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


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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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 đŸ™‚

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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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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!

March 25, 2009 Posted by | Video Game News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tuesday August 19, 2008

Two Very Nice Articles

Rather than make a sub-par summary I’ll just link them so you can enjoy them.
The first one, by Ars Technica talks about how the PS3 is gaining steam and what the 360’s issues are currently. The guy has some very interesting and valid points. Check it out here.
The second one is a new research by the American Psychology Association which points out that games can be very educational in both good and bad ways and it all depends on several factors such as content, amount of time played… check it out here.

Sequel for the PSN Version of Ratchet & Clank

People who finish the PSN game Quest for Booty are greeted by this nice little screen which needs no comments. Ratchet & Clank Future: Quest for More Booty in 2009?

Remedy Still at Work on Alan Wake

After being disappointed by its absence at E3, many started thinking that Alan Wake might never come out at all, or at least go the sad way of Duke Nukem Forever. Not so, on the official forums the developers announced yesterday that they were still working hard on the game but they had face some difficulties and that “sometimes you need to take a detour to find the best route forward“.
Nos we just need to follow the light and hopefully a trailer will pop up at GC 2008 because the last video is already 2 years old!

Duke Nukem 3D on XBLA

3D Realms just confirmed they have finished the special edition of the game for XBLA. The game was approved by Microsoft an should be released soon.
In the words of the Duke himself: “What are you waiting for?… Christmas?!”

August 19, 2008 Posted by | 360 News, PC News, PS3 News, Video Game News | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tuesday July 29, 2008

Star Trek Online Revealed!

Originally owned by Perpetual Entertainment, which closed its door in January, the MMO based on the world-famous TV show seemed to be facing tough times. Thankfully the license was acquired by Cryptic Studios (City of Heroes/Villains) and along with the confirmation came a bunch of lovely screenshots.

Vivendi Properties Shake-Up. Who Lives and Who Dies?

After Vivendi Games merged with Activision earlier this year and subsequently formed Activision Blizzard, there had to be some changes happening. Well these past days have been a roller coaster ride of announcements.
It was revealed that Activision would be publishing Vivendi’s best selling properties: Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon and Ice Age, along with the upcoming Prototype and another unknown project.
While there are other publishing arms that weren’t mention in the press conference to take care of the other franchises, it leaves several big games on the potential cutting board. Chief among these are Ghostbusters, Brutal Legend and Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena.
Today a Sierra representative announced that, while he couldn’t speak for other franchises, Ghostbusters is not canceled.

We can be sure to have more announcements in the coming days n the subject while Vivendi and Activision review their properties but I for one hope they do bring us Chronicles of Riddick because I’m very excited about it.

XBLA Dates, Dates and Dates

  • Geometry Wars 2: Retro Evolved out on July 30
  • Braid (which has me very excited) on August 6
  • Bionic Commando Rearmed on August 13
  • Galaga Legions on August 20
  • Castle Crashers on August 27

Wizard 101, MMO for Beginners

KingIsle, Texas-based developer, is currently working on an MMO aimed at a broad audience. The game lets you play a Wizard in training on his way to the Ravenwood school (of Witchcraft and Wizardry). you will be able to choose a pet to accompany on your quests, learn different schools of magic through various teachers. The fighting system seems to be card-based which can be found on the ground around the world and quests will involve puzzles and mini-games.

DC Comics Acquires Rights for Resident Evil and Devil May Cry Comics

The two major Capcom franchises will join previous acquisitions of Gears of War, Prototype and just recently Mirror’s Edge and will be published under the Wildstorm banner of DC Comics.

Telltale Games Loves Wallace & Gromit

The studio that successfully relaunched the Sam & Max franchise through episodic treatment is planning to do the same with the famous English characters. The game will be called Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures and will be a classic point ‘n’ click adventure.

July 29, 2008 Posted by | 360 News, Industry News, PC News, PS3 News, Video Game News, Wii News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

E3 Games Highlights

Aside from the conferences there where obviously several trailers, gameplay footage videos and more being shown at the summit. And since some conference were somewhat lacking on the game front I’m going to share what so far has gotten me most excited.

Best Trailers of E3:

  • Star Ocean – The Last Hope. This one looks really really nice and has got me much more excited than Last Remnant or Infinite Undiscovery.
  • Dawn of War II. I’m not really a Strategy fan but this trailer is very nice.
  • I Am Alive. Now this trailer took me by surprise and wow! of course this could translate into a nice game or complete crap with a 50/50 chance. But the trailer is sweet.
  • Singularity. Looks promising, we’ll have to keep an eye on this one.

Now we all know trailers in the end….don’t mean anything, a great trailer can precede a great game and a crappy one. Likewise with a bad trailer. So I want to share what I’ve seen so far that has gotten me really pumped! either entirely new or something announced previously that I though was “OK” but now looks freaking amazing (I’m looking at you Prince of Persia!)

Best Excitement of E3:

  • Prince of Persia!! When Ubisoft unveiled the new PoP with the new design my main thought was “why not”. It looked nice but didn’t appeal to me much more than this. Now this demo looks amazing! the design is sumptuous, the gameplay looks fun and engaging without being frustrating, it’s open world…
  • Braid. An XBLA title that looks really nice and reminds me of what games ought to strive to be: fun! again it looks challenging without being frustrating. the Graphics are completely charming and the gameplay looks very fun and intuitive. The game should be comprised of 5 stages with 4 levels in each stage.
  • Far Cry 2. Looks might sweet! The graphics look amazing and that’s on the 360!! Very impressive. One aspect that has me excited also is that they dropped the whole mutant/alien gig and now it’s entirely human enemies! Yes!
  • The Force Unleashed. It already looks great but it keeps getting better and better. Sweet timeline, sweet Lightsaber grip, awesome physics and now sweet lightsaber/force hold/lightning combo, character leveling and lightsaber customization a la KotOR… I can’t wait!
  • Lego Batman. Yay! I’m a huge Batman fan so I’m very excited about this game. Seems to bring all the goodness of the Lego games with the roster of the Batman universe, the gritty feel of Gotham, the insane feel of the Joker funhouse and a soundtrack by Danny Elfman!!!

I will add more as I come across them.

Special thanks to GameSpot for their awesome Stage Demo feature which I discovered during last year’s E3 (or Entertainment for All Expo, whatever)

July 16, 2008 Posted by | 360 News, PC News, PS3 News, Video Game News, Wii News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment