The Witness does not explain how the puzzle panels are solved.
(Hang on, didn’t I write this in the last Puzzleworks?)
It does not speak directly to the player preferring the island to convey ideas through mechanics and environment. But this approach can leave some players in a state of permanent eyeroll. There’s a faint air, maybe a fetid stench, of pretention that wafts through The Witness. Despite finding it thoroughly engaging, I am sympathetic to estranged players as the game teeters on the fine line between bold artistic statement and player alienation engine.
But keeping everyone happy is The Looker (Bradley Lovell, 2022) which came out just last week. It’s a gold standard parody of The Witness developed by someone who I’m pretty sure loved it. Also, free?
Nutshell: Not too difficult, a handful of moments of frustration – but brilliant.
The Looker emulates the, er, look of its source material. It starts in a claustrophobic tunnel with a few humiliatingly simple tutorial panels. Thick power cables criss-cross the space between puzzles. It also rustles up a few audio logs and an all-too-familiar yellow box lurking just out of reach.
The Looker strips The Witness’ puzzle panel down to its crudest possible form: “draw a line from start to end”. After a few simple puzzles, many of which are legitimate to “cheat” through, you might think that’s all The Looker is: The Stanley Parable of puzzle games, with no actual puzzles to speak of. Not so!
However, you won’t be learning rule sets or battling through a sequence of increasingly mind-bending logic puzzles – most of The Looker is lateral-thinking stuff. The above panel is one such an example. How do you go from Start to End when there’s a thick black line separating them? I was stuck on this one for a little while – it isn’t obvious!
The Looker has some frustrating moments. Occasionally, you’ll be wondering why a puzzle doesn’t solve when you think you have the right answer – I had to solve the final panel several times before the solution took (I have a suspicion why it didn’t). And you might find the clever [redacted] arcade game a bit of a chore. I’ve included the solution below if you don’t want to figure it out yourself.
There are also reports that the game doesn’t save for some players. It might be happening to those who installed onto a drive other than C.
I’m not a fan of parodies as they tend to lurch for low-hanging fruit rather than deliver something more inventive. But The Looker is a smart sendup and even provoked laughter a couple of times, which is a rare gift for any game. Sure, not every joke makes the landing, but enough of them do.
The Looker is small but dense and it’s the density that made it difficult to get my bearings at the beginning; I admit, yes, I got lost in a small courtyard. And The Looker is larger than it first appears…
What an absolute joy. It’s worth it, people, especially that glorious ending. Get downloading.
The Looker is available on Steam for Windows. Thanks to Zarawesome for the heads-up on this one. If you’ve finished the game or don’t mind serious spoilers, there’s a bunch of design notes on the developer’s site.
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