Giant Bomb Review

141 Comments

Braid Review

5
  • PS3N
  • XBGS

Braid asks that you forget everything you know about time.


This puzzle would leave Mario a quivering mess.
This puzzle would leave Mario a quivering mess.
Much has been made of the indie pedigree of Jonathan Blow's Braid. This is, by and large, a one-man show, and not just on the development side. At the same time that it challenges the player with box-bending time-manipulation puzzles, Braid tells a story of one man's emotional loss and his obsessive hunt for a redemptive Princess. While the actual prose can feel like a mopey-if-imaginative teenager's blog, I still have to applaud Braid for its willingness to focus its storytelling on such personal issues as loss and regret. But the real reason Braid works is its gameplay, which is diabolically clever and incredibly rewarding.

Tim is a heartbroken young man in a suit and tie who must traverse a series of worlds, each with its own set of rules about how time works, in his search for the Princess. His journey is paralleled by memories of a past relationship that went from sweet to sour, but the correlation between the two threads remains ambiguous until the last, revelatory level. There's a navel-gazing quality to the writing that can make it intermittently insufferable. There's also some genuine insight about the often counterintuitive arc of a romantic relationship, and the story compliments the nature of the gameplay nicely.

The game's oddly confessional story makes it easy to shuffle into the indie game name game, but what makes Braid exceptional is that it integrates so elegantly into some really clever game design. There are only two types of enemies, a beige head on legs that bears no actionable similarities to a Goomba, and a pink bunny that pops out of the ground and screeches like a cat. There's no penalty for death, and you could run through the game's five worlds in a few minutes if you cared to. If you did, though, you'd be missing the point, as your real objective is to collect puzzle pieces that have been tucked away behind locked doors and in seemingly unreachable corners of the world.

There's some confusion about which castle the Princess is in.
There's some confusion about which castle the Princess is in.
Now Tim can run and Tim can jump, but Tim's most notable ability is time manipulation. With the press of a button you can rewind time all the way back to the beginning of the level. This starts out simply enough in the first world, where the ability to rewind time is mostly used to correct a badly timed jump. In the next world, though, you start encountering objects that are unaffected by your manipulation of time, and following that, you'll find that the passage of time for the world is dictated by Tim's movement across the screen. Move to the right, and time moves forward; move to the left, time rewinds. After that, it just gets weird. Braid uses these different time behaviors to create puzzles that force you to ignore much of what you know about how time and space relate.

As such, Braid can be insanely frustrating, but this seems to be by design. The game is filled with red-herrings and double red-herrings. Each world is just long enough that, by the time you've trained your logic muscles to play by a specific, peculiar set of rules, you're off to the next world, where the rules have been changed completely. This constant re-education can leave you feeling punch-drunk. The solutions can take a long, long time to reveal themselves to you, but you feel like the smartest person in the world right after you finish a particularly head-wringing puzzle. Alternately, you may also find yourself giving your TV the finger.
 
There are some oblique post-end-game challenges to seek out once you've finished Braid, but for the most part, once you've cracked the code and solved all the puzzles, there's not much reason to revisit it. As such, the recent release of Braid on the PlayStation Network doesn't have a lot to offer players who've already been on this adventure, since it's indistinguishable from Braid's Xbox Live Arcade release. If you've not played Braid before, though, everything about it--from the crisp, painterly artwork to the brain-cramping puzzles--still holds up rather brilliantly more than a year later.
 
I was initially pretty skeptical about Braid, and it took me some time to get past the game's severe melancholy. I eventually found the game's story and the way it plays against the gameplay to be academically interesting, and the game's final payoff is terrific, but it's the ingenuity of the mechanics that makes Braid so engaging.
142 CommentsRefresh
Avatar image for daanienator
Posted by Daanienator

Good review

Avatar image for egyptnation
Posted by egyptnation

can we have some video footage? the only way to make sense of this game is to actually see it being played.

