BRAID (?)

a review of Braid
a videogame developed by number none
and published by microsoft
for the xbox live arcade
text by soulja boy

ZERO stars

Bottom line: Braid is OOOH! OOOOOOH! OOOOOOOOH!

SOULJA BOY

Comments

108 Responses to BRAID (?)

  1. Judging by the level design… yeah, I’d say Braid is a counter-statement to Sonic 3.

  2. I don’t think Sonic the Hedgehog’s level design even entered J. Blow’s brain, somehow.

  3. Actually, I didn’t really find Braid’s puzzles all that interesting either. They were all pretty linear and either took a second to figure out or you had the point-and-click adventure game problem of divining what the designer could have possibly wanted you to do. And they all seemed to be one-offs, with none having more than a couple of steps until the very end of the game.

  4. Not specifically. It does embody the reuse-and-clutter school of design, however.

  5. Very good writeup. While I’m not too familiar with the reference to Sonic 3 (by the time it came out, my friend who had a Genesis was no longer my friend), I completely agree about the obvious, ham-fisted pretension and the questionable (actually, not questionable: FLAGRANT) misogyny. Kudos or writing this; I keep expecting AB.net to lose its edge, but it keeps failing to do so.

  6. Sonic 2 is certainly cluttered and repetative. 3 is a lot less busy outside of the Carnival stage and there’s little if any carry-over of design elements from Zone to Zone (and I think most of what you’re refering to is merely reused in different combinations, just like the doors, wall meshes and cannons of Braid). In any case, apples and oranges. Sonic’s about impulsive movement on a macro level and Braid’s about planned movement on a micro level, I’m not sure how they could be further appart in goals and execution.

  7. When I think of Sonic 3’s design, what mostly comes to mind is the random devices used over and over within a given zone, like that seesaw ratchet scale thing that requires you to repeatedly press up and down to scale upwards.

    These aren’t fundamental game elements; these are, well, gimmicks, put in to help distinguish one level from the next. Which would maybe be okay if each were used just once, or if you learned something new every time. But it’s not like there’s some guiding logic to master. And most of this junk has nothing to do with the game’s core mechanics or premise. So you get to another barrel, and your first thought is “oh stuff, I have to do one of these things again”.

    As a whole, the game is self-consciously a glorification of “content” for content’s sake. It’s packed with as much stuff as its design can bear, just so it can say it has a lot of stuff in it. Which is again the opposite of the approach that Braid takes.

  8. You know, Action Button doesn’t have to worry about affecting Metacritic rankings by giving this a star value. Metacritic is bullstuff, and they ignore this site completely. (Which are not-unrelated facts.) You can tell us how you really feel.

    Concerning whether games usually owe little to the discipline of the written word: Colossal Cave Adventure? Zork? If text fits on a video screen, and if it does the job better than visuals or voiceover would, then why assault it simply for being text? A Sonic-style story introduction would involve showing Tim interacting with other humanoid characters, something that the game avoids doing until the finale, for good reason.

    Didn’t you at least enjoy the epilogue text, where alt-text becomes the reward for solving puzzles?

  9. From what I can tell, the motto behind Sonic 3 is “Let’s see how much we can milk this!”

  10. I’ll never be able to play this game, because it’s just so incredibly disgusting, its vibe just so off-putting. Even reading its website brings me great pain. If I could remove every bit of information about Jonathan Blow from my memory, remove all the in-game text, and play it with my eyes closed, then I would. Play it. I am a fan of reversing time, actually. It’s cool. Though… the way it is handled in Braid sounds so terribly gimmicky. It’s not reversing time, if some objects are immune to it. I mean, please. Sounds more like some form of psychokinesis. Ugh. I am looking at some more screenshot now. This game. Why, oh why, would you get someone who can actually paint, and then make him paint this painfully iconic bullstuff. Just look at those doors. If there ever was a door I’d NOT like to open, then that’s what it looks like. This game is just trying so hard, it’s cramping.

    But brothers! Let us not forsake the written word because of the hideousness of braid. Let it not drive us towards architecture and stage design. For braid might me a stage littered with delicious gummibears, seated in a cathedral even; though let us not forget that this cathedral was built in spirit of a nasty piece of work — a bigoted religious text — and that this text is housed in this cathedral as well, and forever will be. Let us not forget that this cathedral stands firmly in a fascist country, ruled by an ugly dictator, who is shouting hateful words over the loudspeakers in-between bomb alarms. We cannot and will not get rid of words. Videogames are made up words. Their very genetic codes are words. They are made up of clear-cut, sparkling mathematical languages; filled with words, semantics, meaning! Language is the very beginning of design. A cathedral is made up of adjectives. Huge, silent, crumbling, dark, morbid, detailed, spiritual, inspiring, beautiful. Adjectives and nouns make a cathedral. Massive stone. Carved sandstone. There are no verbs in architecture, yet there are verbs in videogames. Stage design now… if we’re talking about something like the Pirates of the Carribean ride, or some such attraction, then I’d say that’s rather close to videogames. Or a house of terror in a theme park. Something that you can traverse on foot, at –seemingly– your own leisure. It’s restriced where you may walk, though that’s not what you’re going to be thinking about when a zombie pops out from behind you — you’ll want to run in the opposite direction of that, anyway. And so you are being guided. You are being thrilled and shocked.

    I would rather play videogames made by someone who understands the flow of language, than a game made by someone who doesn’t; and I’d rather play a game that lets words work in the background, than a game that sticks obnoxious text on top of its gameplay.

    There’s text in videogames. There’s text in Ikaruga, and there’s text in braid. Fuck braid, man! Even the one paragraph that I wrote about it here is disgusting; I don’t think of that as good influence.

  11. Well… frankly that’s just wanky bollocks.

    Most of the gimmick elements in the Sonic series fall into three categories – things that hurt you, things you can stand on and things you interact with. These are usually known as “inseperable elements of a platform game”. They are indeed reused. So are the plants and cannons in Braid. Look how thinly Super Mario Bros stretches it’s meger tileset and mechanics.

    Each Zone of Sonic 3 has a fresh combination of elements. That, throughout the game, is a consistent approach. The spirit of Sonic wasn’t just to take a tileset and stretch it, adding a bit more every three levels or so. Yasuhara wanted to design themeparks: you don’t use elements of the same rides over and over again. The whole game is a videogaming theme park.

    It goes back throughout the series. Marble Zone is nothing like Spring Yard, even Sonic 2 (the laziest Sonic) uses unique objects.

    One thing is always consistent, and that’s Sonic and his abilities. Not even Braid can say that, given that Tim has different powers and properties in each world (which is cool, Tim’s abilities are consistent within each subset, if not overall). Everything in Sonic 3 can be interacted with using a D-pad and the single face button required for the game to run. Jump at something, jump off something, press “A” while you’re on something. The game has two duff gimmick elements – the two-man pull elevators (designed for two players, apparently) and the single oil drum in Carnival Night. Otherwise the game is entirely consistent.

    So really, what Sonic gives is what no other platformer could: new worlds, not just endless rehashes with minor variation. It’s actually interesting to see new stuff brought in. What really collapses your arguement is the Advance games, which recycle stock elements endlessly, and are boring beyond belief. Does it really seem so strange that each level has a whole new set of heath robinson contraptions? The bad guy is an insane inventor. Content for content’s sake describes Super Mario World almost perfectly, but not Sonic: those games are really pared down, levels take a handful of minutes. If you don’t like the level you’re in a new one is probably no more than twenty minutes away.

    And it’s all junk, man: nothing that doesn’t help you breed or keep your body viable for living long enough to raise viable offspring falls outside of the existential. Braid as much as Sonic as much as Bubsy 3D. They’re games, after all.

  12. Yeah, text adventures are obviously an exception to that rule. Subtitles during cutscenes, datafiles on items in games with detailed systems, all of these I can agree with.

    With Braid… an opposite approach would have been to do sepia-tinged flashbacks, hang shadowpuppets in the background parallax, use ghostly images. Suggest themes in the tileset and the puzzle names. It would have been a better experience for me, if it was like that.

    I haven’t exhausted the game yet, so I don’t have any of the alt text. I have read some of it, though.

  13. I got nothing interesting to say because I’m not even interested in Braid, but I’m logging in anyway just to say “bravo” to this review. Four stars.

  14. The game sounds great, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to play it, because the Games Are Art! movement is just so embarrassing and I don’t want these Game Artists to think they’re doing the Right Thing.

    Good painters don’t focus on making Art, they focus on making good paintings and they don’t care what you call it. “Is it art?” is just such a foolish debate, no matter the subject.

  15. I dunno, guys…. I think I’m more with the reviewer, here. Don’t like the overarching narrative? Don’t read it! Don’t like Jon Blow? Who cares! The puzzles are worth the price of admission.

    I mean, how can you get off calling someone artsy and pretentious when you’re refusing to play an entertaining game because of… stuff you can skip and art you don’t like? I mean, aren’t we all about pressing Action Buttons, and not about admiring Art Buttons? Don’t we prefer a good gameplay over something empty with shiny graphics? Just treat the text and art style the same you treat the story and graphics in an original gameboy game, and you should be fine.

  16. I love this site, and I love Braid (although wow, the game’s text is cringe-inducing, no arguments there). But cries of ‘pretentious!’ and accusations of onanism on a site like actionbuttondotnet? Holy stuff dudes, that is IRONIC.

  17. I’m sorry, but all the “OMG MARIO NOSTALGIC!!!!!” bullstuff and the pervasive, self-congratulating “LOOK AT ME, I’M ART!” vibe really make the whole experience nigh intolerable, even if about every other puzzle sequence manages to be pretty interesting. Call me shallow, but presentation actually means something to me in clicky cerebral platformers as well as JRPGS.

    And heck you, the graphics in most original gameboy games are absolutely beautiful (besides the blur and lack of backlight on an actual screen at least.)

  18. Good point, Ninja Fetus.

    And good point Invisible Yogurt (god you guys and your names) on the fact that Gameboy green is actually a wonderful aesthetic. I’ve done a lot of bitmap art in Gameboy green just for my own pleasure. Maybe I’m just nostalgic, or maybe I’m longing for the Gameboy I never received as a kid (I have one now, but so what?), but I get a really warm feeling from the Nuclear Spinach palette.

  19. Now, we need a review from someone who loves Braid in all its guises, or who at least finds the text respectfully fascinating.

  20. I plan on doing that one. At some point.

    (thesis shall be: the story isn’t the point you knuckleheads)

  21. Toupster!: Miyamoto Musashi, legendary swordsman, and, uh, bestselling author wrote something that is very close to my heart. It goes like this:

    Do not do anything useless.

    He was a bold man. I guess you have to be if you want to cut people up. And write a book about it.

    It’s interesting that you bring up the topic of los knuckleheads. I think you kind of have to be one, to continue to slurp the braid soup after picking hairs out of it. I mean, sensible people don’t do that. They just kind of push the bowl away, and say no thanks.

