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I don't like Braid. What's wrong with me?

I really, really like a good puzzle game. So when I saw Braid announced and read the raving critics, I was quite sure this was a game for me. I really wanted to like it. Then I downloaded the trial version... and pretty much hated it. So here are some critic's citations and how they resonated for me:

  1. It's beautiful
    Well, excuse me but I find it ugly. To me, it looks like a Van Gogh wannabe under acid had tried to redesign Mario. But that's fine, even though I would have appreciated a saturation setting in the menu, I can love an unaesthetic, tacky game if it works well.
  2. Tight controls
    Sure, the time control works well and is quite instinctive to use, but the rest felt amateurish to me, shareware-like. And the moving jumps are just a little too long, making it counter-intuitive to predict where you'll land, especially on moving targets. The controls worked against me more than for me. That would be fine-ish if I had an incentive to get used to the controls...
  3. Compelling story
    Yeah, OK, the writing is fine. But it isn't integrated to the gameplay at all. Quite the reverse, actually, it's totally isolated from the game. The writing should serve the gameplay, and vice versa. They must be tightly woven together. So the game didn't make me want to care about the story, and the story doesn't save the game for me.
  4. It's all about the puzzles
    That's the strange one. This is the point that should have redeemed all the rest. The idea is quite good and apparently I'm the only one who didn't like its execution. The puzzles in the demo were either way too simple to be interesting or quite hard with the game giving no clue whatsoever. Compare that with a Portal that only adds one concept at a time and makes sure there never is a wall of difficulty but always a smooth progression. Here, the game did nothing to make me care enough, so I just gave up.
  5. It costs $15
    I wouldn't care about this one. I'm ready to pay for a good game, even if it's short, and $15 looks like an ok price to me for a few hours of fun.

So for me the jury's still out on this one. I'd be willing to try again but so far all the reasons I've seen people cite for loving it just didn't work for me.

Did you try Braid? Did you like it? What am I not getting in your opinion?

Posted: Aug 10 2008, 11:24 PM by Bertrand Le Roy | with 7 comment(s)
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Comments

Ted said:

You are not the only one that does not like Braid.

1. Ugly, ugly, ugly.

2. Something felt wrong but I could not put my finger on it, now that you mention the jumping, this is exactly what it was.

3. I thought it was boring.

4. I thought all the puzzles in the demo were super easy.

5. $15 should be reserved for extremely special XBLA games that are worth it.  Braid is not that.

You could get as much enjoyment out of your favorite, classic games with an emulator that supports rewind.

# August 11, 2008 10:51 AM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Fabien: the aesthetics point is clearly very subjective, but talking about the music, I had to turn it off after five minutes and G actually thanked me for it...

I agree that the idea is relatively novel in a platformer (and the idea, to be clear, is not time rewinding, it's making it the central gameplay element) but it's not the idea that I didn't like, it's its execution.

I felt there was something going on with the puzzles being part of the game but was too bored to make an effort and find out (or more accurately, it just felt like such a wart to have lame mini-puzzle-games to build -is this game for 4-year olds?- that I hoped there was something more to it). Now that you tell me, ok, it makes sense, but it doesn't save the game in my eyes.

I guess this is just not for me (but on paper, it felt so *right*). Very disappointed.

# August 11, 2008 1:51 PM

xun said:

wow! Now I understand that you have to become part of microsoft evil team then can you have a lot of good fun and blog about it. (Of course Google people also are having good fun after making a lot of good)

Sorry never had a chance to play any xbox games, still sweating over the never ending stream of asp .net new products and terms (MVC, Silverlight, LINQ ... AJAX is already old timer). So no comments, nor complaints.

But I take your words. Will never play braids even if given the chance.

Went to your flickr. Like the photography and drawings and sketches. Very much.

Definitely evil. Meaning, definitely masterly.

# August 12, 2008 11:52 PM

Ryan said:

I played the demo, loved it, and bought the full game a few days later.

1. The graphics didn't bother me one way or the other, though I can see how it could annoy some people.

2. I got used to the controls after awhile, but the jumping was the same with me - I would often have to do many rewinds to accomplish just what I wanted when jumping or falling.

