Hardware: XBOX 360
Released: AUGUST 6, 2008
Publisher: MICROSOFT
Developer: NUMBER NONE

By Alex Kierkegaard / January 12, 2011

And so we finally arrive at Braid: the most critically and commercially successful "indie" game ever, and — as the entire journlolistic and pseudo-intellectual cartel would like to make us believe — the most "artistic" videogame of all time (and consequently the most valuable).

It's an outrageously offensive claim. The game's entire reputation is based on so little substance and such absurdly overblown amounts of hype, that I could well cite the opinions of two COMPLETE OUTSIDERS to the videogame industry, both of whom found the game, not simply bad, but utterly laughable, and leave it at that. I am referring of course to film critic Roger Ebert, who wrote that Braid's narrative is "on the level of a wordy fortune cookie", and rapper Soulja Boy (who amusingly enough seems to be employing the Insomnia rating scheme...), whose reaction to Braid's mechanics was simply "lol". The fact that two complete outsiders can debunk so swiftly and so contemptuously what this industry considers (or has been brainwashed to consider...) as its supreme achievement is proof positive of the Orwellian levels of falsity, disinformation and manipulation that now generally obtain. The coup de grāce is that neither Ebert nor Soulja Boy know the first thing about videogames, and yet they can spot and call out the overblown hype immediately, on first sight, without even bothering to play the game, let alone having any standards or reference points whatever — AND NO ONE SEEMS ABLE TO REFUTE THEM. Ebert's article and Soulja Boy's video have by now been linked on every single gaming blog and forum on the planet, and have been discussed in editorials and articles ad nauseam, YET THEIR OBJECTIONS ARE STILL STANDING THERE, AS FULL OF CERTAINTY AND ARROGANT SELF-CONFIDENCE AS IF THEY'D JUST BEEN UTTERED. To gain some perspective and realize the immensity of the affair, just imagine some kid from /v/ writing in to, say Total Film magazine, with something to the effect that "Citizen Kains sux becose it is teh gay lol", and then the magazine FOR SOME REASON PRINTING THIS (as the videogame press abundantly reproduced Ebert's and Soulja Boy's remarks...), WITHOUT ANYONE ACROSS THE ENTIRE FILM INDUSTRY BEING ABLE TO COME FORWARD WITH ANYTHING EVEN REMOTELY RESEMBLING A CONVINCING REBUTTAL. — And this, dear readers, is the level of wretchedness to which the combined effects of PR money and pseudo-intellectualism have finally managed to sink our beloved hobby.

Enter icycalm into this scene. What the hell am I even doing with this game? or with any other botched attempt at an elaborate "indie" screensaver for that matter? After all, if even Ebert and Soulja Boy can debunk Braid, it must mean that even your little sister can do it. And if even your little sister can do it, this means that I AM SO ABSURDLY OVERQUALIFIED TO REVIEW THIS TRIPE THAT IT SHOULD BE CONSIDERED A CRIME TO SPEND ANY OF MY TIME WITH IT. I mean, if I even deign to review games at all any more, I should be reviewing games ON THE CUTTING EDGE OF COMPLEXITY for christsake, not struggling student projects that even a dumb rapper or over-the-hill film critic can tear apart and dismiss with a couple of off-hand comments.

But yeah. Someone has to fight these goons, and if no one else's going to do it I guess it'll just have to be me. So without further ado, then, let's settle down to taking apart and debunking Braid. Start at the beginning. Ostensibly a "puzzle-platformer", Braid is, in fact, for all intents and purposes a pure puzzle game. Let's try to understand why this is so. A platform game is defined, first and foremost, as an action game — i.e. a game in which progress is predicated on reflexes. But Braid's chief mechanic is a time-rewind feature which can be used throughout with impunity, effectively eliminating any requirement for reflexes. This is one step further along the design philosophy of "save-states every other screen" that is so popular with the indie bums, here taken to its most absurd extreme BY ELIMINATING THE VERY NEED FOR SAVE-STATES IN THE FIRST PLACE (since there's no longer any reason for you to die) — notwithstanding the fact that the game KEEPS THE SAVE-STATES ANYWAY. Now it could be argued that many action games, especially FPSes on the PC, feature a quick-save option that practically has the same effect as Braid's rewind mechanic. THOSE games, however, COMPENSATE for this by generally being difficult enough so that, regardless of how much you might abuse the quick-save feature, you are still going to have to develop some game-specific action skills to get through the adventure. Braid's action aspect, on the other hand, is so easy that even WITHOUT the rewind feature the game would be a cakewalk; WITH IT there's practically no game there at all. This is why I am saying that, though TECHNICALLY I am obliged to classify the game as a "puzzle-platformer" (— since you do, after all, hop around some platforms in it which are populated here and there with the occasional enemy —) it's nevertheless practically a pure puzzle game. One step ahead in this logic and you have something like Lup Salad, where, though the game at first glance LOOKS like a puzzle-platformer, since the stages are depicted in a side-view perspective, and you interact with the blocks by pushing them around with your little sprite, the game is nevertheless a pure puzzler since there are no enemies or precision maneuvers to perform, and it is impossible to lose due to a reflex-error.

Is everybody following here? — this shit isn't exactly rocket science. Moreover, not only is Braid's action aspect extremely easy and ultimately pointless, it's also extremely crude, as zinger has already correctly noted in the forum: "basically Mario 1 with goombas only and without the ability to run", as he called it. So without too much exaggeration one could say that the function of most of the length of Braid's stages is to serve as a means of navigation BETWEEN the game's major puzzles; think of them as a cross between for example Knytt and, say Chu Chu Rocket, where to reach each stage of the latter you first have to walk down a few screens of the former. An exaggeration, like I said, but not very far from the truth if you are capable of pulling back from the game for a second and seriously contemplating what your actions basically amount to.

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