Braid has generated a lot of buzz over the past couple of years. I’ve been dying to play it ever since I first heard previews almost three years ago. Heck, it even won an award for innovation in design from the 2006 Independent Games Festival, despite not coming out until 2008. If ever an independent game has been hyped, it has been Braid. Of course, as with any hyped and long-awaited game, the question everyone is asking is “Was it worth the wait?”
Short version: If you haven’t already bought it, and you have even the slightest enjoyment for thinking games, stop reading this now and go buy it. It’s probably the best 1200 points you could spend on the XBOX (only possible exception – Portal: Still Alive, which you also need to buy).
Long version: Braid is an amazing game. As soon as it came out, I happily dropped my 1200 M$ Points and loaded the game up with a couple of friends. We were absolutely floored. This game oozes quality. The sound design is simple yet effective. The music is beautiful, engaging, and even somewhat interactive. The visuals consist of gorgeous hand-drawn landscapes and enemies, combined with some nifty special effects. And the puzzles…oh, the puzzles. Prepare to be tested.
From a gameplay perspective, Braid is an old-school 2D platformer, very similar to the original Mario Bros. game (a game which Braid constantly references and even borrows from). However, the platform elements really aren’t the important part – anyone who’s played Mario will have no trouble with the “bounce on a guy’s head to kill him and don’t fall in pits” gameplay. What makes Braid stand out from nearly every other video game is the manipulation of time.
Yes, time-travel games have been done before. Timebot and the simple though clever Cursor*10 both made great use of cloning and restarting in time. Braid takes this to a new level though, giving the player a number of ways to mess with time – I won’t detail them, because half the fun is discovering the new things each level has to offer. Really, I keep coming back to Portal when I think of Braid – they both represent a high quality, simple, and amazing puzzle experience that completely changes the way you see the world. If you like either of them, you really need to get the other, no questions asked.
Braid should offer a solid 4 or 5 hours of gameplay the first time through (I didn’t time it, but it was at least that long). It’s actually an excellent group game – I played it along with three of my college friends. We’d all sit around the TV, taking turns with the controller, and shouting out solutions as we figured out the puzzles. A word on the puzzles: this game is devious. It will make you think and your brain will hurt (by the way, if you use a walkthrough, shame on you – you’ve robbed yourself of a fantastic experience and don’t even deserve to play Braid). Some of the puzzles will have you banging your head against the wall, and if you’re not a somewhat masochistic gamer, this might be frustrating (I on the other hand found myself laughing maniacally). For those who love a good puzzle, and love exploring new ways to look at your world, this game delivers in spades.
As a side note, one criticism that Yahtzee makes in his Zero Punctuation review is that a lot of the levels start to recycle. While true, I completely disagree with his criticism – I love the fact that the familiar levels are brought back with new twists and extra challenges – it’s like the game saying “So, you thought you solved this puzzle, eh? Try it now that you have no ladder, biatch!”
The game’s not perfect though. It is arguably a bit on the short side, and doesn’t offer too much replayability (outside of a lone “Speed Run” option) once you’ve beaten it. Then there’s the “story”. I’m honestly still a bit undecided on the story. To describe it in one word, I’d say “dense”. I feel I need to read it two or three more times to determine if it’s brilliant art or overly-pretentious prose – right now it is the Finnegan’s Wake of video games (which I suppose isn’t saying much, but still…). It also follows the stop-and-go approach to story telling, where a little story is given between levels and really has nothing to do with what you’re doing in the game. That said, the final sequence is absolutely brilliant – and I will say no more than that.
Minor quibbles aside, this game is easily the best game available on the XBLA marketplace (once again, along with Portal), and is a shining example of why independent gaming and flash gaming are where most of the true innovation in games is coming from these days.
Excellent presentation draws you into the game world even from the creative title screen.
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Original, challenging, unique gameplay is the core of the Braid experience.
A bit minimalist, and sometimes odd, but a great musical score brings it together.
A little short, and not a lot of replay value, unless you forget some of the solutions.
The best game on XBLA. Go buy it. Now.