3. The story didn't really seem to matter until the last world (or level, or whatever). That last level really tied it all together and was great, but you only really needed to know the basic plot elements - Probably just the stuff in the first book or two.

4. The progression may be better in the full game, as the demo skips a bit. It really depends which ideas didn't jump out at you. I do remember having some trouble on a couple of puzzles that took me awhile.

5. The price held me back to start with, but I decided to go for it. I think I got my money's worth, especially as I have some friends that will end up playing it with my copy.

I'm not trying to sway you or anything, just throwing out my opinion :)

# August 13, 2008 9:00 PM

Quiet Desperation said:

I wasn't thrilled by it either. I was able to get through the first room just fine except for one puzzle piece. There's this one jump you have to time so precisely, and I could swear I did it a number of occasions, but I just could not clear the gap to the final piece. I must have sat there for 10 minutes rewinding over and over again. Meh... I like a challenge but not something with a millsecond timing window. It's just not worth it.

# September 1, 2008 6:02 PM

greystone227 said:

I absolutely loved Braid.

1. I found the visuals to be absolutely beautiful, and the music just made the experience outstanding. I understand this is very much an opinion, though.

2. Maybe I don't play enough platformers, but I didn't notice anything about the jump. Felt fine to me. Personal preference again, though.

3. I really liked the story, but it was kind of disjointed. If you listen to one of Blow's interviews though, he has a good explanation for it - since the game can be played in pretty much any order after a certain point, you have to have a story that can do the same.

But I must say, I have to completely disagree with your comment about how the story doesn't blend with the gameplay (and I find your example of a good game story to be quite funny - Portal was awesome and funny, but it didn't really have much of a story man, haha - I mean, the secret rooms with the "the cake is a lie" slogan and companion cube posters were cute and hilarious, but, you know, not really a good story). The gameplay and all of the ideas it presents are extremely symbolic of the story. I find that this is especially the case in World 2, where it is easy to see the connection. It just blends right into what you're doing, especially if you're willing to look further into it and not just breeze through the snippets (and that sounds really stuck-up and stuff, but really I'm just trying to say that this is more than you're typical video game story).

4. If you're just going off the trial to judge the difficulty curve, then yes, I would completely agree with you. The trial definitely jumps around, but only because the developer is trying to show you all the different gameplay elements - and to do that, you have  to skip around a bit. The actual game is a little different. You also have to keep in mind that each world really has it's own difficulty curve. You can't judge the whole game on one scale, because once again, you can play it in any order really. Not to mention each of the world's time mechanics are so different that saying which one is harder to master depends on the person playing.

5. It's easily worth $15. I mean, it probably took me 3 hours or so (maybe 4) to beat all of the puzzles in the game. I also beat it a second time which took me maybe another hour. It's a quarter of the price of an average game. Multiply 3 by 4 and you get 12 hours, so you're getting your average amount of gameplay for your money's worth. Not to mention the fact that Braid is really an experience - an experience that's easily worth $15.

# September 5, 2008 10:59 PM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@greystone: see, that's the catch22... The demo may give a bad idea of the game but it was such a bad impression that I'm not going to risk paying for the whole game and still not like it (which is quite likely). So I might be passing on a gem but I'm not going to buy every game that has a bad demo because the full game might be better.

I can't let the Portal thing unanswered though. There is very little text in Portal and there might not be a lot of story, but that's not the point. The point is that the game is telling a (short) story in a very subtle way. This is not about "the cake is a lie". You seem to be confusing what's written in English with the story. Case in point, in Portal, <spoiler>you start the game believing that you're just going to be part of a fun experiment and as the game advances, you understand that something actually went horribly wrong and that Glados took over the facility and probably killed everyone.</spoiler> Nothing groundbreaking in the story itself but again that's not the point. The point is that video games are a relatively young art form and have to find their own way of telling stories. There can be a story in a painting or in a symphony, but it's not written in English. In games, the story is best told not in English but through subtle hints. Bioshock also did that well but was being more explicit than Portal. I did choose the Portal example very carefully because it was the exact example that I consider shows how storytelling in games can be done best.

# September 7, 2008 1:11 AM

joelvarty said:

I agree.  Braid is not a contender for my limited gaming time.  

Bring on an update for Portal!

# September 29, 2008 2:04 PM