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Taiji - The Witness inspired puzzler


Alan Stock
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Heard about this on the lastest Backpage podcast and decided to give it a shot on Steam. It's fab! It's a 2D puzzler very much inspired by The Witness and the puzzles are great/fiendish/satisfying. I've put about 10 hours into it so far and it's been a headscratcher, a headache and a joy.

 

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Just like the The Witness, you have an open world to explore filled with panel puzzles with a simple grid input. You have access to a whole load of areas from the start and can tackle them in any order, with some areas being locked behind puzzle sets.

 

You have to determine the puzzle logic for each set as they get more complex. The game is dastardly and brilliant in up-ending your initial solutions, when you suddenly hit a brick wall in a set and have to re-evaluate why the answers you got earlier worked.

 

It's very clever and also can be very tough. You can brute force some answers but you'll either have to understand the logic to progress, or if you fluke it, at least try to figure it out for your own satisfaction.

 

It's got a nice chilled out atmosphere with the art style and music, and has pretty low spec requirements. Price is £20. I'd definitely recommend this for people who liked The Witness. It's not as rich or deep, but the core puzzling is just as compelling, complex and clever. It doesn't have such a good difficulty curve as its inspiration, so if you struggled with The Witness this might be more frustrating than fun, but if puzzling is your jam, give it a shot.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Picked this up in the Steam sale. Been recommended to me by Steam for a while and had it wish listed but finally caved.

 

3 hours in and very glad I did. Three areas complete (graveyard, orchard and shrine).

 

I love the process of searching for the correct next area. For the intro panels to a concept. I started wandering around a big house (the gallery and a bit overwhelmed). I actually managed to solve a few puzzles and deduce a few mechanics, but it became clear it was mixing ideas too quickly. That this is an area you apply learned knowledge and combine different things to solve single puzzles.

 

So far, the difficulty seems okay. I'm sure it will continually ramp up.

 

It does the exact thing I loved most in The Witness which I find just as mind blowing now as I did then... it demonstrates so clearly how the human brain so often jumps too far and assumes too much. It seemingly looks for the most complex rules for a puzzle. The result is that both games continually show you a concept, slowly upon expand it, lulling you into thinking you have the rules clear. And then present a puzzle that shows you assumed the rule was more than it really was. That you think that black dot behaved in a way that it does not. The art in creating puzzles which can make sure you so precisely (eventually) understand the rules is ingenious.

 

I feel a bit bad referencing The Witness continually (particularly after heading the Back Page bit about it) but it's hard to separate it. It feels so much like a twisted de-make in so many ways. From the open world puzzle discovery to areas that are just a little on the nose (the shrine, the pink trees).

 

Been playing on PC so far but will be switching to Deck for the evening session

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Heh, those are exactly the areas I've managed to complete as well. Orchard was probably the easiest once I had it sussed. Shrine was tricky to get the rules but fairly straightforward after that, and the graveyard was a true mind-bender. I'm part way through the ruins where I've hit a brick wall (literally), and also struggling with the coloured flowers zone. The house I fiddled around in and realised I had no clue what I was doing. I just popped back into the game to refresh my memory and found a whole new set of areas to the left of the house which is exciting.

 

One thing that's quite interesting in this compared to the Witness is that Taiji often relies on you having to brute force answers to figure out rulesets. The Witness did this too but its more prevelant here. It means you have to be analytical in a different way, deconstructing answers to figure out why they worked. Sometimes you have to look at multiple solved panels in combination, and only then can you figure out the pattern.

 

I've never really tried puzzle design, but I think you must have to be a genius to come up with puzzles that not only are a challenge in themselves, but also actively work to decieve the player and have multiple 'correct' rulesets to them - even though only one ruleset will turn out to be the one that combines the whole set. Very, very clever.

