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Games - Review - The Witness


The Witness

In One Word



Text Adventure

Released By / Year

Infocom / 1983


Text adventures are like books, timeless in form, though their content may age. Now, add murder mysteries to that and you have The Witness, a murder mystery text adventure, set in 1938, where you play a chief detective with one last case before heading home for the weekend. Without spoiling too much, I can say that things take a turn for the worse, as a murder occurs and you have till dawn to solve the case.

I find a good murder mystery remains interesting if it manages to set up its case in an enticing way and The Witness succeeds in this area. The game is short and focused, it didn't take me long to figure out who did what, but proving it is a whole other matter. It will require many playthroughs to determine where to be at what time and it will require patience to wait for certain events to occur. The few characters in the game are portrayed in an excellent way and much of the fun comes from your interactions with them.

I resorted to hints twice during my investigation and of course regretted it right after. I got stuck and was just too impatient to keep on trying to guess what the game wanted me to do. The problem was that I had figured out the resolution but an arrest did not give the right conclusion. It turned out that I was missing a few essential clues. Resorting to a hint or clue during a text adventure can be a downward spiral and it certainly was in this case.

This brings me to one of the main attractions of text adventures: Figuring out and solving the puzzles by yourself. When that is accomplished it is a feeling of elation. When having to resort to a walkthrough or hint, it results in a nagging feeling of defeat, no matter how small the clue.

To me, text adventures remain a challenging and interesting form of entertainment, it is certainly one of the purest. The Witness is still worth playing today and a good place to begin exploring this genre.

If you want to try this out, download Windows Frotz, The Witness and the accompanying manual, then install Windows Frotz and point it to the Witness.dat file you have unpacked.

Written By Steen
Online: Wednesday, April 6, 2016