I’ve been doing a pretty fair bit of gaming lately. Mostly computer gaming, but a bit of Zosias too. It feels like a lot, but the truth is I’m gaming less than I had been; I’ve basically dropped out of World of Warcraft for the time being, and that game is the sort of time sink where you don’t even realize you’re losing time until you’ve been performing some mind-numbing task for eight hours. It’s . . . kind of like a job, really, and I just haven’t been in the mood for it lately. I have been playing a fair amount of Minecraft, but now it’s Minecraft and splotches of other games, not Minecraft and WoW. Those two are a lethal combination.
I’ve been keeping an eye on the Steam specials, and earlier this week Braid went on sale for about $3. Well, 2d platformers are the secret love of my heart, and I’ve been wanting to try Braid for awhile, so I snapped it up. It’s not very long — I finished it earlier today (well, yesterday by the time you read this) and it only took me about 5 hours total. That was with a fair amount of faffing around and a couple of puzzles that really burnt my brain out, but had I cut that I probably would still have needed . . . four, four and a half hours? I’m bad at estimating time.
Braid was a real breath of fresh air. This isn’t to say I’ve been playing a lot of bad games lately — quite the opposite — but I don’t remember the last time I ran across a 2d platformer that delighted me this much. Well, that’s a lie; it was probably Cave Story; but as much as I like Cave Story, it’s really a very different type of game. Cave Story is Metroidvania; Braid is a puzzle game. I’m tempted to compare it to The Lost Vikings, but other than them both being 2d platformer puzzle games, they’re not very much alike.
I feel that I should clarify that. Both are 2d platformer puzzle games, but they have very different types of puzzles. And very different tones.
In short: Braid was excellent. Even having solved the puzzles, it’s worth playing again at least a couple of times, which is more than I can say for a lot of puzzle games. The story was excellent, and it didn’t intrude on the gameplay like so many do. It had one of the best finales I’ve seen in any game, ever.
Actually, I’m going to take a moment and talk about the finale. No spoilers, I promise, though that does make it a bit harder to talk about.
There’ve been a lot of people around saying that games can’t be art lately (if by “lately” we mean “in the last few years”). This is an old and worn-out debate, in Internet time, and I’m not going to get too far into it. They’re entitled to their opinion. But if you’re one of the folks with that opinion, and you’re at all amenable to being swayed, I humbly recommend that you play Braid. Don’t stop in the middle somewhere when you can’t get to one of the bloody puzzle pieces, though you will probably get quite frustrated a couple of times. Finish the game. Play through the finale. Maybe it won’t change your mind, maybe it will, but for me? That’s the very definition of games-as-art. That finale wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without the game mechanic that the game is built around. It could have been done in another form, in much the same way that a good book can be turned into a good movie — but, just as with any conversion between art forms, it would have had to have been done much differently. I don’t know that the impact could have carried over as well. Because in games, it’s not about what you see done — it’s about what you do.
So: five hours of damn good entertainment, lots of great puzzles, and the best and most artistic finale I’ve ever seen in a video game. That’s $3 well-spent. I’d recommend it to anyone for that price. The usual $10 tag is a bit higher than I’ll usually go on a lark, but I’ll say that I’ve gone to the movies and spent $10 on two hours of relative misery before, and this is a way better deal.
Current Music: Guns & Roses, Welcome to the Jungle, and then Linkin Park’s What I’ve Done, via Pandora. Both songs that I enjoy a great deal.