Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: Number None Inc.
Reviewed by Ryan Price
Lately I have been having more success finding an enthralling game to play on the Xbox Live Arcade than on the shelves of my local retail giant. This time I decided to take advantage of Microsoft’s new, “Deal of the Week” feature, and download Braid for the cost of a large pizza… That’s $10(US) for those of you who are not poor college kids. After finishing the game, I was left wanting more – just as if I had ordered a pizza! How weird is that? Perhaps not so weird after you finish this review.
Braid is a platform puzzler that pays homage to many of the early video game greats. You’ll immediately feel familiar with the simple run and jump-on-enemies mechanics that Mario made popular so many years ago. You’ll even get to raise a flag in front of a castle at the end of various stages. However, the nostalgia that this game generates is not what makes Braid fun to play. It’s what Braid does uniquely that makes it a terrific title. If ever there was a question about games being art, Braid is the answer. View the trailer
From the very outset, the game impresses with visuals that immerse the player in the game world. The art style is such that you would find in a painting by Monet; imaginative, free-flowing, and oh so pleasing! I especially liked that this painted world was not stationary or solid, but that the colors and designs softly shifted about, giving life and frivolity to this flat 2D game world. As I played through the game I found this painted art style to have a kind of soothing effect. It was quite pleasant, especially when the puzzles got harder to solve.
The puzzles in Braid utilize the ability to manipulate the flow of time, in order to collect puzzle pieces that form a painting. Each painting represents a world – another tribute to Mario – in which the game’s protagonist, Tim, must use a thematic time control device. For example, in World 2, Tim must use the ability to rewind to reach certain puzzle pieces. My particular favorite was World 6, where Tim had to use a ring that slowed time around it in order to reach the scattered puzzle pieces.
The puzzles are very well executed. As you progress through the game, the puzzles do not necessarily become more difficult. Instead, reaching each puzzle piece challenges the player to think differently about how to apply the current time control theme. Each time I was able to reach a puzzle piece I felt like I had actually accomplished something, and I was eager to see the next challenge. As I traversed through the different worlds, I couldn’t help but wish Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time had used time manipulation in its puzzles as well as Braid.
Braid draws another similarity to the Persian Prince’s 3D debut game. Say that line three times fast! The two games share a common story telling technique. Both use a narrative that feels reminiscent, almost like looking back through a dream. Although I think that the Sands of Time told its story better. The story in Braid is read on screen by running past books. The writing is good, and almost Zen-like. Yet, as I muddled through these philosophical ponderings, I felt like a young Padowan trying to find the wisdom from one of Master Yoda’s parables. In other words, it was interesting to read, but I just didn’t get it.
Overall, Braid is an exceptional platform puzzler. The developer did a fantastic job of molding soothing art, fun game play, and ingenious time manipulation puzzles into a game that leaves its players wishing they too could rewind, and experience the game for the first time again. For me, this game was the “Deal of the Week”, but for you, it’s a deal any week.
Meal Most Like: Spring salad with jasmine flower vinaigrette — The name might throw you off, but this game is beautiful to look at. Scintillating and sophisticated, it’s also light and airy and will leave you wanting more.