Developer Number None Publisher N/A Genre Action Platform Xbox 360 Release Out Now
It's rare that you'll ever find a game now-a-day which pushes boundaries which were once pushed over a decade ago, however that rarity has come and it's name is Braid. Not many people knew of Braid's existence, ask your friend what this game is and they'll most likely stair back at you, their silence an indication of how little attention this game has drawn. However, you ask them to play the game, they will never want to stop. Braid is a truly amazing game in all it's form. A step towards perfection is not a marketing catch-phrase, it's a reality.
London's burning... Well, not really.
The game opens to a sombre soundtrack and a city skyline as it burns. There is no title screen, no menu. From the second you see the words "Braid" on-screen, you're in control and you remain in control. You follow the story of Tim, a man who has the ability to control time. The story to this game is something that expands the game, while not offering it as the focal point of the whole experience. The story is explained to you as you progress through worlds, books inform you of the back story to Braid, a poetically written work of art in itself.
The main part of the game is to eventually collect puzzle pieces scattered around different worlds and re-assemble jigsaws. The game feels very much like a Mario game. You scroll along, you jump on strange enemies, collecting items, keys and whatever you require to succeed. The game's main attraction, however, is the ability to control time. Hold down the X button and the screen's colour fades, your actions are withdrawn right before your eyes and you're given a second chance. There is no such thing as death, you simply reverse your mistake. Fall down a hole? Reverse yourself back to where you were. Braid is all about trail and error, only there is no punishment for error, only a second chance. This may seem pointless to some, who enjoy the challenge of games which strive on skill. However, Braid is more than that. It's a skill of it's own. One which is not as easy as you may think to master.
Tom finds mystery even in this door...
The game nods it's head to games which it has taken ideas from. Slight hints and references to Mario and Donkey Kong come early on, playing the Trail gives you a better feel of this, while the full game itself just pays homage to the games that came before it. However, while it may take it's cues from these games, it sure does put a whole new twist on tried and true ideas while making it's own. You can't quite explain how good it feels to play Braid, a game which treats your intelligence with respect. A game which you must take account of all that happens around you, use that to complete tasks. Sometimes controlling time is not all that you need to complete a task.
His idea of heaven, my idea of hell
Controls are very nice. You move using the left analogue stick or the directional pad, your maximum running speed could be something left to be desired, however it's a fair pace, it hasn't been deliberately made slow just to pad the game out. Jump using the A button, once again, the jump height isn't all that fantastic, but only adds to the challenge the game poses. The time control is activated by pressing and holding X. By default, time will move backwards as you hold it down, however you can speed up how fast you reverse through time by pressing the shoulder buttons or the triggers on the controller. Pressing the left triggers speed up how fast time reverses, where as pressing the right triggers speeds up how fast time moves forwards, however you can't shift time forwards any more than your last move in the future. The maximum speed to go backwards or forwards is 8 times normal speed. Very handy if you made lots of mistakes.
Visuals, here's where the game comes into it's own. Braid has such a majestic feel about it. Water-coloured-like artwork and wonderful blending effects all come through crisp and clear. The game is a beautiful thing to look at, everything from it's layered backgrounds to it's finely decorated foregrounds and player/enemy sprites. Animations are very detailed to boot, while some games over-exaggerate a character's breathing to show how detailed the developers were, Braid manages these same details without the exaggeration. Things from the character's breathing while still to the nearly pointless looking up and looking down poses the player can manage. The level of detail makes Braid one of the most beautiful games ever created.
Three easy pieces, one hard game
So, this is where you expect me to lay into the game, pointing out it's flaws and telling you the critique which you hope will make you feel better if you pass up on the game. Sadly, there is none. Braid manages everything it set out to do and nails them so far in, not even rust could break the game apart. It's a finely knit collection of skill, patience, thought and exuberance. I am not joking in any way as I say that this game is the most perfect piece of software I've ever laid my hands on. Just finding faults with this game is difficult, if not impossible. It's a game which you just have to love. And you will.
Overall then, the game is a piece of art. A masterpiece. If you don't believe me as I say this to you, the Xbox Live Marketplace now has a trail of the game for you to try for free. You will fall in love with this game as much as I have through that trial alone, I promise you that much. Even if you aren't into platforming games, just try it. See how you feel about it then. This game is probably the only time where I'll say to you that the game is worth every digital penny of that 1,200 MS Point price tag. If you don't have an Xbox 360 going, don't threat, there's a PC version of the game coming sometime later this year. I advise you check it out as soon as possible. Get this game? Silly question. Get it. Now!