I spent three hours staring at this puzzle, wondering if I was losing my mind.
Warning: We're going to spoil a single puzzle in The Witness, but this puzzle sucks, so whatever.
If there's a single refrain in people's observations about The Witness, it's that you shouldn't look up solutions to the puzzles. Walk away, play another game, do whatever you need to do. Don't wander over to YouTube or Twitter for help.
So when I reached this puzzle after a few hours of playing The Witness, I did exactly that. I'd eureka'd my way through the other brain teasers before hitting this wall of bricks. After an hour of scratching my head, I decided to call it quits.
Then, Rise of the Tomb Raider happened, and I lost the next few weeks to Lara Croft's latest adventure. I don't regret that; it gave me hope that my return to Jonathan Blow's mysterious island would be one of revelation. On Sunday morning, as I sipped a cup of coffee, I figured my a-ha moment was at hand.
And so, I found myself in the same place as last time.
Thirty minutes went by. Sixty minutes. I was fuming. I knew the trick to these puzzles was a riff on perspective, but I didn't get what the precise trick for this one was.
Specifically, it's related to moving a set of tree branches in front of the grid.
In some puzzles, the branches (or flowers) produced the path in-between where the objects fall. For these, the branches actually make up the path itself, but since they obstruct the grid, you need to mentally remember (or draw) the path.
There's another set of branches that present a different set of options. Sort of.
I went between the two over and over, wondering how they might connect, which resulted in the expected series of notebook pages full of total garbage.
Nothing made sense to me. I didn't get it. No matter what I did, the pieces didn't line up in a way that produced a successful path. My wife didn't have any answers, either, and I'd almost thrown the controller at the TV in frustration.
There were two options, really.
One, walk away from the game, which might be permanent.
Two, hope Twitter could give me a hint on what to do next and not totally spoil the solution. Would that be cheating? At that point, I honestly didn't care.
Over and over, people kept saying "look around" or "something is missing."
Nothing, nada. Of course, something is missing. The god damn solution.
Then, someone suggested I look for a twig. What the hell are you........... oh.
"You have to be effing kidding me" is a direct quote from my angry mouth.
Yes, I realise a previous puzzle — the trees with the apples — suggested there might be times when the solution could literally exist outside the puzzle.
No, I still don't think that makes it a good puzzle. It's a cheap shot, a trick.
A few moments later, the cord lit up and everything was over. I suppose, technically, I've tainted this playthrough of The Witness, but it meant the difference between me continuing to play the game and leaving it behind.
I hope there aren't any more puzzles like this.