Innovation in Games
Nowadays, it feels like every other game is a direct copy of either Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto, so it’s refreshing when a game pushes the boundaries and pioneers something which is genuinely new.
Braid is one of those games you just have to experience for yourself. With its uniquely beautiful visuals and old-meets-new gameplay, it well deserves its place as the highest rated PSN game ever. In simple terms, the gameplay is probably best explained as Mario with time manipulation, although this would be selling the game way too short.
Each level has a specific time-related game mechanic, my favourite of which sees you walking right to make time go forwards, and left to make time go backwards. The game includes some fiendishly clever puzzles, but the sense of achievement is staggering when you finally complete a stage you’ve been stuck on for an hour. It also boasts a deeply layered story, which is both fascinating and confusing in equal measure, and the twist at the end is a complete jaw dropper.
One year ago, thatgamecompany achieved something most people thought was impossible, and made an incredible game that used the SIXAXIS’s motion sensor as its main control scheme. On top of that, you enter the ‘dreams’ of flowers and play as the wind to collect petals – I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall when Flower got pitched.
It’s certainly a little pretentious, but when it looks and plays as good as it does, no-one’s going to complain. The fantastic visuals set a new benchmark for PSN games (apparently there are 200,000 blades of grass on-screen at any one time), and it manages to be truly engaging without ever uttering a single word.
Games like Prince of Persia have been doing free-running for years. However, before Mirror’s Edge came along, no one had thought to do it from a first person perspective. True, it wasn’t for everyone (an FPS that encourages you to not shoot people! Whatever next?!), but I for one loved it, and spent countless hours getting fifty stars on the tough-as-nails Time Trials.
In my opinion no other game has come close to the overwhelming sense of freedom it offers, with DICE doing an incredible job capturing the feel of free-running perfectly – to the extent that when sprinting across rooftops hundreds of feet above the ground, you almost start to feel nauseous (in a good way).
For me, the highlight of The Orange Box is definitely Portal, which is certainly an achievement when Half Life 2 is on the same disc. This is another FPS with a twist; instead of shooting people, you shoot portals, in order to make your way through the various tests at the Aperture Science Computer-Aided Enrichment Centre.
The basic premise is simple; the Portal Gun allows you to shoot two portals – one blue and one orange – and when you walk through one, you come out of the other. However, due to the game’s many laser balls, killer robots, and pools of deadly goo, in reality it is far more complex. The story is also much more complicated than it first appears, as it soon becomes clear that the robotic drone of GLaDOS may not have your best interests at heart.
In a time when most developers and publishers are running scared of new IPs, it’s great to see others experimenting with new ideas that have never been seen before. Everyone loves sequels, but in my opinion nothing can beat the first time I jumped from the top of a crane in Mirror’s Edge, or when I collected my first puzzle piece on Braid, and I have no doubt I will experience the same sense of wonder on 26th February.
Heavy Rain is definitely my most anticipated game of 2010, which considering we have the likes of God of War III and Gran Turismo 5 to look forward to, is seriously saying something. The demo successfully whetted my appetite for more, and I don’t think I’m alone when I say I can’t wait to get hold of the full game.