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'The Witness' Has Been Translated to the NES, and It's Kinda Cool

NES enthusiast recreates the acclaimed puzzle game "The Witness" for the NES.

by Leif Johnson
Jun 4 2016, 5:00pm

It took indie game design darling Jonathan Blow eight years and all of his fortune from 2008's Braid to make the 3D puzzler The Witness. Fortunately, it only took developer Dustin Long of Studio Dustmop a few months to make a partially working "demake" of it for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

The demake's punny title, The Wit.nes, is fantastic. Long's reinterpretation of Blow's gameplay for the early 1980s system is marvelous as well. His demo for The Wit.nes currently only features The Witness' opening area, but it's fun to see how Long accurately and effectively recreated bits like the long corridor at the start and the crumbling ruin the player emerges from moments later.

The actual overland world looks appropriately flattened and abstracted—a bit like the map Link traversed in 1988's Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Yet most of the early puzzles, which consist of completing short mazes by tracing out paths on a monitor, play out almost exactly as they do in the version made by Blow and his team at Thekla. In time, Long's game will contain 32 different puzzles.

Image: Dustmop/Leif Johnson

You'll need an NES emulator (and Long's ROM file) to play it, and Long has listed a few of his favorites on the demake's page at itch.io. There's also a nebulous chance Long might put the game on an actual NES cartridge, but that remains up in the air. Getting it going from download to puzzle solving only took me around two minutes, and a lot of that was just reconfiguring my Xbox 360 gamepad to mimic the NES's controller.

Oh, and it's free. If you've never witnessed The Witness before (or even played a video game before), that makes this as good a chance as any. It might be a good idea to pay it forward to Blow, though, by purchasing the original game on Steam.

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