A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Players will learn about puzzles and different perspectives and will develop their logical problem-solving skills in this challenging yet deeply rewarding first-person puzzler. The game's hundreds of maze puzzles begin by forcing players to work out some basic rules founded in simple logic. As the game progresses, these rules are applied to more challenging puzzles and are sometimes even combined in a single puzzle, encouraging kids to think about them in new ways. Perspective -- both the viewpoint from which you see certain puzzles and the more figurative way in which people tend to view the world and issues important to them differently -- gradually becomes a key element of the game. This will likely make kids think about and compare their own worldviews to those of others. The Witness is an intricate and sophisticated game concerned with making players not just solve puzzles but also consider how they think, learn, reason, and understand the world.
Themes include perception, perspective, logical understanding. Occasional philosophical musings tackle nature of knowledge, learning, autonomy, control.
Positive Role Models
Player's character, alone on an island, doesn't speak, spends all his time exploring, solving puzzles. Quotes from celebrated historical people -- including a philosopher, a theologian, an astronaut, more -- peppered around island.
Ease of Play
Dead-simple controls, but puzzles can be very difficult, come with no instructions, hints, help of any kind.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Dialogue briefly references wine, drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Witness is a downloadable first-person exploration game set on an island full of hundreds of maze puzzles. There's no violence, sexuality, language, or mature themes of any kind, though a few lines of text reference alcohol in terms of metaphor. Themes within the largely abstract narrative include perspective -- in both the physical and figurative senses -- and perception, challenging players to consider how they think, how they learn, and how they know what they know. These themes encourage players to be both analytical and critical of the world around them. Parents should also note that this is an extremely difficult game with no instructions, and it could prove frustrating to less patient temperaments. Players are intended to work out everything, from the first puzzle to the last, on their own without a single hint or even a word of explanation.
Is It Any Good?
This inventive title is among the most subtle, sophisticated, and rewarding puzzle games yet made. It's also wildly challenging. Crafted by acclaimed indie game designer Jonathan Blow (the man behind Braid), the puzzles in The Witness are laid out in such a way that they teach players how to be both creative and analytical in their approach to problem-solving. Each new series of puzzles introduces new rules that would make little or no sense outside the context of the puzzles you've previously solved. It's a little like learning a new language, understanding the seemingly coded mysteries of grammar one rule at a time. Discovering these answers makes you feel smart, like you've accomplished something more than finding the answer to the puzzle in a video game.
As the game progresses, this feeling only grows. Solving puzzles, finding your way around the cleverly constructed island, and discovering recorded messages -- clips of films and recorded messages in which actors speak passages written by scholars and other famed thinkers -- combine to create a narrative that challenges players to examine and be critical of the way they learn and think, not only in the game but also the real world. Indeed, The Witness both celebrates and wants us to analyze human thought and rationality, our perspective and perception. There's no other game quite like it, and if you have the patience to work through all of its dozens of hours worth of conundrums, you'll likely experience a satisfaction unlike any you've ever felt playing a video game.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.