What to Watch When High: Braid? Or Super Mario Lite?
One of weed’s great benefits is the way it can enhance your perception of the fine arts: A million blacklight posters of Gandalf can’t be wrong. Braid is made by one designer, Jonathan Blow, that had some serious artistic complaints about the limits imposed by other developers on their worlds. The formulaic, profit driven games developed and released by big publishers had made it hard for people to see games as a form of artistic expression. Blow earned the title of “art” for Braid, if only because everything is so obviously designed and crafted deliberately by one man. The game itself, though, takes one of the oldest types of games, a 2D Platformer that deliberately calls back to Super Mario Brothers, and turns it into a puzzle game that is an immediate and unrelenting mindfuck.
You think you understand the rules of Braid when you start – You can jump, you move to the right, and you can stomp the fuck out of some unsuspecting mushrooms that probably did something to deserve it, all in the name of saving some princess who can probably take care of herself. Things start going off the rails, though, when your Mario wannabe has to move to the left. Time goes backwards, and the string music sounds much more sinister as it’s played in reverse – When you stop, time stands still with you, the music is gone, and the weird mushroom men wait for you with a bored expression on their stupid faces. Seems like it would be easy enough to work with, but Braid serves you one puzzle after another that tests your understanding of what it means to tie together time and linear space.
The best elements of a well designed puzzle game are here, in that mistakes aren’t punished (you can reverse time, after all). The solutions aren’t apparent enough to make it too easy, and solving each one makes you feel intelligent and accomplished. This works even if you’re high enough to melt into the couch while your dog looks on disapprovingly and wonders where it all went wrong. Once you’ve mastered Braid’s first set of rules, though, you’re on to the next world, and an entirely new mechanic, just as subversive to traditional game design.
The Game Changes
The game continues to provide several new worlds, each with their own particular brand of fucked-up rules that get in your way and make things that seem like they should be easy become difficult mental obstacles – If you’re sober enough to pay attention to the story that is almost exclusively presented in vague text between levels, it’s obvious this is the point Blow is trying to make about going through life, making choices, and living with consequences. When you reach the end of the game, which is a serious accomplishment if you haven’t cheated by looking up puzzle solutions. At the end, you’re presented with a beautiful sequence that ties together Braid’s game concepts. Jonathan Blow’s views on choices and consequences, and a dramatic shift in the story that makes you rethink your character’s actions for the entire time you’ve played.
Braid’s puzzles aren’t easy, so it might be more difficult for some people to work out a solution after emptying a few chambers. Yet the distortions between time and space that the player has to manipulate to get through the game are a fun way to put your brain into a tailspin. Try the demo on the Xbox Live Arcade Marketplace.