A deep, mature, and intriguing story imbued with beautiful art and a fantastic score make ‘Braid’ a worthwhile experience.
‘Braid’ may be uncommonly simple and even a bit boring at a glance, but the art and music will undoubtedly cause you to look again. Every inch of every level is expertly crafted to create a subtle sense of peace, loss, or wandering when intended. The backgrounds move to your every step. A ray of sunshine will only grow larger as you move forward but make its way back to its source as you backtrack a few steps. The music permeates through every level to set the mood for each part of the story. Rain will hit the floor as a sense of depression is set into place or the horizon you see behind the trees will become clear as you near the end.
‘Braid’, at its most basic telling, is a puzzle game. An outstandingly good puzzle game. One that may induce a rage-quit or three. The game is brutally difficult in its later levels. Jonathan Blow, the game’s creator, put himself very much into his work. ‘Braid’ is a very personal work for him but I feel as though the difficulty of the game isolates many players. Some of the later levels and secrets seem near impossible to solve without help. I will admit, I had to search for video guides on a couple puzzles. In most games, finding a solution online may cause you to feel stupid as the solution is quite simple once put into perspective; that is not the case here. The game is just that hard, which may be its only downfall.
‘Braid’s’ game play is very simple and streamlined. It’s premise, however, is more complex. It introduces a new direction of time manipulation to video games. We have had games like Ubisoft’s ‘Prince of Persia’ that rely heavily on the overall concept, but death is still a part of its gameplay. ‘Braid’ diminishes the idea of death and ‘extra lives’, as it were, replacing them with the idea of ‘again’. Face your problem from a new angle, at a different point in time, or just do the exact same thing again. You are never punished for a mistake, just given the chance to rewind life to a point in time before it ever happened. This plays very heavily into the narrative. As the game progresses, new mechanics are introduced to provide variety. As you play the game for a second or even sixth time (don’t judge me) you may focus more on the story and all of its nuances to realize that some of the gameplay mechanics are yet another level of the character’s struggle.
Though the music and art help this game to shine, its true luminance comes from its story. ‘Braid’, unlike many games, can be labeled a true novel experience. Tim, the game’s protagonist, is a broken, depressed, and seemingly insane man. The story unfolds through a set of books which you are given the option to read before each level. Tim is responsible for something horrible. Something that not only destroyed the one he loved, but the people surrounding his negligence. He arrives home to find himself alone and is left to his thoughts, which in his case are dangerous. Each level, puzzle, and gameplay element add to his seeming insanity, his way of coping with his mistake. Braid addresses the troubles of regret and the dangers of holding on to your past.
Tim is searching for an answer that will only bring him back to where his problems started, that is, with himself. Braid lays bare the unwelcome facts that we make our own mistakes, that we are the ones who choose to be content in our own turmoil, and that regret and depression are the outcome of such a state of mind. Facing these things is the only way to let go, and Tim is a fine example of a man struck with such opposition.
Though it may be difficult to grasp at first, ‘Braid’ is an experience that, once fully invested in, will keep you wondering long after its unquestionably genius final moments. It is very much a game for adults and a story all the same. If you are in the market for something mature in its telling then this game is for you.