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The Witness & Bombshell

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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews The Witness & Bombshell.

Transcript Edit

The Witness is a new game by Jonathan Blow. Ironically, it sucks. Mnehhh, obnoxious laugh.

It’s a first-person puzzle game inspired by Myst in that you’re a faceless dork on a mysterious island that was bought by the Disney corporation in the 70s, but they never quite figured out what they were going to do with it, so now you roam the partially-constructed castles and pirate ships while occasionally sitting down to fill out a puzzle from the back of a cereal box.

Of course, the thing about Myst and the walking simulator genre is that there’s usually some kind of story going on to make you want to keep going, and I’m not saying The Witness doesn’t have a plot, but if it does, it’s like a single balloon tied to the corpse of a sperm whale. I didn’t finish it. If it’s anything like Braid, Jonathan Blow’s other game, the story bits that tie everything together or reveal what the point the whole thing was probably come at the end. But I wouldn’t know. Hold up a Mars bar at the far end of an obstacle course of broken glass and pictures of my parents fucking, and I won’t care if it’s the most sumptuous Mars bar the factory ever crafted. By the end, I’m just gonna walk straight past it and knee you in the fucking bollocks.

The game boasts over five hundred puzzles, and I very much believe it. What it fails to mention is that these are over five hundred iterations of the same puzzle, which involves drawing a line around a grid in order to satisfy a variety of esoteric conditions, which the game is frequently very bad at explaining, 'cause I guess written instructions are the shackles of the Man, man.

But if you do figure them out, then they guide you through the paths of the mysterious overworld which is, let’s be fair, very pretty in a "hotel room artwork with the saturation turned up" sort of way. There’s a bit of an invisible wall pandemic, but there’s a bold use of contrasting colors and I like the water effects particularly.

The trouble is that most of the puzzles don’t integrate with the lovely environments at all. Yeah, you can dangle your feet in this babbling brook and enjoy the sunlight playing off the flowers, but at some point you’re gonna have to get up and gormlessly stare at a piece of graph paper someone nailed to the wall, and figure out how to draw a line that separates all the colored squares, creates a space shaped like a Tetris block, and disappears up the bum of a cartoon horse. It’s like wandering around Disneyland with a book of word searches.

“Awww, the mean old puzzles hurt Yahtzee-boo-boo’s fragile little game-y brain-y wain. Perhaps he’d be more suited to the kind of puzzle where you only draw straight lines connecting a shotgun barrel to a foreign insurgent’s left testicle!” Hey, Twatfinder General, I solved the puzzles, I just wasn’t having fun doing so. I completed the whole island, turned on all the laser beams, opened up the mountain to what I suspect was the final climactic area, and then the game threw fifteen more line-drawing puzzles at my face, and frankly fuck that. “Congratulations on getting through that bowl of dog food, player. Here’s your reward: another helping of dog food.”

And another thing: whatever visionary artistic benefit one gets from a complete lack of music, a small amount of testing should have revealed probably wasn’t worth it. Silence is good for atmosphere building up to a certain point, but the silence in Witness starts weighing on me like a granite fez, and not in a fun Silent Hill oppressive sort of way, more the “if I don’t alt-tab out and put on some music or a podcast, I am going to fall asleep so hard that the spacebar will get embedded in my face like an impromptu Groucho Marx disguise."

So in summary, get The Witness if you genuinely can’t ever do enough cereal box maze puzzles.Personally, I’m more of a Junior Jumble man.

So, speaking of jumblies, let’s go about as far along the tone spectrum as we can for our next game. “Hey Yahtzee,” said Steam towards the end of the week, “do you remember that announcement trailer you saw a while back for a game called Bombshell?” I do indeed! It was one of the worst trailers I’ve ever seen. I think they made it by gluing poser models together with cold spunk. “Oh. Well, the game’s out now.” Peachy fucking keen!

Bombshell is a top-down shooter with a somewhat retro air to it published by 3D Realms of all people, the Duke Nukem lads. So maybe one could think of this as their penance for all those female characters in Duke Nukem whose sole contribution to the experience was breasts, optionally attached to their bodies, because Bombshell has a female protagonist. Way to prove those femi-Nazi haters wrong, 3D Realms! Although just to be safe, maybe you should play up the fact she’s a woman another six or seven million times.

Bombshell champions the strong female character in that utterly cringeworthy way that makes me slightly nostalgic for PC gaming in the 90s. So of course she’s an unflappable badass who’s effortlessly better than all the boys, and bubbles constantly with nonspecific rage. And the fact that she’s a woman is the central if not only element of her identity. The single fact that tells you everything you need to know is that she uses a rocket launcher called “The P.M.S.” Wow, that’s some next-level shit there. Suppose we should be grateful it wasn’t hot pink and fired Sex & the City DVDs.

Anyway, Bombshell journeys through a portal to an alien world in order to save the president from invading aliens. Better keep that Oscar for Best Screenplay on hand. The president’s also female and identical in personality to Bombshell because coming up with one strong female archetype used up half the budget and Bombshell’s tits took care of the rest.

But let’s get off this topic, 'cause I can sense the gender politics vultures circling, and frankly I couldn’t give two sucks on your mum’s fat titties how positive a role model Bombshell presents for young women with rocket launchers if the game’s fun, and it isn’t. Again I found myself reaching for the alt-tab to find a podcast, although in this case it wasn’t for lack of sound, it was to drown out the fucking awful quips Bombshell throws out on a per-second basis. “How many aliens does it take to change a lightbulb?” Ooh, I think I know this one, Bombshell, is it the same as the last twenty-seven times you asked, you twat?!

It also helped to pass the time when I was plodding through same-y maps tracking sidequest objectives cause the game persisted in the delusion that it’s an RPG, even though the weapon and stat upgrades are less significant than a pubic louse in a cancer ward. I’d suggest skipping the sidequests, but unfortunately the map doesn’t differentiate between which vague indicator marks the main quest and which the optional ones, so get ready to backtrack like a politician suddenly noticing a live mic.

As for the action itself, if you shoot monsters, they usually respond by falling over, so that’s one star at least. But the game has a strange obsession with making you jump over instant death chasms, which in a top-down isometric perspective incorporates a high-stakes game of “guess the distance.” The interface layout is horrible, with the extremely vital health percentage that tells you when you’re about to die tucked away in tiny-winey font between your cup size and tampon inventory.

I think the moment I knew my opinion wasn’t gonna change was after I died a few times to a boss monster with a strong resemblance to a huge spiney tentacled cock. Maybe that’s just my interpretation, but I think it’s a point against the game if it can’t even distract me from the phantom penis monsters.

Addenda Edit

  • Oh my God JC a bomb: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • What really disappointed me is that there are no parts of The Witness where Harrison Ford knobs an Amish lady
  • Let's hope this witness never comes forward

Screenshots Edit

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart

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