I’m never reluctant to play a new game, especially one that’s been given such good press. Some reviewers have ultimatly stated that it is a work of art. However, I was never compelled to actually play Braid, even on the weight of such a claim, as generally when someone calls a game a ‘work of art’ they’re really just being overzealous or pretentious, and the game would always fall flat of the expectation.
I picked up Braid in the Steam Indie Weekend pack, along with Crayon Physics (of which I’d previously played the Demo) and World of Goo, which I had already played before, and a decent amount of other games. Braid was, due to the wealth of positive reviews, the first game I played.
It initially plays like a 2D version of Prince of Persia: the Sands of time, with the platform japery and time-reversal death cheating, but that’s where the similarity ends. Where Prince of Persia uses time reversal merely as an alternative to Quick Saving, Braid integrates it with the gameplay. Time Bending is the crux of the gameplay, and it pulls it off with style and grace. The difficulty curve is decent, with later levels mimicing earlier levels but subtly changing them, requiring you to use different mechanics to complete them. This isn’t just the old content re-use of old games, each time you meet a familiar but different puzzle, it’ll take you just as long to figure it out as you did before. They say familiarity breeds contempt, well, familiarity – in this case – breeds a false sense of security, as thinking you know how a puzzle should work before hand actually hinders your working out of the puzzle. A lesson in not taking things at face value.
The whole game is a treatise on Love, and the mistakes everyone makes. It’s about regret, and the feeling we all have of turning back time and fixing it. Like a more existential version of Quantum Leap. The Hero, Tim, is on a quest to find his Princess, whom he left in order to pursue his own goals, but regrets his decision and travels through 6 time-bending worlds to find her again. Each level begins with a story in the form of a few books on plinths, retelling aspects of Tim’s regret, the nature of which is reflected in the way the world he visits works. For example, his Hesitation is manifested by the ability to slow time down, Descision requires you to perform an action, then reverse time. A copy of you continues along the path you reversed, while you are free to do something else – to make another decision, ultimatly using your original decision to help you along your new path in a wonderfully contrived metaphor.
The final level, the nature of which I will not divulge, is – to be blunt – fucking awesome. Rarely will I use a swear word on this blog but it truely left me speechless. There is no word I could put before awesome that wouldn’t convey the way I felt when I completed the final level, and thought “what now” – then that last little click in your head when you realise what you’ve just done and link it back to the level’s opening story. It was that moment of clarity watching what is essentially a cut-scene of your own creation.
The creator stated in his own Walkthrough:
“[The Puzzles] don’t require you to do anything random; they don’t require guessing. They don’t require trial and error. The solutions tend to be simple and natural. They flow directly from the rules of gameplay in each world.”
I’d say that was utter nonsense. A few of the puzzles required several trials before I got it right (one puzzle requiring you to guide some goombas through piranah plants took a few trials and more than a few errors, another jumping puzzle required perfect pixel timing and another required you not to rewind time, forcing you to start the level from scratch). There were a couple of bugs that nearly had me quitting in frustration (the Fickle Partner level for one had a near game-breaking bug where the key would fall through a platform at the wrong moment, which happened so much I eventually had to look on the net to see if I was actually doing it the right way. I was, it took another three attempts not to get the bug)
Once I’d completed the game, I checked the web to see if there was anything I had missed, and I had.
The Epilogue. At first glance there were no puzzles in the Epilogue, just books. My interest was piqued when I found a lever and platform in one room. The platform made you immune to time reversal. I couldn’t quite see the puzzle aspect to the level until I checked online. So I’ll throw anyone who wants to play it a bone. When you open the red book and part of the story appears, go hide behind some scenery, and the alternate version will show. After the first one the puzzle’s are slightly devious and you can easilly miss them. The green time-stasis platform in room 4 (i think) which will help with that room, and the one before it. Otherwise, you’re on your own. This game is best enjoyed without help, and without guides, though a helpful nudge in the right direction never hurt anyone.
Braid has easilly made my list of Must-play games, which I’ll likely compile comprehensivly some time this week.