Braid is a puzzle-platformer, drawn in a painterly style, where the player manipulates the flow of time in strange and unusual ways. From a house in the city, journey to a series of worlds and solve puzzles to rescue an abducted princess.
Review September 2008 by Jamie Davies.
At a time when the Live Arcade seems beset on all sides with rehashes of block-based puzzle games or throwaway arcade shooters with techno DJ-styled soundtracks, Braid is something different. While it may be puzzle based, you won’t find any tumbling blocks or colour matching here. As a platformer it also requires more than just the normal aimless running and jumping.
It’s this ethos of being different that runs all the way through Braid, in everything from the story, through to the puzzles and visuals.
The main character is the unassuming Tim and at first glance it appears to be little more than a traditional fantasy-styled `Rescue the Princess` affair. This is one of Braid’s biggest deceptions, as there’s really a lot more to it. To elaborate any further would ruin things, because if there was ever a title that demands to be approached with a fresh pair of eyes, this is it.
Suffice to say that the games plot is told unconventionally, but quite deliberately, out of sequence and is far more layered and twisted than it first appears. It offers a maturity and style that is missing from some full blown commercial releases, let alone anything available on the downloadable services.
Although you can rush through each of the six worlds in a matter of minutes, each one contains a number of jigsaw pieces that need to be collected and assembled to fully complete it. Indeed, the last section of the game cannot be unlocked until all these have been assembled.
Pivotal to the gameplay is Tim’s ability to manipulate time backwards and forwards, essential to traverse the levels and collect objects. Some of these glow, indicating that they are unaffected by his time-shifting abilities and include enemies, keys and doors all of which must be utilised to reach objects or puzzles pieces. As a quick example, one stage hides a time resistant key in a low area which Tim is too big to enter. It requires you to allow a conveniently placed enemy to pass into the inaccessible area, before reversing time and then, because the key is unaffected and doesn’t get set back in to its original place, stealing it from them.
Through each world, the mechanics of time are constantly switched to keep things varied. For example one set of levels spools time on a loop, meaning that moving left and right moves time backwards and forward respectively. This type of simple yet clever and still quite unique design, along with some fiendishly difficult puzzles, makes Braid a delicious challenge. It’s an immense sense of satisfaction when you finally crack a puzzle, usually mixed with the painful realisation that the solution was essentially quite simple
Visually as bold as its execution, Braid is a title that if it doesn’t hook you immediately, will soon draw you in without you even realising it. It might be a one-shot affair with little replay value once you’ve completed it, but it’s a title that offers a lot of challenge while it lasts and is highly memorable.
If there was ever a reason for the justification of ventures like the Live Arcade, then this is it.