Braid (PC, XBox, PS3)

braid

Introduction

Tim is an innocuous young man with the bizarre power to rewind time. He’s having some sort of problem with a Princess. It’s uncertain what their relationship was but Tim is pretty torn up about it. We join Tim on his journey to make amends for what he did as he traverses a series of worlds that allow us to use Tim’s powers in different ways.

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Time and Forgiveness, that’s certainly what this game is all about— or is it!?

History

Braid was developed by Jonathan Blow. This was his first game and it was one of the first Indie Games. His intention was to create a puzzle game that was “bringing together the abstract parts of a complex puzzle, revealing deep moral and philosophical questions.” To that end Braid played with the knowledge of the subject and the nature of time. He wanted the time travelling mechanic to have an effect on the world as opposed to just altering the player.

Blow pushed a two dimensional plane and the very idea of simplicity to its limits trying to design puzzles for the game that were intuitive and would click in the mind of the player. Blow didn’t want anyone to look up a walkthrough playing through the game. He tried to link the ideas of certain puzzles into puzzles encountered later. This was meant to create a sort of “Ah Ha” moment for the player who would run back to the earlier level.

Fun Fact: Edmund McMillen of Team Meat fame worked on the art before Blow hired David Hellman to do it instead.

Braid was released on August 6th 2008. It’s competition was Too Human (XBox 360), Mercenaries 2: World in Flames (PS2, PS3, XBox 360, PC), and Stalker: Clear Sky (PC).

Experiences

I really liked Indie Game the Movie. Johnathan Blow makes an appearance talking about Braid as the indie game that has already been released. I really liked hearing about his game but there’s a scene where a  bunch of young guys laugh and having a grand old time just using the time power to go forward and back. It cuts back to Blow and he talks about how that’s not how he wanted his game to be played (I don’t remember the exact quote, correct me if I’m wrong). I don’t think it’s relevant how the developer wants their game to be played. A book or a film or any other form of media experiences something called the death of the author where the author’s desires shouldn’t impact the work once it’s past their hands. I wonder why he said that and I wonder a little about how he wants his games to be played.

Gameplay

The gameplay is deceptively simple. Tim can walk, jump, and rewind time. Unlike in most platformers Tim can’t actually die. Whenever Tim dies the player is prompted to rewind until he’s alive again. The world is typically made in such a way that enemies and obstacles create continuous patterns eternally so Tim can rewind to the beginning of the level or the beginning of the problem area and everything will unveil as it did before.

The enemies in the game act strangely like tools instead of actual obstacles most of the time. Jumping on an enemy springboards Tim into the air, increasing how high he can jump, allowing him to reach new places– and as previously stated there is no consequence for death.

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Sometimes this bouncing mechanic is of critical importance.

There are six worlds, each world has 12 puzzle pieces that form an image in the hub world. Each world has a different thing in it that effects Tim’s powers. It really mixes up the gameplay and keeps things interesting. Each world has a couple of stages that act as a sort of checkpoint for Tim’s time travel powers– although time travelling back through the whole game could have been fun. And by fun I mean game ruining.

The Gush

The gimmicks for all of these worlds are really interesting and easy to understand but difficult to master. My personal favorite is the one in which going to the right makes time move forward and moving to the left makes time go back as well. It creates unique puzzles that require intense thinking about how much the character moves.

Although I find the bosses lacking I really enjoyed the silly, “But your princess is in another castle,” joke. Everyone who ever played Super Mario Brothers got a quick chuckle out of that one.

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Which is apparently being delivered by some sort of plush dinosaur.

I really liked the finale of the game. It’s a little confusing but when it clicks it’s so compelling and I found it really interesting. I can only encourage players not to stop and play all the way to the end.

The art and music are contemplative and gorgeous. Music is really important in a puzzle game because it can distract the player or help us percolate an interesting idea. It’s also what we have when we fail to come up with an idea. And while we’re not coming up with any ideas we can just take a look at this beautiful art and wonderful backgrounds.

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Why is a gorilla holding that cannon? Who can rightly say?

The Kvetch

The boss fights are really similar and I’m not exactly sure what they’re supposed to accomplish. Each one employs the mechanic of the world but most of the puzzles are more challenging than the frantic movement that the boss fight brings. It also loses impact because the boss can’t kill you, you just rewind to before you got and avoid the attack.

The plot is conveyed by books that project text in each of the worlds’ minihubs. I think there could have been a more interesting way to convey this but it probably would have been more complex and might have muddled some things. I think it’s meant to add to the ambiguity of the plot. Instead of seeing what happens we only have Tim’s account but it feels a little weak.

The Verdict

I found Braid to be a thoroughly enjoyable experience that didn’t pad out its play time. It knew what it wanted to do and executed it very well. If you’ve got the hankering for some puzzles with time based shenanigans then I definitely suggest giving Braid a try.

Next Week: One Piece Mansion

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