Let me start off by saying that I'm not someone who generally plays puzzle games. I don't roll my eyes when a puzzle comes up in a game though. I like a crossword now and then and absolutely love picross. Yes, I've played Tetris and Puyo Puyo and enjoyed them. I don't think those really count so far as this goes, but the point I want to make is that I don't turn my nose up at them either. My tastes just generally don't draw me towards them. The Witness did get my attention, though. Mostly it was from The Witness - A Great Game You Shouldn't Play but I did also have some friends talk about how they liked it. It wasn't something I ever thought I would buy (unless it came out physically and I happened across it I suppose) but since it was being given away for free on PSN, I figured there wasn't any reason to not give it a shot. So I did.
I think it would also be unreasonable if I didn't mention that I didn't finish the game. I never made it to the end. I made it significantly close to the regular ending, and I feel like I've played enough of it to develop a worthy opinion.
I'm really not sure what I think of the game as a whole. I've stated in the past that I've been conflicted since it's something I wanted to like, and there were several people encouraging me to go on as I played it. Even ignoring the peer pressure of liking something just because everyone thinks it's cool, I think a lot of the initial video I'd watched on it influenced my opinion, or at least I agree with some points. I don't think I would go so far as to say you shouldn't play it, but there's definitely a specific type of person I'd recommend it to. The type of person who wants to solve puzzles, since essentially that's all this game is. There's some elements of exploration, sure, but when you get down to it, that exploration is, for the most part, just to get to the next line puzzle to solve. And the puzzles are well done, so there shouldn't be too many issues with that. Right?
I did like the puzzles. Once I knew the rules to them, I liked going through the entire area and just solving everything. Get the line to the end. Simple. Each piece in the puzzle has a different rule that you have to follow before getting to the end. Great. I'll get into some specifics below, but this is all there is to it and for the most part it works. It didn't need anything crazy added to it, and it didn't do it. I would even go so far as to say the game is relaxing. As relaxing as a game where you're getting headaches from trying to figure out puzzles can be, at least.
It does have an exploration-type feel to it. You can go pretty much anywhere and attempt any available puzzle that you want. Your only real limit is the knowledge you have of the pieces. You find enough early on that you can make enough progress, and most of the areas are at least self-contained in that they'll teach you what you need to know when you reach them, and don't generally ask much more of you from other puzzles. Sort of? I had people telling me when I was playing it and stuck to go somewhere else and come back to areas I'd found later, as I'd know what to do later. That turned out to be bad advice because everything I ended up being stuck on, with a few exceptions, I already had the pieces for. I'm the type of player that if you show me a path then I'll walk off of it into some other odd direction instead. I don't recall there being any instances of this being all that useful in the game, though, but it may explain why I had some difficulty with some areas. It does feel a bit pointless in the end. I would have loved for all of the moving platforms to not take forever or for there to be a fast travel option in the game. I feel like it was a slog just going from one area to another. The game felt tedious at points with me going from one area to another trying to find a puzzle to solve that I'd be able to figure out.
I don't think the difficulty really put me off. I'm fine with there being hard puzzles - provided I have all the pieces to them. There were a few instances where the information was there and I just was not seeing it. I'm fine with that. I do like having that bit of discovery over separating colored stars for the 50th time in a row. The difficulty combined with some of the tedium did ultimately make me quit. I got to a point in the endgame where I needed to solve a puzzle in a specific way to leave a room and I just was not seeing the solution. I'd already gotten practically to the end (at least from what I could tell) of several different areas and missing some tiny detail, getting frustrated, and leaving, so this puzzle may have been more of that. Maybe it did just need a specific solution and I wasn't seeing it. Whatever the case, I decided to cut my losses and quit there. Maybe one day I'll go back, I'm not scorned.
The question, though, is it a good game? I think so. It asks a lot of you and you have to be pretty clever to understand everything it's wanting you to get. I'm not ashamed to say I just flat out didn't understand a lot of it - I did say that factored into me giving up. I could have looked up some solutions online, but I think that's really against the spirit of a puzzle game. No shade or shame or whatever against anyone else if they did, I'd just prefer to do the actual solving part myself. There were a few pieces that I'd remembered from the video above, including a pretty significant discovery later in the game - let's just say I went off the path almost immediately. I did even look up how to do a tyep of puzzle. I didn't look up any specific solutions just how to do them. Shortly after this, I did end up finding the area that taught me how to do them. I don't think knowing how things work beforehand took anything away, in fact, I think it helped me in my case. If I don't have all the pieces then it ends up being frustrating. If I know I have them all and I'm just not seeing the line, that's fine. This game sort of muddles the line with that sometimes, but overall it's well done. Play it your way. Look up solutions you can't get the answers to. Go in completely blind. It doesn't matter. It's your experience.
But as for my experience, I'd like to go over each area specifically. Spoilers below for people who haven't played it and care about that.
So yes, before getting into each area individually, I knew about the "secret" puzzles that are just found throughout the environment before even starting the game. This was probably my favorite part of the game. I like exploring, and finding secrets, so stumbling upon one and adding it to the collection or whatever it is you do felt great. I'm not sure if I would have found out about this before the game shows you or not. I feel like there's a fairly obvious one pretty much right after you escape the starting area, but I was already looking for them so who knows? If there was something I'd 100% in this game, it would be those puzzles. Some are attached to tedium, though, so I'm really not sure how feasibly sane that would be in my case. Still, it's a thought that makes me want to return more than not. For the record, I have no idea what finding all of these in an area even does, I just know they show up on pillars after you discover them. That said, I don't appreciate having to walk everywhere just for the chance to find these, or having slow moving platforms because you might come across one of these when they do. I think the game could've been better if it didn't try hiding some of those like that.