    Good luck with your review! I wonder what its point will be!

  22. Oh stuff! “Do not do anything useless” refers to Braid, not your forthcoming review. I had “points that aren’t the point” in mind, is all. A positive review would be (potentially) interesting to read.

  23. While I take your point that the text can seem pretentious at times, your analysis of the plot in Braid is so simplistic as to be laughable. I’m not going to be one of those people who suggests that you don’t “get it”, but the assertion that the story is about “how Blow’s – I mean, protagonist Tim’s – girlfriend couldn’t understand him” indicates a very shallow perception of what’s actually going on there, as does your suggestion that women are somehow an object lesson to Tim.

    Braid isn’t for everyone, in terms of the story. If you don’t want to think about the concepts therein, your assessment is exactly what I’d expect someone to come up with. And that’s alright, but there’s certainly far more going on there than you’ve let on. If you haven’t read all of the alt-text in the epilogue, I’d encourage you to do so, as it paints a much clearer picture of what the story is actually about.

  24. Daphaknee told me that James Edwards is ‘only good at one thing and that’s being mean to people over the internet’. I guess that’s a talent, of sorts!

  25. we had quite the talk about this in the selectbutton forums going.

  26. Wait? He’s doing no DLC for this? God hecking Dammit. That’s half the reason I shelled out the extra 400 points for it; I expected there’d be more to it down the track.

  27. For the record, I am working on a review of this game as well. Mine will be longer, and have a star rating.

    So please hold on. It’s going to have to be after our top-25 feature is finished (in two weeks).

  28. “If you don’t want to think about the concepts therein, your assessment is exactly what I’d expect someone to come up with.”

    Whether or not you agree with James Edward’s interpretation, I think that a strong argument could be made that Braid’s ‘subtlety’ is often really just obfuscation.

  29. there’s insightful art critique, and then there’s being an asshole. Way to be the latter. You sound like a something awful forum troll. I really enjoy the intelligent parts of your articles but jesus. You deride Blow for inserting his own emotional baggage into the game, and yet you seem to have a very large chip on your shoulder yourself. Why not just appreciate the narrative for what it is instead of having a knee-jerk “i’m gonna stuff on this so hard” reaction to everything? Every hecking article on this site consists of the author jerking off in front of the mirror, enamored with their own presumed intelligence. You’re hecking snobs. You make smart people look bad. Quit it. Enjoy something. ENJOY SOMETHING.

  30. dear sir:

    first of all, realize that it was actually not me who wrote this review. (maybe you already do.)

    second of all, we’re having an event recently called the “action button dot net manifesto”, in which we award perfect scores to our twenty-five favorite games of all-time.

    you can see it, stickied at the top of the front page, here.

    you could say that we enjoy those games quite greatly!

  31. I enjoyed braid! I willl continue to enjoy braid! I just felt that an honest critique of WHAT BRAID DOES WELL and WHAT BRAID DOESN’T DO WELL is likely to be more useful to future development of what you but not I would call a “video con”. If you’ll like me to join the dicksucking queue (the queue to suck someone’s dick) you’re going to be out of look.

    Now that Yahzee dude. There’s a dour cunt. Go yell at him!

  32. Wow Chris Furniss, easy. Let’s slow this down for a sec.

    “there’s insightful art critique, and then there’s being an asshole. Way to be the latter. You sound like a something awful forum troll.”

    I hate doing the ‘pot calling kettle black’ routine but this isn’t very constructive, is it? How about references to passages or something? Because so far as I understand, despite the amount of bile displayed above, the entire review is, in one way or another, insightful and a critique (although above mentioned in the comments, anything saying “I AM ART!” isn’t really art, rendering that part moot).

    “I really enjoy the intelligent parts of your articles but jesus. You deride Blow for inserting his own emotional baggage into the game, and yet you seem to have a very large chip on your shoulder yourself. Why not just appreciate the narrative for what it is instead of having a knee-jerk “i’m gonna stuff on this so hard” reaction to everything?”

    There are plenty of reasons NOT to appreciate the narrative, as discussed above. Misogyny? Immaturity? AB.N doesn’t stuff on things for the sake of stuffting on things. Well, maybe it does, but they do it in a manner that seems insightful usually!

    “Every hecking article on this site consists of the author jerking off in front of the mirror, enamored with their own presumed intelligence.”

    ‘Something Awful Troll’ hypocrisy to thread!!!

    “You’re hecking snobs.”

    Probably true. Fucking necessary in the world of games reviews. There aren’t a multitude of ways to avoid getting sucked into the giant circle jerk that is games journalism, where dissenting opinions = HATE HATE HATE and people somehow lose credibility for not “getting” what the cronyism-happy blog-editors decree is AWESOMETUDE, DUDE!. One way of doing this is being “snobbier.” More power to AB.N for dissenting in a hecking echo chamber. The end justifies the snobby, snobby means (and makes for good reading).

    “You make smart people look bad. Quit it.”

    I think you make medium-to-smartish people look dumb, if anything. You’re making 120 IQ look like 110 or something. Quit it.

    “Enjoy something. ENJOY SOMETHING.”

    Read more of this site. Jesus. Have you heard of Bangai-O Spirits? These guys shoot wads up walls for that game. I don’t get it, but it proves they enjoy stuff.

  33. Yeah. This is the sort of criticism (referring to the review, here) I’m hoping “The Manifesto” will help steer this site away from.

  34. It’s funny, kzkb1 – I’ve seen braid get a lot of praise from male reviewers, but the first woman I spoke to (after this was written, mind) was concerned and unsettled with the game’s portrayal of women. Braid objectifies women, there’s really no way around that.

