Braid: A Game Review

Even though most of the games I had played in recent years were unmistakably casual, a part of myself still yearns for epic games, the type that had a definite beginning and end, compelling graphics and complex gameplay mechanics.

Of course, there is a required prerequisite: the game should not be too taxing on hardware. It was a heavy requirement, considering that many games these days consume hard disk spaces by the GB’s and requires powerful GPU’s capable of anti-aliasing, pixel shading and many other graphical techniques. Besides, most games that eat less than 1GB are generally considered to be simplistic, outdated or having graphics that are ugly by today’s standard.

I did my research on the net, and I found my dream game mentioned discreetly in an Internet forum. The game was Braid.

Disclaimer: this article is completely spoiler-free, to the best of my knowledge. However, whether any piece of information in this article is considered a spoiler or not, it’s still up to the user to decide. Read at your own risk.

Braid is classified as a 2D platformer, a genre generally considered on the verge of extinction, lost after the introduction of the third dimension in gaming, paving the way for games that are stereotyped as being realistic and/or violent.

The first thing that will grab your attention in the game is the graphics. Braid doesn’t wow you with huge amount of details with realistic textures, instead, the beauty of game lies in its impressive use of the art technique of impressionism. Viewing the game was like seeing Manet’s paintings come to life.

Of course, being a platformer, comparison with the most revered game of them all is inevitable. New Super Mario Bros. was the most recent iteration of the Mario platformer, and it was just as good as the previous ones. For the record, Braid doesn’t try to be another Mario clone, unlike Mario Forever, instead, it tries to poke fun at the Mario games. Sure, the plot revolves around the protagonist’s quest to find and save his princess, some of the enemies in the games were obviously inspired by goombas and piranha plants, and the hero also needs to do bring down a flagpole and converse with an NPC at the end of each world, but that is where the similarity ends.

The game isn’t designed to challenge your platforming skills, in fact, you can traverse the early stages at a relaxing pace, and then the difficulty escalates in a gradual manner until you reach the action-packed finale. There is no time limit for each level and the platforms and enemies weren’t quite frustrating at all. Instead, the emphasis of each world was to collect 12 puzzle pieces and then assemble them to form a picture. Once you completed all the five pictures, you can now reach the 6th and final world. Be warned, collecting the pieces wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

You control Tim. The left and right arrow keys moves Tim in those directions, up and down moves him in a ladder, but up is also used to operate switches and enter doors, and down is used for certain abilities. Tim can jump using the space bar. For the record, Tim’s jumping was very fluid and not frustrating. However, Tim couldn’t jump very high, in order to jump higher, he should jump on top of an enemy. There were many puzzles in the game requiring Tim to do impossible jumps. Tim couldn’t crouch either. You can’t customize the game’s control scheme, but there was an alternative to the controls, you can use the WASD keys for direction and Z for jumping.

However, Tim has a unique ability, and that was to go back in time by holding down Shift. While in this state, you can press up or down to increase or decrease the speed of movement. It wasn’t only used to undo your movement when you got killed or when you miscalculated your platforming, you will need it to solve some of the puzzles in many levels. With this ability, one of Braid’s unique characteristics is that it features a character with an infinite life.

house

The game’s main hub was the house. You can go to a world by entering the corresponding room. Each world is depicted as a cloudy room. You can follow the plot of the game by passing through the books in the room, but in addition to unraveling the plot, the entry in each book has also been cleverly phrased to describe the mechanism of the world. The doors serve as entrances to each level, but in order to unlock the other doors, you need to open its equivalent door within the previous level first. Similarly, you need to get to the castle at the last level of each world in order to unlock the next world.

The game also includes fighting a boss character. You will encounter the boss twice in the game, both in a level marked LAIR. The first fight with the boss is easy, not so with the second encounter.

The Worlds:

2. Time and Forgiveness: the first world was oddly numbered as World 2, but this is where you’re going to start. Since this is the introductory level, the levels were designed to help you familiarize with the game and hone your basic skills. The stumper in this world was the level “The Cloud Bridge.” It took me a while to figure how to get the two puzzle pieces at the end of the level, but to give you an idea how I solved the problem, you need to think out of the box.

3. Time and Mystery: some of the items in this world glows green, which means that these things will be unaffected by your backtracking ability when you use it. I was stumped by the level marked “A Tingling,” but only because it took me some time to figure out completely the purpose of the green glow.

4. Time and Place: The unique characteristic of this world is that the moveable elements in each level will move relative to your own movement, the platforms or the enemies will move forward only if you do, and if you move back, an enemy you might have previously killed will return to the field alive. It actually feels weird that it’s harder to kill an stationary enemy than a moving one, since it requires precise landing, and then there’s the platforms that seemed impossible to reach. Indeed, messing up with time can challenge your sanity. You have been warned. (Nah, that’s just a joke, don’t take it seriously.) The hardest puzzle piece in this world is the solitary piece in the “Hunt!” level, which is basically a recycling of a level in the first world, but made a bit more complicated because of the laws in this world. I didn’t have much difficulty getting it compared to the stumpers in the other worlds. No wonder this was the first world I have completed. The trick is to start at the top, watch your steps and don’t let a fallen enemy return to the field, and lastly, take advantage of “unkillable” enemies to boost your jump.

5. Time and Decision: This time, Tim gains a new ability, when he backtracks, a virtual Tim will appear, moving according to his own movement prior to the backtracking, basically like a recorded version of himself. This virtual Tim can handle items that glows violet. However, this virtual persona has his limitations, it’s going to disappear after a short time. Anyway, this patchwork world inspired by gypsy homes and pirate hideouts is a nightmare, inhabited with pieces located on extreme elevations and keys with their own life. I exited the castle with only three puzzle pieces, and it took me at least one whole session to acquire one or two puzzle pieces. Of these, it was the first puzzle piece from the unnamed level behind the third door that had been gotten in the longest time. I was only able to get it thru the cooperation of the virtual person.

6. Hesitance: it’s odd that the last level didn’t follow the naming convention used in the other levels, but then again, the whole game is full of them oddities. If you marveled at the previous worlds, they are nothing compared to this world, because it was the loveliest by far. Seemingly set in a castle’s garden and courtyard, it was a fitting prelude to the approaching end of the game. Tim acquires another ability in this world, he learns the “ring,” which can be shown by pressing down on a stable platform. With the ring, moving elements will slow down as they approach the ring. It was just appropriate because this world is full of fire cannons. Like the previous level, getting the pieces from this world took a lot of time, but the hardest was the second puzzle piece from “Elevator Action.” Here’s the thing, the ring was used, the only problem, it seemed, was that I placed it in the wrong spot.

Conclusion:

I acquired the game midway in April, and it took me a month to finish the game. It was worth it.

Anyway, to give you an idea about the final world, remember that you need to get back to the beginning. Did Tim even managed to find her princess? You’ll soon find out, and what’s going to happen is something completely unexpected. Same goes to the castle.

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3 comments on “Braid: A Game Review

  1. Pingback: Articles Galore! « HardWi®ed: [Refresh]

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