Braid got a lot of critical praise when it was released for Xbox. When it went on sale for the PC on Steam for $4.99, I immediately grabbed it. For once, this is a game that actually lives up to the hype that surrounds it.
Braid uses standard 2-D platforming conventions like jumping around on enemies and prize collection, but what sets the game apart is its unique time-manipulation mechanic. At first, the ability to reverse time if you make a mistake seems like a rip-off of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. In that game, reversing time only served as a “lives” or respawning system’a way to undo mistakes and try again. In Braid, this mechanic gets a major upgrade by adding items that always persist in time even when it’s being reversed. This simple addition makes time manipulation the means of solving puzzles rather than just an undo system. For example: if that time-persistent key is above a flaming pit that will kill you, you can still grab it and die, and then reverse time and the key will come back in time with you because it isn’t reversed back to its original position. Confusing? Trust me, you get used to it pretty quickly.
Just when you do get a handle on controlling time, the game mixes things up with each level. Various worlds have different time rules. In one world, your position on the screen determines where the play head on the time line is. Run right, time goes forward. Run left, it reverses. There are six levels, each of which has its own challenging rules.
If the game were just these mechanics it would still be a pretty great game. But, on top of all this, the game has an unconventional, painterly art style, wonderful music and a pretty interesting story to go with it. The story is presented solely as text at the beginning of each level. Admittedly, the writing feels like overly wordy English lit student writing ’ pretty much like every “community” interactive fiction game ever written ’ but it gets its point across in a way that at least feels artistic. This minor quibble aside, I think Braid ranks up there with Portal as one of the best games of the decade.