PST: The Mortuary (1-2)

Chapter 1-2

     “Pssst… Some advice, chief: I'd keep it quiet from here on — no need to put any more corpses in the dead book than necessary… especially the femmes. Plus, killing them might draw the caretakers here.”

     “I don’t think you mentioned it before… who are these caretakers?” I felt my uneasiness spread.

     “They call themselves the ‘Dustmen’. You can’t miss ‘em: They have an obsession with black and rigor mortis of the face. They’re an addled bunch of ghoulish death-worshippers; they believe everybody should die… sooner better than later.” I wondered about the caretakers.

     “I'm confused… why do these Dustmen care if I escape?”

     “Weren’t you listening?! I said the Dusties believe EVERYBODY'S got to die, sooner better than later. You think the corpses you've seen are happier in the dead book than out of it?” Once started, I found I was full of questions.

     “The corpses here… where did they all come from?”

     “Death visits the Planes every day, chief. These shamblers are all that’s left of the poor sods who sold their bodies to the caretakers after death.”

     “Before you said something about making sure I didn’t kill any female corpses. Why?”

     “Wh — are you serious? Look, chief, these dead chits are the last chance for a couple of hardy bashers like us. We need to be chivalrous… no hacking them up for keys, no lopping their limbs off, things like that.”

     “Last chance? What are you talking about?”

     “Chief, THEY’re dead, WE’re dead… see where I'm going? Eh? Eh?”

     “No… no, I don’t, actually.”

     “Chief, we already got an opening line with these limping ladies. We've all died at least once: we'll have something to talk about. They'll appreciate men with our kind of death experience.”

     “Wait… didn’t you say before that I'm not dead?”

     “Well… all right, you might not be dead, but I am. And from where I'm standing, I wouldn’t mind sharing a coffin with some of these fine, sinewy cadavers I see here.” Morte started clacking his teeth, as if in anticipation. “ ‘Course, the caretakers would have to part with them first, and that’s not likely…”

     Morte continued, “Look, chief. It’s obvious you’re still a little addled after your kiss with death. So two bits of advice for you: one, if you got questions, ask me, all right?”

     “All right… if I have any questions, I’ll ask you.” I lazily responded.

     “Second, if you’re half as forgetful as you seem to be, start writing stuff down — whenever you come across something that might be important, jot it down so you don’t forget.”

     “If I had that journal I was supposed to have with me, I'd do that.”

     “Start a new one, then, chief. No loss. There’s plenty of parchment and ink around here to last you.”

     “Hmmmm. All right. It couldn’t hurt… I'll make a new one, then.”

     “Use it to keep track of your movements. If you ever start to get cloudy on important things, like who you are… or more importantly, who I am… use it to refresh your memory.”

     “All right… I got it. Let’s go.”

     The next room was similar to the previous on, albeit cleaner and less gory. At the centre of the room was a metal slab much larger than most of the other slabs and was sitting on a platform that allowed it to be rotated. Blood stains, rust, and other remains cover the surface.

     More zombies dragged around, most obviously on tasks set by the Dustmen. A shambling corpse gazed at me with vacant eyes. Her skin is paper-thin, almost wispy… it is like someone draped a sheet of cobwebs across her frame. The number “594” has been scratched onto her forehead with a charcoal pencil.

     “So… doing anything later?” I asked, knowing it was a trivial pursuit. The corpse continued to stare at me.

     “Psssst. You see the way she was looking at me? Huh? You see that? The way she was following the curve of my occipital bone?” Morte was getting excited, I sensed.

     “You mean that blank-eyed beyond-the-grave stare?”

     “Wha – are you BLIND?! She was scouting me out! It was shameless the way she WANTED me.”

     “I think you and your imagination need some time away from each other.”

     “Yeah, yeah, whatever. When you’ve been dead as long as I have, you know the signals. They may be too SUBTLE for you to pick up on, but that’s why I’ll be spending my nights with some luscious recently-dead chit while you’re standing around goin’ ‘Huh? Whatzz goin’ on? Where’s my muh-muh-memories?’ ”

     “Whatever, Morte.” He sure liked to talk.

     Another zombie caught my attention. The male corpse was lumbering along a triangular path. Once it reached one of the corners of the triangle, it paused, then turned and staggered towards the next corner. It had “965” tattooed on the side of its skull. As I approached, it halted and stared at me.

     “Heh. Looks like someone forgot to tell this sod to stop walking the Rule-of-Three,” Morte commented.

     “What do you mean?”

     “These corpses don’t have much left in the attic, so they can’t do more than one task at a time… when they’re told to do something, they'll keep doing it until someone tells them to stop. This poor sod probably finished some task, and they forgot to tell him.”

     “You said something about the ‘Rule-of-Three’. What did you mean by that?”

     “Eh? Well, the Rule-of-Three is one of those ‘laws’ about the Planes, about things tending to happen in threes… or everything’s composed of three parts… or there’s always three choices, and so on and so forth.”

     “You don’t sound like you hold much faith in it.”

     “It’s a load of wash, if you ask me. If you look for a number, any number, and try to attach some great meaning to it, you’re going to find plenty of coincidences.”

