To kick off our Indie Week festivities let’s discuss the music of one of the most highly-lauded indie games of this generation, Braid. This action/platform/puzzle game twists the conventions of game genre and tropes in fascinating and unique ways that can’t be fully described here, lest we give those who haven’t played some spoilers. Few platformers have used the concept of time and “rewinding” through time to solve puzzles, so adjusting to Braid’s fascinating game mechanics takes a while but once you do, it will be incredibly difficult to go back to Mario titles without wishing for a way to rewind and do-over. The way the plot is interwoven into the gameplay throughout and learning the horrible truth of Braid once you complete the game creates an immersive experience where players chomp at the bit to see what happens next. And yes, it’s okay to read exposition after or before a level–not every plot point has to be a five minute FMV.
Like all the games we spotlight here in our Music Monday feature, the music in Braid elevates the experience from an enjoyable one to a transcendental moment, all through seemless sound and score implementation. Listen to the epic pieces that make up this soundtrack right here:
Unlike many of the games we feature, however, this music was not composed originally for the game. Creator Jonathan Blow and his studio Number None, Inc. decided to license music for the game. They did this because they thought not only would it reduce costs that would otherwise go to hiring a composer, but also believed typical game scores couldn’t convey the mood and complexity of what they felt Braid needed. The songs chosen for the soundtrack come from composers/musicians Cheryl Ann Fulton, Shira Kammen and Jami Sieber, all on the indie label Magnatune. The music ranges in sound from Celtic-influenced pieces like “Maenam” to some that are more mediaval and renaissance-inspired such as “Downstream”. There’s even some brooding ambient moments like Sieber’s “The Darkening Ground.”
These aren’t just great pieces of music though. There are two additional reasons these particular tracks were picked. They are generally substantial in length, most in the 4-6 minute range so that when players were solving long, complex puzzles looping music wouldn’t become as much of an irritation. Even more fascinating and probably rarely used as a metric was the songs’ ability to sound great when played backwards! When time rewinds in the game the music rewinds as well, so designers wanted music that fit this design in a stunning way. For a taste of what this sounds like, check out the Jon Schatz remix of “Maenam,” which features some of the rewinding sound effects and puts an interesting spin on this song. When the stunning visuals of Braid are paired with this gorgeous music, it’s hard to think of this game as anything other than high art in game form. Take one listen, play the game, and we think you’ll agree.
Since it’s Indie Week, check out our write-ups on other great indie game soundtracks:
Have a favorite track from the Braid soundtrack? Are there any other Indie games with fantastic soundtracks you think we should spotlight? Let’s hear it in the comments Mac gamers!