Avatar image for spencer
Posted by Spencer

You didn't really elaborate on the game's length, so I'm worried most people are going to ignore this one just because it's 1200 Microsoft points.  Personally, I think it's totally worth it.

Online
Avatar image for dryker
Posted by Dryker

Downloaded it last night, played through the first three worlds, and retrieved 18 puzzle pieces. Had to turn it off at 2:00 AM. It was like a dream I didn't want to wake up from. I figure there must be some kind of abilities you gain through the game because some of the pieces seem impossible to get otherwise, but it may just be that I have'nt discovered the trick just yet. So far, so fun.

Avatar image for qwert
Posted by Qwert

Tried the demo few days ago. Finally going to get it tonight after work. Looks amazing.

Avatar image for arrers
Posted by Arrers

Cool review, I downloaded the trial but I'll probably get the full version thnks to your acclaim.

Avatar image for scarecrow_
Posted by Scarecrow_

I'm not sure if I actually "understand" Braid's story. But I'm thinking that different people will read into differently. The games best moments are when you complete a puzzle that you had previously skipped over thinking it was impossible to solve. Such a satisfying and rewarding game. But beautiful and emotional as well. This is right up there with Portal.

Avatar image for jimib
Posted by JimiB

Awesome review for an awesome game, but that second picture kinda ruins one of the best jokes in the game a little.

Anyhoo, everyone should go out and buy this game it is well worth the points

Avatar image for alpha1
Posted by Alpha1

good review Ryan just finished it i was skeptical also, but really found it enjoyable best XBLA game played and worth the money

Avatar image for redsox8933
Posted by RedSox8933

best XBLA game ever, one of the best 360 games out there even if it is pretty short, that ending was fucking heartbreaking though.

Avatar image for fishmicmuffin
Posted by fishmicmuffin

Braid is the best 15 dollars I have spent in a long time. Couldn't reccomend it more.

Avatar image for uglybob
Posted by uglybob

how short is the game and is it hard

Avatar image for tru3_blu3
Posted by Tru3_Blu3

I tried the demo and didn't like it. I really find this game to be quite over rated, especially with a $15 price tag for such a short game on Xboxlive. There really is no reason for this game to be $15. The jumping is horribly done since it's quite impossible to nail your feet on an enemy on your first try. The puzzles are interesting, but it isn't enough to intrigue me to continue on. But hey, at least the story got me going quite a bit.

Avatar image for claude
Posted by Claude

Played the trial version, even after your review, I'm still skeptical. Alright I'll get it, maybe.

Avatar image for zergvasion
Posted by Zergvasion

Best. $15. Ever.
People say its short, but I've had it since it came out and have yet to completely beat it.
Probably because I refuse to jump to the next stage until I have found every puzzle piece.

Avatar image for travistouchdown
Posted by TravisTouchdown

I could not get past the art style and music enough to buy this game. The whole package felt like a pretentious mess.

Avatar image for toast_burner
Posted by toast_burner

there are 7 worlds not 5

Avatar image for fishmicmuffin
Posted by fishmicmuffin

There are 6 worlds that you can play in and an epilogue world that you walk through, but it's mainly there for story related reasons.

Avatar image for interstate78
Posted by interstate78

People don't know this yet but you can collect secret stars (the ''empty'' stars in the sky over the house).

Only when you've collected all the stars will you get the real ending and have a chance to grasp the actual meaning of Tim's pursuit.

not shittin' you.

Avatar image for robdafunk
Posted by RobDaFunk

Been playing and discussing this solidly since Saturday.....Great Review, Great Game!!

Avatar image for the_icon
Posted by The_Icon

XB Live! Marketplace is on a role these days.

Avatar image for mattbodega
Posted by MattBodega

I can speak for the entire Braid forum when I say this review is totally accurate!
(MattBodega cannot actually speak for the entire Braid forum.)

Avatar image for artie
Posted by Artie

God, I feel like I've just been forced-fed a thesaurus.

Avatar image for youngbuck
Posted by YoungBuck

great review, great game.

Avatar image for relys
Posted by Relys

I tried the demo. I really can't see why I should pay $15 for it besides the story.

