NostalGeek

Don’t Hate the Game, Hate the Player

Braid Review (XBLA)

braidlogoBraid is a game that was released in August 2008 on Xbox Live Arcade to critical acclaim. It won several awards and one could argue that it helped validate the whole recent flow of successful independent games like Flower, World of Goo, N+
It was developed by genius Jonathan Blow who came up with the idea and game design for the project and by gifted David Hellman who create all the enchanting art for the game. In addition the entrancing ‘soundtrack’ was composed by artists Shira Kammen, Jami Sieber and Cheryl Ann Fulton.
The game is basically a multi-layered mix between a platformer and a puzzle game with a time element added to it. But don’t be fooled, it’s much much more than that

Graphics

Before you realize how well the game is designed your senses are going to be filled with joyful things. You will instantly see through the art and music that you are in something entirely different. David Hellman did an incredible job. Each level is a beautiful painting with various undertones. They start out bright and joyful and seem to get darker and more….weighing as you go.
You can get an idea from the screens of the beauty of it all but it really comes together with the music. And I don’t know much about art techniques so I won’t offend David by pretending I know what he did. I just know it’s gorgeous.
By the way I strongly suggest you check out David’s blog as it has tons of cool info on the creation of the game and more.

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Music

The soundtrack for the game is actually not a soundtrack per say. Jonathan Blow decided he wanted to use real musician tracks because they would convey more feeling to the player. And boy did it convey!
As soon as you start you are greeted with a track from Jami Sieber called Maenam, a beautiful, soothing violin and sitar (I think) piece that wouldn’t feel awkward in a Prince of Persia game. Along the rest of the game you also hear music from Shira Kammen and Cheryl Ann Fulton. all of them tend to focus around beautiful melodies on violins and harps with other instruments added on and off such as percussion and piano.
Also throughout the game the music is intricately tied  to the time manipulation design since music rewinds as time goes backward. It feels amazing to the player experiencing the game but if your wife is on the computer just hearing the sound I doubt she will appreciate the nuances 🙂

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Gameplay

I could say this is were the game shines but I’d be lying because everything shines in this game and it’s how it all fits together that makes it such an amazing title.
The idea in each world is to grab all the pieces of a puzzle. you don’t need to finish the puzzle to get to the next world but you need to go through the doors. You enter a sub-world through a door and the exit is on the other side, so you could potentially go through all the levels without grabbing a puzzle piece. That being said, in order to reach the ‘final’ level you do need to complete every puzzle.
The basic time maneuver that you have is the rewind function. If you hit an enemy or fall to your doom, hit X and rewind a few seconds back to better time your jumps. This may seem too easy but it is not because it’s not just a saving move, you actually need to work with time in order to do things which will allow you to grab a piece of the puzzle. It’s a bit hard to explain on paper but you will get the hang of it in a heartbeat. Braid is the essence of a design that is very simple yet requires a lot of thinking to get what you want.
Also each world will add new features to the use of time but it would be spoiling if I told them to you because half the fun is discovering them for yourself (please don’t watch YouTube videos, I urge you).
You will truly appreciate the genius and thought that came in some of the mechanics in the game.

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Story

Wow…that’s how I felt when I finished the game. You think you know, you try to glimpse. But you have no clue. Do yourself a favor, if you didn’t play the game through to the end. Leave your computer and go do it now. The final stage is a stroke of genius the likes of which I haven’t seen in a while…. in fact I’m not sure I ever saw anything quite so amazing. Your jaw will drop. It will make you think for a while.
The story of the game I will not really go into for two reasons. One i would be quite the asshole if I spoiled it for you. Second, no one knows! there are several stories intermingled, probably more than we even thought about and Jonathan Blow himself has said that he wouldn’t ever tell us because there’s no straight answer. Often times such a statement is a gimmick from a guy with a lack of a clear vision. Not so here, to say that Blow lacks vision is a pure lie and the game truly cannot be explained with one story. And the simple fact that there are so many people discussing what the story really is is a testament to the ingenuity of the plot.
The story is told through books laid out at the beginning of each world and all are written beautifully and are a joy to read and try to decipher. I can say that the ‘main’ (read basic) plot seems to follow you (Tim) as you try to find a Princess and features a few testaments to Super Mario Bros… But as you go…you’ll see, and it will be eye-opening.

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Braid is the kind of game that comes once once every 10 years. A perfect union of the different aspects of a game to form a perfect game. There are so many details that will escape even the most cunning player (check the different flags the end of each world for example). People have been complaining that the game is too expensive… it was 1,200 Microsoft Points when it came out and I think it’s now down to 800. These people have no clue, the game would be worth every penny and more at 1,200. Even budget boxed version of the game for $30 wouldn’t be overpaying for the game. Go buy it now!
Meanwhile I’m off to buy the Braid Premium Theme for my 360. Woohoo!

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March 25, 2009 - Posted by | Video Game News | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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