Symmetry Island (finished)
This was one of the areas I got stuck on for a long time. I looked at the puzzle at the gate multiple times, knowing the rules of the dots in the puzzle, but thinking I was missing something as nothing I knew was letting me get them all. Turned out I was just doing the puzzle wrong, which is fine, but I was working off the advice of "come back later when you learn something" when I don't recall coming across many of those dots in other areas. It was either my 5th or 6th area completed, and by that point in the game I was able to just blow through all the puzzles easily. I didn't feel like there was too much to it and I was surprised how short it felt once I got to the end. I know the boathouse was part of it, but I don't remember much of it either as it was one of the first areas I'd solved. It may have felt better to me if I solved it as, I assume, its intended spot of one of the first areas to solve, but since it wasn't I was just like "oh, these puzzles are for babies."
This was also one of the first areas I'd found, which makes sense given the above. I also didn't know what to do in this area, and gave up on it pretty quick. I only ended up back in this area after looking up something else - I think how to do the tetris block puzzles, skipping through the video showed me the pieces of the puzzle to this area. I don't think I ever would have figured that much out on my own, it just looked like something I'd need to figure out elsewhere when, again, it wasn't. It didn't end up mattering because I didn't finish this area either. I made it into the basement area where you have to raise and lower the water to see the shadows on the puzzles. I must have raised and lowered it at least 2 dozen times but the part I gave up on just did not have any shadows. I spent way too much time looking and got way too frustrated. I don't think I even liked the gimmick to begin with. This felt like one of those areas that's just asking a bit too much from the player, assuming they'll see the shadows and be able to go along with the rest. I do not like it.
The Quarry (finished)
I loved the quarry. It's one of the areas that needs you to know a bunch of different pieces of a bunch of different puzzles (and also adds its own?) but by the time I'd gotten there I knew about everything it was asking me. I enjoyed the twist of having to include a "wrong" answer in the puzzles. It felt like a great mid to late game area and despite having some really slow moving platforms it was probably one of my favorite areas in the game.
Shady Trees (finished)
This area felt dumb. Depsite somehow missing the shadows on the very first puzzle, the very first time I came across this spot, I found these puzzles to be some of the easiest. You just follow the lines. Ok. I don't remember much about it or having much difficulty. I know it did try to do some tricky stuff with where the shadows were placed, but I don't recall spending too much time on any individual puzzle here. I think the hardest part for me was just finding where to go next.
The Keep (finished)
I definitely had to leave and come back to this area a few times. I know there's two paths to get to the end on this, but I ended up going through the hedge maze. It all made sense to me until I got to the third puzzle. There was something about it that I just wasn't picking up, even thinking back on it now I'm not sure if I lucked into the solution or if I eventually did figure it out on my own, all I know is that I didn't look it up. I did have to break out the pen and paper for this (okay, a drawing program) for the end, but overall, yeah, a solid area. I liked the "walk on the floor" puzzles too, and the only reason I couldn't finish them is cause I didn't understand the tetris blocks yet when I was around this spot - I did go back and finish them just because.
The Monastery (finished)
This is the one I feel dumbest on. I was able to solve all the star puzzles easily, but I just couldn't figure out how to get in that door at the end. I even tried spinning that platform at the very end around several different ways. Somehow I never looked back at the other parts of the puzzle path so I never actually finished this area because of that one thing. Yes, I had to look it up. I'm not sure if this an instance of the game not presenting itself well enough to me - I don't think you actually need to flip the platforms around until the very end - or if I'm just dense. Either way, I feel dumb for not getting it.
The Swamp (finished)
You'd better believe I finished the tetris block puzzles. I did have to look up how to do them because I could NOT find the entrance to this area at all. Somehow I'd just stumbled upon it seemingly accidentally, but these tetris blocks are all over the place beforehand and it was driving me crazy. I do think the tetris blocks are my favorite puzzles in the game, too bad this area kind of sucks. There's a couple slooooow moving platforms in this area and it just makes me want to get on with it. The final area did give me a bit of trouble too, but I made it.
I hate this area. I would have called it the bird sanctuary personally, but this is what the wiki says it's called. I cannot understand the bird noises. I recognize that they are supposed to sound different, and that correlates to the puzzle, but it just does not work in my brain. The noises are way too similar and even on the second and third puzzles in this area, I ended up just brute forcing my way through parts of it. I realize why there's extra noises later in the area, but just having a way to play the noises on my own. I swear I went up to some puzzles waiting for these birds to chirp in the same noises they always have only to be standing there looking like an idiot while nothing came. I feel like even a few times they played noises from a previous puzzle once or twice before looping into the right one. This area is just a mess and easily the worst part of the game for me. It could have been done so much better but instead it's way too cryptic even knowing what it's asking.
Nope, I just couldn't get my head around this one. There's a few puzzles at the start and I solved a couple of them, but there's just too much it's asking of me and presenting itself in ways I dont understand. I gave up on this one pretty quick, but also it feels like it should be the final area anyway. I've nothing against it as I don't really know enough about it.
The Bunker (finished)
Not sure why this isn't called the greenhouse, but okay. I don't think I understood this area. Yes, I did finish it, it was sheer luck. I understand that it has something to do with colors, and looking through windows to see different shades of the pieces. I basically lucked out and brute forced my way through a lot of this. When I got to the elevator at the end I basically just started going through different combinations of the puzzle until one finally lead me to the top where I was able to complete the area. I'm still not really sure what I was doing and I probably needed to note stuff down somewhere to keep track of everything, but I was able to get there without it. Also, this place hurts my eyes.
That's it that's all I'm writing.