Braid first debuted in August last year through Xbox Live Arcade, and became an instant fan favourite. Thanks to its success, the game now appears on the PC (and Mac) through Steam, so I sat down to replay the experience and relive the magic. I never intended to review the game for this magazine, but Braid’s artwork and focus on pure gameplay works like a homage to the games of my childhood, and deserves to be played by more people.
Developed by Jonathan Blow, Braid was originally meant to be just an independent game, but after winning the game design award at the Independent Games Festival in 2006, Blow decided to sink some money into the project to make it commercially viable. The concept and gameplay stayed largely unchanged, but David Hellman was hired to do the artwork for the game. Hellman is the artist behind the highly acclaimed webcomic A Lesson is learned but the Damage is Irreversible.
At its core, Braid plays like a standard platformer. You control Tim, the game’s protagonist, through simple forward and backward movement, jumps and climbing. You can jump on enemies to kill them, and the level design is clearly inspired by games like Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros. Gone, however, are the 8-bit graphics and sound; Braid has one of the most soothing soundtracks I’ve ever experienced in a game. As well as the standard control, you have the ability to bend time. This takes different forms through the different stages, from being able to reverse time by pushing a button, to having time follow you through levels; forwards as you move forwards and backwards as you move backwards.
The time mechanics are your main tools to figure out the puzzles in the game. Braid has no learning curve to the puzzles and they range from straightforward to mind-bending. Some might take you a minute while others take hours, but it’s the only game where I haven’t resolved to a walkthrough if I can’t solve something within 20 minutes.
Tim’s adventure is a side-scrolling quest to save an unnamed princess. His relationship with this princess is vague at best, although we do get the idea that he’s is trying to rectify some mistake he’s made. As you progress through the world you get further details on the storyline, through both brilliant writing and visual clues. The relationship between the princess and Tim seems straightforward, but without spoiling anything I can say that the story takes several unexpected turns that make you think. The final stage of the game reveals much more than expected, and in ways that are surprising and thought provoking.Braid is simplistic yet complex, and is one of the most rewarding game experiences I’ve ever had. It’s part comedy, part tragedy and it will make you think. Perhaps the most beautiful game I’ve ever played, Braid is highly deserving of our PCW Platinum Award.