Braid Reader Review
Videogames have been my only consistent hobby for most of my life. There was a time I dabbled with Warhammer 40,000 and other tabletop wargames (oh the lameness), but they were boring. I only liked painting them. I tried learning to draw, but I didn't have the patience. Videogames are something I've always returned to. Well, they are all fairly easy when you know how.
I feel a little bit too embroiled in the hobby at times. Whenever I'm playing, the experience slowly breaks down into its parts, and all I see are the components that make it up. Physics. Collision detection. Polygons. AI routines. They merely become small mathematical statements, easily solvable. If one could pause the universe, and map the direction and movement of all of the atoms in the universe, and were really good at maths, one would have the equation for all the future. It feels like that with games a lot of the time, but on a very simple scale that I can easily comprehend. It takes very little effort to map it all out. Having every variable open and known to you means you can see how it all works and fits together. It is satisfying in a way, but one can easily become complacent and bored. You can never be surprised. Your expectations can never be surpassed. And when all you see are the pieces that make up the form, the bigger picture will be obscured. How can one appreciate the work of an artist if all one can see are the configuration of brush strokes?
Braid is personally significant to me. It has a tendency of creating a fairly complex, cerebral gameplay experience made up of components that are simple to master. There will be a particular level in which things occur in a certain way; I can't begin to understand them in full. I am left to marvel and wonder at the intent of the game, before the joyous solution comes to the fore. There is very little to be frustrated about in Braid, due to the nature of the gameplay mechanics. I think these mechanics ought to be discovered for oneself, rather than laid out in a review, bare for all to see. This is a game which deserves discovery. You will be rewarded for it.
I've seen it already hailed as another victory in the "games as art" argument. This is an debate which I haven't fully come to terms with in my own head. What makes a game artistic? The telling of a tale, as in a work of literature or film? Or is the art in the experience composed of gameplay and graphics? Braid has a little from both camps, with a story that is at least a little thought-provoking and well-told; and novel, elegant gameplay mechanics which really add something substantial to the overall experience. However, these two camps have not been successfully married here. There is a disparity which is thrown into focus by the sheer quality of the two parts. The tale is told in storybook segments, separated from the gameplay experience somewhat. There's a dissonance there, and it's not really a flaw in terms of the product: like watching a two minute video of a painting.
When something bridges these two, we can say games can definitively classed as "art" all-round. Braid has laid some interesting foundations for this.
I don't really want to go deconstructing this at any length. For once, a game has defeated my cynicism. Oh, and it's much prettier than screenshots give it credit for. It's not the longest game and doesn't have much in the way of replay value. What you do get could be described as "joyous" and/or "enchanting", for as long as it lasts. I give it a Kafka out of Dan Brown, and an F for FFS BUY IT OK.
10 / 10