Braid review

I will be continuing my Mega Man retrospective. The column on Mega Man 2 will be coming later this week, with the rest being posted once per week. However, I want to have at least one other post on the site per week (unless I get lazy), so that it’s not just all Mega Man for the next ten or more weeks. With that said, here’s my review of Braid.


Braid title screen
Braid
Developed by Number None (XBLA, Windows) and Hothead Games (Mac, PS3)
Published by Number None (XBLA, Windows) and Hothead Games (Mac, PS3)
Platforms: Xbox 360 (via Xbox Live Arcade), PS3 (via PlayStation Network), Windows, Mac


Braid was originally released in 2008 on the Xbox Live Arcade, and in 2009 for Windows, PS3, and Mac. I just recently bought the game for 800 MSP off of the XBLA, which is equivalent to $10 (USD). I know I’m behind on the whole Braid craze, but I was bored and I figured I’d give it a shot.

GRAPHICS: The game looks nice. I might even say it looks really pretty. But I’m not entirely sure this particular art style is a favorite of mine. In many aspects, the game’s art style does resemble a painting. But it just didn’t click with me, and anything else I can say on that would sound like nitpicking. Yeah, the game looks great, but I think it could have been better.

Great look, but not my favorite. 7/10

SOUND: The background music is good, I guess. I honestly didn’t notice it much. But that’s usually what background music is supposed to do, be in the background. The sound effects are pretty standard. Nothing much to say about that. There’s no voice acting. Everything is done via text, which is a bit disappointing, but for an “indie” game it isn’t surprising.

Okay sound effects and a background music that does its job. 8/10

STORY: I… Umm… What? The story told by the text of the books is confusing to say the least. I went online to see if I had missed something, only to find out that the story itself is “open for interpretation,” and that there is no official interpretation of what these books mean. I suppose the one thing in the game that isn’t quite open for interpretation is a line in one of the early books about the Princess running from a monster, and then the final level in which the Princess appears. Other than that, there’s nothing really solid to go with.

A confusing array of story snippets that ultimately have no true foundation. Worst of all, this is by design. 3/10

GAMEPLAY: The game revolves around a series of time manipulation powers. The only power that is universal is the ability to rewind time. Some worlds have their own unique ability. The goal of the game is to collect the puzzle pieces in each level and then complete the jigsaw puzzles for each world. Getting the pieces is a puzzle in its own right, requiring clever use of your abilities and precise timing. Since this is also a platformer, you’ll be required to time jumps and climb ladders. Not all solutions are readily apparent, and I ended up going online for a video to see how I’m supposed to get the piece.

A challenging puzzle platformer. 9/10

OVERALL: With all this said, the game is short. Far too short, in my opinion, to justify its original $15 price tag, and even at $10 it’s still a bit too much for so little. Once you beat the game, there is no replay value whatsoever, unless you like time trials. And you can beat the entire game in about three or four hours. In my opinion, that’s far too short for anything costing more than $5. I can understand the game cost a lot to make, but it’s still too short for the price. On the PC, however, there is a level editor, so you can at least download new, fan-made levels to play. So if you’re going to get it, PC is the way to go. That is, if you can get enough quality fan levels. 7/10

RISK: Factions review

RISK: Factions logo

RISK: Factions
Published by Electronic Arts
Developed by Stainless Games
Platform: Xbox 360 (via Xbox Live Arcade)


RISK is one of the all-time classic board games. There have been several versions of the board game, as well as many different computerized adaptations. The latest of which is RISK: Factions on the Xbox Live Arcade.

RISK: Factions allows players to play either the classic RISK rules or the more recent 2008 rules. Factions also adds dynamic map features and five factions (humans, cats, robots, zombies, and yetis). Up to five players can participate at one time. Now let’s break things down into categories.

GRAPHICS: The maps are nice to look at and the user interface is easy to navigate. If you’re playing the Classic RISK mode, there isn’t much else for you to see. The Factions mode has cartoon portraits of each faction leader, as well as animated battles. The characters are nicely animated and very expressive, and the battles are quite entertaining when you aren’t cursing your luck with the dice. The single-player campaign has five missions and each mission has a cartoon introduction created by Powerhouse Animation Studios. The cartoons are well animated and are each rather funny to watch.

In all, the cartoons are great, and everything else is nice and simple. 8/10

SOUND: In the Classic mode, the sound is minimal. I think there’s some background music, and you get sound effects for the battles, but there isn’t much else. In the Factions mode, the dynamic map elements and the animated battles have some nice sound effects. The voice acting in the campaign cartoons is excellent. The voices fit the characters perfectly and do a lot to give them personality. I wish that the faction leaders talked during the actual game instead of being restricted to the cartoons, though. Hearing smack talk from Generalissimo Meow would make me so happy.

To sum up, the sound is bland in some parts, but excellent in others. For the cartoons alone, I give the sound 9/10.

GAMEPLAY: I could spend hours detailing all the rules and gameplay quirks. In the Help & Options menu there is a “How To Play” option that gives you a quick primer on both the Classic and Factions rules. If you’re new to RISK, read that and you’ll get caught up. Anyway, the controls are basic. It’s more or less point and click. As the game is a mix of strategy and chance, you will often find yourself poised to take over an entire continent, only to end up a few armies short by the time you reach the last territory. That is the frustrating part. But there is nothing sweeter than making a successful run and expanding your empire.

The gameplay is both simple and complex, as well as frustrating and oh so fun. 10/10

OVERALL: If you’re a fan of turn-based strategy, RISK: Factions is the game for you. At only 800 Microsoft Points ($10), you can’t get much better. 10/10