Jonathan Blow’s highly anticipated The Witness has been getting press for a while now, but one of the mysteries of the game is exactly how it plays. You walk through a large environment finding maze-like puzzles and then…? Solve them, obviously, but the rule set has been pretty vague. As it turns out, back in November Mr Blow gave a presentation at a Sony review event showing off a number of puzzles from the very beginning of the game, in a ten minute presentation that goes through a few basic tutorial sections and a more complicated puzzle or two. Basically it’s as close to spoiler-free as you could hope while still explaining how the game thinks.
The gist of it is that you’re on an island and getting anywhere or doing anything requires solving the maze locks that seal off progress. Open a door, activate a mechanism, whatever, you’re going to need to draw a line in a maze from point A to point B, and the rules governing the proper path get more intricate as you go. There’s no HUD or instructions, so the puzzle progress is very carefully arranged to teach everything you need to know before the complicated ones kick in. Two types of rule variations are shown in the video- black and white squares need a line between them, and the little black hexagons all need to be covered by the path for it to be the correct solution. The last puzzle is a fairly complicated grid that promises some pleasantly convoluted thinking as the mazes get trickier, and Mr Blow states that as you get farther into The Witness’s 20-30 hour length the mazes become just another aspect of a larger series of puzzles to solve. There’s probably other ways to turn a pleasant walk around a deserted island on a lovely clear summer afternoon into an adventure, but covering the landscape in endless puzzles tops the list of available options.