Monthly Archives: January 2012

Braid – Maenam (Jami Sieber)

And, after another pause, back again, with new material. From now on, these will happen here, on this blog, with only references visible on Facebook. Happy reading!

I remember mentioning Braid in some of my previous writings. When putting Bastion next to Braid, you will for sure find some similarities – both games are very stylized and very colorful, almost like a child’s tale. And indeed both are disguised as such, but below that innocent cover, great, deep stories are waiting for you to be discovered.

Braid is, essentially, a puzzle platformer. The game is, as I understand, a work of one guy, Jonathan Blow, with the help of an artist David Hellman. 2011 was a great year for great indie games, and Braid is a proof for that. So, a platformer, eh? But this game is oh so different. At the beginning you have even the impression that your task will be to wander through a house and solve several jigsaw puzzles on the wall. Shortly after, you’re entering a different location with books to read. The text is a bit cryptic, so you march further to enter first level. What’s this, Mario Bros clone? Some wandering creatures, your character also not very convincing, what’s so good about it?

It’s about time.

By all means, it’s about time! It’s how the time affects us as people, how time affects how we perceive our world, our lives, relationships. How time screws up things and heals things, how time influences what we do, and what we avoid. And, above all, time is a key factor to solve almost every puzzle thrown at you by the game. How? You simple hold on key, and all (ALL!) your movements are rewind back to the place you wish, even to the very beginning. I’m a developer and a sheer insanity of programming solution drives me nuts – must be a really really smart trick.

So there you go, various puzzles, mostly asking you to get to the door, sometimes grabbing some bonuses or jigsaw puzzle pieces with you. And it all evolves time. Later on, some things are introduced to make levels even more complicated like things or areas that do not “rewind back” in time, or only work “one way” etc. etc. It’s really bizarre. After a while, you’re kinda loosing track of what’s going on. Our brains were not developed with that kind of perception in mind.

But even with that, Braid would be another game with time-based puzzles. The concept was exploited in many ways before. Movies, books, games (Prince of Persia: Sands of Time anyone?). What makes Braid unique – and I’m really repeating myself here in all these reviews – is the story. You could get through the game, without paying attention what’s going on, but I strongly recommend you read all the books. Braid indeed smartly plays on Mario Bros inheritage – there are flags, there are castles, you’re also looking for your Princess and you’re constantly finding out, that she’s *again* in a different castle. And, though you may think it’s just a cute pursuit for eternal love, it’s far from it. Below, there’s a story told by the books. It’s so good I took time to combine it together and translate for my friend. It describes a journey of a man, but it’s filled with symbolism, metaphorical sentences and double, triple even meanings. The way the story is told is also wrapped in time, so you’re not sure, where’s the beginning and where’s the end and whether things have order, or they exist as parallel “choices”. To give you correct impression, that the game is not a festival of cliches and actually is trying to make a very important message, here are some parts from books:

“Tim is off on a search to rescue the Princess. She has been snatched by a horrible and evil monster. This happened because Tim made a mistake.”

“Our world, with its rules of causality, has trained us to be miserly with  forgiveness. By forgiving them too readily, we can be badly hurt. But if we’ve learned from a mistake and became better for it, shouldn’t we be rewarded for  the learning, rather than punished for the mistake?”

“What if our world worked differently? Suppose we could tell her: ‘I didn’t  mean what I just said,’ and she would say: ‘It’s okay, I understand,’ and she  would not turn away, and life would really proceed as though we had never said  that thing? We could remove the damage but still be wiser for the experience.”

People are still dredging through all the pieces, finding different interpretations, although two are dominant: the obvious one – Tim (our hero) is trying to regain trust of his wife, and the second one: Tim is a …. working secretly on a big project. Not going to spoil it for you here, but the key part to discover it for me was: “she radiated fury”. The final level where it’s so obvious what you’re finally have to do… and the look on your face, when everything suddenly flips over and you bash your head saying: “Of course! It makes perfect sense now! I couldn’t see that earlier.”. And the interesting thing is that while reading the story, without actually playing the game, you’re loosing the unstable sense of coherence, meaning, it all fits very well in game, where you’re constantly faced with time problems and you’re struggling with them, as opposed to just reading the whole story from the screen, where these issues are not with you.

This game really touched me and I applaud the author for a great effort of creating a game, being (or it seems) just a cover for carrying over a catalyst for our minds and emotions. How yours is going to get through it, I cannot say. But it will be something, promise.

This music plays during the title, it’s very sad, deep and pompatic. It comes from Hidden Sky album of Jami Sieber – this track was licensed for the needs of the game.

More about Braid –