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A quest to conquer an ever growing backlog of games.

The Daily Backlog 82

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What makes a good puzzle game? What about The Witness?? The things you think, while you’re trying to think!

Think, Think, Think

Good day backloggers!! I’ve been thinking a whole bunch lately. I know, I know, I should probably slow down before I hurt myself. But one can’t help but think when they’re playing a puzzle game. Obviously, the ultimate solution would be to create a puzzle game that you could mindlessly wander through and it would solve itself. You know, like a mindless action game where all you have to do is mash buttons. But then it really wouldn’t be a puzzle game would it? It would just be a “sit and watch” game. Wait…that’s just a movie. Or maybe, the ultimate puzzle is not playing it, but finding a way to create such a thing and make it enjoyable. Mind blown…

So, it’s obvious I’ve been thinking, but not necessarily on how to usurp the whole puzzler convention, but more on what makes a good puzzle game. Specifically, what it is about The Witness, that makes it such a good puzzle game. Now, when I say puzzle game, I’m not talking about the match three, make a line, gain points puzzlers. No, I’m talking about the puzzle games that make you think critically, logically and at times, creatively to progress. Some great examples are Portal, The Talos Principle and of course the game we’re playing as we speak, The Witness.

A Puzzling Thought

If I think really really hard about it (you can ignore the burnt wire smell), the conclusion I come up with is this. A good puzzle game makes you feel like a genius at one point and occasionally like a bumbling dunderhead at others. Which doesn’t sound all that good, but hear me out. Because what it’s really all about is building upon your knowledge of the mechanics found in the game as well as, your understanding of how they work both as a singularity and when combined together.

Obviously, the developers need to teach you how to play the game, but when done in such a way that it’s rewarding to solve their puzzles then you have a great game. Like I mentioned in my post yesterday, you’ll be presented with complicated and difficult concepts very early on in The Witness, but with patience and the proper knowledge of how these mechanics work, the solution becomes apparent! All you have to do is find the pieces you need in later portions of the game and build an understanding of how they work and work together. And the pattern usually goes something like this: easy, easy, mind meltingly hard, struggle, move on, find solution, easy peasy, genius! And it’s those brief spouts of self affirming geniusness, that makes you want to keep going! Because now, you feel like you can conquer the world. Until you hit the next mind melter. Really, it’s about balance. Make it too easy, and you’ll get bored. Make it too hard and you’ll get frustrated.

Right Under Your Nose

There is one more aspect that I think makes a puzzler great as well. And that’s clever design. This is where the whole, divergent thinking thing comes into play. You can have a wonderful balance of easy and hard puzzles to solve, but if they’re all just the same thing, it won’t take long before the player becomes bored. Which was a big worry of mine in The Witness. I mean, how many times can you draw a line in a box? But, much to my surprise (and delight), The Witness has done a wonderful job of spicing it up! And it wasn’t just about coming up with witty ways to draw a line, it was also about being resourceful and using the environment around the puzzles in order to help you solve them. For example, lining up a panel just so, so that the sun reflects off of them and reveals a pattern. Or even mapping a panel to a walkway up ahead that’ll show you which turns to take. And sometimes it’s as easy as looking behind the panel for a switch (which I apparently neglected to see)!

That my friends, is what make a good puzzler. And that’s exactly the type of puzzler The Witness is! So far, I’ve been having a blast stretching my mind trying to outsmart whatever the devs throw at me. I won’t lie, I’ve definitely been stumped a few times, but that’s part of the fun!

82, The Sixth Magic Number

Welp, I think that’s going to do it for me today my friendly neighborhood backloggers! Plenty more puzzling for me in the near future with The Witness, I’m sure. And, possibly some lootin’ and shootin’ from Destiny 2! If that 85 GB download ever finishes! Oh, and I have to download it again on our second Xbox! Gah!

Anyways, we’ll keep you posted with all of those shenanigans as the days go by. And stay tuned in the very near future for some details on a little plan I have for The Daily Backlog, in the month of May!

Until tomorrow, have a great rest of your day!!!

Currently Playing

The Witness (Xbox One)

Destiny 2 (Xbox One)

Total Backlogged Games: 729 …The number of hours until Destiny 2 finishes downloading!

Total Completed Games: 21 …Kbps… the speed my mind processes things in the morning!

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And you can keep tabs on my backlog by checking out the Backlog Odyssey Backloggery game list!