    Is “this sort of criticism” doublespeak for “opinions I don’t hold?” I’d really like for you to expand on that.

    I described the actual videogame section of braid as nearly perfect. It nearly is perfect. This wasn’t an assasination, it was an assessment.

  35. lol I’m going to be honest with you, I didn’t even get to the part where you spoke at length about the gameplay. I stopped reading after the first several paragraphs because your anger is transparently pointless–you should read the Army of Two or Saints Row reviews on this very site, if you haven’t already, for examples of how to make that sort hyper-sarcastic, screechy “LOOKATMELOOKATME” shtick work FOR the point you’re attempting to communicate, rather than AGAINST it (unless of course you’re more interested in thinking up clever uses for the word “heck” than communicating anything of worth (in which case don’t feel too bad; you’re far from the first on this site to let that particular creative impulse dominate his efforts at critique!!!); then hey, forget I said anything!). There’s nothing about Braid that warrants THIS SORT OF (lol, how’s that for “doublespeak”) venomous, seething hot (but clever and ironic!) anger–or if there is, you failed utterly at communicating it. I’m talking about stuff like this: “(written with big words for the sake of big words so the Halo proles will feel inferior, or something.).” It’s cynicism and anger for its own sake and adds nothing to your review other than vague hostility. Again (sort of), if this was–hey, TEKKEN 6!!!!–or something, then fine; but Braid is an interesting game with interesting ideas (yes, even its plot and storytelling–hell, ESPECIALLY its storytelling), and it deserves a more honest appraisal.

    But hey, now that you made that post, I finished reading your review. It’s pretty good! Now try working on not addressing your audience as if they were internet forum members for you to shout at and impress.

  36. This was an honest appraisal. I’m sorry it’s not the honest appraisal you want to hear!

  37. Sorry to break into this pleasant discussion between you two, but is anyone else like, really really sick of rewind buttons in games? Mostly, you only need to reverse time manually in Braid in the most obvious of puzzle situations! It’s an unneccessary chunk of inelegance in the game’s design constraints and little more. Admittedly, it does eliminate the annoyance of having to redo stages after heckups, though.

  38. It’s an unnecessary chunk of inelegance in the game’s design constraints? What? It’s the single mechanic that *the entire game* is designed around! Seriously, that’s like claiming that the jump button in Mario is unnecessary and inelegant.

    Have you, um, played the game?

  39. Most of the time I see people stuffting on ABDN, it’s coupled with a “Except for their (positive/negative) review of (a game I liked/hated), which was spot on”.

    I suspect that the dislike for ABDN, if we could be honest, comes from the verdicts made on the games. Criticizing the way the reviewer argues for that verdict seems like a way to take a higher moral ground than “You suck because we disagree”.

    Ironically, pretending that it’s a moral crusade when it’s usually just a disagreement tends to be more embarrassing, and make you look like less of a person, than if you just say “You suck because we disagree”. I mean, if you post a seven page rant about how awful a review is, you have to recognize that you are treating what some guy on the internet said about some video game as a matter of personal integrity.

    On the other hand, constructive, civil debate where you bring up the game’s good points is always welcome.

  40. thank you GilbertSmith, you posted right what I was thinking while scrolling down the text comments.

    This game, I hadn’t heard about it and after seeing some videos and stuff, I would say yeah, let them do a Hi-def Super Mario Bros. with a new gimmick (the time reversing stuff) and a convulsed plot that takes the original Mario-saves-the-princess premise and turns it upside down just because they can. That’s as a laudable goal you can get out of videogames these days.

    With that out, and being familiar with Tim’s writing all this time, I think I can guess he’ll focus on that and on how disconnected the writing, the game design and the art assets (What’s with the music on this one? I would love to hear it, but not while playing this thing) are from each other.

    Or I may be wrong. again, I haven’t really played it, I am just… making some assumptions.

  41. James-

    If you were being honest, you completely misunderstood the game. There’s really no way around that. It’s made obvious by the game’s end that Tim’s quest was in vain and that his way of looking at relationships and the conflicts that arise from them is deeply flawed. This a person who evaluates and attempts to overcome relationship problems as if they were stages in a videogame for him to manipulate and conquer, with the eventual goal of, yes, saving the princess. The problem with your accusations of misogyny is that they’re hecking stupid; the game is filled with foreboding indications that Tim’s journey is futile and deeply misdirected (a big one is the music, which you also wrongly criticized–the reason it rewinds along with the flow of time is to show us that Tim has control over the game’s very framework; this isn’t a “normal” videogame, it doesn’t progress naturally and organically, it’s a representation of a man’s control-freakish efforts at (presumably) “winning back” his girlfriend and/or fixing what went wrong between them), and it drives this home in the last level when it’s revealed to us that “the princess” has actually been trying to escape from Tim the whole time.

    Look, I appreciate you getting this stuff out of your system before the Manifesto review of this game goes up (so that it doesn’t overshadow the ideas of people who actually know what they’re talking about), but I would have appreciated it even more if you hadn’t written for this site in the first place. The fact that you couldn’t understand this game’s intentions and slapped it with a pretty hecking serious accusation of misogyny tells me that you should have just kept your mouth shut about this subject (actually what it really tells me is that you’re opportunistic and dishonest, despite your claims to the contrary). I don’t know what form of nepotism allows people like you to keep getting your bile published on this site, and six months ago I wouldn’t have given a stuff; but this place is finally starting to get its act together and all you are doing, with your stuff-flinging, is dragging it back down. If I’m going to be here I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t waste my time.

