Braid is a puzzle-platformer, drawn in a painterly style, where the player manipulates the flow of time in strange and unusual ways. From a house in the city, journey to a series of worlds and solve puzzles to rescue an abducted princess. In each world, you have a different power to affect the way time behaves, and it is time's strangeness that creates the puzzles. The time behaviors include: the ability to rewind, objects that are immune to being rewound, time that is tied to space, parallel realities, time dilation, and perhaps more. Braid treats your time and attention as precious; there is no filler in this game. Every puzzle shows you something new and interesting about the game world. Braid is a 2-D platform game where you can never die and never lose.
PUBLISHER: Number None
DEVELOPER: Jonathan Blow
ESRB RATING: E10+ (Everyone 10 and Older)
RELEASE DATE: April 10, 2009
On paper, Braid looks like an art house take on the most famous platformer of all: Super Mario Brothers. After all, there's a princess to rescue, castles that you must reach, and all sorts of opponents that you can jump on to knock out. But instead of being a fast-paced game about reflexes, Braid is a more cerebral and slower combination of platformer and devious puzzle game. It almost lulls you with its wonderful background music and watercolor art design, but at the same time your brain is racing overtime to figure things out. This is a challenging game; almost overly challenging for some gamers. But if you like difficult puzzles, and the sense of accomplishment that comes from working through such difficult puzzles, then this game is for you.
Reverse time is your friend.
Part of the reason that Braid sticks with you is it's also one of the most somber games in recent memories. In it, you play as a young man named Tim who lost a beautiful princess because of a mistake that he made. To advance in the game, you must travel through various worlds to collect the pieces to a series of puzzles, and then assemble the puzzles to form pieces of art that tell Tim's tale. This is essentially a story of regret, and one that's a bit haunting, which is in sharp contrast to the familiar tales of good versus evil or saving the world that we're used to from games.
If you don't have great platforming reflexes, don't worry. That's because Tim has a special ability that lets him rewind time, so if you fall upon some spikes or killed by a flaming cannonball, all you have to do is rewind time a few seconds and try again. This simple rewind mechanic takes on all sorts of special meaning once it's incorporated into the puzzles. For instance, some objects that glow green are immune to the rewind time mechanic, which means that you have to figure out how to work that to your advantage.
As you delve deeper into the game, time manipulation evolves. In one world, time goes into reverse whenever Tim moves left. In another, you can create bubbles that slow time. In yet another, you can create a doppleganger that basically lets you be in two places at once. Braid cleverly reinvents its mechanics as you delve deeper into it, so each world feels fresh throughout.
Everything serves as sort of a tutorial for the last level, where you must display your skill in order to defeat the Big Bad that has captured the princess due to Tim's mistake. To get to this point should take a handful of hours, which is one of Braid's weaknesses. This isn't a particularly long game, and though it will test your puzzle-solving abilities quite a bit, once you've beaten the game it doesn't have much more to offer unless you want to try the speed runs, which only the most dedicated will do. The speed runs challenge you to go through as fast as you can, but there's no margin for error, so good luck with that.
It looks like a simple platformer. It's not.
The PC version lets you play with the keyboard; no mouse necessary here. All you need are the arrow keys to move left and right, the spacebar to jump, shift to reverse time, and not much more beyond that. The only tricky point is using the arrow keys in conjunction to the space and shift keys to move and rotate puzzle pieces around. This is a task that feels weird at first, but you get used to it quickly. If you have a gamepad, you can plug it in and use it just as well.
There aren't any visual extras for the PC version, not that any were needed. Braid's art design feels timeless in a way, and it's hard to see this game looking or feeling dated years from now. As a plus, this is a 2D game, which means it should run well on many computers. The PC version also retains the wonderful melancholy background music that's perfect for the theme of the game.
In an age when many games feel like clones of one another or are designed to be easy to beat, Braid sticks to its guns and delivers a rewarding and memorable experience that's definitely worth checking out. It's like an invigorating breath of fresh air, and proof that a handful of independent developers can create games that raise the bar for others.
Braid's watercolor art style is like nothing else you've seen in gaming, and it tells a remarkably melancholy story along the way.
Here's proof that you don't need high-end 3D graphics or even a ton of artists to create visuals that are haunting and unique.
The audio is limited mainly to music, but music that's full of range and emotion.
Braid is packed with difficult puzzles, but that makes it all the more rewarding when you get through them.
6.0 Lasting Appeal
Once you beat Braid, there's not much point going back. But at least you can talk to others about the game.
(out of 10 / not an average)