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By Emil

Time goes, you say? Ah no, alas, time stays, we go'

When you play a side-scroller game, it's usually something along the lines of Metal Slug, something like Cadillacs and Dinosaurs or anything in a similar vein, which involves gunning or punching your way through a mountain of baddies until you reach a super baddie and then you gun him down, too. But, that's quite not the deal with Braid.

Games these days are all about the innovation. Shooting at zombies and saving princesses is fun only for so long before one becomes desirous for something for, or at least something a bit different. Braid is probably unlike anything you've ever played.

It's a puzzle, platformer, adventurer that takes you into a world of wonders where time is really, really flimsy and quite malleable. The protagonist of the game is a young man called Tim, who's out to rescue the Princess, who's been abducted by a monster. Their relationship is not exactly very clear, and details about their past is very vague at best, but we're told that the abduction happened thanks to a mistake that Tim made sometime in the past.

There are six worlds that Tim must go through to rescue his princess- the worlds are accessed from a house and are different rooms in the building, and they light up as they become available. Each world offers a different variation of time manipulation. The idea is to collect puzzle pieces of artworks and match them up together to form a complete picture, which is visible in the rooms. Each completion of a puzzle unlocks a part of a ladder that will allow Tim to go to the first World and save the princess.

The second, or technically the first world is pretty much like your average platformer and act as an introduction into the world of Braid and its different inhabitants. Tim can only rewind time in this world, and as you move onto the next world, the concept of the green glow is introduced. Anything with a green glow is simply not affected by time manipulation. If you've pulled a glowing lever and a glowing platform has started to move, rewinding time to an earlier point, which gives you, access to that platform, will not, er, affect said glowing platform. You get the idea.

In yet another world, Tim is able to place a ring and create a bubble within and around which time is slowed down. Which can be used to slow down the rate of fire of a cannon or a lowering gate. Another variation is the creation of a doppelganger. As an example, there's a puzzle piece above a platform to get where Tim needs to climb a ladder, which is behind a gate. The lever is a few feet away, and pulling it opens the gate…, which closes as soon as it opens? The solution? The lever is outlined in purple, which means the doppelganger Tim can affect it. So? Stand in front of the gate, then go pull the lever, rewind back to in front of the gate. You'll see a shadow of yourself perform the same action you rewinded from. The doppelganger pulls the lever, and with you being close enough, allows you to run through just as the gate closes, climb up the ladder and grab the puzzle piece.

This is an example of one of the more simpler puzzles, and as you progress through the game, through each of the world, the puzzles become harder and more complex. Falling into a pit, getting hit by an enemy, and anything like dying means nothing as you can easily rewind yourself to an earlier time, unlimitedly. Braid is more about using your wits and smarts than about having a very happy trigger finger, and those who enjoy a puzzle will find Braid to be an immersing, enjoying, engrossing and a very innovative experience.

The artwork of the game is really wonderful, with beautiful backgrounds of watercolor paintings. The musical scores are enchanting, magical and beautiful and settles in perfectly with the fairy tale atmosphere. The ending of Braid is anything but happy, rather it's a bittersweet tale, and the story's finish will leave the player wandering what exactly happened.

Braid is an enthralling experience, a wondrous story that leaves you wanting more. The gameplay isn't exceptionally long, however, and not one you'll feel like getting back to after the first run. Still. Braid is great. It's a definite Yes to a should-I-try-it question.

One solid grade A for Braid.

By The Anarchist Kitten

How does one feel when they run into old friends nine years later? Happy? That would depend on how the previous meeting ended. Excited would probably come closest to describing the feeling in one word.

Before Sunset picks up nine years from where Before Sunrise ended, which was reviewed last week in this magazine. Jesse played by Ethan Hawke and Celine played by Julie Delpy have changed. In the first movie, released in 1995, they were in their 20s and full of ideals. In the sequel, released in 2004 they're in their 30s and changed by the realities of life in ways that they didn't imagine or predict.

Like the first film this one is basically a character study as well, and because we already know both the characters so well by the end of the first film, it's exciting to come to know more about them and how life has treated them in the space of nine years in between. Whereas the first film captures the suddenness of a youthful love, this one is more mature and basks on the aftermath of that one night of perfection.

The dialogue is very authentic and amazing, while the acting is expressive; the reviewer would shy from claiming the acting was spot-on or exact, as the beauty of the acting in this film lay on the naturalness both actors brought to their respective roles.

Like the first movie, they walk around Paris this time and talk about love, life, reality, and what might potentially have been, and it's all about as fascinating as catching up with old friends, because one knows the characters in this story so well. They've aged a lot and real life has not been a primrose path for either one of them. This movie is not for everybody, but if you can deal with constant talk about other people for one and a half hours then this is for you.

The movie is for people who like to find out more about other people, and who are naturally good listeners. If you prefer a film with action then this might bore you to no ends. But if you appreciate well-formed characters, good dialogue and still believe in the idea of love then don't miss this worthy sequel to a great movie. Watching Before Sunrise and Before Sunset in a roll can be quite a treat for those long, boring weekends.

