Imagine me airquoting “review” because I’m not very good at actually reviewing games, I find it hard to give games a score, or to say that X is better than Y. Because every review is subjective, there is no such thing as an objective review. So as usual, all I can do is to write down my experience of a game in the most coherent way possible, give you a recommendation. I won’t pretend I know it all, or that I am right, just that this was my experience of the game and this is what I thought of it.
So Braid; I’ve had a good play of it now and I have to say that I was more impressed with it than I thought I would be. I originally had a good look at it, watched videos and decided it was a derivative platformer with the ability to rewind time to put destroyed chandeliers back together. However I was quite wrong. You see, Braid is a game which is difficult to fully describe, it is hard to grasp even from videos how exactly a puzzle is solved with the manipulation of time. I will however try.
Firstly I’ll address the most important aspect of Braid; Time travel… Yes you can rewind time, but that is only the start. Each of the “worlds” introduces a new way of manipulating time, in the first world some objects are immune to your time travelling ways and will carry on as if you’re not leaping through time Michael J Fox. This is where the puzzling starts and you manipulate the world around you through the mastery of time. For example, to get a key you might have to grab an immune key from far up in the level and then rewind time so that a door that previously closed opens again, or to use one key in multiple locks.
Other levels change manipulation in other ways, such as time only flowing back and forth when you are moving left or right respectively. Other levels where you can rewind time then when you resume your shadow self replays your actions while you are able to busy yourself with other tasks.
Another thing I feel obliged to point out is that Braid is not a simple platformer, it is a puzzle game, running is actually quite slow and deliberate and the objective of levels is to figure a way to point A or B. Each level gives you different jigsaw pieces to collect and most of the time I sat there thinking “that’s impossible, how am I going to get that” only to figure it out later in an ego boosting brainwave. Like portal it is an enjoyable way of laying out a puzzle in front of you and giving you the tools to do it and hiding the solution as best it can.
One criticism I will level at it (or possibly my puzzling aptitude) is that where some of the solutions became quite obvious the execution of said solution could get tricky to implement. Though to be honest it never got to the point where I was cursing the game, just getting a little vexed that in a game where I can manipulate time I missed the opportunity to solve the puzzle by a second or so and rewinding time doesn’t particularly help with that on some of the levels because of the way time flows.
The graphics look lovely on braid, self proclaimed “painterly” style is pleasing on the eye and seems very artsy. Characters and objects for the most part seem quite small on some levels and the background fills the screen with beautiful colours and vistas. There are also some nice effects like when rewinding time the background zooms back and then when playing back it zooms back in. Overall I was quite impressed with the style and the general feel of the graphics, not at all cartoony but subtly harsh. Some graphic resources can be found on the artist’s site.
Audio wise Braid is a mixed bag, you see when the music is there it is excellent. Classical sounding composed music played on violins and other instruments it really added to the atmosphere in a lot of places and in some places it was really quite beautiful. The problem I have with it though is that it was terribly inconsistent, when the music was there it was awesome, but on some levels it disappears completely and is replaced by mundane ambient noise. But for the most part it is beautiful, you can listen to the soundtrack here which apparently was not made for the game but hand picked original music.
For a game that borrows heavily from Mario (snapping plants in tubes, enemies that look suspiciously like goombas) it really is a unique game. If you like puzzle games then it is a rewarding and unique experience flanked with pleasing art style and aural delight.
Braid trailer from David Hellman on Vimeo.