Gamer Hate

Belligerently lacking in remorse.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Braid : Formal Review

I did a short review before when Mr.Blow granted me the privilege of an early version of the game. How have my views on the game changed now that I’ve completed the final release version on XBox Live Arcade? Little to none. Let’s do a breakdown as different people like different things.

Gameplay

Braid is an exquisite medley of nostalgia and completely innovate new game mechanics, combined to form a sandwich entirely made of awesome. Seriously though, the ability to fast forward and rewind time has been toyed around with repeatedly in games of the past, but this is the first time where it actually fit perfectly and was implemented perfectly in the history of video games. Whereas most designers would immediately try to restrict or build costs into a time rewinding mechanic in order to make the game “fun,” Jonathon Blow has built a game around utilizing time rewinding without any sort of chains, backlash or other bullshit that made those previous time travel games a miserable failure (or at least not as fun as they could have been).

Most game designers would immediately flinch and say the game is too easy because of the time rewinding mechanic alone, but they would be wrong. Deep thought must be put into every puzzle that advances progression, and time manipulation is the key that opens the locks. Each World of the game gives a slightly different way to manipulate time, and all of them have many brilliant puzzles.

For those who have started playing and are getting frustrated or stuck, do not worry. I swear that every puzzle is completable and that despite their seeming impossibility, once you have finally figured it out you will be amazed by how natural the solution feels. All it takes is time, thought and effort. If you find yourself repeatedly trying to do something that seems absolutely impossible, reconsider your thought process and see if there’s a better solution that utilizes your time manipulation mechanic. If you’re thinking of giving up, do not. The end level is absolute genius, and to miss it is to fail at life.

Art

I’m not an artist by any means, but it is rare for me to play a game and be absolutely enthralled by the background images. Everything within the game is beautifully rendered in an ethereal way that fits in with the spiritual journey you go through as you push Tim towards reality. Art is often in games, but rarely have I thought of games as art. Braid, in all its ethereal beauty, is art in game form.

Music

The music suits the game well, and I am particularly fond of how it speeds up and slows down with the time manipulation mechanic. Hopefully it will bring a lot of new people into the realm of enjoying classical music.

Story

The story of the game works perfectly with the overarching theme, and more importantly, fits in with the gameplay perfectly. It’s all leading you to something, something brilliant and achingly sad. You can see it in the words as you progress and when it all becomes revealed, you feel it in your soul.

My only criticism here is the writing itself. While the implied meaning of the paragraphs are quite good and perfectly set the scene for the levels you will experience, the writing itself feels mechanical and a bit placid. Perhaps this is the intention, for Tim seems to be obsessed with the mechanics of things. However, it is slightly out of sync with the elegance of the world within which he imagines himself. I would like to think that someone who can dream up worlds so achingly beautiful, would also have the words with which to accompany them.

I also must admit that I did not fully “get” the final few books that I found in the world. I think I understand the general meaning of them, and while I did get some closure from it, I felt they were lacking in cohesiveness with everything else I had experienced. It’s almost as though they were written on such a high level that they failed to mesh with the very explicit meaning of the end encounter of the game.

Overall

The game has come together beautifully, and honestly, little has changed since I played the initial version. I think I may have found a few of the puzzles to be a tiny bit tighter in execution, but that could be my imagination playing tricks on me. Every puzzle completion was a moment of joy for me. It’s simply an exquisitely well thought out and executed game. If you have any interest in game design, you must play this game.

Braid – A+

Pros

  • Amazingly crafted gameplay
  • Best use of time travel ever done in a game.
  • Elegant and brilliant puzzles
  • Exquisite artwork that fits perfectly with the theme and gameplay.

Cons

  • Slightly mechanical writing style detracts from the perceived overall theme.
  • Epilogue felt slightly disjointed at points from the rest of the game.

There you have it, a perfect game in my opinion. The cons are totally personal feelings, but since rating a game is entirely about a person’s personal perspective, I felt obligated to put them in. Weighted against the whole, they are absolutely insignificant to me. Go get this game, now!

