Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint, about rewiring things and punching people, and now I'm working on a new one called Heat Signature, about sneaking aboard randomly generated spaceships. Here's some more info on all the games I've worked on, here's the podcast I do, here are the videos I make on YouTube, here are some of the articles I wrote for PC Gamer, and here are two short stories I wrote for the Machine of Death collections.
The Witness is a very pretty island with hundreds of puzzles on iPad things. Some of those puzzles are brilliant, most are decent, many are repetitious or boring, some are aggressively irritating. Luckily none of the good ones are locked off by bad ones. That’s my review, I’m mostly making this post to put up all the best screenshots I took. These are pretty spoiler-free, they only reveal that “There is a place that looks like this”, although a couple have solved puzzle panels in them so don’t look too closely if you have a photographic memory.
After the pretty shots, and a warning, I’m also gonna dump the scrawled-over shots I used to solve some of the trickier puzzles, in case that’s interesting. One of the game’s stranger quirks, to me, is that despite having 523 draw-a-line-on-an-iPad puzzles, its interface for doing this is not as good as a standard paint program, so I often fell back on one of those.
Estranged2: I still haven't finished the game. And I have a love-hate relationship with it.
But I appreciate that The Witness shows, through gameplay, how mathematics can stop being something abstract (iPads with lines) and can actually permeate the whole environment and the whole world. (For example, it's not a coincidence that he included hexagonal rocks and mountain pillars in the sea - these are actual natural formations on Earth that demonstrate how geology comes from mathematics, and the shapes also featured in puzzles.)
Then the player can recognize math as the building block of everything around us - landscape, nature, architecture. Starting to understand this gives us power over the world, but in the end (entering the mountain) we find the world more confusing than before, the final truth out of our grasp. (This reflects Blow's personal beliefs, and partially, history of science when we entered the quantum realm).
Braid was also about a scientist seeking the ultimate truth. And while for various reasons I don't really like Blow's worldview and his games so much, the truly amazing thing about him as a designer is that he has this reductionist approach to design, where gameplay must always express and serve a particular idea and everything else must be removed. On PC he even has only 2 achievements. "Finish the game" and "Do more than finishing the game". Really inspiring that he makes money by sticking to his principles instead of succumbing to cheap tricks used in other games.
He also likes subtlety, perfectionism and beauty which also makes me respect him so much. But he never allows graphics, no matter how beautiful and detailed they are, to distract from the point of the game. Which makes the beauty less distracting than most AAA graphics I have seen.
Mithaldu: Fair warning for anyone tempted: Some of the more irritating puzzles can be physically impossible to solve for some people (without a guide), since some are impossible for the color-blind, and some require being able to differentiate notes in bird song while a cellphone and other assorted noises are going on.
And many of the less irritating but still annoying puzzles are not "use your brain to solve this", but actually "look around you to find the solution to copy into the ipad", some of which can be pretty hard when using low gfx settings as they rely on shadows/reflections.
Chris Kankiewicz: But did you get to the challenge puzzle? If you didn't get there you didn't REALLY complete the game.
Cpt.Average: These are super great as wallpapers, good job Tom!