|Platform||Xbox Live Arcade|
|Genre||Time Bending Platformer|
|Score||10 Gameplay: 10
Fun Factor: 10
|Buy from Amazon|
Braid is an extremely unique Xbox Live Arcade platformer where you're able to control time. It starts out kind of like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, allowing you to just reverse time if you die, but it gradually introduces more and more insane and awesome concepts that will have your mind totally boggled by the end. Braid is only available on the Xbox 360 right now, but it should get a PC release in the next few months. Buy this game whatever way you can. Geez, I'm already highly recommending it and we haven't even gotten to the review yet. Let's do it. All scores are out of 10.
First off, Braid is a puzzle platformer where you can manipulate time. The game is broken up into worlds where you collect puzzle pieces and use different time techniques.
Every twenty minutes or so, my jaw would literally drop and I would be blown away be the next time manipulation technique that was introduced. First you could rewind time, simple enough to fix your mistakes and get aquainted with the game. In the next world you encounter some items, enemies, and platforms that are time-manipulative resistant. Imagine you're rewinding time to miss falling on some spikes, but while you're doing that, the goomba next to you continues to trod on. This may seem like nothing special, but it opens up so much. One interesting use of this is you have to get across a large gap, and the only way is to hop on some clouds. But the clouds are too far apart to get from one to another, unless you rewind time and let the time resistant cloud to continue on, so you can jump between time resistant clouds and time affected clouds. Confusing, but it works and it's really intuitive.
The third playable world is one of the coolest: time only advances forward when you move forward. If you stop, time stops. If you move backwards, time move backwards. The awesomest thing about this is that the music stops, starts, and rewinds too. Everything just works brilliantly in this stage, especially since the developer recreated some well known Donkey Kong stages to replay. The next world introduces the shadow concept, where if you rewind the game, you will create a shadow of yourself that does exactly what you did during the rewind. So if you need to step on a switch in one part of a level to open a door in the other part, go run to the switch, stand there a bit, rewind the game until you're by the door, and your shadow will run over to the switch and jump on it for you to let you through the door. It's crazy and takes a bit of practice, but you can really do some neat things.
The last main world gives you a ring that slows down time in a circular area around it. The closer anything is to the ring, the slower it moves, including you. It's really hard to describe all the boggling things you can do with it without writing another huge paragraph. Just know, it works really well.
Throughout each world, there are 20 puzzle pieces scattered about, and some of them are really tough to get. You don't need to collect them all to play the next world, but to actually beat the game, you need to get them all eventually. The best part of this game is figuring out how to get them, and when you do (all on your own of course), it is extremely satisfying.
Fun Factor: 10
While Braid can be a bit frustrating at times, you're almost guaranteed to succeed at some point. Like I said in the gameplay section, the game is really satisfying when you pull off some insane time-manipulation series of moves to collect that elusive puzzle piece. You will smile and have fun. After you beat the game, you are offered the option to play a speed-run of the entire game. The target time is 45 minutes, which after beating the game the first time, seems impossible. Some of the puzzle pieces took me 45 minutes just to collect the single one! But the real challenge is figuring out the techniques, and once you do, it's all about execution. I attempted the speed-run a few times, but always messed up somewhere. Too much of a challenge for me. Maybe someday I'll give it another go.
Graphics and Sound: 10
While the graphics of Braid are simple, yet colorful, the real stand-out is the music. The game opens with an absolutely beautiful violin solo that is way too heart-wrenching so early. You really know you're in for something special when you hear it. The game's music is much more important that in most platformers, because it is tied so closely with the gameplay. When you rewind, the music rewinds, when you fast-forward, the music fast-forwards. In the third playable world, when you take one step forward, the music advances one step. When you place the slow-down ring on the ground and slo-mo run by it, the music slo-mo's too. And so on and so on. Braid is a shining example of music done completely and utterly right in a video game.
This is one area where Braid tries way too hard, and ends up falling short in my opinion. On the surface, Braid's story appears to be about a young man losing his "princess." I was actually buying into this and enjoyed the final level, where you find out Tim is pretty much a stalker and that the knight in shining armor you thought you were protecting her from, is actually her new lover. It made for a bitter sweet ending, and while not everything seemed to add up, I accepted it.
Then I started doing more research, mostly because the epilogue was confusing and vague. Turns out there are a billion theories out there on the web about Braid's story, and the most accepted one now is that Tim was actually a scientist on the Manhatten Project, and that his princess was actually the nuclear bomb. This blew my mind and I started trying to piece things together. It sort of made sense if you took leaps of logic and got the super secret ending that I never bothered to even attempt. But really the only direct connection I'm able to see is the infamous quote in the epilogue, "now we are all sons of bitches." This was said by Kenneth Bainbridge, the director of the Trinity Test, after the test was successful and the Atomic Age began.
So I really think that this game can be interpreted multiple ways, but because the writer was trying so hard to shoehorn all these layers into the game, I think it faltered a bit. This is really just my opinion, and thankfully the gameplay is so good the story can mostly be ignored.
There's been much talk about the price of Braid ($15) and that being an arcade game, how could it possibly be worth that much. Well, let me tell you, it is. I barely buy any games anymore, especially new. But after playing the Braid demo, it was an absolute no-brainer. One of the best games I've played in a while and definitely the best this year (who cares if it's only January?). Buy this game, somehow. Wait for it on the PC if you have to, but I would recommend playing it on the Xbox 360. Just seems right on there. Braid features the most innovative platforming I have ever seen, and is fun to boot. Toss is a great score and a "as deep as you want it" story, and we have a winner. Now if only I could conquer that speed-run...