Have I never blogged about Braid? It hardly seems possible. I've talked, thought, and told people about it more than any other subject on this blog, and yet no mention. Time to correct this.
I first heard about Braid on Joystiq. They covered it a lot because of its unusual development- made over two years by one designer/programmer and one artist. There's definitely an appeal to that, because we all would like to think that given enough uninterrupted time we could do the same. It was released on XBLA as part of their "Summer of Arcade" in August of last year, and initially there was some controversy on the pricing- people thought that $15 was too much for an XBLA game. It also got a lot of press because people thought that it was really good. And it is. It's amazing.
The game starts out like a Super Mario Bros. clone. The mechanics are simple- move around and jump on guys that look suspicously like goombas. The object of the game is to save the princess. When you get to the end of the level, there's a castle and a dinosaur that says "Sorry, the Princess is in another castle...". The similarities end there, because Braid is a puzzle game. The main character, Tim, can rewind time, so if you miss a jump or get killed, you can rewind a little (or a lot) and correct your move. The object of the game is to collect all the puzzle pieces, and by doing so to understand the storyline.
The time mechanic is used in a way that's both simple and mind-bending. At all times, you can rewind time and do things a different way, but different levels have different mechanics. One level has green glowing objects that are unaffected by rewinding (or fast-forwarding) time; in another time progresses forward when you move to the left, and rewinds when you move to the right. You can't die (well, you can, but then you rewind to when you were alive), so you can solve the puzzles at your leisure. Of course, there are still difficult jumps and timings you have to perform, but you can take time to study how things move to time things the way you want.
The gameplay is fantastic, but it's the storyline that compells me. It was described as an adult storyline, and I couldn't agree more. Not adult in the obscene sense, but adult in the sense that the characters and topics are adult, and children (even teenagers) won't quite understand. The plot involves saving the princess, but the nature of her peril isn't quite explained, except that Tim made a mistake. The plot is vague, which makes it extremely interesting and at the same time annoying because even at the end, it's not entirely clear what the game is about and what the storyline is.
Not many games make me notice the art or the music. Braid's art is beautiful and haunting, and its music doubly so. There's nothing scary in the game, but just hearing some of the music, or thinking about the storyline, sends chills up my spine. It's both creepy and beautiful at the same time.
When I first got it, Sandy was out of town. I started at around 9 or 10 at night, finished it at 2 or 3am, then stayed up until 5 or 6 looking at forums, trying to figure out the storyline. I've had some discussions with friends about it, and I'm still not sure. I got all the achievements except the one for beating the speed run in 40 minutes or less- it just seems so contrary to the rest of the game, and I don't want to spend 40+ minutes on an attempt
I found out later about the stars (and how one is inaccessible beyond a certain point in the game); today, I finally got all 8. There's not an achievement for it, but it does change the ending, and all the stars in Andromeda light up:
Like Portal, Braid is short, insanely fun, has a great storyline and awesome music. It's instantly one of the best games I've ever played.