Avatar image for timeshero
Posted by TimesHero

Moar Video Reviews NAO!!!!!

Avatar image for httenrai
Posted by HTTenrai

I can't wait until I get my next paycheck. It's Braid and ReArmed for me. All it took was the playable demo of Braid to sell me. The sheer combination of the mature storytelling, the infinitely forgiving-yet-integral rewind, and the fantastic music and art really snowballed into one of the most amazing games I've ever played.

Length be damned, the sensation I get from solving those puzzles is second to none.

Avatar image for paul
Posted by Paul

I like the story.

Avatar image for coonce
Posted by coonce

looks interesting... gonna download tonight.

Avatar image for scorched
Posted by Scorched

I'm still interested in getting this but haven't decided to purchase it yet

Avatar image for brydello
Posted by Brydello

Such a great game.

Avatar image for bennyishere
Posted by Bennyishere

Agreed, Braid is awesome. The ending really put the game on top. Now to find out what these stars are about...

Avatar image for aaron_g
Posted by Aaron_G

Nice review. I need to get Braid.

Avatar image for mardigan71
Posted by mardigan71

I just really didn't like this game.  I thought the time shifting thing was interesting.  It seemed like a flash game I swear I've played on the internet.

Avatar image for loom
Posted by LooM

It's a fantastic game, definetely a must.. Only let downs are: the price, the length and the story  versus gameplay, doesn't really match.. None the less a great example of an original concept that has by no means failed at all.

Avatar image for john
Posted by John

If they make it 800pts, I'll be happy to download it, but as it stands, no 5 stars will convince me.

Avatar image for l
Posted by L

Excellent title on Marketplace. I love it! Finished it already. :(

Avatar image for brainkiller
Posted by Brainkiller

Looks awesome :P great review.

Avatar image for jj
Posted by JJ

Braid is like Portal - it needs to be played.

Avatar image for nutter
Posted by nutter

This is my game of the year so far. GTA? Suck my glock!

Sure, $15 is a bit much for an arcade game, but Braid is surely worth more than a trio of Gauntlets.

Here's the breakdown:
-The level/puzzle design makes Mario Galaxy's amazing design look weak
-The music and art are both fantastic
-The story might be my favorite of any game ever (we'll see if I still like it better than Silent Hill 2 after the honeymoon period ends)

Braid is amazing.

Avatar image for zimpanx
Posted by ZimpanX

This game is a pure work of art. Too bad it's 1200 MS points, should have been 800.

Avatar image for f1
Posted by F1

This is one of the best games of the year. I'm not even finished with World 4 yet and I can honestly and confidently say that. There are so many "Oh shit!" moments for me. The puzzles are so expertly designed and when I figure them out it really gives me great satisfaction!

Avatar image for thegtavaccine
Posted by TheGTAvaccine

Great review, great game.

Avatar image for scarecrow_
Posted by Scarecrow_

What now EBERT?! This is ART!

Avatar image for fuma
Posted by Fuma

When one character in the game told you that the princess was in another castle, I immediately started to laugh.

Avatar image for voodooterror
Posted by VoodooTerror

love......this......game
its hard for me though, too many years of fps and tv have killed my brain cells

Avatar image for martini
Posted by martini

This is definitely a must-play for any gamer. Seriously. Even if you don't think it's the greatest game ever made (I don't), it's so compelling and original that you must experience it.

Avatar image for mrsmiley
Posted by mrsmiley

Great review. Very logical. I'll be picking this one up.

Avatar image for voodooterror
Posted by VoodooTerror

Forget MGS4 or Gears of War, this game has the best visuals ever, its so nice to look at and is relaxing to play (im good at puzzle games lol)

Avatar image for moe
Posted by Moe

are you serious? this is sooooo bad it would of been shit on a snes. it doesnt even get the simple jump mechanic right. RYAN DAVIS = NO TASTE. Another overrated pile of crap. But hey atleast it doesnt have big tits you COCKBOYS