Hello readers! Last week, we banged our heads as we explored a metal paradise from the mind of Tim Schafer.
Today, I picked a popular indie game that challenges our perception of...well, a few things.
THERE'S GONNA BE SPOILERS THIS TIME. YOU'VE BEEN WARNED.
Braid is an independent game that was the brainchild of Jonathan Blow. A side-scroller at first glance, Braid casts you as Tim, an unassuming-looking man on a quest to save a princess who has been taken by a "monster."
So basically, it's a spin on the classic Super Mario Bros. or Legend of Zelda plot. Why exactly it's a"spin" on those plots is made apparent as you play through the game. See, Braid's main mechanic, if you're not familiar with it, is the ability to rewind time.
Like, rewind it a lot. So if you die, you can hit Rewind and go back to before the time where you screwed up. At first, that's primarily what you use it for-correcting screw ups. But as you go further into the game, collecting puzzle pieces (your main goal), things get more complex. Each chapter uses a different time-manipulation mechanic. Chapter 3, for example (the game starts on Chapter 2; more on that later) contains green glowing areas that are unaffected by any time travel you do. Chapter 4's time moves backward and forward as you move left and right, respectively. And so on.
So it's clear after playing for a couple minutes that Braid is more of a puzzle-platformer. You need to figure out how to get each and every puzzle piece by utilizing the environment as well as time-manipulation.
But the game becomes so much more than that by the end.
So, like I said, Braid starts at Chapter 2. Each chapter gives you more of the backstory by way of small passages you read at the beginning, coloring in the character of Tim a little. See, it's when you get to the last chapter, Chapter 1, where the game reveals itself to you.
Tim finally finds the Princess, who is running away from the "monster" that took her. She's on the top of the screen, and you're on the bottom. She pulls levers that open doors and deactivate traps for you. And at the end of the level, you're finally reunited.
Except, Chapter 1's time mechanic is, simply, time flows backwards.
Hitting rewind causes time to flow forward-normally-and you see the scene turned on it's head. You see it for what it really is. The Princess is running from you. She was triggering the traps to slow you down. The "monster" was rescuing the Princess. From you.
You were the bad guy.
I wrote about Silent Hill 2 way back for this series. Like that game, Braid takes our preconceived notions of the player character and subverts them. In Braid, due to its initially simple setup and beautiful, colorful art style, you think at first-no, you know-that the premise is a basic "save the princess" plot. With you saving the princess.
Then, suddenly, it isn't. Everything you've done in the game is now in a different context. The opposite context in fact. What once was a noble quest to rescue your love turns into an almost nightmarish, relentless pursuit of your escaped kidnap victim. We thought we were playing as a hero, but we were playing as a villain and a possibly unbalanced individual the whole time.
I mean, Braid really makes me think. I wonder if most of what we saw happened only in Tim's mind. The snippets of story you read don't really sync with the time-manipulation gameplay, and they're not really supposed to.
There's a huge variety of interpretations on what exactly Braid is about. There's the time-manipulation thing, where "you can never really go back," regarding mistakes you might have made. There's atomic bomb symbolism. I remember reading some article about how it was about relationships. For me, at least one aspect is about shattering your expectations, and challenging preconceptions. What started as a simple side-scroller with a cool mechanic and a basic plot became something more; something that stays with you long after the credits roll.
And that's the mark of a great game.
Thanks for reading! Leave comments, suggest future games to be featured as Game of the Week, and find me on Twitter! Also, catch up with my other article series here, and consider subscribing to my Patreon if you like my stuff!
Next week-I'm writing my own visual novel, so I guess I'll write about one of my main influences. Murder and psychotic teddy bears abound.