The Witness Review Review
Justin McElroy does a brilliant job of giving the reader his critique of The Witness while at the same time being more than entertaining. The Witness is a cerebral experience, some may even call it pretentious, but in McElroy’s style in describing the game as “Jonathan Blow’s island getaway,” most of the seriousness is diffused, making the read quite enjoyable. McElroy also has a bit of honesty with him. When he makes light of the game, he knows when to pull back and get serious with himself. Calling The Witness just “maze puzzles” is in a sense accurate, but there’s acknowledgement that leaving it there would be an understatement to the mechanical achievement that the game is.
It’s clear McElroy likes The Witness, but at the same time, he doesn’t shy away at telling the reader his grievances with it. In the way he describes the incredible feeling of solving a puzzle after chipping away at it, McElroy points out that this repetitious cycle within the game is equally as vicious as it is rewarding. Considering the gameplay is, for the most part, solving puzzles, his analysis of puzzle solving for the sake of puzzle solving and the implications that has when a player in 2016 gets frustrated and consults the internet is more than on point. In the same breath that McElroy explains that walkthroughs break the meaning behind the game, he readily admits that he would have broke the game himself if there existed a guide at the time of his playing.
For the most part, McElroy’s matter-of-fact tone is successful in putting himself in the shoes of the reader when it comes to analysis, but his language could have been simpler for the reader to digest. Even though a lot of this review can be applauded for its pedestrian view on a high-brow experience, simplicity is missed specifically when he mentions “plotmosphere,” which went over my head during the first read. Going on to grammar, his heavy use of the em dash makes a handful of sentences too lengthy, but not so much so that it is an issue that re-reading a few times can’t solve.
All in all, McElroy’s review is quite effective and even though it seems strange that an 8/10 game would be described as frustrating, his overall judgment is nothing less of fair.