World of Goo vs. Braid

Over at rockpapershotgun.com, there’s a spirited dicussion of the recent PC release of Braid which turned in parts into an argument about whether or not it’s a better game then World of Goo. There is of course no real reason why a player has to pick one over the other — you can play both, for goodness sakes! — but they both occupy the “indie puzzle game” niche and were released in the same year, which means that they were up for the same awards. The Rock, Paper, Shotgun staff itself has been been a hotbed of pro-goo sentiment since before its release, periodically bringing it up in reviews of other games in an offhand “why can’t they all be this good” way.

My own feeling is that Braid is more compelling. I mean that in a simple and objectively-measurable way: Braid inspired me to keep playing until I was finished, while my WoG sessions have been relatively short. Whether that makes it a better game is a matter of opinion. It may just mean it’s an overall shorter game, and the prospect of imminent completion is enough to keep me going. (Compare my recent lack of progress on the other two games I’m in the middle of: both are JRPGs, the canonical weeks-of-padding genre.)

Beyond that, it should be noted that the two games are trying to produce different experiences. Braid aims to be thoughtful and sad, with touches of the uncanny. “Here’s a piece of your childhood”, it says to the player, “only now it’s grown up and disillusioned.” WoG‘s ambitions are in a wackier direction, with over-the-top dark humor: its message to the player is more like “Oh no! The cute little goo balls are being SOLD AS FOOD!” Braid‘s art is impressionist-influenced watercolors; WoG‘s is cartoony ink sketches with a sort of Tim Burton/Dr. Seuss look. Braid‘s music is heavily cello-oriented (even some of the bits that don’t sound like cello are cello); WoG kicks off with a polka. So to some extent, it’s a matter of taste here, of which of these two styles you prefer.

There’s one really major difference in the philosophy of the gameplay design: Braid‘s puzzles have more definite solutions than those in WoG. That is, Braid‘s puzzle-solving primarily involves leaps of intuition — what the DROD community calls “lynchpins” — whereas the WoG puzzles are more about execution: most of the time, you know what you have to do, you just have to create a structure capable of doing it. Any such structure will do, as long as it works. By contrast, alternate solutions in Braid tend to be just slight variations based on the same insight. Again, some like the one, some like the other. I’ve waxed rhapsodic before about the “moment of realization”, and how it’s one of my main sources of enjoyment in games. But puzzles based on that sensation are ones where the player gets stuck, with no idea how to proceed, until they have the crucial insight. And some people really don’t like that.

1 Comment so far

  1. Jason Dyer on 20 Apr 2009

    Based on various threads, I think personal opinion could be as simple as if someone was able to solve Braid’s puzzles. If they had to skip a lot, they won’t have the same experience as you.

    I’m reminded of the response to my DROD hold A Quiet Place. It had lots of specific solutions when it came out, and at the time people didn’t like it; however, I got the vibe this was because they personally could not solve the puzzles. Later people got more use to the style and now feedback is more positive.

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