As anyone that’s played an MMO to the level cap, toasting their way through all of the solo and single group content knows, once you get to that point there’s very little to do other than join the raiding scene and loot your way to e-peen greatness. My Swashbuckler in EverQuest 2 has bumped up against this wall and so while I twiddle my thumbs until my guild’s weekly raiding bonanza, I haven’t really felt like putting in a huge amount of time on this character.
Of course, I have that stable of alts that I’ve been working on. My level 80 Inquisitor, for example, is most definitely in need of some gear that doesn’t suck. However, having to grind instances for void shards isn’t tickling my no-no spot the second time around. Quite simply, I found myself looking for something new. A new game is needed.
Enter Steam! While I’m no stranger to digitally delivered games, I’m more than a little behind on the times when it comes to exploiting the sheer uberness that is Valve’s Steam service. When I first bought Half-Life 2 (way, way back like five years ago) I saw this “Steam” thing install on my computer.
First, I was like: O.o
Next, I was like: O.O
And then, I was like: >.<
The very idea that there was some program ticking away in the background, chewing away at my computing power when my games needed every bit of help they could get was incredible un-awesome to me. Since, however, I’ve come to learn the error of my ways and have taught myself to appreciate what Steam has to offer. However, the volume of choices on Steam is enormous. I felt overwhelmed. I couldn’t decide. I panicked.
Well, not really.
In the end, I chose to take a page from Sean Sands’ (of Gamers With Jobs fame) book and broaden my gaming horizons (is it a registered trademark yet?). There are several types of games that I’ve found that I either haven’t enjoyed in the past, or am so horrible at that I hate thinking about playing them. The platformer genre is just one of those. Determined to defeat my platformer phobia and with Steam … umm … steaming along (/groan), I went demo-shopping!
Like I said, I don’t like platformers. In fact, if there’s one genre of game that I can honestly claim that I’ve come to “hate”, it’s platformers. I do not remember Super Mario Bros. (1, 2 or 3) all that fondly. Only Super Mario Galaxies has done anything to redeem that franchise in my eyes and that’s only because it’s controls are so wacky that the novelty hasn’t worn off! Why? Hmm, other than the fact that I feel like I’m being punished by the game-gods for actually playing, forcing me to restart levels after mis-judging a jump, using up another of my precious and limited “lives”, frustrating me to the point to where I have to leave the room for a while in order to save my controller and my TV screen from violent collision, I have no idea why I dislike platformers so much.
Anyways, couple my general dislike for platformers with the fact that this is a console port of a platformer and ports, at least in my experience, (from console to PC or vice versa) can sometimes leave a little something lost in the translation, especially when it comes to controls, meant that I had a few annoying reservations taunting me as I waited the five to six minutes it took to download and install the demo.
But Braid isn’t *just* a platformer, I’ve read. It’s something more. Something more “compelling” (take a drink). Well, durn it, “they” were right. This is a strangely intresting game.
First of all, Braid has no “lives”. It seems like the game’s creators got together over cappuccino and donuts (‘cuz that’s what developers do /nod) and some genius shot out of his seat and said, “Hey! You know what’d be awesome? If people actually got to see all the interesting things we put into the game and actually finished it!” The puzzles can take a little time to think through and sometimes you have to take the proverbial one step back to go two steps forward, but with no “lives” and a that handy little rewind feature, all of which made sense in the context of the game itself, I had a ton of fun!
The art-style is oddly appealing, with characters and backgrounds looking like they were inspired by a trip to the impressionistic area of your local art museum. The background music is very complimentary and definitely mood-setting, giving the game a soothing atmosphere with a touch of melancholy which is very appropriate given the way that the story is revealed. Being someone that almost always plays games without the in-game sound turned on, this was especially nice.
The most surprising aspect of the game, however, was the presence of a more mature story. It was refreshing that the creators of this little gem of a game were able to take what is otherwise a tired cliche of a theme (rescue the princess from the monster!) and turn it into something more accessible to gamers that aren’t 12 years old. When my wife glanced over my shoulder to have a peak while I read the story revealed between “worlds”, even she too was pulled in saying, “Wow. That’s some pretty decent writing.” I had to agree. I’m a sucker for a good story and while there wasn’t much revealed in the demo, there was certainly enough there to whet the appetite.
Given that I’ve sunk at least an hour or two into the demo so-far, this is definitely one game that I’m going to seriously consider saving some space for a full version of on the ol’ hard drive. And so, Braid gets the Big Shiny Gold Star…of DOOM!