The Witness

by Stu Galley

Mystery
1983

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Number of Reviews: 5
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Its biggest flaw was its price, June 21, 2020

The Witness has a reputation for disappointing customers. Having waited for a new Infocom release and plunked down dozens of early-1980s dollars, they expected a bigger and more challenging game. One that would keep them up late at night for days on end, playing and replaying key sequences trying to build up a godlike understanding of a clockwork world, much as Deadline had offered them.

Instead, what they got was something players would stridently demand just a decade or so later: a game that was compact enough, and fair enough, to be solved without feeling like one should have earned college credit while doing so.

Although derivative, the feelies lean in deep and hard to the 1930s detective potboiler and pulp mystery markets. The character roster is indeed shallow but at least it's easy to keep track of who-means-what-to-whom. Galley's tweaks to standard parser responses mostly work to build the illusion. The variations in results for accusing and arresting suspects give enough teases and nudges to encourage playing again if you didn't reach the optimum solution.

So, at commercial release? This game definitely rates one star lower. The criticism from contemporary players and press was totally deserved. Without the big-ticket investment and pressure for this game and this game alone to offer several dozen hours of digital engagement? It's quite good. (The gaming market was tiny compared to the virtually limitless choice of the 21st century.)