Review by horror_spooky

"Pieces of you...pieces of me..."

When people talk about the Xbox Live Arcade, one of the games that gets brought up the most is Braid. Braid may actually be the game that defines XBLA, and for good reason. There's no such thing as "playing" Braid; there's only experiencing it. Braid transcends the standards for what a video game is, and what a video game can be. Braid is one of the best games this gen. Every single gamer should play this game. Simply put, Braid is art.

Indeed. Braid is art. The visuals are stunning. Braid can lay claim to being the most gorgeous game on XBLA that I have ever seen. Technically, the game is flawless, with absolutely no glitches or technical mishaps that I came across. Visually, the game is also flawless. The enemy and character designs are a Deviant Art take on Super Mario Bros., with Goomba-like enemies patrolling the screen, and sinister man-eating plants that come out of pipes. The amount of design is breathtaking. The game's art direction is really, really artsy. The bright colors are beautifully vibrant, and the dark colors are quiet and solemn. The game combines traditional video game animation with a gorgeous water color paint theme for the backgrounds. Truly, Braid is probably one of the best looking games ever created.

To accompany the perfect visual design is the equally perfect audio design. Braid utilizes grand musical scores to convey emotions in the player, and also has a variety of unique and cool sound effects that will become as iconic as those found in the classic platformers like Super Mario Bros., mark my words. The gameplay mechanic that allows players to rewind time uses sound to convey this action, and does it flawlessly. Braid is an achievement in sound design if there ever was one. And unlike most Xbox Live Arcade games which, for whatever reason, tend to be obnoxiously loud, Braid's audio is never annoying or detrimental to the experience. It's not a blast of random techno nonsense that too many downloadable games try to use to feel more "futuristic". No. It's simple, and beautiful, and puts games with elaborate orchestral scores like Halo to shame.

Many games like this, with a high emphasis on the graphics and the audio experience, also tend to have a focus on storyline. Braid's plot is both the greatest thing about the game, and the worst. Braid is a simple tale about Tim, a man whose goal is to rescue a princess. But it's really not THAT simple of a tale. Braid's plot is like the name suggests. It's a twisting plot and has many layers. It's a big metaphor, but is it? What is Braid about? The game's plot is so complicated that people have written papers trying to figure it out. The game has been picked apart, with each individual part of it studied endlessly. Braid is complex and complicated. The problem with is that the better parts of this story, the emotionally-shaking ending, the deep meaning and metaphor, will go over a lot of people's heads. A lot of the good things about the story in Braid is going to be wasted because of the design choice to make the game overly complicated. There are little green books on pedastals that can be read before each world, and they only serve to make things more confusing, as these little excerpts layer the plot even more and make things even more complicated. Braid's story is fantastic, but not everyone will be able to appreciate it.

Gameplay in Braid is extraordinarily unique. That's saying a lot considering the game is a 2D platformer. Besides the obvious elements pulled from Mario, Braid is one of a kind. There's truly nothing like it. The game is separated out into six main worlds, each with their own time-based gimmick. One world will require players to master Tim's ability to rewind time, while another involves slowing down time, and yet another involves rewinding time while keeping in mind objects in the environment that remain unaffected by time. Each level is an elaborate puzzle that hinges on Tim's different abilities. In this sense, Braid is almost Zelda-esque, except instead of getting a boomerang to solve puzzles in new ways, Tim gets a new time-based ability.

Unfortunately, the game is very short, which results in these abilities not being completely fleshed out. Each puzzle requires a very specific solution, and the older abilities are never brought back into the light. This creates balancing issues. Still, the puzzles are fun to solve and require serious thinking.

The point to solving these puzzles is to collect puzzle pieces strewn throughout the stages. These puzzle pieces are used to put together creative paintings, and provide another goal besides just reaching the end of the stage. Even with its gameplay objectives, Braid is layered. These paintings may or may not mean something according to the overall plot, but that's really subjective to one's own interpretation of the storyline and the concept.

Braid, like I said, is a very short game. A single play-through unlocks all the achievements besides one, and there's not many reasons to replay the game. There are speed runs to do after completing the game once that are fairly challenging, but there's only an achievement for completing the speed run for the entire game. The impact of the storyline disappears after one time through, and the puzzles lose their luster after experiencing them once. Braid can be completed in under three hours easily. And I'm talking about 100% completion here.

But longevity is not the point of Braid. Braid is an experience. It's not likely that we will see anything like Braid ever again. The plot, the complexity, the visuals, the audio...everything about it really clicks, except for the replayability. Because even though Braid is art, it is still a video game. A game this short is a bit painful in this day and age, and these brilliant gameplay mechanics aren't fully explored. Braid is a must-play for literally anyone that likes video games. End of story.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 05/02/11

Game Release: Braid (US, 08/06/08)

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