Taiji

PC

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.

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12 Comments

  1. What’s with making fun of a developer and especially their name? I don’t give money to this site but I’m guessing others do. Maybe a bit more professionalism? Or even, like, a reason? I don’t think a game seeing itself as lofty requires insulting the developer personally.

      1. That classic fawning Johnation Blow article written for The Atlantic is 10 years old now, which will always be my ground zero for annoyance with Blow. With that being so long ago, and with Blow dropping out of main stream games press since The Witness, it’s not too suprising people are unaware of his nature.

        He’s clearly an incredibly smart person, and has also given money to a number of worthy causes as well. But he also seems fairly insufferable. Braid being heralded as one of the first ‘games as art’ will always rub me the wrong way too. As if ‘art’ can only be acheived through lofty ambitions and high-minded abstractions. I think Tetris is art too, even if it’s ‘only’ about block patterns and skill, instead of allusions to nuclear war or abuse or whatever you wanted to see in Braid.

        I thought The Looker was the perfect antidote to The Witness and Blow, and will probably play this too.

      2. You don’t do the negative stuff well. It’s not the reason I read your reviews and just distracts from the games and the things you do do well.

  2. I really enjoyed The Witness, the gameplay isn’t tedious in the slightest for me but… the audio logs…. the videos…. another story.

  3. I haven’t actually ever played The Witness, so I’m not sure I’m completely following the thrust of the review. But the concept behind the design sounds incredible (even if it is cribbing off something else) and 2D pixel art is much more up my alley than a 3D version.

  4. Does Taiji have anything as satisfying as the discovery of the non-tile-based puzzles in The Witness? It seems like a fixed perspective would make an ‘aha!’ moment of that sort very much harder to replicate.

  5. You don’t have to like Jonathan Blow but he has become a lightning rod for the ire of the resetera crowd who love an unthinking dogpile on those who are perceived as guilty of wrongthink (see also Tim Stone) – as such, John’s stance here is a bit disappointing but hey ho

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