[XBLA, Windows, Mac] Braid

Discussion in 'Game Reviews' started by Milanó, Aug 3, 2014.

  1. Milanó

    Milanó It's needle time

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    Pros:
    Amazing artistic direction; classical soundtrack; variety in puzzle mechanics; fantastic final level.

    Cons:
    Ambiguous story completely separated from the gameplay won't suit everyone; music may get repetitive; hidden secrets are barely hinted.

    My veridict:
    Braid's perhaps pretentious delivery of its plot will not suit those who prefer a more direct approach, but it's a must play for those who enjoy puzzle platforming.
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    Complete review:

    Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, (Acts 3:19 NIV)

    Setting religious matters aside, it is safe to say that every human being has at some point in his or her life repented for an action of theirs.

    "What would have come to me had I done the opposite?"
    "If only I could turn back time."

    These are common sentences from those wishing to repeat past events in hopes of a better outcome. Sadly to them, they are still unable to do so, but not Tim, the protagonist in Braid, Jonathan Blow's puzzle platformer. At a certain point in his life, Tim lost someone very dear to him and thus he enters a quest for finding that someone, whom we only know as "the Princess". In his attempt to correct apparently permanent mistakes, Tim is able to rewind time, never having to suffer the consequences of a wrong decision. With this in mind, can Tim really lose anything in this journey?

    The protagonist's travels are set in different worlds, divided in different levels, and the goal is quite simple: use Tim's abilities to solve platforming puzzles, collect every puzzle piece (literally) and reach the end of the level. At the beginning of each world, before entering any level, the player is presented with short books, explaining Tim's past and his relationship with the Princess. The plot, completely separated from the gameplay, is delivered in such an ambiguous manner that the player is mostly left with questions, pressing on hoping for an answer, but the princess always seems to be in another castle, as we are often told. Who is the princess?

    Time manipulation, often accompanied by platforming, is the gameplay's bread and butter, each world introducing and/or replacing new time mechanics, resulting in a great variety of puzzles. Braid isn't a game that gets easier as you grow accustomed to each ability, because you'll soon abandon it and be forced to completely readapt your thought process. The level "Fickle Companion" is a prime example of how becoming used on certain mechanics will stop you on your tracks until you begin to think again. It's a challenging game, but not in a way that will force you to abandon it. As you find a solution you'll notice how deceptibly simple it actually was. The superposition of platforming and time manipulation is so organic that it results in the most dinamically entertaining puzzles, while those who are solely time manipulation usually require more abstract thinking, usually being the most difficult.

    Most of Braid's $200,000 budget went to the game's artwork, developed by David Hellman. Every level has a lush pallet of colours and painted backgrounds, akin of an oil paiting. A forest in a yellowish tint, a cloudy blue sky, a city at sunset (or is it burning?) are a few examples of Hellman's glourious results. Would the game have delivered the same experience had the developer not invested in this artistic direction? We'll never know, because we lack Tim's abilities.

    The music throughout the game is mostly delivered by Jami Sieber and Shira Kammen, resulting in a classical touch, which actually influenced the above mentioned artwork and actually help setting the game's mood. The prime examples are Kammen's "Downstream", which is an adaptation of Luar Na Lubre's "O son do ar" (Galician: The sound of air) and Sieber's "Undercurrent". The former is commonly used earlier in the game, when the story is at its gentlest, while the latter, much darker, is reserved for latter moments, namely the final levels. There is, however, little variety of music, which may tire those who are searching for an expansive soundtrack.

    Despite its flaws in storytelling and an ending, which despite being amazing, leaves lots of questions unanswered, Braid is an important piece in the most recent rise of independent gaming popularity. Its sometimes challenging puzzles will quench the thirst of those looking for a challenge of the minds, but will not appeal to those who prefer more action in their games. Will Tim ever find the princess? It's up to the player to find out.
    resolutespider5 likes this.
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  3. koko

    koko ! Award Winner!

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    Pretty good review.

    This and Limbo... Someday I'll play them.
  4. Milanó

    Milanó It's needle time

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    Thanks for the support. Limbo is also a great game, but it lacks the lasting appeal of Braid, in my opinion. It felt like the authors kept making levels until they decided it was enough and packed it. It has an AMAZING atmosphere, though.

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