Braid is a difficult game to review. In fact it's difficult to wrap one's mind around, especially once finished. It's advertised a 2D platformer with gameplay focused on time control. What isn't mentioned is that, on the surface, the game is essentially Mario. Yes, there is of course the similarity in that they are both platformers, and as such share similar gameplay mechanics. However the comparison runs deeper. For one thing, the two most prevalent enemies in the game are a small brown head that waddles around on attached feet and is defeated by jumping on its head, and a fanged, Venus Flytrap-like flower that protrudes from a green pipe in the ground. Sound familiar? Furthermore, the objective of the game is to find and rescue a missing princess. Lest you think less of the game because of this, I assure you it's allowed to take ideas from Mario, because it's better.
[Collective gasp.] Did he just say that?
Yes, I did. Maybe Mario is a staple of the game industry, and a universally recognized character, and a legend in game development history but you know what, so was Pong, and that doesn't make that fun, no matter how many Flash artists try to renovate it.
Of course none of this should go unqualified, so let's get to the actual review. Braid opens without introduction, and shows the main character, Tim, in a sort of castle. Running across a drawbridge, Tim arrives in a room with five doors. Through these doors, you can find five alternate worlds (named 2-6, I won't tell you why.) that must be searched for the missing Princess. The catch is, in each of these worlds, time functions somewhat different than in ours. Some of the concepts are cumulative, like the ever present rewind function. Others are specific to a particular world. The story is told exclusively through a series of books at the beginning of each world. These books introduce the world with an anecdote from Tim's life, which also serves introduce the new time power introduced in the world. The names of the worlds each hint at the power as well (Time and Decision, Time and Place, Hesitance).
Once inside the world, gameplay is simple and addictive, but can become infuriatingly difficult in later worlds. The objective of each world is to find a number of puzzle pieces to reassemble a scene from Tim's shattered life. Each puzzle that is completed adds to the ladder that leads to the attic, where something else interesting awaits. At the end of each world, Tim finds a castle and is greeted by something like a stuffed dinosaur that tells him that the Princess is, invariably, “in another castle.”
The game's graphics are charming, with a sort of watercolor look. In some areas, there's a feel of simple beauty, while others impart a feeling of loneliness and desperation bordering on psychosis. The music fits the game perfectly, and consists mostly of calming acoustic tracks. Here's the part that made the game for me though. The music, like the world, is affected by Tim's time powers. When you rewind, the music rewinds. When you pause, the music stops. When you slow down time in world 6, the music slows to a crawl. This effect adds a higher level of immersion, and also adds to the general feel of the game, that Tim is somehow alone in these worlds that he functions mostly outside of, and that can never understand him.
If what I've said so far hasn't made you want to play the game, then I offer this: The ending will drive you insane. I can't say why, because that would spoil it, but the ending alone makes the game worth the... however the hell much 1,200 points is. There's much more to be said about it, but I really can't without giving it away. Maybe the suspense will make you buy it. Trust me, you want to.
I hate to put a walkthrough up, but really that's the only kind of video there is for Braid, unless it's just a video of someone walking back and worth in the same level. This is from world 4, Time and Place, in which time only goes when Tim moves, and flows in the direction he moves.
I noticed that GERARDAMO tried out a numerical grading system on his Onechanbara review. I find them to be rather simplistic, but they're also fun, so I thought I'd give it a try. I can't promise I'll stick with it, but here's my attempt at a per cent grade.
Gameplay: 70 (Simple, but bolstered by complex time powers)
Graphics: 65 (Not impressive, but they serve the purpose and fit the mood)
Sound: 95 (Music is relaxing, mood fitting, and reacts to time control)
Story: 85 (It's Mario with a twist. A really huge twist.)