By Sabhanaz Rashid Diya

Once upon a time, there lived a Newar Prince. He spent his days on the peak of the sky-kissing, white capped Himalayas and played bansuri (flute) to the Clouds. On a sun-bathing day of the year, the Princess of the Clouds heard the Prince playing his murali (a type of bansuri). The music was so flawless, so pure that she could almost feel her soul uplifting into the Heavens. She asked the Clouds who was it that played such celestial tunes on Earth. They whispered stories about the Prince to her ears, and she fell in love. Love so sacred, she waited every day to hear him play. She wept in joy to the pitch, laughed in sorrow to the harmony and breathed every note into her being. Without his music, she felt lifeless and the more she listened, the more she wanted.

The story of the Princess from the Clouds and the Newar Prince from the Himalayas may be an imaginative one, but the music is not. The unflawed beauty of the bansuri, in combination with the arabajo and dha is indeed a symphony that can uplift any mortal soul into the heavens. It is music of a kind that you want to hold your breath onto, afraid of letting it go lest the music may stop. And this is how you feel when you listen to Kutumba.

Kutumba is a Nepali folk ensemble that concentrates on playing folk instrumentals. It comprises of six 'guys' (professionals) from Kathmandu who each feel for the preservation of their local music and art, and hope to spread the joy and strength of Nepali folk music to the rest of the world. The term 'Kutumba' means 'family' and holds its very special essence in the Nepali language and culture. It stands for the unique bond amongst community members. The ensemble was founded in 2004 and has now reached out to the masses with its unique vision and creation of local beats and strings.

When I met the group in late January this year at Chobi Mela V, I honestly was not prepared for the magic of Kutumba. Arun Manandhar (tungna and arbajo), Kiran Nepali (sarangi), Pavit Maharjan (percussion), Raju Maharjan (percussion), Rubin Kumar Shrestha (flute) and Siddhartha Maharjan (effects) appeared to be very regular guys with an enormous amount of friendliness and humility that affected everyone. However, when we started talking at the Drik Studio interiors, I realized that they each had a story to tell in the becoming of Kutumba. The ensemble was born when the gang met at Pavit's shop and started discussing how they wanted to bring back the melodies of traditional folk instruments to new generations.

In 2004, they played live at their debut performance and released their first self-titled album. Over the years, the ensemble has grown and has released three albums to date titled Forever Nepali Folk Instrumental (2004), Folk Roots (2005) and Naulo Bihani (2006) respectively.

The music of Kutumba is, as I've described earlier, of another world. The simplicity of each composition is such that it easily grasps your attention and engulfs your soul. The combination of the various unheard folk instruments to improvise traditional, local numbers is a work of art, and if you haven't witnessed the ensemble playing live, you wouldn't be able to comprehend how effortlessly these musicians paint a breathtaking picture with their music. The harmony of each beat with the next chord, of each stroke with the next rhythm and the captivating essence of it all is what makes Kutumba's compositions a delightful enchantment. A purely folk instrumental presentation with a twist of humour and a shot of modernity is a rare treat for most Bangladeshis (and perhaps, many other parts of the world) and is something that one rewinds and replays for many times after the song is over.

Even so, the magic of Kutumba does not wholesomely move you unless you've heard the stories behind each of their compositions. Many of the songs have been written and composed years before, and improvised by the ensemble for the new audience. The instruments, which are on the verge of becoming extinct, are collected from obscure regions in Nepal and brought together to recreate a unique combination of ethnic and modern music.

“We travel to various parts of Nepal and spend time with the locals to learn how to play the instruments,” said Pavit. “Often, it becomes very difficult to retrieve an instrument that was used extensively in earlier times, but we have never given up on our efforts.”

“Each of us take time out of schedules to learn how to play these instruments,” added Kiran. “Frequently, there are additions to the number of instruments we use in our compositions. To date, we have revitalized the use of over 50 traditional instruments through our music.”

Indeed, the drive to preserve their roots is applaudable. Each number has an unequalled past or cause, which is why each of them is very special to the troop. 'Jalna', a track from Naulo Bihani was originally composed 50 years back by Bishnu Jalmi for a street theatre in Harisiddhi, small village situated at the south of Kathmandu. Similarly, a number from Folk Roots titled 'Sinduli Gadhi' is a famous folk song named after a war fort, and is a love call where the singer is expressing his feelings for his mistress. The modern rendition of the song combines beats from another folk number and incorporates new-instrumentation to create an upbeat from the classics.

Kutumba's strength lies in its determination to bring back indigenous Nepali music to the modern audience. Their dedication is reflected through each of the carefully recomposed singles.

Photo: Sam Kang Li.
Location: Drik Studio
For more information, visit www.kutumba.com.np
For a peek into Kutumba's music, visit www.dizab.com


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