|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|
As you're collecting puzzle pieces and getting from point A to B, you'll notice another homage to Super Mario Bros. Every world ends with a raised flag and a castle. A brown Barney dinosaur look-alike comes out and tells you that your princess is in another castle. At first this results in a chuckle, but as the story moves along and you start to question Tim's quest, so does the dinosaur, at one point asking, "Are you sure she exists?" The story goes from light-hearted fantasy to internal character struggle. Is the princess real or is this fantasy world a way for Tim to sort out his real life problems? That's where Braid nails the narrative. Its constantly pulling the strings between fantasy and reality and leaving it up to you - the gamer - to sort out the meaning.
It's hard to ignore Braid's presentation. This is one gorgeous game. Not only does the world truly feel fantastic (for example, there are cannons that fire whimsical clouds), its assembly is meticulous. Most 2D platformers suffer from a Lego problem: You can tell where pieces were joined together in a level editor and instead of it feeling like you're traversing a world, it feels like you're moving over a series of objects. Braid avoids this altogether. Each level feels like one concrete painting that you're moving across. Joining the extraordinary visual style is the game's soundtrack. Between the droning cello work, folksy rhythms , and delicate layering of harp chords, every song feels like it belongs, perfectly complementing the look of the game.
Even though Braid bridges the games-are-art gap, striking a nice balance between play, story, and presentation, there are some criticisms. One is the difficulty. Many puzzles will have you scratching your head and will end after several frustrated attempts. However, this criticism could be turned around by noting that when you do discover the solution it makes the victory all the sweeter. What can be leveled against the puzzles is their lack of solution leniency. Every puzzle has one, and only one solution. It would have been nice to give gamers more than one way of solving a puzzle. Also, the platforming controls sometimes feel a little off. You'll miss many jumps by just a hair and while you can rewind to fix things, it feels like that wouldn't be necessary if the control was a little more responsive.
A point of contention about Braid's release on Xbox LIVE Arcade is the price. Sitting at 1,200 Microsoft Points, it's one of the most expensive offerings. You might join the higher-than-normal price point complaint with a criticism of the game's replay value (once you beat the game, the only other offering is a speed run mode), but that's missing the point: Rarely do games - even in the $60 range - offer such a rich experience.
Braid is stellar and a true accomplishment. It not only represents the potential for more creative and innovative titles to reach the masses via downloadable service, but it stands as a game you won't forget.
CCC Freelance Writer