     I left the corpse tracing its triangular path and looked for a way out. A menacing door on the wall I was facing was left open. Beyond the door, as I walked closer I could see more cupboards and slabs tightly arranged near the left wall. I entered the next room. 



  1. Zombie: Zombies are mindless corpses animated by necromancy. Unlike skeletons, zombies still have a great deal of flesh attached to their frame, and this is both an advantage and disadvantage... it makes them tougher and stronger than skeletons, but at the same time, rigor mortis hinders their movement, making them much slower than a normal human being.
  2. Plane: A Plane is an infinite expanse of existence, separated from other similar expanses by a metaphysical distance rather than a physical one.

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Braid is great. Period.

Some games just deserve respect. They get mine when they became a work of art.

A few days ago I downloaded a demo of Braid, just to try it out since all game reviewers around the world have been rambling about how superb it is. I decided to try it out myself before puncturing more holes in my pocket to get the full version of the game. (I'm big on purchasing original games, in case you're starting to wonder if I've never heard of Bittorrent and Rapidshare before.)

My God, those game reviewers were right! I officially join their ranks to preach the world about how fantastic this game really is. You better get ready for the sermon.

Braid is a rarity in the gaming world. A diamond in the rough. You'll probably see this kind of game once every ten years, literally. It lies in the genre of platform/puzzle games, with its skillful art direction, delightfully complex soundtracks, amazing gameplay, and deeply mature plot as the main reasons for Braid winning (my) five gold stars. Uh-uh, the "mature plot" is not what you think, you dirty monster.

The story revolves around Tim, the protagonist, who journeyed to find and rescue his Princess after making a grievous mistake (perhaps more than one). The summary of the story I just gave you sounds very superficial and boooo-ring, wasn't it? That's because I simply cannot summarise the plot without actually telling you all the details, in which case you're better off playing the game instead of me giving you all the juicy spoilers.

Braid takes the typical plot of games back in 80's and early 90's (think Mario), and explores it further when no one would. It discussed the motivation (i.e. why on earth would the protagonist always risk his life jumping over chasms and evading ambigiously shaped 'monsters' to rescue some strange 'Princess' - oh now it makes perfect sense), the intricacies of human relationships, and how would the world be like if we can manipulate time to undo the mistakes we made, or how the world would be like if people could just easily forgive you for those mistakes instead. There are numerous other themes involved and you could not help but think about them as you play the game. In fact, these themes are the pillars to which the level designs are constructed upon. I shall elaborate later on.

The game plays like any generic platforming games you've (or haven't, taking into account the diversity of my readers) played before, except for the fact that you have unlimited time-rewinding ability at your disposal. But then you must be thinking, "Ah, this just makes things easier since I can just rewind whenever I stupidly plummet myself into a lava pit!" If you are indeed thinking like that, you are only 10% correct. Yes, you can rewind every time you make idiotic mistakes like that, but that's not the main purpose of the time-rewinding ability. The ability serves to solve the clever puzzles which may leave you staring at the monitor for 10 minutes before gasping in excitement, realising that the puzzles are much simpler than you think. But they are still clever. And definitely not easy. It's like using parts of your brain you've never used before. You should get this game before that part of your brain turns black and necrose.

In keeping with the theme of the game, Braid's creator, Jonathan Blow deliberately made the rewinding to have consequences. You have to deal with these consequences and use them as tools to solve the puzzles.

Each level or world has its own time-based mechanic that is based on specific themes. For example, in the world "Time and Mystery", there are certain objects that are unaffected by rewinding (mirroring the question "Would some aspects of life remain unchanged and can never be changed were we to rewind time back?"), while in the world "Time and Place", the player's position is linked to the time, where moving forward on the terrain causes time to flow forward as they should, while moving backward causes time to flow in reverse (projecting the real-life experience of how certain places transports you back in time while others made you think of the future).

I'm pretty sure you're shaking your head in awe right about now. Either that or you just dropped your jaw. Told you this game is something. And I'm not even finished yet.

Braid's visual is presented in a hand-painted style. Well, actually they really are hand-painted, by David Hellman. The visual is fresh and never tires you - you can stare at it for hours and it still feels like there are some parts of the painting you haven't seen, yet to be discovered. It has that serene yet mysterious appeal to it. Difficult to explain and you'll understand if you manage to appreciate it.

If you've read my previous entry, then you should know by now that music has a great effect on me. The soundtrack in Braid in my opinion is perfect to set up the mood the game is trying to create, and it gives the themes greater impact. The game features licensed music instead of music composed specifically for the game so the tracks must have been selected very carefully. Almost all fall within the genre of early folk/Celtic music, having very soothing qualities of varying effect and the innate ability to teleport you to a different place. Again, only listening to the music is best than my inadequate description. I've placed one of the music from the soundtrack below so that you can have a taste.

A glimpse of Braid

I think I've spoken enough about Braid. It is a game that will leave a deep impression even long after you've played it. I've finished the demo and I'll get the full game the second I can get the ridiculously huge hole in my pocket stitched. Just get the demo here and try the game for yourselves, see if there's any truth to my preaching. Aww, come on, it's only 120MB.

(I didn't just wrote a game review, did I?)
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