puzzles involve you getting from one end of a grid to another but there's usually (always) a catch. Whether you have to isolate certain colored dots in the process or part of your vision of part of the puzzle is distorted, there's always a challenge to the puzzles but I never felt they were unfair - and that's an important difference. I played through most of The Witness with my wife, she loves games like this and we always felt like we were just one or two steps away from completing a difficult puzzle, and never once felt like the answer was out of reach. When we did finish those tougher puzzles? So rewarding, at least it was until we hit another stumper.
There is a story to The Witness, but it too is vague and open for interpretation. The key here though is that you really don't need to even know what's going on...at all to enjoy the game. Much of the story is told by activating switches that trigger audio diaries that you'll have to piece together to try to figure out the story. I'm not completely sure what happened in The Witness, but I did read a few theories that range from your character being dead and this being a journey into the afterlife to the island being a symbol for the subconscious. There are a bunch of interesting theories at play but it;s always best if you try to figure them out for yourself. The Witness is a very personal game and is bound to trigger a number of different theories depending on your experience.
The level design of The Witness is some of the best I've seen. There's nothing directing you in any way whatsoever and you have complete freedom to go anywhere, do anything and interact with whatever you want, creating a different experience for each player, each time. From time to time I just wandered to admire the scenery off a cliff or take a look at a sculpture in the distance. This ambiguity that's at the center of The Witness is bound to drive some crazy. This is mainly the ones that are looking for more of a narrative driven experience, that are looking for a beginning and an ending. While The Witness does offer you that, there's no clear line to get there.
Make no mistake though, The Witness is more than worth your time. It's a stellar work of not only video gaming ingenuity but in expressionism, and surrealism at the same time. It's an artistic look at just what a game can be and what it can achieve by forgoing the traditional rules of what a game can be. It's definitely not for everyone but those looking for a challenging and gorgeous puzzle game will want to book a trip to Jonathon Blow's island as quickly as possible.
As of this writing there are no cheats or trainers available for The Witness. Stick with Cheat Happens for more as they become available.
Joe started off writing about video games for small fan sites when he realized he should probably do something with his communications degree and didn't want to get into the grind of daily reporting. Joining the team in late 2008, Joe is the featured game reviewer for Cheat Happens, producing up to 10 CHEATfactor Game Reviews per month.
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