It’s The Witness, but with all the insufferable smugness removed.
I swear, there’s really little need to add much more to that. Imagine if someone made a dazzling 2D pixel version of Jonathan Blow(hard)’s infamous puzzle game, but forensically removed every last scrap of sixth-form philosophy and wankery. That’s Taiji, a constant delight of a game.
It is unequivocally a direct lift from The Witness. The puzzle designs are very similar, and in some cases overlap with the better-known game. You explore a very open environment, finding chains of puzzles of particular types, that grow more complicated the further along their chain you go. You’ll need to abandon one group of puzzles at a certain point, in order to go learn techniques from others elsewhere, as you piece together the esoteric and environmental clues.
But it’s just so much more pleasant to play. Not just because of the delightful pixel art, and the far more amenable third-person perspective, but because at no point do you feel like someone’s watching you over your shoulder, snorting at your pitiful attempts to match the creator’s wondrous brilliance.
I have not finished this. That is because a) it’s enormous, and b) I’m a thicko who takes forever on these sorts of challenges. I’m not (very) ashamed to admit I’ve watched others struggling along with me on YouTube videos for little prompts, and then felt like an Actual Genius when I’ve fathomed something entirely on my own.
In fact, this would be the greatest game to play with a friend or partner, the two of you bouncing ideas off each other, or one thinking on a previous roadblock while the other runs off in another direction to find something fresh.
It’s not cheap at £20, which I fear will be its biggest downfall. It deserves it – there’s unquestionably value here – but it’s a big ask for a completely unknown title from a completely unknown developer. I truly believe if he halved the price, he’d far more than double the income. However, it’s secured over 300 reviews on Steam, so it’s clearly getting played – if not reviewed by gaming sites.
If you, like me, really wanted to like The Witness but couldn’t because it was such a tedious droning arsehole of a game, then Taiji is clearly the answer. Or even if you enjoyed it, then this is a perfect follow-up.