    P.S. Braid is the best videogame ever, and the sycophantic dolts in the comments section who parrot the authors’ opinions despite having never played it are just as hilarious as those who hate this site for opposite reasons.

    GilbertSmith-

    I don’t know if that post was prompted by my comments here, but if it was you’re way off base.

  42. Then what exactly motivates you to carry a personal vendetta against an individual reviewer or a review website?

  43. I was actually talking about Furniss, or Furliss (I don’t care enough to scroll up and check his name), by the way. Or rather, that’s what made me want to comment, but I was really thinking more of like, everyone who’s ever called Tim or any of the other ABDN staff assholes.

    I mean, we’re just talking about video games here. Barring extreme circumstance, like someone saying that Shadow the Hedgehog carrying a pair of Glocks is “So Cool!” it’s not something that anyone should get bent out of shape about. It doesn’t justify calling names.

    We’re just talking about video games.

  44. Fascinating! Try actually reading my posts next time if you’re going to accuse me of something like that, you twit.

  45. No, “carrying a personal vendetta.”

    Let’s keep talking like this.

  46. So many people around the internet defending this game like the drunken wlidchild in sixth form who’ll never, ever sleep with them to the extent that any criticism is WRONG and the critic DOES NOT GET IT. Which in a way reflects the tone of the game. Sad. What these people do not seem to get is that Braid is an object and any interpretation if it will be subjective.

    Speaking a bit more plainly, the plot of Braid is toss. It’s poorly written angst for people who can identiify with that sort of thing. It’s shoehorned in and there’s no good reason for it to be there – just like 80% of a Kieron Gillen review, zinger fans! – other than to sate the author’s ego. It’s a bum note in a lovely harmony. It’s my hecking job to deconstruct why I feel that way, and it’s not my job to lie to save boors like kzkb1’s precious feelings about a downloadable videogame, ok?

    There will be no manifesto review of this game, kzkb1. Nobody ever said there would be. Tim’s doing his thing his way, I’m doing mine my way. I’ve got one manifesto review in the pipe and I know how it ends, because I’ve seen the google document.

    I still hold that the plot is misognyst – the princess never exists or is defined in any other way than her relationship to Tim, and it romanticises the harmful male heckup and his misadventures. One of my female friends got out of an emotionally abusive relationship lately and while that the guy in question would probably love to go on a wanky adventure to fix his broken soul, I wouldn’t haphazardly paste the narrative into an otherwise grand platformer. Braid never shows the lasting harm being a manipulative asshole can cause.

    The plot is inappropriate and creepy.

    (Don”t even get me started on the anti-videogame “statement” of the stars)

  47. I want to force Vincent Gallo to make a videogame in Klick N’ Play at gunpoint. I will run bets on how long it takes the game to show Vincent Galllo getting sucked off. I will bet on “five seconds”. I will win.

  48. Lolz!

    All of the aspiring independent directors I’ve met, they have filmed at least a half a dozen different blowjob scenes each (starring themselves).

  49. For what it’s worth (and I’m not a big fan of content that you don’t get to see if you play the game like a normal human being, from beginning to end): there’s a whole lot more going on in Braid’s story than the obvious stuff about a failed/failing relationship.

    When I finally figured out what it was all about, I was… very impressed. I would have been more impressed if any of it had anything to do with the gameplay, but even aside from that I was happy that the story had more depth to it than it first appeared.

    I recently ‘reviewed’ Braid (which is to say I used it as a jumping-off point for talking about Games As Art) and my thesis was this: if you make a fun game, you’re allowed to try to tack on Art or Politics or whatever. As long as I get to have fun with your game, I’ll tolerate whatever other purposes you intend for it. If I end up liking your Art or your Politics or your Masturbation, so much the better.

  50. Hey, James, long time first time. Just wanted to give you some constructive criticism. Just a few tips, no biggie.

    You’ve most likely gathered this already but this review comes off a little bit spiteful and a tad purposely contrarian (just a little). This is only accentuated by the length of the review. There are people calling this the best game ever… you might need more the 7 paragraphs to convince them otherwise. You gotta really come up with something creative if you wanna do that sorta nonsense right?

    In regard to your extreme disgust and revulsion towards the plot… don’t sweat it man… it’s just a story. You don’t really have to read that stuff. It’ll be cool man. I appreciate that the guy said what he wanted to say, it’s a frist step right? Sure he’s a bit whiney, but the guys tryin to work some things out. I’ve always held the belief that all things written honestly are worth reading. One way or another we learned something about John Blow right? I feel like it was worth learning that John Blow is a bit misogynistic. Gave me somethin’ to chew on in ma’ brain right? And i disagree that he implemented the plot poorly. It was a perfectly reasonable, affective, and slightly creative (slightly) way to present that story.

    In regard to your posts in the comment section. Little bit angry huh? Hey man they’re just people. You gotta learn to hang around other people if you’re gonna live in the world. What if someone invites you to a party or something? You can’t just freak out if someone one there likes Kevin Smith movies. You gotta have a little decorum sometimes. Don’t feel the need to get in nerd tantrum fights in the comments. If your review did it’s job you should let it speak for it’s self.

    Also, to be more specific, whats the deal with you not liking the music? I’m gonna straight up say you’re wrong. I don’t know any other way to put it… it’s kinda confusing… Seriously what do you think would be a better choice? Do you hate pretty music… do you find disgust in things of beauty? WHY DO YOU HATE BEAUTIFUL MUSIC? Sorry man, that was overboard, we’re still cool right? Still buds? Didn’t mean to yell man. Suuriously though… the music is one of the best parts of the game and perfectly complements the blah blah blah. I feel like i shouldn’t have to say this stuff to a grown man, you should’ve figured this stuff out on your own.

