*Before you read just know I did this review abstractly and it is very different from other styles of review. Read to get a general impression of the whole package, instead of separate parts*
Braid; a peculiar specimen. A truly melancholy experience that so much can’t be assigned a score, but really just dissected. Jonathon Blow’s undertaking is a weird dive into an extremely ambiguous tale of one man’s search for the princess. I am still in bewilderment of what has just happened. I just finished the game and I just had to write down something. This could be considered a review, but it’s so hard to critique this game it’s a little unfair to the critic. Anyway I’ll just start in.
Oh dear lord where do I begin. You know what I am just going to cut the shit and just say it. Braid is a good game. I am not going to go on and on about the game and then finally come to a conclusion. The game is a good game, but it has so many ‘things’ about it, it is just hard to say why it is good and what is wrong. Now let’s get this straight, there are definitely things wrong, but these complaints shouldn’t be misconstrued as stupidity. Yes, I am not the smartest person ever, but you have to either be the most well read person on the face of the earth to piece the game together, or you have to be some sort of savant. I think it’s funny and ironic that a puzzle game can end up being so puzzling. I know two intros I’ll start.
Gameplay: When I look at Braid I see it as more of a package than a sum of its parts. It’s really something that has to be looked at as a whole because if you are only in it for one thing you will be a little disappointed. To contradict what I just said I will tell you how the game plays. The game plays out as a platformer on the surface, but at its core is a puzzle game that tests your logic of newfound properties of time. The game rips all your prior knowledge of bending time and implements a fresh new take on them, and it really makes you retrain your brain. Your main task is really to reach the end of the level, but along the levels there are puzzle pieces that you can (and should) collect. Really if you aren’t doing so you have wasted fifteen dollars on a game where you walk. The game gives frequent subtle nods to the super Mario series and plays a lot like it. You must use enemies and other variables of the levels to traverse platforms to reach keys and puzzle pieces. The real point of the gameplay is to unlock the ending. And just recently I have learned the unlocked ending really isn’t the ‘real’ ending. I’ll save that for later though. Anyway, you traverse 6 worlds with around 45 levels that all are unique and really fun. Every world incorporates a new type of time bending and it always feels fresh and never repetitive. I know I am not doing the best job at highlight the gameplay attributes but it’s because I am still a little confused on the whole package. Sorry I apologize. Here: The gameplay is really fun. It’s rewarding and it makes you feel like a genius when you figure out all the puzzles. All the puzzles are ‘possible’ but at times it feels like they are quite the opposite. They are damn frustrating and sometimes you really have no clue. Sometimes when you learn the trick to the problem its kind of a slap to the face like “why didn’t I think of that” and other times it’s the most intricate “who the hell would figure that out” kind of task that makes you a little bit angered. Overall though the gameplay is rewarding and does not disappoint in anyway. The only real thing I could complain about is that since the game is pretty short the ways you manipulate time are sort of limited. While unique and innovative they are pretty scarce. Also this might be a little cliché, but it would have been nice to get a mixture of all the worlds together.
I’m sort of having an internal conflict right now…. I usually right structured reviews, but this game is so different that I don’t think said structure would suit this game. I think I am just going to speak abstractly and leave the gameplay paragraph as it is. Sorry again….
Braid is truly a sight to behold. It’s not something to marvel at extensively, but the art style is very original and is just fun to look at. It complements the story and feeling so well in this game. It really brings the whole package together. All the art has this sort of fluffy blushed out style to it. It is soft and very warm. The music also matches the graphics and the overall melancholy and malaise of the game. Let’s get this straight here; this game is not very happy. It is more something that you tilt your head and look at like a confused child, and try to analyze some sort of meaning out of it. The music is orchestral and it uses an abundance of sad violin play. The art, the music, and the story, heck even the gameplay all fit perfectly together. I realize this article is going to be huge so I’ll spare you with an in-depth story paragraph, but the general synopsis is: A guy named Tim, had a relationship that went bad, and he tries to fix it by finding the princess. Without spoiling anything, but still talking about the story, the story is very ambiguous and vague and I am sorry to say, but it kind of is braid’s downfall. I think the writer must have realized that he wasn’t suppose to write a novel (which would be a great extension) and had to make things more general. Being vague is a great technique to make the audience ponder, and I am all for that, but Braid takes it to another level, and it kind of leaves you with a sour taste by the end. They leave you with little snippets of Tim’s past and present, but never really clue you in on what’s going on. I have read a ton of articles on the true meaning of Braid, but all just reaffirm the notion, that it is vague that nothing is clear. There is obviously an overarching meaning to everything, but you have to really dissect every bit of dialogue and happening, to the point where it’s just a bit ridiculous. It kind of angers me because I love the premise and everything, but he does everything a little wrong. Either he should have focused on gameplay and lessened on the complexities of the story and made it all come together in the end. Or he should have kept the amount of gameplay, but extended the story to give a little more into what the hell he is talking about. Overall it just makes the game feel incomplete. It’s not something that you are begging for more and it doesn’t overstay its welcome, but I feel like it’s a little mean to do that. It would be like if you knew the ending to a movie, you just didn’t get why it happened because your DVD player exploded when they were explaining things at the end. Perhaps I am just not smart enough understand the subtle nuances of the story, but I seriously doubt any casual gamer, let alone anyone will completely understand the game. The ending is nice and everything it just has a ton of unanswered questions. Any explanations in your head just have way too many holes to seem plausible.
Overall: Braid does a tremendous amount things well, and overall succeeds as the game it was meant to be. But it does fall short in its main area which keeps it from being perfect or fawned over. I am sure it will develop a cult following and it does provide enough questions to ponder over. I do think it is a game that is worth checking out if you do have the money. If you are short on cash don’t stress on getting it. You can live without it, but I think you will be better off by experiencing it. I came into Braid with an open mind and I knew I was going to review it. I just didn’t realize it would be such a hard process. It’s really not something that can be represented numerically or even by discussing. It’s a matter of personal opinion. I would say if you are looking for something fresh, completely new, and something that can be looked at abstractly I would recommend. But if you are into shooting aliens and you don’t really care for story and Video Games as art (and vice versa) I would stay away. Mainly if you are considering purchasing it, have an open mind, be prepared for a different style of story, and enjoy the gameplay. If you expect too much out of all its parts you will feel disappoint. But as a whole, Braid does a nice job of breaking the norm, and imprinting itself into the memories of gamers. 4/5