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CCV The Perfect Game...For Me: Braid

 

 

When pinned down with the question – “What do you think is the best game ever?” – a gamer will most commonly refer to Ocarina of Time, Mario 64, Sonic the Hedgehog or Bioshock (and of course others). These are, and will forever be, the classic games… the genre changing games… the best games. I may be setting myself up for some backlash here, but I don’t care – I am proud to say that I believe Braid to be the best game made to date.

Gameplay

The concept of the game is fairly simple, and very much in line with what many of us would consider a ‘classic’ 2D platformer, such as Super Mario. The story follows a young chap called Tim’s attempt at rescuing a princess  – sound familiar?

The game sees you traverse through various worlds, collecting puzzle pieces in a run – jump – avoid fashion. What differentiates Braid from other titles is its clever use of a time travel mechanic.

In the game, you can reverse time, and therefore any of your actions, at any point without punishment. The game makes clever use of this mechanic in your attempts to obtain the puzzle pieces.

As you progress through the game and enter different worlds, we see variations in this mechanic. In one world, as you move forward time moves forward, as you move backwards time moves backwards. In another you can make use of an orb/circle that slows time down, so everything passing through it slows to a crawl. The final mechanic is the ability to perform an action, rewind time, and see yourself re-do that action while you are able to do something else. You are essentially working cooperatively with another version of yourself.

These features, when combined with some mind boggling puzzles provide for one of the most innovative gaming experiences I’ve ever had. It builds upon the ideas of games that have long gone by, often paying homage to them, while at the same time occasionally poking fun at their flaws. This is all topped off with a charming ‘mini-game’ of constructing the complete jigsaw puzzles. (5 out of 5)

Characters/Story

Before the start of each world, a series of books describe to us some of Tim and the Princesses’ past. These parts have received much criticism due to their perhaps over philosophical/’high-brow’ concepts/vagueness. I found it incredibly refreshing to find a game which left itself wide open to interpretation, further adding to the game’s ‘genre changing’ nature.

As you progress through the game you build up a good picture as to Tim’s situation. This leads you nicely, to what is perhaps, the finest example of what a final level of a game should be . Not only does the game turn on itself, throwing the most unexpected situation at you, but it also draws a finishing line. This is something many games, and indeed films, miss out on in this modern age. With so much money to be made from franchises, it is almost impossible for developers to bring stories to a close, for fear of losing out on future profits. I praise Braid for the bold statement that this is a single, stand alone gaming experience that will not be repeated. (5 out of 5)

Longevity

The game length varies depending on the way you as a person think about and solve puzzles. I imagine the game would last between 8 – 10 hours for a normal gamer. The game is at its core a large puzzle, and it is unfortunate that once you know the answers to these puzzles the game will never play through the sameway again.  As such some of the longevity is lost. However, there are time trials to be carried out and additional stars to be found, with some even more horrendous mind bending solutions. Even then the game has limited repeatability, but for it’s initial cost and a defined gaming experience I feel it is more than long enough, without spoiling itself with unnecessary clutter. (4.5 out of 5)

Graphics

The graphics in this game are quite simply stunning. The style and art direction are like nothing I’ve experienced before and really enhance the gaming experience. A common phrase used amongst gamers is ‘gameplay over graphics’. Braid is a shining example of a game which would not have achieved its full potential had it remained in its original form. Simply compare these images, and look at the drastic improvement the graphics give to the feel and ambiance in the game. Each world was given it’s own color and style to help differentiate them, and keep the experience fresh throughout. (5 out of 5)

Level Design

Pure genius. The levels and puzzles become far more difficult as you progress through the game, but with this difficulty comes great satisfaction when you finally solve the puzzle for yourself. The less I say about the levels, the more you will enjoy the game :) . (5 out of 5)

Sound

Not only are the in game music tracks a pleasure to listen, fitting the game experience perfectly, but they also sound incredible in reverse – an important feature given the amount you reverse time in the game. A lot of thought and effort went into making the music, but by now I’m sure you’ll agree that this was to be expected. Hopefully if you click the link below you’ll be able to experience some of the music. (5 out of 5)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWu9zEbmWh0

Summary

In short, Braid is a game that reminds us of our roots in gaming, while also innovating in such a way to shake up the industry as a whole.  The game encourages hard thinking, encapsulated in a beautiful world of puzzles, which both complements and contrasts the stories final deception.

Braid, the best game ever made.

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