I’ve never forgotten the music of Turrican and Turrican 2. They were two of the only games I completed on my Amiga 500. Playing Turrican again recently on an emulator, muscle memory took over, and I flew through the first level, collecting hidden power ups and timing jumps just right. This had nothing to do with skill. The truth is I must have played that level a hundred times as a ten year old, played till my eyes hurt, not because it was hard, but because I was happy just to explore the world and allow the strange, melancholy music of Turrican to take over.
I’m 27 now, and still playing games, and I don’t think my reasons for playing have changed very much. I’m still drawn to games that allow me to explore a world, rather than having to take a linear path. Then again, revisiting Turrican, I realised that something has changed. Like I said, I flew through that first level, but pretty soon I was missing certain jumps and having to redo things, and I got frustrated. At ten years old, I wouldn’t have thought twice about going round again and trying the jump. But now I couldn’t be bothered. I suggested to my friend Steve, whose PC it was running the emulator, that we play two-player Biplane, so that’s what we did for the rest of the night.
I mention this experience with Turrican because there’s a game on the horizon, called Braid, that I want to tell you about. Braid will be coming out on Xbox Live Arcade, Microsoft’s distribution platform for low-budget, downloadable games on the Xbox 360. Until now, XBLA hasn’t really lived up to its potential, delivering mostly mediocre puzzlers and lazy HD updates of classics. The release of Braid could mark an exciting new chapter for XBLA, and indeed the independent game industry as a whole. Braid is a side-scrolling platformer/puzzle adventure, taking cues from games like Super Mario Bros., but with an art-style completely its own, and more importantly, a key game mechanic that looks set to explode our understanding of what a side-scroller can be: the game allows you to reverse time at any moment during play, even at the point of death. Players will use this mechanic and variations on it to solve a series of environment puzzles. To me, it’s the idea of taking death out of the equation that makes Braid such a compelling proposition: the designers are encouraging their audience to explore their game world – without the tediousness of trial and error platforming and lost lives – and take delight in the physics and lovingly rendered landscapes. This is a game seemingly designed for my generation, the people who grew up traversing cloud formations in Magicland Dizzy, jumping on Goombas in Super Mario Bros., and squashing robot dogs in Turrican.