Review by ADWCTA
"A game for Gamers and Casuals alike. Simply Brilliant."
This is the first 10 I've ever given any game, and I really hope its success opens the minds of game developers in the future... but I probably will not give another 10, ever.
I would recommend you first download the demo and play it. The demo gives you 1 full world that's extremely easy, just to give you a hang of the mechanics. If you're even having a bit of fun at that point, buy the game, you won't regret it. Everything just spirals into a complexity that just feels smart, rather than tedious (which many puzzle games end up). And that's not even looking at the story, which is nothing short of brilliant.
Now, onto the specific stuff:
The Three Strands of Braid:
**Gameplay** Puzzle Platformer. This is what the game is at its heart, and it does it well. There's no repetitiveness at all. I mean this seriously, there's not a single puzzle element that repeats itself in this game. In fact, with each additional puzzle, you learn new aspects/uses of your time-shift ability (it's the same one you've had all game, you just never knew it could do THAT). There are only 5 game mechanics in the entire game (represented by the 5 main worlds), two of which are present in every world, the other 3 are world-specific... so you can see how interested it is to make unique aspects of these very few but well thought out mechanics come to life. The game is also very easily controlled, with up/down/left/right/jump. Even your grandmother could just pick it up and play without much explanation. Perhaps the most difficult thing for a game to do, is to make its mechanics feel like they're integrated with the story, so entwined that one would not exist without the other and vice versa. Braid's game mechanics and story achieve this to a degree that's unmatched in history. And I usually hate puzzle games.
**Story** Almost impossibly deep. This isn't your typical story. There is no dialogue. You get 2-8 snippets of one-sentence lines before each world to set the tone/mood for the world you're about to enter. These are but bits and pieces, almost a stream of consciousness filled with ideas and theories. There is nothing concrete. Get used to it. There won't be. But as the story itself reflects in every element of gameplay, and the few words the story does give you reverberate in your head during each puzzle, until you come to understand their significant, and then another significant, and another perspective. You don't have to see any of the deeper points being made to fully appreciate the story, and every person will come away from it with different but more or less equally valid theories. But at its core, the story is very special. It is not seen in video games, barely even in poetry. It is a story where every single word was placed there for a specific reason, and has meaning (many times more than one). Further, this is a story that could not be told through any other medium, because it requires you to experience. Look at it this way, gamefaqs has an entire guide (incredibly long and detailed, and details just one of the many motifs and possibilities) to the story... to the story that ends up being shorter than this review. If you're a mature individual with a penchant for thoughtful, more artistic and philosophical stories, this isn't a game to pass up (even if you hate the puzzles, you'll come to appreciate them for what they to/with/for the story).
**Atmosphere** Artistically represented. The game is beautiful, but in an odd way. You're on a quest to put together puzzle pieces, which reveal paintings (that again, have something to do with the themes of the world). Art is very much a part of the game, and between the 4 layered backgrounds, the dreamy waves and effects of time distortions, and the general style of an oil painting with great orchestrated music (that's suprisingly fitting for each portion of the game). You'll get into it. There's nothing distracting in this game at all, nothing too cheery, no jarring sound effects. Everything just sort of flows in harmony...
**Difficulty** This game is hard. You have to get all 60 puzzle pieces to reach the final world. There is no way around this. There are no cheats. Half of the puzzles are fairly easy to solve, but still interesting to figure out. They set up the mechanics to be used later. The other half take a serious combination of just staring at the screen thinking about the problem, and going into trial and error mode. While all puzzles are completely logical, and the game never once even bends any of its rules... the concept of timeshifting is so unnatural to our minds that you'll sometimes be stuck regardless. If you get too stuck, you can always look for help online, then smack yourself in the head afterward for not seeing it before. Oh, and that's not even including the stars (see below).
**Replayability** This is a short game. The first playthrough, it took me 5 hours to beat (but I'm a very very quick study on anything logic-based). Fortunately, you'll get your $'s worth in playtime with what happens after you "beat" the game. The game first requires you to do at least one more playthrough (which will be much faster because you'll remember how to solve most of the puzzles, especially the harder ones that you were stuck on before) for the 7 secret stars. Try to find these yourself without any help for a real challenge, they're all located off-screen, but in logical places... usually with a bonus puzzle that you have to solve to reach it. These are by far the hardest puzzles in the game, a couple of them being downright brilliantly designed (very simple looking, but...). I found 6/7 without help, the last one was very hidden and imo w/o any real clues. After the stars (or before), you can do speedruns to try to beat their challenge time. This makes particular stages a whole new puzzle, as you try to figure out the strategies of how to maximize your time through the rewind mechanic (they're pretty hard) and brings a whole new dimension to the puzzles you had to solve before. There are 5 speedruns of stages (none with a challenge time of over 1:30) to kind of show you how to do this sort of thing, before they throw you to the wolves with a 45 minute full game speedrun. Yes, it is very possible to beat the entire game (no secret stars) in 45 minutes.
**Conclusion** This game is special. There's no other way to describe it. 15$ for a 5 hour game may not sound like a great deal (that's movie in theater price!), but you'll get at least 20 hours out of it if you're a completionist, and even just the experience of the first playthrough is well worth the money. I know everyone raves about the story, but you can't just "read" it, or "watch" it (it just won't make any sense...). Even someone who's played the game cannot describe the story to you in words. It is very obvious that whoever created this game wanted to create a work of art, and he very much succeeded. The story is so entwined with the game that it makes descriptive efforts rather futile without the accompanying experience. That's what this game is: an experience. This is what every single video game could be like. But none are. None except Braid.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/20/09
Game Release: Braid (US, 04/10/09)
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