07 January 2010

Braid New World


I have a tendency to buy games six months to a year after they've been released. Sometimes longer. In fact, the only games in recent memory that I've bought within days of their golden debut were Team Fortress 2 (actually, the Orange Box) and Left4Dead (that would be the original and not the recent expansion pack). I think it's my background with MMO games, which are notoriously sketchy until their first anniversary or so, coupled with my intrinsic frugality: I don't want to drop 50 hard earned smackers on a product that is probably going to leave me shipwrecked (pun intended); I'd rather drop the money on a good meal and a bottle of some kind of ale brewed by Trappist monks. Generally it's after the hype-tide subsides and first hand accounts roll in, along with subsequent discounts on Steam and other online purveyors, that I have my feeding time. Besides being left behind the hordes of zombie-esque consumers the results of my Gamer on a Budget System have been largely favorable. I get cheap games that provide me hours of distraction and I avoid the crowded mainstream per my cynical punk rock tendencies.

All that is to say that it should come as little surprise that I only bought and played Braid within the last month. I haven't even played it that much. The Golden Child of 2008 independent gamedom was irresistible to both my "I'm too cool to do what everyone else is doing" and my wallet at a miserly $2.50 on Steam. I figured, even if it's not all it's cracked up to be, it couldn't hurt. I've spent more money at Taco Bell.

Being one of the more talked-about games of the past year has certainly helped Braid: the company is well-funded and, despite whatever controversy there was, it brought small, independent design teams to the front of the gaming world if only for a short while. Needless to say I had certain expectations for the game. I'm a newcomer to the world of indie gaming but a devotee of Derek Yu & Co.'s TIGSource and have been terribly excited at the prospect of free and creative DIY games (so much so that I mean to promote as many indie games as possible here). Visually, the game took me by surprise; here was a squat little Mario-esque fellow with dusty hair in a leisure suit running around in what could have ostensibly been a modern interpretation of a Monet piece. The music, the setting, the challenges, and the delightful surprise that I couldn't die all dragged me, delighted, into the game world. Let me continue by saying this game is like eight bitches on a bitch boat to play. I realize I'm not the greatest problem solver (I prefer there be many an explosion to the games I play) but Braid has some real headscratchers.

The story, however, has come off as trite at best. I could still be hung up on the few emo albums I listened to 10 years ago but it feels like the same guys who were writing those songs in high school grew their vocabulary and learned to code, then they decided to make Braid. Or maybe they were British literature majors who had to dump whatever vague and pedantic attempt at deep character insight into a game. Hell, maybe the developers just wrote down some heartfelt-sounding bull to piece the brilliant puzzles together. Maybe I'm just cynical but I don't care that Tim isn't over the Princess yet.

It's probably just because I've quarantined my game time into a box labeled "Fun" and so stories that attempt to move me get blocked out.

Regardless, Braid is a great game that keeps me coming back for more even after I walk away in frustration at some of the damndest puzzles I've come across (I honestly think Portal is easier).

I also appreciate what Braid means to the independent game: beautiful, thoughtful, and successful games can be done and can be well received. Braid, at least from my uninformed vantage point, seems to toe the line of independent and commercial quite well and the XBLA platform seems the best possible place for it to have started. I want more. More games that blow my mind and came out of someone's basement.

An interesting story on NPR stated that the U.S. is the largest video game market on the planet. While the public keeps gobbling up multi-million dollar titles there is still reason enough to believe that a movement like the independent video game has and will continue to solidify itself as more than just a space barnacle on the space hull of the Space Hulk that is the video game industry. I like to think it's the hegemonizing fungus that will soon infest the whole ship and crew.


We leave you to your work.

1 comment:

ihatezombies79 said...

Speaking of emo, you can't help but wonder if the title of the game is in some way a reference to the band Braid that had a very devoted following.