Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Distracted Critic: Braid

By: Michael Akerman

Let's try something that might keep me employed on this blog that doesn't actually pay me anyway, shall we? I'll start with a confession: I like video games. I play them all the time. I also love books, and I'm liking movies more now that I have NetFlix. However, I don't always finish games. I usually eventually finish books, and I can't think of a movie I haven't, but it takes me forever. So, making it straightforward that the things I review probably aren't things I've completed, I've decided to make a feature (minor now, while I try out the fit. I might extend it later). Let's call it

The Distracted Critic

Today's review: Braid.

If you're into the video game scene, you may know Braid from the controversy it has suffered recently. This little puzzler is an XBox Live Arcade game that breaks the bank at $15 to purchase (about $5 more than a standard XBLA game). The game, though, is definitely worth the cost.

Consider, if you will, the extra five dollars you stand to lose. I invite you to skip Starbucks for a day and experience what a small developer with a strong vision can achieve (or at least grab the demo).

Braid's hook, as it were, is time manipulation. The apparent throwback to the modern Prince of Persia re-envisionings takes on new dimensions (ha) as it is wrapped around the puzzles in the worlds. There is a satisfying feeling in the smooth transition from standard time to reversed time, a switch presented with a drain of the color palette and a chunky sound effect that lends a nearly-visceral sense of control. The gimmick is used to tremendous effect to create enjoyable and sometimes mind-bending puzzles, reminiscent of the Wii's puzzler Zack & Wiki. However, the art and music are where this game shines.

The music has a consistent orchestral flare that couples with the colorful sprite-based graphics, combining the colorful look that marked the age of the SNES with a score that could grace a modern Final Fantasy or Legend of Zelda. Like a fine beer, the interplay of these elements is intricate and delicate, each masterfully suited to the other and amplifying the impact of the gameplay.

Braid is well worth the pocket change it asks for. Give this wonderfully polished little download a ride by downloading the trial. Make sure to collect all of the puzzle pieces in the first level: the puzzles to collect these are where the meat of the game lie. Turn the volume up just loud enough for the music to surround you, and let your time in the game wash over you!

Man, that last line was hokey.

By my hand,
~Michael Akerman