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Editors’ Picks 6/1: Touching Extra Braids

This week in Editors’ Picks: Extra cables, preventing you from exasperatedly strangling yourself with broken cables since whenever cables were invented. Braid, one of Soulja Boy’s favorite indie games. And the Kindle Touch: A bookish yet sensual maneuver your special someone is sure to love. Er, I mean, a device you on which you read books.

James’ pick: Extra cables

Most of you probably already have my pick this week, though without the “organized” qualifier. One generally amasses such a drawer (or space in the corner of a closet) due to the increasing amount of electronics that pervades our everyday lives in this modern time. From video game consoles, to televisions with various types of input and output, to computer towers and monitors, to portable devices, we need a lot of wires to get our things to work. Unfortunately, for how important they are, wires are extremely susceptible to just about anything: Notably pets, abuse from frustratedly untangling them, heat, and plain old constantly tripping over them.

When your HDMI cable suddenly gives out for no apparent reason right in the middle of that hugely important cutscene or season finale, it’ll be a lot less frustrating if you can simply lean over to your drawer full of wires, grab your spare HDMI cable, and stick it back in without much lost. When you need to head to the gym or begin a long commute and it turns out your headphones are doing that thing where one of the ears blows out unless you jiggle the wire a lot, you’ll be pretty happy to have a spare. When you’re in the middle of a raid and your sweet gaming rig suddenly loses power, but everything else in your room seems to be working fine, it’ll be a relief to grab that power cord, plug it in, and find out if you need to order a new power supply right away, or just a new backup power cord.
Maybe it’s just me, but wires seem quite prone to breaking, so it’s usually better to have a drawer of safe, than an empty one full of sorry.

Eric’s pick: Braid

I know I’m a bit late to the party, but I recently played Braid. If you are also late to the party, I highly suggest to be no later than you already are, or something. What I’m trying to say here is that Braid is good. For anyone miraculously unfamiliar, Braid is a puzzle platformer that revolves around messing with time, specifically a rewind mechanic. As the game goes on however, you start running into levels where time always runs backwards, puzzles that involve coordinating with your past-self, objects that are immune to time manipulation, etc. It sounds complicated, but the game design is brilliant. Never once did I feel like the solution to a puzzle was unfair, only that I was stupid for not seeing it earlier.

The other part of Braid is this “deep” “story” with all kinds of forced symbolism that turns out to be about the atomic bomb, and personally, I think that part of the game is pompous garbage. That said, it’s easily avoided. The gameplay is quirky and solid, and even has a neat “save the princess” story with its own twist, but that’s all conflated by this whole layer of clumsy exposition that’s slathered on top. My advice would be don’t read any of the text in-game; it’s largely a waste of time. That aside, however, it’s a great game and you should play it. Also, it’s on sale for $2.50 for the next 12-ish hours. Go, go, go.

Alternate editor’s pick: The thought of Braid developer Jonathan Blow watching this video of Souljia Boy talking about Braid, on repeat, for eternity.

Max’s pick: The Kindle Touch

My one request with any piece of consumer electronics is that it keeps out of my way. I want to be able to do what I need to do — make a call, play a game, whatever — without having to think about it. Normally, it’s Apple that delivers this kind of experience to me (though I’ve had some troubles as of late), but I just finished reading a rather long novel on my Kindle Touch and can safely say that it’s probably the best reading experience I’ve ever enjoyed.

For those unaware, the Kindle Touch is an E-Ink eBook reader with a touchscreen. To me, this seems like the ideal reading situation: The E-Ink is easy to read, print-like, and has exceptionally long battery life. The addition of a touchscreen makes it easy to emulate all the things I normally do with print books — write marginalia, underline passages, dog-ear pages, etc. Since I received the Kindle this past Christmas, I’ve only read out-of-print short stories and collections from Project Guttenberg, but I decided to throw down some cash and get the first Game of Thrones book. I had enjoyed my Kindle reading experience up to this point, but wasn’t sure if it would be as enjoyable with a very, very long book like George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic. I can happily report that the eReader did a great job of keeping out of my way. It even enhanced my reading experience by letting me read one-handed on a train, and keeping a thorough (and searchable!) log of my notes.

My only complaint is that the slow-paced nature of the E-Ink display means that the onscreen keyboard is a bit wonky. It seems I’m spoiled by the superfast, super easy iPhone keyboard. Though the Kindle Touch has been out for quite some time, I feel that it has been overshadowed by the sexier, app-running Kindle Fire. Though streaming movies and playing games is all very nice, the $99 price point, easy-to-read screen, battery life, and touch interface makes the Touch unbeatable in my mind. It’s the best of both worlds. I actually find reading books on the Touch to be more pleasurable than in print. Coming from a weirdo with a massive collection of books and vinyl records, this was a big surprise to me. I actually feel badly about it, but oh well.

So, I guess what I am saying is that I am ready to embrace the coming horror of eBooks. Bring it on, publishers. My touchtastic Kindle and I are ready.

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