    Anyways like I said, big fan. I think you got a lot of potential, but at the same time a lot of room to improve, ya know? Just keep it up man, keep swingin’ for the fences right?

    Love,
    Joseph “Christmas” Louis Stevenson

    p.s. i probably won’t read any of the comments anyone posts after this cause I’m just so above this stuff am i right guys?

  51. “Look, I appreciate you getting this stuff out of your system before the Manifesto review of this game goes up…”

    Wait, this game is going to be in the Manifesto? Please tell me this is a misunderstanding. They’ve been so spot on so far! I mean, say what you will about Braid, but surely it’s not one of the BEST GAMES OF ALL TIME!

  52. Misogyny: hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women.
    From the dictionary.
    Reducing the female character to an abstract symbol may certainly be sexist, and may well deserve criticism.
    But it is not misogynistic. The word is quickly becoming abused the way “Nazi” is in politics.
    Let’s not do that.

  53. No, it’s not. I think the list has been more or less decided for awhile, with a few shifts in terms of numbering and so on. The list was actually planned with a lot of forethought, to my understanding, and even if Braid deserved a spot, I think it’s way too early to pass a “Greatest Games” verdict.

  54. Hey JamesE, just stopping in to say that you, of all people, calling anyone a “boor” is kind of priceless. Later!

  55. On the issue of misogyny: Blow pretty clearly isn’t misogynistic. By the end of the game I was convinced that the protagonist, Tim, was not a very nice person, and I was also convinced that Blow thought Tim wasn’t a very nice person either.

    The entire world 1-1 sequence pretty much drives that point home. Tim’s attitude towards all three of the ‘women’ in the story is supposed to provoke some amount of revulsion, because Tim is a bad guy. He is, in fact, *the* bad guy of the game.

    It’s possible, of course, that Blow is working out his own issues with women, but I don’t believe that he could write Tim in such a way as to make me actively dislike him without doing so consciously.

  56. There’s a difference between being a dandy and posting the sort of thing you post on–hey–OTHER people’s blogs, dude!

  57. Wait, what? Tim is only editor in chief, it’s not his personal livejournal or anything. What you’re doing technically counts as posting on someone else’s blogs (dude), James works here.

  58. Just a heads up, you might want to familiarize yourself with what exactly I’m referring to if you’re going to keep butting into this conversation.

  59. “On the issue of misogyny: Blow pretty clearly isn’t misogynistic. By the end of the game I was convinced that the protagonist, Tim, was not a very nice person, and I was also convinced that Blow thought Tim wasn’t a very nice person either.”

    Blow’s denied this on the Braid blog, I believe. His intention is that Tim isn’t a bad guy, or something.

    Kzkb1, I’m not sure if you’ve an axe to grind, but I’m a co-founding member of actionbutton – for reference, the account I’m posting from is the admin account.

  60. I’m referring to your behavior elsewhere on the internet; you and I both know what I’m talking about, dude, and it’s just a litttttle hypocritical for you to call me a “boor” given the way you’ve been known to treat others.

  61. Ha, OK, heck off. AB.net is a place to discuss the reviews, not the private lives of the reviewers.

  62. “Blow’s denied this on the Braid blog, I believe. His intention is that Tim isn’t a bad guy, or something.”

    I don’t know how else to read the second half of world 1-1. Unless we’re intended to understand that the rest of the game has been a kind of ‘atonement’ for 1-1.

  63. lol. It’s not “my hecking job,” as a commenter, to forget all previous impressions I have of you; it’s yours, as the author of this piece, to remove yourself from that persona if you don’t want to be associated with it. Good try, though!

  64. Okay, let me go and do a background check on James…

    There, finished, Verdict: James can still say whatever he wants on ABDN, and you’re still being unpleasant (over a video game review).

  65. And he’s still being unpleasant IN a videogame review. Your point?

  66. Oh, and I don’t like that “it’s just a videogame review!” cop-out. Shouldn’t we take the things we care about seriously? Isn’t the whole POINT of this website that these things should be taken MORE seriously?

  67. KZKB1 do you have anything to say about the “video game” “braid”

  68. Yes? As much as you do (hey, check out my comments above!), and I even said it with about the same measure of tact!

  69. I do gotta say that saying the lives of the reviewers are off limits on a site operated by tim rogers is pretty lolol. that said kzkb1231jk2bn24 is being kind of dumb here.

  70. Some of these comments are getting personal, so I hope I can check in with a disagreement respectfully. James, you say in comments: “Suggest themes in the tileset and the puzzle names… I haven’t exhausted the game yet, so I don’t have any of the alt text. ”

    If you play close attention to the background art and puzzle names, they do suggest themes. The “story,” special ability for a world, and art all relate to each other. You’re welcome to think it’s done poorly or pretentiously, but I’d take another look for it.

    Also, when you finish the game, the ending (and the “alt text” in the epilogue) recontextualizes everything that has come before. I consider myself fairly P.C. and feminist, and I don’t see misogyny when considering the complete game. Again you might think it’s ham-fisted, or you might think that having to play through a seemingly male egocentric plot to get to “the big reveal” is poor storytelling (although then I’d say you missed some of the foreshadowing)… but I’d urge you to complete the game before passing final judgment.

  71. extralife, you’re right. In fact I’m sort of embarrassed now. :\

  72. If you’re going to level accusations of misogyny, you need to write something more to support those claims. As it is, you’ve managed to convince me that you don’t like the game’s story for reasons that you’re willing to mention but not explain. Perhaps oddly, I’ve come to expect more of ABDN.

