beautiful, remarkable, challenging, incomprehensible
Braid is one of the most groundbreaking, influential and memorable games in recent memory, that I believe everyone should experience. It follows the story of a man named Tim, as a modern Mario, is off to find the Princess. It really feels like a modern take on the original Super Mario Bros, there are small enemies you can jump on, piranha plants that come out of green tubes in the ground, and at the end of every world, you are notified that in fact, the princess is in another castle. But this is in no way what the real story is about. Through books you can read before entering each world, it tells a vague but poignant tale (which is very well written btw) about love, loss, obsession and regret which is wrapped up with one of the most spectacular twist endings (in my opinion) of the last fifty years, probably because of its relation to the gameplay and how it blends it with the story. Ah yes, the actual gameplay.
Braid’s main gameplay concept is manipulating time. Tim has the power to rewind time almost infinitely, which the creator Jonathan Blow likened to a VHS tape. This lets you do things that would be ridiculous it any other game, such as timing jumps that would be incredibly frustrating anywhere else, and is needed to solve puzzles to get jigsaw pieces and solve the world’s image in the hub house to unlock the next world, the game’s method of progression. But this is just the first of five worlds in the game, with every world having its own rule about time manipulation, which go to things being immune to rewinding, to time being linked to the player’s movement and making parallel timelines, which are all explored to the fullest in their own worlds, with no ‘filler’ puzzles.
This also means that the game is rock hard, with some true brain busters in there. This is why I can only recommend the game to kids 13 or over, the game would be incompleteable to anyone younger (note: looking up solutions only robs you of figuring them out-please don't) and the story with its massive possible list of interpretations would be lost on anyone young. But the game does have some incredibly visually pleasing aspects, which I think would make it good for parents to play with a lot younger children. The game is drawn in a truly beautiful painted style, with particle effects that look like they’re straight out of the eye spa of the gods and music that can only be described as heavenly. Parents can discuss with children the solutions and why they are so, and interpretations of the story. What motivates these characters, and how it fits into the traditional story tropes of goodie and baddie. I think playing with a parent can be a really inspiring and interesting experience for a young child.
Onto the technical stuff. The game uses ‘bitch’ only once and in serious contexts of quotes of real life people and events, meaning it's essential for discussion and the game wouldn't be complete without it, let alone it would make a lot less sense. The game is beautiful to look at but mind-melting to play and while incredibly satisfying to beat and theorise with friends and family about the ending and epilogue, it is hard as a brick to beat all the puzzles, and as hard as an oversized diamond to let alone discover all the secret stuff hidden in it. I highly recommend this game to anyone who wants an eye-opening and challenging experience, but kids should be wary of it’s difficulty and occasional artsy, pretentious incomprehensibility.
10/10 from me anyway.
Thanks for reading!