In The Witness, a magnificent new puzzle game from from developer Jonathan Blow you come upon challenges by wandering, in a first-person perspective, through the most beautiful island I’ve ever been to in a video game. The island is densely packed with puzzles, some propped up for you to solve, many others masterfully hidden. Nearly all of them (maybe all of them?) involve drawing lines. That’s it. You walk up to the puzzle, then press a button, which locks you in place and produces a small cursor on the screen. You use the cursor to draw a line.
The Witness’s early puzzles are barely tougher than connect-the-dots. They soon evolve into hour-long stumpers marked with esoteric symbols, governed by hidden rules that must be discovered by solving other puzzles. Sometimes you’ll solve a puzzle and have a eureka moment about a totally different puzzle, halfway across the island. The island is packed with purpose and filled with teases: desert ruins that appear to have broken puzzle panels on them, seemingly unreachable rooftops that have puzzles that surely you’re supposed to be able to access, puzzles on beaches and in jungles, stuff in the town that seems to have to do with stuff in the forest or the temple. What’s the point of that windmill? Of that wrecked ship? Why was there a way-too-easy puzzle all by itself on that log? (I’m dying to tell you the answer to that last one, but I won’t!)