Tag Archives: Xbox Live Arcade

Best of 2008 #8: Braid


To say that this one came out of nowhere is an understatement. I’d barely heard of it before I showed up on Live Arcade, a trail of impressive reviews in its wake and podcasts and blogs across the land erupting in praise and talk of ‘symbolism’, again bringing up that godforsaken ‘are games art?’ debate.

I may not know art, but I know that I like this. While it may be short, it’s a completely ingenious game, with such incredibly well-designed puzzles that there’s nothing in there that a day or two off and a return with a fresh mind won’t cure. If you’re trying to collect a piece with great feats of complicated dexterity and precision jumping prowess, chances are you’re doing it wrong.

Every world had its own gimmick that was completely different from every other and could turn the gameplay on its head, and yet it all seemed to fit together into a cohesive hole.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the much-lauded art style, but I loved the choices of music and, most of all, the story. Tim’s quest for his princess made no sense at all for five of the six worlds, and even in the final one an explanation remained elusive until the final sequence, which is still one of gaming’s few great rug pulls. I encourage you to experience it for yourself, but failing that check it out here.

Considering how long the game had spent showing off its ability to warp time around you in creative ways, seeing it do it one last time remained the most shocking of all.



Man, you wait ages for a good XBLA game and then two come along at once…

So how do you reconcile the fact that, at first glance, Braid looks like any other quick and dirty XBLA platformer with the frankly daunting 1,200 point (£10.20) price? Obviously the reviews help, as does the fact that this isn’t PSN and so a free demo is a given, but I still think it’s quite a big psychological barrier for people to overcome. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but it is.

If you’re finding yourself hovering over the download button, biting your lip, I implore you to take the plunge. This is one of the best indie games I’ve played in a while, and although it might still be on the pricey side, it’s a brilliant little game, full of neat touches and homages, as well as some great ideas of its own.

The influences that Braid carries most overtly is certainly Mario, and not just in the way that it’s ‘inspired’ every platform game ever. There are moments like this, which becomes an amusing running gag, a Donkey Kong sequence, and early enemies that are in no way Goombas, but the structure of the game allows it to switch from one idea to another at a moment’s notice, and it’s done in a way that allows you to skip a more challenging puzzle and come back to it when you want, never blocking your A-to-B progress. Continue reading Braid

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2

The original Geometry Wars was fantastic back in 2005, ushering in a new age of the twin-stick shooter and really selling pretty much everyone who played it on the potential of Xbox Live Arcade, but it was easy to feel that the genre had already moved far beyond that initial blueprint. Super Stardust HD brought depth and next-gen graphics, and while I didn’t like it, Everyday Shooter proved popular as a bedroom-coded take on the concept.

I must admit that I was wrong about it, though. I downloaded Geometry Wars 2 last week, and while the basics and visual style are the same, this is still the king.

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2

Taking notes from the little jaunt to the DS and Wii as a ‘proper’ standalone game, Geometry Wars 2 brings pretty much everything from the first game, adds five new modes, throws in some achievements that make ‘Pacifism’ – arguably the first creative ‘must-get’ achievement and, incidentally, expanded to a full mode in this game – look derivative, and then makes your eyes melt from the amazing. Continue reading Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2

Rez HD

In case you didn’t know, Rez HD is out on Xbox Live Arcade now for 800 points. It’s basically the same game as the Dreamcast and PS2 versions, but with HD graphics, 5.1 sound and all the expected online leaderboards gubbins. Buy it if you haven’t already.

Yesterday’s download was the first time I’ve played the game in a couple of years – pretty much since I bought a bargain copy in Japan in 2005 – and it’s even more of a trippy assault on the senses than it was then. If you have an HDTV and a 5.1 system I consider it to be a must-buy, in a similar way to how Geometry Wars became an unlikely early poster child for HD gaming. I’m so glad that stuff like this is getting a new lease of life in downloadable form, without the limited print runs that marred its retail performance on release.

Ignoring the inexplicable oversight to make the game default to stereo sound (go into the settings and set it to 5.1 if you haven’t), essentially turning off one of the game’s main selling points, I spent a couple of hours playing the first couple of stages. It’s the ultimate chillout game – even against similar ideas like flOw or Electroplankton – that you can just sit back with and only worry about a stick and a couple of buttons while it plays some great music for you. I love it, and consequently was listening to the Rez soundtrack at work for most of the day today.

Given that Rez HD also supports using controllers as up to three trance vibrators, much to the presumable delight of Jane Pinckard, unless you’re desperate to have the game on your shelf as part of the collection there’s no reason to bother with the disc-based editions. This one costs £6.80 – that’s SIX POUNDS EIGHTY PENCE, or roughly 1/7th of the recent going price for a Dreamcast copy on eBay – and even has the original 4:3 standard definition version in there for the luddites. Just try to make an excuse not to buy it.