WARNING: Comments may contain spoilers. I highly recommend you finish the game first.

posted by CommanderHate at 1:29 pm  

4 Comments »

  1. Despite thinking Braid is a little bit overhyped, I do agree with youre review. Art style is wonderful, music is simply beautiful and the puzzles are tightly put together.
    I’ve not yet beaten the game but I plan on doing so soon.

    Anyway, I recently found your blog and I’ve went through all of the archives. Congratulations.
    Ed

    Comment by Eduardo Breda — August 13, 2008 @ 7:17 am

  2. The Atom Bomb Theory

    Some of the Epilogue text reads as follows:

    He worked his ruler and his compass. He inferred. He deduced. He scrutinized the fall of an apple, the twisting of metal orbs hanging from a thread. He was searching for the Princess, and he would not stop until he found her, for he was hungry.

    Ruler, compass, fall of an apple (Isaac Newton’s gravity example), metal orbs hanging from a thread (atoms) suggest Tim is a scientist. His search for the Princess is actually his search for a specific goal within science.

    Someone near him said: “It worked.”

    Someone else said: “Now we are all sons of bitches.”

    “Now we are all sons of bitches” is a famous quote, said by Kenneth Bainbridge after the detonation of the first nuclear bomb.

    She stood tall and majestic. She radiated fury. She shouted: “Who has disturbed me?” But then, anger expelled, she felt the sadness beneath; she let her breath fall softly, like a sigh, like ashes floating gently on the wind.

    She couldn’t understand why he chose to flirt so closely with the death of the world.

    This alternative text follows directly on and could be the viewpoint of the bomb exploding.

    The nuclear explosion theory also explains why the main hub of the game shows a city on fire and why the final painting shows a man looking grim in a burning city.

    It has also been suggested that the main theme of the game is undoing mistakes, similar to how Tim could regret creating the atom bomb that is a harbringer of destruction and may want to undo that mistake.

    Also note how the worlds slowly get darker in tone as you progress, which could show the effects of the atom bomb’s creation on the world around us. The first world is bright and colourful. The following worlds are dark and grim.

    Also consider what Tim says when he stands in the final castle at the end of the epilogue, which suggests the creation of an atom bomb:

    But how would this be perceived by the other residents of the city, in the world that flows contrariwise? The light would be intense and warm at the beginning, but then flicker down to nothing, taking the castle with it; it would be like burning down the place we’ve always called home, where we played so innocently as children. Destroying all hope of safety, forever.

    Comment by WTangoFoxtrot — August 14, 2008 @ 9:37 pm

  3. So the castle is the mushroom cloud? I’m not sure this interpretation works with the final level where you actually see the princess. If he’s referencing an atom bomb, I would venture to say that it’s on a metaphorical level.

    BIG SPOILER HERE STOP READING IF YOU HAVE NOT COMPLETED THE GAME!

    Going with the atom bomb idea…
    Tim’s world is being nuked by his realization that he can never get her back. The various levels are his attempts at manipulating time in order to return to her, but the princess level shows us that no matter what he does, she’s not coming back to him.

    That’s why the epilogue level ends with Tim rebuilding his castle. He’s learned that she’s gone, but there’s still hope. I suppose in this context, the scientist book might make sense, but I got the distinct impression it was talking about Newton, and not Tim. Perhaps as a comparison?

    It’s repeated twice with a slight variation so it must have some significance. The manipulation of rats for instance… Could that be Tim attempting to control his girlfriend which ultimately led to her leaving him in the first place?

    I still don’t know what to make of it, but you’ve definitely given me some food for thought. =)

    Comment by CommanderHate — August 15, 2008 @ 10:22 am

  4. […] get a ridiculous amount of traffic (even now), I thought I would link to my first impressions and formal review on Braid so that my cussing about how good Braid is isn’t the only thing people see. =P […]

    Pingback by Gamer Hate » I Just Completed Braid — December 16, 2008 @ 1:48 pm

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