The Witness

I bought The Witness on PS4 because I generally like puzzles and I loved Myst and Braid both.

I regret it a whole lot.

Before I bought it, I watched some videos and read about it. It looked like something I would enjoy. I watched a video where a guy played through the first 30 minutes (and he had a lot of trouble with even the early puzzles), and I thought, “Hey, that looks fun, and I bet I could do these puzzles better than this dope.”

So I bought it and started playing, and I got through those early puzzles pretty quickly, and then I started exploring. I stumbled across a swampy area with yellow Tetris symbols on the panels. I tried a few and couldn’t figure them out, so I went on and found a small bridge with another Tetris puzzle. I quickly drew a line on it, just messing around, and it worked! The bridge started moving forward.

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I went up some stairs and looked around, finding two other sets of puzzles with Tetris pieces. I couldn’t figure out either one. I knew you had to make the shape of the pieces to get it to work, and by that metric, both of these puzzles were impossible. You didn’t have enough space to make the shapes necessary to solve it.

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I went back down the stairs to go back and try to find something easier, and that’s when I discovered that I couldn’t cross the bridge back. It had moved forward and now there was a small gap I couldn’t cross. (In real life, it would be a minor jump, but this game is full of invisible walls.)

I tried solving the puzzle again (it helpfully still had my solution, which is good, because I didn’t remember it), but nothing happened. I was stuck in a tiny area with puzzles I had no idea how to solve.

After about 30 minutes of beating my head against a wall, my wife finally just looked up the answers for me (I’m kind of stubborn about that) and none of them made any sense. They worked, but the solutions didn’t actually seem to have any kind of logic. It turns out, with the Tetris blocks, you don’t actually have to make the shapes exactly where the marks are, or something? I honestly still don’t get it, and the tutorial puzzles didn’t really explain that. It really was a “thank fuck that’s over” moment.

That got me out of that area, but it was too late. I found out later that that swamp is meant to be completed much later in the game, but seeing that that’s what the game had in store for me, I was totally disillusioned by the whole thing.

Also, I found out that to get the bridge to go back, you have to solve its puzzle in a different way. It has two solutions and one moves the bridge forward and one moves it back. Zero indication of that, either.

Since I had been playing less than an hour and was already sick of the game’s shit, I tried to see if I could get a refund, since I thought PSN had a similar refund policy to Steam. Nope, no refunds under any circumstances.

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I have a tiny budget for video games this year ($150 total) and wasted nearly a third of it on a game I can’t stand. I tried playing through the early areas (the orchard and the hedge maze) now knowing where to go and I can’t do it. Even knowing and understanding the puzzles now doesn’t make me feel good or cause me to enjoy the game. I just feel bitter and pissed off.

I don’t blame the people who like this game. For some people it’s totally fine, but I think I just don’t have the right kind of spatial awareness or something to enjoy it, and it frustrates the shit out of me. I’m not mad at Jonathan Blow or anything, he made the kind of game he wanted to make and it is nice to look at (though I didn’t notice until watching this video that nothing moves and there’s little sound — that is super weird and disconcerting).

I am mad at Sony for their shitty refund policy. If I could get a refund, I’d probably just shrug and say, “This game is clearly not for me,” and move on to something else that is. Instead I feel like someone took $40 out of my pocket and gave me some kind of weird brick that I can’t understand.

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It’s like forcing myself to play a driving game when I don’t like driving games. I barely like actual driving. Or, even more accurately, it’s like it seemed to have all the indications of a driving game I would like, and then I turned it on and the steering wheel was reversed and for some reason I was driving on a different course than everyone else.

(Note: This is adapted from a post I made on the Cracked.com forums here.)

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