A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Braid is filled with complex moral messages and that its puzzles can be extremely difficult. Though there is little that might be deemed overtly offensive (no drugs, sex, or violence, and just one occurrence of the word "bitch"), the game's sophisticated themes have to do with relationships and love, and will likely be lost on those who haven't experienced serious romantic relationships. What's more, the time-shifting play is at times extremely challenging, and best suited for more experienced gamers.
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What's it about?
An unabashed tribute to Super Mario Bros., BRAID is a side-scrolling adventure loaded with nods to Nintendo's iconic plumber, including dangerous plants that pop out of pipes, cannons that spit out monsters, and clouds upon which players can hitch rides. But there's much more to it than simple homage. Each of the game's six worlds features a different time-shifting game mechanic that is used to decipher a series of mind-bending puzzles. Depending on the level and circumstance, time might slow down, enemies might move forwards or backwards depending on the direction in which our little blue-suited hero is running, or the clock may stop altogether. Players can rewind time as much as they like at any time and in any level.
As you conquer Braid's time-based conundrums, you journey through mesmerizing environments that look like paintings come to life and play witness to a surprisingly adult tale about the hope and futility of finding perfection in our mates. Through brief bits of efficient and superbly written prose, Braid details a man's quest to find his "Princess," the woman who in his mind personifies flawlessness. Deliberately vague throughout, the game concludes with several possible endings, each of which will change the meaning of everything players have experienced in the game up to that point.
Is it any good?
This brilliant and pioneering platform game is one of the deepest and most thoughtful interactive experiences yet made. Braid's wildly imaginative environments, composed of beautiful, perpetually moving watercolors, owe inspiration to such diverse sources as the painted worlds of Capcom's Okami and Vincent Ward's film What Dreams May Come, scenes of which appear set on living canvas. It's impossible not to view the game's milieu as interactive art. What's more, it's dripping with sly allegories that bridge story and play. The time shifting mechanics represent our character's desire to go back in time and change regretful events in his own life. And as he collects and assembles jigsaw puzzle pieces in each level, we realize that he is, in fact, trying to find and reassemble the pieces of his shattered relationship.
The only downside of this game is its difficulty. Some of the puzzles, which involve bending time in ways most people are not naturally equipped to imagine, are true brain breakers. There's a good chance that, despite the game's brilliant narrative and stunning art design, some players may not have the patience to persevere through to the end, which would be a shame. Braid is well worth the struggle. It redefines what the medium of games can be, and, perhaps more importantly, what it can say.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the concept of love as it has been portrayed in games. Do you think video games are a valid medium in which to explore the complexities of romantic relationships? Do you think that Braid deals with the subject in a meaningful and insightful manner? Can you think of any other games that have had something important to say about love? Does the game's high level of difficulty detract from its intended message?
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