How do you unlock the Challenge trophy, the secret extra test hidden in The Witness' trophies list? This might be a question you are asking yourself since the game was added to the PS Plus program in March 2019. If you have seen the first ending of this sedate puzzle game, you may have missed the opportunity to try one final challenge. It's a frustrating speed run, but we're here to help. Here's the best tips for completing the Mountain Challenge and securing your Platinum trophy.

We should give a spoiler warning here for the end of the game, though The Witness is notoriously difficult to make sense of from a story perspective.

How to Access the Secret Mountain Challenge in The Witness

Before you can access the hidden Mountain Challenge in The Witness, you will first have to complete most of the game. Although you can journey into the Mountain and reach the game's end with only seven lasers activated, the secret Challenge area will only open if you have connect all of the islands' 11 lasers to the central Mountain. That means you need to pass the various challenges in the following areas:
*** Spoiler - click to reveal ***

Once you have connected all the lasers to the Mountain, head to the summit where you will find a couple of statues seemingly carrying a yellow box to the centre of the plinth. To access the Mountain you need to draw a straight line across the top of the box as indicated. However to power up the entrance puzzle to the Secret Challenge, you also need to look underneath the box and draw a line hidden there. This line only appears if you have connected all eleven lasers.

Extra Switch from 11 Lasers

From here, proceed through all the puzzle rooms of the Mountain until you get to the area in which there is a seated statue looking down at a puzzle tile. If you have connected eleven lasers and drawn the hidden line above, this puzzle tile will be lit — otherwise it will be black. For reference, this statue sits in front of the entrance to the final area of the main game, the cave and shallow pool containing pillar puzzles and the end-game elevator. (If you have not finished the game yet, the statue will be sitting in front of two randomising puzzles that lead to the above described final area).

Complete the puzzle which the seated statue is pondering — the puzzle uses triangle symbols. The number of triangles in a grid space determine how many sides of that grid square should be passed by your drawing line. One triangle squares should only have one side touched by the line, two-triangle squares should be touched on two sides, and so on. You can see the solution in the images above.

Secret Door

Be quick once you solve the puzzle, turn around to your left towards the red-lit cave pool and you should see a rock roll back revealing a secret entrance. Get through it quickly before the door closes. If you miss it, just solve the same puzzle again on the floor. There is a simple line switch on the other side of the secret door should you wish to leave the Challenge area.

In the area behind the secret door, there's another puzzle door to get through a little beyond the corridor that looks on to one of the Mountain puzzle rooms:
First Door

You will find a large and complex cave full of all sorts of puzzles, many of which are similar to those you will find in the Challenge room. You can ignore them all and make your way to this pillar puzzle. We've included several shots of the pillar below to show the solution.

Solving it will open up another secret passage directly behind it. There's a further puzzle locking the door ahead, solve it to finally reach the Challenge Area:

Second Door

You start in what is actually the final room of the Challenge area, where you will receive your prize and Challenge trophy. Make your way through this room, the pillar maze and the cave to eventually reach an LP player (turntable) at the far end. There is a simple horizontal line switch on the front of it — this starts the challenge.

How to Complete the Secret Mountain Challenge in The Witness

This is by far the toughest challenge in the entire game. Unlike the rest of the game, this entire section is timed — if you do not pass the puzzles in time you will have to start again from the turntable. The puzzles involve every type of solution you have come across on the island so far, plus some additional nasty surprises. The challenge also includes a stress-inducing recording of Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King". In fact the challenge is so uncharacteristically nasty compared to the rest of the game, it has been theorised that Jonathan Blow included this challenge to make it impossible to get the Platinum while following a guide.

First, the basic rules:
  • You have six and a half minutes (until "In the Hall of the Mountain King" finishes) to complete 14 puzzles. If you run out of time, you have to start over.
  • If you get any puzzle wrong, the tile will go black and you will have to backtrack to the previous puzzle.
  • Every puzzle in the Challenge is randomised. There are no solutions online to solving this, so you need to competently understand every puzzle type in the game!
One saving grace is that generally speaking the individual puzzles are not the toughest of their kind. However six and a half minutes is a lot shorter than it sounds — if you make any mistakes, the backtrack can cost you very precious time.

You may notice that some of the areas have an additional three screens above them, always lit and containing puzzles. These are not related to the challenge.

