Playing ‘The Witness’: Hands-On with the Next Game from the Creator of ‘Braid’

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“Like, there’s going to be more of certain things. There’s going to be more story stuff basically. Yeah, why don’t we just talk about it after? So, the game has been very stable but this laptop has overheated twice. I’m just going to be hanging out in the other room working because I don’t like to peek over people’s shoulders while they play. So, yeah, just yell if something goes wrong.”

I think of all the other journalists and people who’ve played this game before me and how I’m probably doing worse than they did, stuck at a point they probably breezed through. I curse myself for not getting enough sleep, stressing over deadlines and the poor sleep habits I’ve had since my daughter was born. (Not that it’s her fault. She’s sleeping through the night now. It’s my fault. MINE.) I don’t have enough brain power for this.

(MORE: Gamer’s Death Linked to ‘Marathon Session on His Xbox’)

Yet, somehow, instinctively, I know that everything I need to solve this sequence is right there in front of me. I can tell by how the area I’m looking at is laid out. Maybe I missed something?

So, I walk back and forth around the surrounding area, tilting the camera this way and that and looking to see new things in things I already saw. Nothing. I meander along and find more of the audio recordings that are littered through the world. Unlike dozen of other games that feature this design element, they do almost nothing to illuminate what’s going on narratively.

One of them says in a male voice, “There’s no way you remember this, but you chose to come here of your own free will.” Great. Thanks for that. Should I even believe him? Another recording in a female voice quotes the 1971 writings of psychologist B.F Skinner. Something about man, the environment and responsibility for one’s actions. I don’t write down any notes because it’s pretty apparent the recording won’t do a damn thing to help me with those puzzles. (Later, when writing up this article, research reveals that he invented the “Skinner box,” an experimental environment where rats learn to obtain food by pushing a button.)

Eventually, I wander far enough that I find a new set of puzzles. These are further away from that first easy one, so they’re… harder? Whether that’s true or not, they’re definitely different. Another maze-like diagram. More start-and-end points. But these screens have little black dots in the pathways. Avoid them? No. Go over them? Yes. But I quickly learn that I can’t draw over my own line in a solving pattern. It’s a classic maze-solving rule but somehow I wasn’t expecting it. Each screen bears the same maze diagram but requires a different drawing to solve. Despite being stymied by the apples, this puzzle sequence clicks easier for me.

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