|System: X360 (XBLA)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Number None Inc.||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 6, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jason Lauritzen
It's a rare occasion when you're thinking about a game when you're not playing it. Braid - an independent title developed by Jonathan Blow - is that kind of game. When you have the controller in your hands and are immersed in its world, it feels like nothing else. When you're away from the confines of your couch and the glare of your television, you're still thinking about it - whether it be from a purely aesthetic standpoint or you're musing over the meaning of its narrative.
Perhaps, its Braid's deceptive allure that makes it so appealing. On the surface, it looks like a traditional 2D platformer, weaving an almost cliché story: You play as Tim, who is looking for his princess and in his search he travels across six magical worlds defeating enemies and solving puzzles; nothing new, right? Well, like most things in Braid, there's more than meets the eye. In place of a hub world, Braid uses a house with six rooms (that designate worlds). Each of these rooms has a door that leads to its levels and a painting composed of puzzle pieces. Once you open the door to a particular world you're transported to a cloud area with a set of books and doors. Here you can read excerpts from the books and gain clues into Tim's persona. While this narrative device is appreciated in form, it comes off as a little pretentious in substance; most of the book entries read like pages from an overly dramatic artist's diary. After the books, are a set of doors which lead to levels within a particular world.
Upon entering World 2 (World 1 is actually last), Braid seems like a platformer. In homage to Super Mario Bros. you'll jump on enemies' heads, avoid plants that sprout out of pipes, and try to make it to the end of the level. However, that's only half the game. To properly complete the game and access the final world, you need to get all 60 puzzles pieces (there are 10 per world). Once you get all the puzzle pieces for a world, you go back to the house painting and fit the pieces in place, unlocking the next world.
To help you collect puzzle pieces Braid has a button dedicated to time. When you hold down the button you can rewind the level and if you hit the left bumper you can change the rate of the rewind (from 2x all the way to 8x). Not only does this allow you to eschew death - if you fall in a spiky pit simply rewind - but you can reach puzzle pieces you otherwise could not. In Braid, each level is really a puzzle (similar to how levels in Portal are platforming puzzles) and it takes a mastery of the time mechanic to reach the well-placed puzzle pieces.
Each world has its own way of dealing with time, making them all temporally unique. In World 3, you're introduced to the importance of the green glow. Items that are green are immune to the effects of your rewind. For example, you can drop in a deadly pit to grab a green key. Normally you would die and when you rewind time the key wouldn't be in your hands. But since the key is green, when you rewind to the top of the pit, it's suddenly in your hands and you can proceed onward.
Just as soon as you get used to rewinding and dealing with green items, the game throws another curve ball in the form of World 4. In this world, every time you move right on the screen, time plays out as it should (moving forward), but when you go to the left everything rewinds. There's a puzzle involving a series of platforms (very similar to Donkey Kong) where you have to reach the top. However, every time you move left a certain enemy blocks the way. By timing it right you can bounce from one enemy to another, climbing to the top.
World 5 uses the rewind mechanic to create a clone that can interact with purple objects. For example, you might see a set of doors, but only have one key. You can rewind time so the clone opens the first door using a shadow of the key and then you open the second door. World 6 gives you a magical ring that you can use to slow down time within a set area, so you can avoid cannon fire and pull off timed, multi-enemy jumps.