General tips

  • You have a few seconds between starting the turntable and getting over to the first set of puzzles, before the song (and the timer) starts. You should run over to the first set of puzzles and be ready to solve them as soon as you switch on the turntable.
  • If you're struggling with a puzzle, don't waste time — it may be quicker to deliberately fail it, retrace your steps on the previous puzzle and generate a new randomised version of the one you are stuck on. Just bear in mind it may be worse than before!
  • Get used to the space. Not only is this challenge taxing on the puzzles side, it's also stressful on the navigation side. Familiarise yourself with the layout so you don't get turned around in a panic.
  • Have a friend help you. Not only are two heads better than one in terms of finding solutions to these puzzles, there is also a section where it is particularly helpful to have someone else retaining a key piece of information and relaying it to you later. We'll get on to that.
  • Don't listen to the music. As we've mentioned, the choice of track is deliberately designed to make you panic in the last few seconds. We failed miserably to get this trophy while the game's music was on, but managed it eventually while listening to a calm podcast.

Puzzle Set One — Basic Lines, Black and White Squares

The first three panels of the Mountain Challenge are very straight forward. If you find yourself messing up on these, we would recommend just starting over. Speed is of the essence here — ideally the three puzzles together should take no more than 20 seconds.

Puzzle One

Puzzle Two — Hexagonal Dots

Here is where a friend comes in handy. Orient yourself so that the puzzle is in a diamond shape with the starting circle at the bottom. Take a photo of the layout before you solve it — or better yet, get your friend to take a photo. Now try and find the very easiest route from start to finish that passes through the two hexagon dots. Take a photo of your solution too. The pillar-filled maze ahead will be based on the path you have drawn here, and you will need to solve two puzzles on the walls that coincide with the placement of those hexagonal dots.

Puzzle Set Three — Tetris, Symmetry, Maze and Sun Puzzles (in a Random Order)

Here is where things get tricky. There are four puzzle tiles around the pillar in the next cave — one above to the left (at the end of the stone bridge), one above to the right, one underneath the stone bridge and another further on around the corner underneath that bridge, just before the wooden stairs. The problem is that these screens activate in a random order, so you need to search for the next puzzle each time. The "Tetris" style puzzles will always include two shapes which you must trace, plus two Sun tiles which you must keep in the same section of the grid. The Sun puzzle will always contain four Suns which you must split into two groups of two with your line, while crossing all of the black dots on the way. The Maze puzzle is simple and similar to the second puzzle of the first set. The Symmetry puzzle requires you to trace two lines simultaneously while picking up the corresponding coloured dots.

Puzzle Set Four — Impossible Puzzles

Head up the stairs to see three puzzle tiles light up together. These are black-and-white square puzzles, similar to the third puzzle of the first set. The problem is, only one of these can be solved — the other two are actually impossible. A lot of luck involved here, but there is one way to spot a fake in most circumstances. If you see a square as highlighted in the below screenshot, it's likely impossible to solve.

Puzzle Set 4 A

Once you've solved the correct puzzle, another three puzzles will light up behind. Again, only one is possible to solve. This time the puzzles contain three colours, so it's even trickier to work out which one is solvable. Again, look for groupings where all of the colours are right next to each other — chances are that these are unsolvable.

Puzzle Set 4 B

Puzzle Set Five — The Maze

Probably the hardest section of the challenge. Remember the photos I told you to take back in Puzzle Two? You now need to use the route you took through that puzzle to navigate through this room. Take a wrong turn and a wall will jump up to block you. Meanwhile, you need to look out for two puzzles along your route, hidden in the black screens on the pillars of this maze. The two puzzles will be on a pillar in the exact location of the hexagons in Puzzle Two.

The puzzles will use Triangles, just like the puzzle that first unlocked the secret entrance to this challenge area. One will be markedly easier to solve than the other. The main advice is to remember that any three-triangle grid squares will require a route that passes three of its sides immediately one after the other. It is impossible to hit one or two sides and then circle back later for the third, there's simply not enough space. Once you have solved the two puzzles continue following your Puzzle Two path out to the far side of the maze.

Puzzle Set Six — Two Cylinders

Here we are in the endgame. Two puzzles stand between you and the prize, both on cylinders like the puzzle you solved on the way to unlocking the challenge room. On one pillar you will have to hoover up all of the dots, on the other you will have to split the white and black squares into separate sections while two lines are generated symmetrically. The puzzles are not too hard, the main advice is to keep your routes tight on the black-dot puzzle as the placement is normally .

If you manage to pass these puzzles, congratulations! The door will open, and you can unlock the box inside for another mysterious clue to the game's various secrets that aren't tied to trophies or achievements.

Challenge Complete

Maybe you don't care too much about that at this point — the important thing is that you have completed the Challenge trophy and have likely unlocked a well-deserved Platinum.
Sam Quirke
Written by Sam Quirke
Sam has been gaming long enough to know the pain of a failed DOS install on the fifth floppy disc. When not hopelessly lost in the latest open-world epic, Sam is busy devouring books of all genres or trading Pokémon with his wife.
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