Games like Braid don't come along that often, so when they do, they deserve appreciation. Jonathan Blow and his team at Number None Inc. created a majestic puzzle/platformer unlike any other. The amount of genius put into this game breaks down into multiple levels, each offering something new enough to keep you from leaving.
You control a young lad named Tim, dressed in a business suit complete with power tie. He finds himself in a world far beyond his imagination, on a quest to rescue a beautiful princess. He put her in peril because he "made a mistake," as the game tells us. As he goes through each level, the story unfolds, leading up to a remarkable conclusion where he faces the creature that took her.
As dark as it may seem, this screen really shows the beautiful design put into Braid. Click to see more images from the game...
At first, the game looks misleadingly simple. You can move from point A to point B across each stage and complete the game within a couple of hours. However, an unparalleled amount of depth will keep you playing for quite some time. As you travel across each stage, you pick up puzzle pieces that you arrange on a huge poster board. Put a picture together and you'll unlock another step leading to a showdown with the princess' monstrous kidnapper.
Sounds easy, right? It isn't. Part of Braid's appeal lies in its excellent stage design. Some puzzle pieces are easy to obtain, bouncing off enemies' heads and riding clouds. Others, however, require a higher amount of thought to attain them. Fortunately, you have a few tools to help you along, including keys that can open doors and the power to manipulate time.
Right away, you can rewind time by holding down the X button. Not only is it a nice tool for erasing mistakes and keeping Tim alive, but it's also a necessity for solving certain puzzles. Let's take The Pit stage, for instance. A key sits in an otherwise inescapable pit, but you need it to get through a door. You drop down into the pit, grab the key and hit the rewind button to rise back out; while you still hold onto the key. So while you manipulate time, you'll still able to benefit by using it to solve puzzles. It's moments like this that make Braid an amazing game.
In addition, Braid's level design is superb, with colorful, multi-scrolling levels displaying a breathtaking world. Every stage seems pulled from an art gallery, suitable for framing. The animations are simple yet cute. Braid also pays tribute to old-school platform games, with a character telling Tim that the princess "is in another castle" and a stage resembling the Nintendo classic Donkey Kong.
As for the music, it's the best we've ever heard in an Xbox Live Arcade game. It's a wonderful soundtrack with memorable, heartbreaking compositions that make you yearn for the princess' love. The sound effects are meager by comparison, but they get the job done.
There are two things about Braid need addressing. First, the game is pricier than most XBLA games, at 1200 points compared to the usual 800. Secondly, this adventure ends way too soon. It's over in a matter of hours, with little replay value (outside of a speed run option).
Braid joins Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 and Ikaruga as one of our favorite Xbox Live Arcade games of the year. Even with its short length and higher cost, it's a journey that's greater than the destination. You owe it to yourself to play a game this good.