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23 minutes ago, Alan Stock said:

Heh, those are exactly the areas I've managed to complete as well. Orchard was probably the easiest once I had it sussed. Shrine was tricky to get the rules but fairly straightforward after that, and the graveyard was a true mind-bender. I'm part way through the ruins where I've hit a brick wall (literally), and also struggling with the coloured flowers zone. The house I fiddled around in and realised I had no clue what I was doing. I just popped back into the game to refresh my memory and found a whole new set of areas to the left of the house which is exciting.

 

Ha, the Graveyard was my first completion! And seemed very simple as a software developer. The moment I saw it I was pretty sure it would be the solution it was because the other logical options are interesting enough. But I'll admit I've not solved the graveyard style puzzles with more than two numbers in play.

 

(Logical solution to Graveyard)

Spoiler

XOR gives you two on and two off. OR gives you three on and one off. AND would give you one on and three off.

 

 

23 minutes ago, Alan Stock said:

One thing that's quite interesting in this compared to the Witness is that Taiji often relies on you having to brute force answers to figure out rulesets. The Witness did this too but its more prevelant here. It means you have to be analytical in a different way, deconstructing answers to figure out why they worked. Sometimes you have to look at multiple solved panels in combination, and only then can you figure out the pattern.

 

Yes agreed. I'm not a massive fan of this being necessary but understand it. Not quite as clean.

 

It also has more puzzles so far with multiple solutions. Which I find odd in comparison. But it also plays this to its advantage. The way the puzzle solutions can form paths means there are two levels of puzzles going on. A solution might be valid but useless. Whilst another solution gives you a way across a lake. Very clever.

 

23 minutes ago, Alan Stock said:

I've never really tried puzzle design, but I think you must have to be a genius to come up with puzzles that not only are a challenge in themselves, but also actively work to decieve the player and have multiple 'correct' rulesets to them - even though only one ruleset will turn out to be the one that combines the whole set. Very, very clever.

 

 

I am in awe of people who can do this. The Witness, Baba is You, this. Stunning stuff. It's a style of game which is so much more than the combination of its mechanical parts. Where the puzzles are the art. The games are technically simple (of course there are tricky bits) but must spend years in making the puzzles, their ordering and their progression.

 

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17 minutes ago, thesnwmn said:

 

Ha, the Graveyard was my first completion! And seemed very simple as a software developer. The moment I saw it I was pretty sure it would be the solution it was because the other logical options are interesting enough. But I'll admit I've not solved the graveyard style puzzles with more than two numbers in play.

 

(Logical solution to Graveyard)

  Hide contents

XOR gives you two on and two off. OR gives you three on and one off. AND would give you one on and three off.

 

 

Ah, did you do the bigger graveyard up the path as well? Where you go in the door? If so, I'm impressed!

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Ruins, mine and gardens knocked off now.

 

On the final puzzle of the mill but pretty stumped. It's a real mind bender.

 

I think the game has two issues so far:

  1. Too many slightly obscure paths. Finding the start of the mill probably took me longer than some sequences of panels. That's all well and good but it does this just a bit too much. And it's not like they're interestingly hidden.
  2. It's too easy to brute force. I've stumbled on the solution to far too many puzzles. Im not trying random patterns but there's something about the problem space that doesn't seem quite large enough to prevent this.

This second part is something I don't think the Witness ever had. Or at least felt like it had. Maybe the nature of its puzzle mechanics (drawing a path) as opposed to this (flipping a grid of tiles) simply made it feel less like you were producing and testing a pattern as a solution and more like an actual exploration of a maze in its own right.

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I haven't explored the map properly yet to assert your first point, but for your second point I agree. I feel like they should have had longer and more test puzzles at the end of a sequence to check you really did understand the rules. I could have easily brute forced some of the final puzzles in the areas I've done, even the last in the set, and its only my own satisfaction that stops me from doing so. Maybe that's ok, but it does feel like some players might walk away from a set without truly understanding it, which is a shame because so much thought's obviously been put into their structure.  

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And completed this morning! 11 hours playtime total with all the areas completed (I think you can complete the game after solving somewhere between 4 and 6 of the 9 areas).