    The refusal to give the game a star rating is strange. No offense, but it comes off as reactionary and petty. Of course it’s a bullstuff metric! Everyone knows this. And yet, ABDN uses a star rating system. Either use it or do away with it completely and uniformly. Don’t refuse to give a rating on just one game, just because you think a game designer will pay too much attention to it.

    Between the pointedly withheld rating and the refusal to elucidate the most inflammatory and interesting points of the text, the reader must ask: why write a review at all?

    The best I can do is assume that the reviewer and I relate to and understand the game’s narrative in fundamentally different ways, but that is just an assumption. The fact is that at the end of the review I don’t have a clear idea of how the reviewer understands or relates to the narrative; just that he hates it, apparently finding it too obtuse and misogynistic for words.

    That is a problem. ABDN seems to be the place where reviewers can really open up and spend some words when defending such extreme points of view. I would love to read an actual defense of the argument presented in the text of the review.

    Unfortunately the review states a very interesting position but doesn’t defend it. I hope the author rewrites this to really back up the claims of misogyny and narrative incoherence. If it can be done, it would be very interesting to read.

  73. >>The best I can do is assume that the reviewer and I relate to and understand the game’s narrative in fundamentally different ways, but that is just an assumption.

    Did you know? Poop tastes like candy to flies!

  74. GilbertSmith, aren’t you an aspiring independent director yourself? If so, how many BJ scenes did you film, were they in B&W, wacky and funny?
    –> dlz plz!!!

  75. Lol! I managed to get my wiener into some shots for the Manifesto videos, but you can’t really tell with the two-tone black and white. Plenty of stuff about my butt, though.

    I dunno if I’d call myself an aspiring independent director. I don’t like the indie scene, and I try to avoid other directors. I like to think of myself as an aspiring work-for-hire direct-to-DVD director, like Takashi Miike. There’s something completely unpretentious and liberating when your movies can be commissioned entertainment, and not a burden or a responsibility to express white middle class woes and liberal politics.

  76. I’d agree that this review has an interesting viewpoint that does little to explain itself.

    I know, james, that your schtick on this site is to be the guy that doesn’t write 20 page reviews, but even this is too lean. You need to put some meat on these bones.

    Also, the no-rating thing is a stupidly placed point. It’s snarky but with no intellectual payoff.

  77. Judging from the comments, this game’s story sounds a lot like Silent Hill 2’s. I liked Silent Hill 2. Aside from the cordoned text, what is it about Braid that makes the material not work?

  78. It’s possible to do Braid justice in this many words. Not only is the storyline not very good, it’s an absolute distraction, and I didn’t want to be waylaid by that bullstuff. Braid is all about the game itself, which is marvelous.

    All my future reviews for AB.net will now be provided as MP3s! There’s one last one I have halfway done for Sonic 3 and Knuckles, then it all goes sonic… in the aural sense.

  79. So, mr. Edward, you haven’t finished a 6-8 hours game and complain about its narrative? Braid is a whole, it’s end is just as important to the experience as its beginning. It’s shorter for that purpose. You can’t possibly articulate anything of value about it if you haven’t even finished it.

    And the not giving it a score because you read gaming blogs too much, that’s just bullstuff.

    I thought this website was better than that. what a waste.

  80. This review works for me. I can understand the criticisms of its being kind of incomplete, etc, but I don’t think that diminishes the problems he’s actually stated. If a game is excruciating for certain players at the two hour point, it’d probably also be excruciating for those players at the 6-8 hour point, and no matter how well told/implemented the story is, I don’t really want to play a video game as a guy with an ex-girlfriend and typical non-issues like being a control freak. That might be fine for you, but I know I wouldn’t enjoy that. For me, James’ review gets the job done.

  81. @GilbertSmith: then good for you, you seem to be the target audience for stuffe. This review is laughable and should be pulled from the site.

  82. No really. A disagreement over a video game review doesn’t justify personal insults, no matter what the internet has taught you. Go back to 4chan if you can’t be remotely civil.

  83. I found this review careless. You say it’s a nearly perfect game but spend only one paragraph supporting the positive side. On top of that, the only analysis provided in this paragraph is that the puzzles are “magnificently sculpted”. This reminds me of countless Gamespot, IGN, etc. reviews I’ve read in which the only analysis they can come up with is to go through the graphics, sound, etc. and call them all “awesome”, “amazing”, “mind-blowing”, etc. Tell me what makes the puzzles so good. Give me a specific example or two.

    You also tear down the elevated tone of the game by calling it pretentiously self-aware and sexist, but I think you really missed a central point in all that–that the story serves as a commentary on the video-game damsel-in-distress archetype, especially as presented by Super Mario Bros. The game consistently takes SMB and turns it on its head–mainly in art style, music, and story presentation. To me, the “big words” (it starts right in the second book of the game which says that his memories had been muddled and “replaced wholesale”) serve as an ironic contrast to the iconic simplicity presented by games like SMB. And the sexism is there because it’s part of the “man saves woman” archetype–the game recognizes Tim as the sort of ass that thinks his woman doesn’t understand him when really he’s too dense to understand himself and the effect he has on his “woman”, and he suffers because of it (you have to play through to the end to see this angle). You might disagree with me on this, but a failure to even address this point in your review seems like big oversight to me.

    Finally, I find it unprofessional and petty to refuse to give a game a star rating because of something you read on the creator’s blog. Rate the game itself without getting into politics, please.

    p.s. I probably would have been a lot less disheartened by your review if it had been presented as a “blog entry” sort of essay, rather than an actual critique of the game.

