I completed The Witness’ Challenge yesterday, after some 50 tries over this past week. Following over 600 other puzzles on the Witness island to solve the primary game, which can be done at leisure, the Challenge is a timed set of randomly-generated puzzles, 14 puzzles to solve in 7 minutes, while music by Grieg plays, ending with “In the Hall of the Mountain King” for mounting tension as time threatens to run out before finishing. Because the puzzles are randomly generated, no online solution site serves as a guide — rather, you have to develop an instinctive response to the various kinds of puzzles already seen in order to solve new ones quickly. My strategy was to bail, reset the timer and start over from the beginning, anytime any puzzle took too long to solve. Even so, some 50 tries before getting all the way through.
One reason for this strategy is that the puzzles are a sequence, where you need to solve one in order to activate the next one. If you solve a puzzle incorrectly, it deactivates — goes black — and you have to return to the previous puzzle and re-solve it to reactivate the puzzle you missed — and in that case the reactivated puzzle is *different*. Sometimes you fail deliberately and go back a step, to get a new hopefully simpler puzzle to replace one that’s not immediately obvious.
As in the entire Witness game, variations of puzzle presentation come regularly. In the middle sequence of the Challenge there are four puzzles that activate in random order. In the next sequence there are two sets of three puzzles where two of the three are impossible to solve, and much of the problem here is about deciding, as quickly as possible, which one can be solved at all. And since the puzzles are all randomly generated, sometimes they’re very simple, sometimes unusually complex, even though each puzzle in the sequence is of the same type. Ironically, the very last two puzzles, wrapped around columns, don’t deactivate if you solve incorrectly, and for their type are relatively simple… at least that’s my impression from the three or four times I’ve gotten that far.
Alas, Challenge aside, I am still one puzzle short of the total possible in the entire game, which is 523+135+6, for various categories of puzzles; my score is 522+135+6, and I have no idea, despite having examined a couple online guides to easily-overlooked optional puzzles, what I missed.
But I need to step away from the computer-as-game-device and get some work done… (at least for a couple weeks until Obduction arrives — this is unprecedented for me, there being two new compelling games in one year!)
The article here at Kotaku.com includes a video showing the writer’s attempt — he doesn’t quite finish.
Here’s another walk-through on a PS4, where you can pause the machine and solve puzzles offline from screenshots, which isn’t possible on a PC. He does finish.
I did it on a PC.