 

This utterly consumed me. My head was thinking about solutions the whole time I wasn't playing.

 

Wonderful art. Great music.

 

Mostly excellent puzzle design and puts together its different mechanics wonderfully. It also has some nice interactive world elements where some puzzles are physical in the world rather than on screens and used to create platforms and bridges. The flower garden in particular has a nice world puzzle at the centre of its conceit that keeps the game a bit fresher.
 

About the right size too for me. The Witness is a towering achievement but it's massive. Even just finishing the main campaign in that is a pretty big undertaking. This is more achievable, and I think suits bite sized play if you're that way inclined (I'm not).

 

The Mill was probably the most mind bending of the lot. I really struggled to visualise those problems compared to others.

 

There's one achievement I've not got for what I think is the alternative ending. Probably jump back in to find that this evening.

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And I'd say it runs well enough on Deck, but not perfect.

 

The world was not all that smooth when running around. But then I never even bothered to tweak a setting so maybe it was something in my settings or my Deck performance options.

 

Controls well.

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Really liking this so far and have only just got going. I am in the ruins but have a question. 

 

Spoiler

I worked out the vertical pillars using the bits sticking out the sides. 

 

But the double row horizontal ones are confusing. The top row is simple, but how an I working out the bottom row? 

 

I have a feeling it is to do with the small ruin next to it but they aren't clear at all 

 

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5 hours ago, thesnwmn said:

And I'd say it runs well enough on Deck, but not perfect.

 

The world was not all that smooth when running around. But then I never even bothered to tweak a setting so maybe it was something in my settings or my Deck performance options.

 

Controls well.

 

It defaults to 4k, I turned it down to 720p

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16 minutes ago, bradigor said:

Really liking this so far and have only just got going. I am in the ruins but have a question. 

 

  Hide contents

I worked out the vertical pillars using the bits sticking out the sides. 

 

But the double row horizontal ones are confusing. The top row is simple, but how an I working out the bottom row? 

 

I have a feeling it is to do with the small ruin next to it but they aren't clear at all 

 

Spoiler

Make sure you consider how the pairs of pillars interact.

 

And consider the name of the area... Ruins. It's old and maybe not quite the same as when it was built

 

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9 minutes ago, thesnwmn said:
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Make sure you consider how the pairs of pillars interact.

 

And consider the name of the area... Ruins. It's old and maybe not quite the same as when it was built

 

 

I get that. But how does 

 

Spoiler

this work? I don't get the ruin to the left and how even if built it equals the answer 

 

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I know I am being dim here 

 

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Deep into the end game now working towards the final achievement.

 

Once you find how to open up the final sequence of puzzles the concept of them isn't too hard to work out. Their difficulty varies quite a lot.

 

It's the first thing that's forced me to get the paper and pencil out.

 

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16.5 hours in and I think just 2 puzzles to go.

(Unless there's a next stage of course).

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And done. Only another 30 minutes played but I've been thinking and staring at screenshots I've taken for 2 hours to figure out the final two puzzles.

 

Except there's one big area of big puzzles to do too. I like that it has this extra content (actually accessible from the beginning).

 

Overall... A great puzzler in my opinion. So worth a try if you enjoyed The Witness, or even more pure puzzling and symbol solving parts of Fez.

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Congrats! I made a bit more progress today, found and completed the watery underground area with the raft, and mopped up a bunch of random other puzzles for opening doors etc. Had another stab at the final white columns tile but I'm still totally stumped on that, I have noticed the relevant clues and previous patterns but can't suss the logic for it. Also discovered two hidden areas and managed to do a few of their puzzles with the knowledge I have.

 

I found quite a few bigger puzzles today which don't show fail states, which is the right way to test your knowledge. You either fail them or pass them and because they're large there's no way to brute force them. Hard but satisfying.

 

Next up is the flower garden with the rotating bridge which I've only partly sussed, and the industrial area which has very byzantine rules based on the first set I've done there. Leaving the house and the black and white cubes until later!

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