XBLA Review: Braid

Does Braid deserve the crown of the best XBLA title?

Braid is a puzzle-platformer, drawn in a painterly style, where the player manipulates the flow of time in strange and unusual ways. From a house in the city, journey to a series of worlds and solve puzzles to rescue an abducted princess. In each world, you have a different power to affect the way time behaves, and it is time’s strangeness that creates the puzzles. The time behaviors include: the ability to rewind, objects that are immune to being rewound, time that is tied to space, parallel realities, time dilation, and perhaps more. Braid treats your time and attention as precious; there is no filler in this game. Every puzzle shows you something new and interesting about the game world.

  • Forgiving yet challenging gameplay: Braid is a 2-D platform game where you can never die and never lose. Despite this, Braid is challenging—but the challenge is about solving puzzles, rather than forcing you to replay tricky jumps.
  • Rich puzzle environment: Travel through a series of worlds searching for puzzle pieces, then solving puzzles by manipulating time: rewinding, creating parallel universes, setting up pockets of dilated time. The gameplay feels fresh and new; the puzzles are meant to inspire new ways of thinking.
  • Aesthetic design: A painterly art style and lush, organic soundtrack complement the unique gameplay.
  • Nonlinear story: A nonlinear fiction links the various worlds and provides real-world metaphors for your time manipulations; in turn, your time manipulations are projections of the real-world themes into playful “what-if” universes where consequences can be explored.
  • Nonlinear gameplay: The game doesn’t force you to solve puzzles in order to proceed. If you can’t figure something out, just play onward and return to that puzzle later.

    Over the past few years, there has been a real lack of platformers on consoles then comes along a 2D puzzle-platformer called Braid, which has been well received and considered a 2D Portal game with its unique aspects of time manipulation.

    Braid starts out quite oddly, you immediately skip to World 2 and begin to hunt for jigsaw puzzles around each level, collecting all of them will open up the last world but more on that later. The main character Tim does not have a double jump, so you have to rely on time and objects to help you reach the jigsaw pieces you need. It takes a long time to work out how to get them, but once you do you might feel a bit silly.

    Not everything is affected by time; these things are covered in a green glow and flow even when you stop time. Time manipulation can be essential for things like re-using a key or getting enemies across a path so you can jump on them to reach jigsaws or other areas, as you progress you’ll come across different time abilities like a shadow version of yourself that will repeat what you did when you rewind, so you can hit a switch and go to a higher ledge then rewind time so you can get on the platform in time for your shadow to flip the switch. Then there’s the ring which slows parts of the world down, like if you need to get through an area where missiles are being fired fast, you have to place the ring near there to slow them down for you to pass.

    There are a few boss fights in Braid, but they are essentially the same. You just end up dropping chandeliers on the monster’s head, rewinding time for it to happen again and that’s it. I would have liked to see at least one boss in each world, but it’s not a huge complaint. When you’ve collected each jigsaw piece in a world, you have to then assemble the jigsaw to add part to the ladder that will gain you access to the last world.

    The way the last world is done is amazing, essentially it seems that you are rescuing the Princess from an evil knight trying to kill you and she helps you cross paths of fires to reach her, then the game makes you rewind to see not all is what it seems, it’s an interesting twist and you’ll never look at a 2D Mario game the same way again. Presentation-wise, Braid looks solid in its high-resolution 2D world. There’s also the nice feature that you can never die in the game, you just reverse time to before you did. So really, Braid is a mixture of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Mario and Portal…a solid combination.

    The Verdict

    Braid rightfully deserves its title of the highest rated XBLA title, as it makes you think more than any other XBLA title before it. Never has the phrase “The Princess is in another castle” been seen as twisted but Braid manages to do it.