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A quest to conquer an ever growing backlog of games.

The Daily Backlog 81

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Is The Witness more than just circles and lines, who knows, but those trees are dang pretty!

Brain Mush Cardio

It’s a day backloggers! It sure is a day! And what type of day might you ask? Well, it’s a day where I try to turn my brain to mush before the day even starts! You know, by thinking and such. It doesn’t seem like a great idea, now that I look back on it, but you gotta keep that mind sharp. Unless you want to become a spikey haired beef cake that battles endless founts of evil (chubby infant-like pink ones) and can somehow fly. What’s up with this guy and Dragon Ball references lately?

But, instead of subjecting myself to beef cakiness, I decided to go against my best judgment (laziness) and dive right in to the “critically acclaimed” first person puzzler, The Witness by Jon Blow and his team over at Thekla, Inc. If you don’t know who Jonathan Blow is, he’s that guy that brought us the fantastic time manipulating platformer, Braid way back in the Xbox Live Arcade days! And if you don’t know what Braid is, then you should stop what you’re doing right now and go check it out! It’s a classic of the modern era. But aside from all that hullabaloo, let me tell ya, exercising your brain mush to solve complicated line puzzles first thing in the morning is a challenge in and of itself!

Polychrome for your Gray Matter

The first thing you’ll notice when you fire up The Witness is that it’s very, very, very, very quiet. Like minimalistic to the max with regards to sounds and music. Oh and that playing it is like walking through gosh dern interactive painting! To be frank, this game is absolutely gorgeous! The scenery is lush and vibrant and the atmosphere is just so serene and peaceful. If it wasn’t for all those brain bustin’ puzzles I’d say it would be the perfect place to ease your mind and relax!

Actually, what it reminds me the most of is, the old school brain bottler Myst. Minus the “so obscure, I’ll never solve them” puzzles. I’d say the only real thing that Myst has over The Witness is the inclusion of a cohesive story. But, I’m not that far into the game yet, so I can’t speak to that really. I can say however, you’ll find a plethora of audio logs hidden here and there that’ll tell you pretty much nothing about why you’re on this island. Aside from random philosophical quotes from the bright minds of history. Hey, it wouldn’t be a Jonathan Blow game if it wasn’t pretentious am I right? Hyuk, hyuk.

And let me tell ya, it definitely exudes pretentiousness. I mean, within the first few minutes of playing the game, I happened upon what I’m guessing was a secret entrance to this super fancy loft filled with half full glasses of top shelf booze. Then a smattering of somber audio logs that read the game credits to me. And then I eventually stumbled upon a fourth wall breaking, live action video of some guy waking up in an office, tapping things with spoons and fingering circles left and right. I’m guessing it was supposed to be you (the player in the game) disconnecting from some VR thingy (the world of The Witness) and wandering around disoriented. I’m sure there’s more meaning behind it, but it was early and I was sleepy. It was honestly a little weird, and truthfully somewhat interesting, but mostly weird. And way too long. Definitely way too long.

Where Circles Meet Lines

Fingering arbitrary circles isn’t what we’re here for though (get your mind out of the gutter)! Well, I guess we kinda are considering how this game plays, but that’s what we’re getting to now! No, The Witness is all about solving puzzles. Big and small, cryptic and painfully obvious! As far as I can tell, your objective in this game is to wander around a secluded island and draw lines on the various panels strewn about. Which will activate new puzzles, and at some point unlock new areas to solve more puzzles. These can be as simple as drawing a straight line from the beginning to the end or as complicated as trying to figure out how to isolate all the white squares from the black squares while passing through all the hexagons. Yeah, that complicated. And it only goes uphill from there!

One thing that I definitely appreciate about the design of The Witness though, is its approach to teaching you all of its mechanics. At times it doesn’t seem like you’re being eased into most of the puzzles. For example, they’ll throw some hugely complicated panel at you with no explanation of what all those symbols mean right out the gate. Like, what am I supposed to do with all of these black and white squares?? But then if you can rip yourself away from the infuriating puzzle, you’ll encounter a much simpler one that’ll teach you how a specific mechanic works. Then further down the line, you’ll find another puzzle that’ll teach you yet another mechanic. And eventually you’ll be able to piece all of your knowledge together and combine what you learned to solve that puzzle from way back in the beginning. Well, you’ll still beat your head against it because the mechanics didn’t work exactly like you thought, but you’ll get there.

The panels aren’t the only place you’ll find puzzles either, because you’ll also be able to find them hidden throughout the environment. Like, lining up the sun with a group of clouds, or a random shape on a building which forms a path when looked at from a particular angle. I’m not exactly sure what they do when you solve them, as it just booms at you and sends red particles shooting into the sky. But it’s gotta be something cool right? Anyways, it’s really neat and it makes you think outside the box! See, it’s not all about circles!

81, The Fourth Power of 3

Well my friends, I think my brain really is mush now, so I think I’m going to call it! Honestly, when I first started The Witness, I wasn’t quite sure how easy it was going to be to write about. I mean, it was just about drawing lines right? That and it had super pretty graphics. But, now that I’ve gotten my hands on it, it really is more than that. Sure, it’s about solving line puzzles, but it’s also about building knowledge, thinking outside the box… and circles. Lots and lots of circles.

Anyways, I’m sure I’ll have more to say as I dive deeper into The Witness! And I’m sure I’ll be hitting some puzzle solving hellscape any time soon. So look forward to that! Also, the wife and I will be starting up Destiny 2 this week and I’m excited to see where that takes us!

Until tomorrow my friends, have a great one!

Currently Playing

The Witness (Xbox One)

Destiny 2 (Xbox One)

Total Backlogged Games: 729 …The number of circles in the first area of The Witness!

Total Completed Games: 21 … The number of lines I can make with one finger!

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