  84. So I just read back over some more comments (I tend to skim through to try to skip the arguing that doesn’t relate to the review or to the game, and I guess I skipped over too much) and I realize that I echoed a lot of what’s already been said by DB and others. Oh well. Also, I need to comment on this quote by James:

    “Blow’s denied this on the Braid blog, I believe. His intention is that Tim isn’t a bad guy, or something.”

    What the hell?! This is ever more careless than your review. You’re going to justify your perspective of Tim as a completely virtuous protagonist by referring to something the creator said, and finish it with the dismissive “or something”? Review what is to be found in the game itself! I enjoy this site even though I find it occasionally arrogant because I find a lot of worthwhile things in what it has to say (for example, I immensely enjoyed Bioshock but found its negative review to be spot-on and enlightening–even though I went right on enjoying playing the game). But your attitude towards this game and towards Blow is the first thing on this site I’ve ever found truly offensive.

  85. @gilbertsmith
    The review does NOT get the job done. Proof? you came away with the impression the game was insipid. Yet, James mentions the game is near perfect. There’s so much ranting, personal attacks to the author and overall negativity in this review that hardly anybody who’s read that will actually pay attention to the fact the reviewer actually liked the game.

    you mentionned that you ”don’t really want to play a video game as a guy with an ex-girlfriend and typical non-issues like being a control freak.” See? All you remember of this review is James’ supposed interpretation of what he thinks the story might be.

    Well I’m sorry but he’s off the mark. He either didn’t understand it the story or didn’t want to because he obviously has a beef with Jonathan Blow but also because he didn’t even finish it. His review is crap because due to his problem with Blow he refused to give it a score and then rants for the entire review except the part where he says it’s ”nearly perfect” but never says why.

    If you’re into this, then like I said, you must be into stuffe. It’s not a personal attack, but it seems to me because of this crap review you’re going to miss out on one of the most amazing games in years.

    And you know what? you may even enjoy the story! I did. a lot of people did. Do yourself a favor and play it on the basis that James told you it’s ”nearly perfect” somewhere in there.

  86. What exactly do you mean when you say being a control freak is a “typical non-issue”?

  87. I mean it doesn’t interest me in the least, it’s a mundane, commonplace, and very small thing to worry about. I’ve spent so much time around diagnosed paranoid schizophrenics and delusional psychotics that I can’t really take minor hangups like “My girlfriend left me because I’m a control freak” seriously. It’s like a guy going “I had to skip lunch today” in comparison to a Somalian kid who says “I literally eat rocks and dirt to stop the pains of hunger”. Any personality disorder that can be cured by a trusted bro going “Geez dude, get over yourself”, to me, doesn’t justify an eight hour video game.

    Now, if the guy being a control freak actually means that he is obsessive compulsive, and I mean in a way that suggests that the author actually researched OCD by reading books and not just watching As Good as it Gets, then I can get behind that. I just don’t think “Being a control freak” is a big enough hurdle for a protagonist to jump to create a story that I would find interesting.

  88. In other words, I just don’t have enough sympathy for control freaks or guys who just got dumped to really care. Maybe that’s my fault, but it still means that my playthrough of Braid would be accompanied by record breaking amounts of eye rolling and sarcastic exclamations of “poor BABY!”

  89. You are the perfect example, really, of why this review is wrong. Why do you make such a scene about the story so much?

    Well that’s the only thing I also remember from the review.

    Try the game. Make up your own damn opinion about it. As much as the story may not necessarily be your type it’s impossible that it will come in the way of fun and I really doubt that you’ll have a ”record breaking amount of eye rolling”. I’m sure you won’t.

    Also, there’s someting we can all relate to in there. At least most of us. It’s brought to you in a way only a videogame ever could.

    Seriously Gilbert, do yourself a favor and play it. You’ve built up an entire opinion based on absolutely nothing. Try it.

  90. @GilbertSmith – but that simply isn’t what the game is about. It is only what this reviewer thought the game about, and he is laughably wrong.

    The ‘story’ consists of a bunch of text screens filled with awful purple prose and I cheerily ignored them because I was playing an amazing looking, amazingly well designed game in my favorite video game genre. I didn’t give a god damn what the story is, any more than I gave a god damn what flimsy excuse any other platforming game had to send me on the quest.
    The ending to the game did have a neat little twist, and was pretty much fun, but it still doesn’t inspire me to spend any brainpower on the rest of the story.

    Also, that half-remembered Blow quote was rejecting an overly simplistic interpretation of the games story – while not the same interpretation as James, it was also an attempt to process something clearly intended as nuanced and complex down to something simplistic and driven by agenda. “Open to interpretation” is certainly a cop out, but ultimately the genre is about gameplay, and complaining about a purposefully vague narrative is like bitching about what they’re calling the villain in Sonic games. Stupid.

  91. @James: have you read this guy Gilbert’s comments? Is this what you wanted people to think when you wrote that review?

  92. Zerozaki-

    You make a good point. I might actually give the game a try.

    I just hate the idea that stories have to be small and mundane to be “art”. It’s kind of the worst, most poisonous ideal of the indie film scene, and I don’t want to see it affecting indie games.

  93. “It’s possible to do Braid justice in this many words. Not only is the storyline not very good, it’s an absolute distraction, and I didn’t want to be waylaid by that bullstuff. Braid is all about the game itself, which is marvelous.”

    That’s funny, because uh, you spend barely any time talking about the game!

    This is my point.

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