more braid

I finished Braid last night and man, what an ending. The whole game has this bizarre, surreal charm, but it’s really intensified in the finale, and it’s only in the epilogue that you get the first clues as to the story’s true meaning. It feels like I’ve just lived through a David Lynch film, and I’ve been going over the whole thing in my mind repeatedly since I finished it, slowly making sense of all the pieces with the help of some observations made online by other players. Short of Jonathan Blow coming out and saying exactly what the game is about I guess we’ll never know for sure, but I doubt that’ll happen, and with good reason — people are going to be discussing the meaning of this game for a very long time.

Again, an awesome game — if there’s any way you can be playing this right now, make it happen! There’s no word yet as to how far away the PC port is, but I’m sure I’ll mention it when it arrives.

braid, geometry wars 2, and The Things I Should Be Playing

I am, in theory, playing Metroid Prime 3 at the moment. It’s not as super-great as the first Metroid Prime, but it’s still a great game, which I’d have finished back when I got it if not for the fact that Super Mario Galaxy came out a week later. Now, with GTA IV in the bag, I’ve come back to it, but last night when I should have been playing it, I got totally distracted by the new awesomeness on XBLA.

Geometry Wars 2 is a no-brainer, really — it takes the simple and super-fun gameplay of the original and remixes it in to six different game modes, all of which are a lot of fun. The evil beauty of it is the way it encourages score-chasing among friends. The mode selection screen has mini friends scoreboards next to each game mode, so you can see at a glance when someone has usurped that high-score you worked so hard on. Even worse, as you play, the next closest high score is displayed in the top right, so unless you’re at the top of your leaderboard you’ll always have your target score staring you in the face.

Braid is something entirely different. It’s a 2D platformer, but its emphasis is on puzzle-solving using time travel. Like Portal, it establishes a fairly simple set of mechanics, and then explores them for all they’re worth, putting your brain through a loop in the process. The artwork is gorgeous, with beautifully detailed hand-drawn levels and characters, and the music is impressive as well.

If you have a 360, get the demo of Braid right now. The rest of you, check out the PC version when it comes out later this year. Like Portal last year, I think this has real potential to be one of the true highlights of gaming this year.

astrotoys

I got my UHC filter on the weekend, but I also picked up two more things: a laser collimator, which is used to align all of the optics in the telescope (they slowly drift out of whack, or more quickly if you’re not careful with it), and a pair of binoculars. Binoculars might seem a bit redundant, but they’re actually really handy — because they’re low magnification (7X, compared to a low of 46X in the telescope at the moment), you can take in a lot of sky at once, which makes them handy for spotting objects before hunting them down in the telescope.

They’re also perfect for taking a quick look at something, without having to drag the telescope outside. You might not think you’d be able to see much, but the moon looks great, you can spot the moons of Jupiter, open clusters, and the brigher globular clusters too, even if the latter just look like fuzzy smudges.

Unfortunately, the weather has been crap, so I haven’t really had a chance to play much — I tried the UHC filter briefly and was able to spot the Triffid Nebula for the first time, and I’ve checked a few things in the binoculars, but I’m yet to have a good play with either yet. Bring on the clear skies!

deep sky observations

As fun as looking at the planets is, I’ve started looking more at deep sky objects recently, ignoring the fact that my light polluted skies limit what I’ll be able to see and just diving in regardless. I’m starting, as most amateurs do, with the Messier objects, one of the earliest catalogues of deep sky objects, dating back to the late 1700s. Messier had no interest in these deep sky objects — the telescopes of the day could barely make them out anyway, so no-one had any idea what they were — but he had a keen interest in comets, so his catalogue was primarily meant as a list of faint, fuzzy things that were known not to be comets. The beauty of the Messier catalogue is that it’s all within reach of a decent amateur telescope, since even a telescope like mine is larger and far better made than anything Messier had access to.

I’ve spotted quite a few star clusters — open clusters like M6 and M7, and globular clusters like M4 — but the most impressive thing I’ve seen so far, is M8, the Lagoon Nebula. With my skies it doesn’t look anything like the photos of course, but the brightest areas are definitely visible.

To help with the nebulas, I’m heading to Bintel tomorrow to pick up a UHC filter. These filters block all incoming light, save for a few narrow bands around specific emission lines for things like hydrogen and oxygen, so instead of getting a faint nebula image drowned in background glow, you get a faint nebula image jumping out of an inky-black background. Can’t wait to see how it’ll go!