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ZeitgeistReview On July - 16 - 2009

Hey everyone.  Today I want to take a step back from some of the recent new releases and touch on an independent title making a lot of noise all over the gaming world.  Braid is a puzzle/platformer created by Jonathan Blow, originally released on Xbox Live and recently on the PC and Mac.  Currently you can pick this title up on any of those platforms for 15 dollars.  Should you spend your money on this cutesy independent game?  Let’s take a look.

Design

At its heart, Braid is a simple 2D side-scroller.  The purpose of the each level is to collect puzzle pieces scattered throughout it, but to collect the pieces, you are going to have to solve a ton of puzzles.  Once enough puzzle pieces are collected, they may be assembled into the completed picture and you will be granted access to the next level.  There are 6 levels in the game, each consisting of a several sub-levels.

What is interesting with Braid is that the levels are actually really difficult to figure out.  You really have to think in creative ways to get some of those puzzle pieces, and you’ll find yourself just standing there thinking a lot of the time.  This is no children’s game; this is a thinking-man’s game.

Now, there are walkthroughs on the Internet that can be rather helpful, but it kind of ruins the experience and makes the game really short.  What gives you the long game length is the amount of time it is going to take you to get creative enough to solve the puzzles.  That said, Braid is set up in such a way that you can quit at any time and not lose your progress, so you can play a level and come back at a later time to solve the next one.  That’s what made this game take so long for me to complete.

Gameplay

The game-play in Braid is what makes it something special.  At the beginning of each level, the main character Tim is presented with a bunch of books on pedestals.  When you read the books, they vaguely foreshadow the game-play mechanic of the level you are about to enter.  The mechanics are really cool too.  In the beginning, you simply have the ability to rewind time.  Later you find that certain objects are not affected by time reversal.  Then you discover that as you walk forward time moves forward, and when you walk backwards, it rewinds.  Then later you start controlling your shadow as well as the other time controlling mechanics from before.  Finally you gain the ability to use a ring to significantly slow down time to everything that is close to it when you set it down.

Braid is single player, which is just fine for this type of game, but I think it would be cool in a sequel to have a multiplayer version of the game that required multiple players to solve the puzzles.  Nonetheless, Braid is really really fun to play.  I like the fact that I don’t have to make a major time investment to enjoy the game.  It is fun from the start and gets exponentially more challenging as you progress.  Once you complete the game for the first time, a speed run game play mode becomes available for you that offers additional challenges, including beating the entire game in 45 minutes.

The controls in Braid are very easy.  I am reviewing the Mac version of this game, and you really only have to use the arrow keys to move, the spacebar to jump and the shift key to control time.  That’s it.  Braid is a simple game concept and has simple execution, yet brilliant game design and enjoyable and engaging game-play.

Story

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Presentation

Braid is an absolutely beautiful game.  I was amazed when I first started playing it.  I just couldn’t believe an independent developer made this.  The first thing I noticed were the decorative bright backgrounds that looked 3D because there were multiple layers stacked on top of each other.  David Hellman, the artist of a supposedly famous web comic that I’ve never heard of before, created the artwork.  There are lots of artsy-fartsy things incorporated into the artwork that people who think they are deep probably think is pretty cool, but that doesn’t do anything for me.  I don’t want to play a game and get spiritual about it; I just want to enjoy it.  Now, don’t get me wrong, Braid is beautiful and I loved every second of its visual smorgasbord.

The soundtrack of Braid is something else that needs to be pointed out and commended.  The developer decided to use long, “organic and complex” licensed songs instead of having music created for the game.  The songs are long enough so that the player doesn’t recognize that it is being looped while they are trying to solve the really challenging puzzles.  Something else I discovered while researching this game is that the songs were actually used to help create the artwork for the levels and when you listen to it while you play, you’ll feel the same.  The songs are played in reverse when you rewind time, but luckily they don’t sound too terrible when you do so.

Summary

Braid is a genius game with brilliant beautiful artwork and graphics, an immersive soundtrack, clever game-play mechanics and all around it’s just fun.  The $15 price sounds a bit steep for an independent game like this, but I am completely going to recommend it, just don’t ruin your experience like I did.  Whatever you do, don’t look for a walkthrough on the Internet.  The game is really short, considering a speed run could potentially take you only 45 minutes once you know what you are doing.  Braid is really something special and I’m so upset with myself for not playing it as it was intended.  I hope to see something more from Jonathan Blow in the future, and so should you.

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Categories: Mac, PC, Reviews, Xbox 360

One Response

  1. [...] whenever anyone mentions it, as reflected perhaps by many comments I’ve seen about Bastion, Braid, Trine or maybe Minecraft or Terraria. But in all honesty, Bastion was good. Not OMGWTFBBQ best [...]

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