The last time I'd been to the island, it didn't make sense to me.

I had exited a building that had birthed my presence into the island's sun splashed terrain. I'd confronted some blue panels in the manner a driver confronts a stop sign.

The panels were signs I didn't know how to read. They were puzzles, I guess, but they seemed too simple to be anything other than a trick. They let me trace a line into a maze, using an Xbox 360 controller wired to the PC I saw this island on, from a beginning point to end point.

I left the island last September. My visit had only lasted a few minutes.

I returned to the island last week.

The island looks better now, still drenched in bright light, still verdant and covered with uninhabited buildings. A visit to the island still begins in a building, still starts with an exit through a door adorned with a puzzle that seems too simple to have been included by the video game designer who put it there. I see this island entirely in first person.

I have video of my last visit to the island, video I shot in Seattle when it was still secret who made this place. I can compare the sites and show you the confounding simplicity I first encountered.

The blue panels were the key to the game, the man who led the making of the island would later tell me. But he told me almost nothing while I fiddled with them last week. He let me be, except for one moment, for close to two hours. He let me explore the island on my own.

My video from last year confirms the truth that the blue panels are locks and that my manipulation of the puzzles on them is the turning of keys. No one gives me the keys, because the keys on this island are ideas—methods for solving puzzles. You don't pick them up; you ascertain them.

On the island last week, having exited the building into a gated courtyard, I traced paths on the blue panels. Each panel was a grid maze. I could draw a line into them. I connected the grids' starting nodes with their terminal nodes. I did this with the confidence of an adult solving a connect-the-dots puzzle that contains four dots. Each panel puzzle was a little more complex than the one before, so maybe the last one was more of a seven-number connect-the-dots. Each appeared to transfer more energy into power lines that led to a locked door. Solving all the puzzles opened the door. This was interestingly non-verbal but all too easy. Minor intuition conquered minor confusion to yield the minor prize of the door in the gate outside the building opening up. I stepped outside into the larger expanse of the island, wondering what the point of this was.

The first thing I imagine anyone will notice when they get beyond the courtyard door is a large white windmill painted with a few bold red lines. It stands near a small lake in a cradle formed by hills and boxy buildings that the maker of the island says will be replaced by things that look like real architecture in the year or so that remains in crafting this place. The windmill must be there for a reason. So too must each building, though perhaps the placement of each tree doesn't carry the same import. Those are the rules in video games. Buildings and windmills tend to matter; trees, not really.

The Witness is the new game from Jonathan Blow, creator of Braid. It comes with high expectations, given the critical and commercial success of that previous indie. Blow describes The Witness as a game about seeing, about how perception changes over time, how there are things we don't see even though they are in front of us. He describes it as a game about the senses, more specifically about "the senses as a gateway to understanding the universe." It's planned for PC and at least one console and is at least a year away from completion. There is much more to be written about The Witness. Look for an interview with Blow here on Kotaku later this week.

What also matters is recording devices on pedestals, one of which stands on the path right outside the courtyard gate. Activating it triggers the voice of a man, who pleasantly acknowledges that the introduction of a narrator like him is often construed as the precursor to a coming betrayal. But he says we're safe. He encourages us to take time to explore. He's the first hint that there is a story to this island.

Exploring is what I do on this island. I spy a row of blue panels on a small hill and walk over to solve them. They are more complex. So too are ones under a gazebo that increase in difficulty to the point where I can't complete them. My confidence is peeled away, leaving worry that I'm already stumped in a video game whose purpose I don't understand.

The rows of puzzles each introduce a new idea. Simple tracing was just the idea of the first, simplest puzzles outside the first building. These new batches of puzzles wordlessly introduce new problems that require new strategies. For example, one set looks like a series of mazes, similar to the first batch, except they contain dark spots at some of the maze's elbows, each of which needs to be traced through before the panel fizzes an affirmative sound and allows the next in the row to be solved. Another series introduces tokens that sit inside the squares defined by a maze grid. The intuitive puzzle solver will eventually deduce that they require that the line being traced in the grid pass by them in a specific manner. Within each series of puzzles, the basic idea is twisted from puzzle to puzzle. Perhaps, to give one basic example, the idea of multiple possible starting points is introduced, leaving the solver to figure out which is the best one.

When I solved the first row of puzzles, I received a reward: the courtyard door unlocked. When I solve the puzzles on the hill, I appear to receive no reward. I hear no chime; I'm handed no bauble. I am disappointed and the thought briefly flashes through my brain that my time has been wasted by the maker of the island. When I'm stumped by the final puzzle in the series under the gazebo, I begin to feel stressed.

I don't know what to do.

So I wander.

I walk along a path, past the windmill, toward a hill. I climb it and find another simple puzzle, a blue panel on its own that begs to be inscribed with a simple "s". That's all it is, though I later make a connection that the maker of the island asks me to keep secret. At the time, I'm perplexed.

I wander some more, past a castle tower and down along the frustrating outside of a green hedge maze that appears to be joined by a yellow one that I also can't access. I find a blue panel that appears to be 20 times more complex than any other I've seen. It is marked by some symbols I've seen and others that look alien. This is when my inflating confusion is punctured by the happy pin of epiphany. These puzzles are teaching me a language, a grammar for solving problems. This 20-times-more-complex puzzle I've found is a Pynchon paragraph, only half of whose words I understand. The game of this island assembles in my brain. I'm here to learn the nouns and verbs of simple puzzles to solve more complex ones.

I know what this game is now. Excited, I wheel around and enter a building. I solve much tougher puzzles in this building. In the midst of this, the maker of the island comes into the room that runs the computer through which I've accessing this place. He remarks with surprise that I'm in an advanced place. I get the sense I'm not supposed to be there. That makes me want to stay. In this building I learn new puzzle ideas. I learn what to do when the token icons in a blue-panel puzzle grid are different colors. I learn what a starburst icon appearing in a puzzle means. I learn the deviousness of puzzles that combine some of the simple codes I've learned to present much tougher problems of puzzle translation. I do something in the building that becomes the second secret I'm asked to keep.