Braid Review

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Descriptive Text Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Number None


Platform: Xbox 360 and PC
Reviewed on Xbox 360

Tim seems like an ordinary fellow, wandering the halls of his house, reminiscing and fantasizing about a princess. But unlike most fellows, Tim's flights of fancy take him to a series of worlds where time and causality operate a little differently. It's not enough to just jump through puzzles – only by understanding the rules of each world can you help Tim navigate them.

Rating:
Kyle Ackerman


Braid looks like a conventional platformer, paying homage to classic games like Super Mario Brothers, Donkey Kong and Elevator Action. But those were games about jumping – Braid is a game about rules. Certainly, Braid requires reflexes and, occasionally, rock-solid timing, but Braid is about learning how Tim's actions and the flow of time work in any given world, puzzling out the correct sequence of actions, and then solving brilliant and fascinating puzzles.

Braid takes Tim to six worlds, and in each, time and causality work a little differently. Throughout, Tim has the ability to rewind time (with no time limit), making death irrelevant. In some regions, there are items and creatures that always move forward, despite Tim's direction in time. In other cases, the flow of time depends on the direction of Tim's physical movement. Tim can also, in some cases, create a shadow of himself that replays his previous actions, or in others, place a ring that slows time in a small region around it. At least once, later levels have to be solved to complete an earlier level, further shattering the linearity of time. And most worlds can be solved in any order, to suit your mood.

So when I say that Braid is fundamentally about rules, the challenge to each level is figuring out how to manipulate time to Tim's advantage, and then executing the platforming. Only rarely is real coordination required.

Braid promises that each puzzle is unique and precious, vowing not to waste players' time, and it delivers. Some levels are best thought of as necessary tutorials, and the rest are extraordinarily clever. Acquiring every puzzle piece in the game (the game-oriented, rather than the story-oriented aim) is a worthy and deeply satisfying goal. Once I puzzled out the rules governing each puzzle, the coordination required was rarely significant, and the ability to rewind to before an error minimized frustration.

The puzzles in Braid were some of the most satisfying I've ever solved, but the puzzles alone are far from all that recommends this game. The art is detailed, gentle and beautiful. Much of the game is done in the style of a dynamic impressionist painting, and it complements the game's thoughtful style of play. The music, too, is pleasant and appropriate, and helps to signal the direction in which time flows at any given moment.

The narrative is intentionally ambiguous, but do you need a reliable narrative in a game for which time is a passing fancy? After a fashion, Braid is the story of Tim's life, exploring the different stages of his maturity and his relationship with a woman (sometimes represented as a princess). But the story isn't the crux of Braid. Rules are – and how those rules help Tim solve puzzles.

Braid is brilliant, and is (at least right now) the most important and entertaining Xbox Live Arcade game you could play. (The game should be released for the PC later this year.) Because of the game's deep nuances, it's well worth the 1,200 points ($15), even though that's more than the average Xbox Live Arcade game. A casual gamer could easily fall in love with Braid, but a jaded gamer will find even more to love. From clever play mechanics that transform basic platforming to references that subtly invoke historical gaming classics, Braid offers tremendous, thoughtful entertainment to all gamers, however brief the experience.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on August 17, 2008 3:47 PM.

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