braid

I realise I’m a bit late to the party with this one, but I just finished Braid. The game came to PC in April, and I didn’t play it for a couple of reasons. Mostly because Jonathan Blow has always struck me as being a little self-important, and given to writing awful poetry. So, I wasn’t really interested, despite the colossal amount of praise Braid had received.

This was probably a bit silly. The other reason, of course, was  lack of money, for which I feel I can be forgiven. Anyway, it recently appeared in a Steam sale, so I bought it, and finished it in an evening.

Even without playing it, I knew Braid was an incredibly important videogame. It introduced a lot of Xbox players (not exactly famed for their sophistication) to the validity of independant games, games as art, and in many cases the importance of 2d games. That’s quite an achievement. So I knew Braid was important, but I didn’t realise how good it was.

It’s good! There are, as I see it, two competing schools of thought when it comes to this kind of puzzle game. On one hand there’s things like that other great game from 2008, World of Goo, in which you figure out the general solution extremely quickly, but things act unpredictably, so you have to correct as you go. On the other hand, there are games that run like clockwork. Braid runs like clockwork, and is incredibly frustrating for it. Almost every five minutes I would come across a puzzle that I was sure was impossible. You have to solve every puzzle to beat the game, so it would turn into an excercise of throwing myself against the rocks over and over until I stopped for a moment and thought, and I saw the solution, and for that moment I was the cleverest person in the world. So Braid is frustrating, but gratifying. So gratifying.

The game is beautiful as well, of course, and has an amazing soundtrack. It’s something that reaffirms my belief (just like World of Goo, actually) that mainstream videogames abandoned 2D games far too quickly, and that perhaps 2D games are just a little bit too obsessed with 8-bit graphics and sound. A little more variation, please.

And the story! Oh, the story! I didn’t like the story. Does this make me a bad person? I should say, I didn’t dislike it for its pretensions. I see absolutely nothing wrong with aspiring to art. My problem was that I didn’t think it was very good, not that it was rising above its station, or something. A central theme is the idea of “learning from one’s mistakes without having to live with them”. This isn’t deep, and what little prose there is in the game is just badly written, in my opinion. I have no problem with the rest of the storytelling. Gameplay and story are melded beautifully. The problem is, the story is something I might have written three or four years ago, and I should point out that I am a 6th form student. It’s immature, and uninsightful, and boring. It’s like a Coldplay song.

So Braid isn’t quite fine art, but it’s an amazing puzzle game. That’s fine too.

You can find Braid for PC on Steam, Greenhouse, and Impulse, and the Xbox version on the Xbox 360 shop thing. If you disagree with any parts of the mostly non-italicised bit at the top, that’s cool, it’s entirely subjective, are you stupid.

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