(PC, PS4 , Thekla, cert: 3)★★★★
There was considerable anticipation for The Witness and understandably so, it being the latest title from the revered indie game developer Jonathan Blow, the creative force behind the magnificent Braid in 2008. Fortunately, he has met the hype, faced it down and delivered something really rather special, although the founding premise will be familiar to many indie gamers.
Placed without context on a mysterious island, the player’s task is to explore and interpret the world around them. It’s a beautiful setting, and at its heart sit hundreds of mechanically simple 2D line drawing puzzles. Yet the way they are integrated into the game world – which must constantly be observed for clues and solutions – builds something grand and exquisite; an over-arching master puzzle woven with variety and exciting ideas.
The Witness’s open nature can make it rather too easy to blunder into areas filled with puzzles that, at the time, may be beyond one’s understanding, but this hardly detracts from Blow’s creation, which is an absolutely sublime piece to play. WF
(PS4, Xbox One, PC, EA, cert: 7)
One can’t help but imagine that Unravel could have been made in a lab by putting Little Big Planetand Limbotogether and mixing up their DNA. Here, then, is a 2D platformer with astounding graphics, putting players into the teeny, tiny shoes of Yarny, a living scrap of wool. Our protagonist wanders through a micro-world of tree roots and skirting boards, where it all feels homely and nostalgic, rather like being hugged by your nan.
But while Unravel is undoubtedly beguiling on the surface, there’s not a lot to back it up. The main thrust of the gameplay is using Yarny’s body to solve simple physics puzzles. It would be great, heartwarming fun – if the physics were reliable and the controls were tighter. Or if the level design didn’t force jumps into the void because there is no way to know where the next platform will be.
Indeed, Unravel loses the charm it has attempted so hard to manufacture the 100th time Yarny bumps off a leaf and falls to his twee little death in a puddle. And without that, there is no game. PH
(3DS, Square Enix, cert: 12, out Friday)
When the original Bravely Default was released in 2013, it was hailed as a return to form for Square Enix; an unapologetically old-school Japanese role-playing game that evoked earlier Final Fantasies or gems such as Chrono Trigger. Three years later, sadly the same can’t be said of the sequel.
Bravely Second is a fine game, but doesn’t feel like any sort of improvement. A handful of new jobs, offering the returning and new characters fresh battle skills, can’t make up for a barely evolved combat system, an overreliance on level grinding to power-up and progress, or the chronic reusing of locations and assets. At its worst, it’s more of the same.
An engrossing story involving a lost moon colony and a quest to rescue the first game’s heroine, Agnès Oblige, will largely keep players’ attention, but Bravely Second feels far more of a slog than its predecessor. Given that traditional JRPGs have enjoyed a resurgence of late, particularly on handhelds, what was once charming now feels repetitive. MK
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