Jonathan Blow’s latest open-world puzzle game can be tricky at times. Half of The Witness’s difficulty comes from learning the rules of the island’s geometric language. Why are these squares here? What do colored squares mean? What’s up with the triangles? What am I supposed to do with little squares inside the big squares? Should I have paid more attention in geometry class?
There will be some triumphant instances where you learn these rules rather smoothly. Other times, though, the game’s methods of communication don’t work as well, and you might find yourself stumped for hours and hours, possibly days.
This guide is meant to help you during those infuriating instances. No need to pull your hair out or toss your controller across the room! We’ve got the full list of puzzle types here for you, along with explanations of the rules for each. This way, you can learn the “language” of the puzzle type you’re stuck on, while still solving the actual puzzle yourself.
Of course, if you are looking to be shown every solution, check out our walk through guide.
The puzzle that serves as a foundation for the majority of the game is the maze. These require you to move your way from a starting point to an end point. Easy, right? Well, yes. The rest of the game throws in variations on this idea, while many puzzle types, especially those that use environmental cues, eschew this format entirely.
Small Hexagon Dot Holes
You’ll notice these shortly after leaving the tutorial area. When you see these small black spots in mazes, it means you have to pass your line through all of them, and then snake your way to the maze’s end. Think of it like connecting the dots in elementary school. These are usually simple – but sometimes their placement can require to step back and rethink how you’re looking at the puzzle.
Black and White Squares
These squares come in separate colors for a reason. The game wants you to separate the two with the line you draw, grouping the black squares and white squares each in their own area. It’s important to note that you don’t have to group all of the squares of the same color together. If you can finish the maze by singling off one white square from the rest of the grid while halving the other black and white squares, you’re good. It’s also important to note that the edge of a grid acts like the line you’re drawing, in that a black square at the far left is not “touching” a white square along the far right.
These puzzles require that you draw two parallel snaking lines through a maze. Move one up, the other will move down. Of all the puzzle “rules” in the game added to the maze foundation, this is among the simplest. When solving these panels, make sure to try and avoid dead ends, and consider sketching out each line’s path beforehand so you don’t frustrate yourself. Remember – the line’s movements are mirrored. Additionally, there will be some instances where one of your lines disappears – at that point, there will usually be an entire mirroring panel across from the one you’re trying to solve. Use that as a reference and you’ll be golden.
Think of these like the black and white dots, but in technicolor. You still have to separate different colors from each other with the line you draw. These are more challenging, because with multiple colors come more spaces that need to be sectioned off. It’s important to remember that not all squares of the same color need to be grouped together – they simply can’t be “touching” a square of a different color. There may also be some instances where you think it’s impossible to section off all of the different colored squares. If so, take a step back. Look around. Are there colored panes of glass near you? Remember that The Witness is obsessed with changing and shifting perspectives.
This is one of the more annoying puzzle types. This rule is easy to learn but difficult to master. Suns are fickle symbols – they like pairs. They must be paired with other suns of the same color, but if you need to, you can also pair them with sun pairs of differing colors. So, for example, you could pair two orange suns, but you could leave these “touching” a pair of purple suns. If you have more than two of the same-colored sun in the same space, the puzzle won’t complete, so it’s important to break these down into pairs of the same color before figuring out any other aspect of the puzzle. Usually.
That’s because this rule seems to be the most modified by other rules. When you notice this, keep calm and remember your rules.
It’s easiest to think of these as Tetris blocks. In order to solve these puzzles, you have to draw tetronimo shapes around these blocks. So, for example, if you have a three vertical squares in one puzzle, you need to draw a line that sections off three actual square spaces in the puzzle. The important thing to remember here is that these smaller Tetris blocks – all of which occupy a single space – need to stay inside the larger tetronimo shape you’re drawing.
There will also be instances when you have to fit multiple Tetris shapes together. In these cases, all of the smaller Tetris shapes still need to fit inside of the larger space you’re sectioning off, but not in the order they appear on the grid. If you have a three-block horizontal shape in the top right corner, but need to fit it along the bottom of the grid, you can do so as long it still fits into the overall shape you’re drawing.
There are a variety of these puzzles scattered throughout the island. These “rules” are the most easily communicated to the player. These include branch puzzles in the orchard, the sun temple, the monastery, and other areas. For these puzzles, take a step back and look around you. Literally strafe around the panel you are stuck on, keeping your eyes on it at all times. Does it reflect light in a different way? Is there water nearby? If you position yourself a certain way, do shadows form paths along the maze? This is where the game is at its best.
These small white triangle shapes will probably take most players the longest to figure out. These allow you to subtract one “rule” from a puzzle that has multiple rules modifying each other. So, if you’re on a panel with all black and white squares, you can use the triangle shape to cancel out one of the white squares. You can only do this if the triangle shape is touching the rule you want to cancel out, however.