Art begins in imitation and ends in innovation
Release Date: August 06, 2008
Developer: Number None Inc.
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+
Reviewed by: Brian Wray
Innovation – the process of introducing something new. Innovation is the new keyword for the current generation of consoles. Marketing people would have us believe that we are living in privileged time, when innovative games and devices are now growing on trees. In reality innovative games are few and far between. Back in the golden days of arcades, just about every game released was innovative. These games defined just about every gaming genre we know. Today’s games do not innovate as much as they refine these genres. Super Mario Galaxy may have refined platform games a bit, but did nothing to actually advance the genre just as Halo 3 did not bring any real innovation to first person shooters. But every once in a while, we will be caught off guard with a game (such as Portal) that genuinely innovative, that will challenges well established genres. Braid is one such game.
Braid is not innovative in any one particular element. Just as my favourite pizza recipe, Braid is a mixture of tried and proven ingredients. At its root, the game is simply a pinch of platform gaming and a dash of a puzzler. But also similar to my pizza recipe, it’s the combination and mixture of these ingredients that is unique and results in a very innovative title.
In Braid, the gamer takes on the role of Tim. Tim is searching for his Princess. Something happened between Tim and his Princess, although we are never sure what exactly, we just know that Tim is quite sorry over the events that transpired and is resolved to finding his Princess. His quest will not be easy as Tim is very limited in what he can do. Tim has the ability to jump, climb, interact with switches and carry keys, but most importantly he has the ability to modify time.
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The universe of Braid is divided up into several “worlds” each contained in a room in some house (this may or not be Tim’s house for even that is not really clear). In each game world there are puzzle pieces that must be collected if the player wants to unlock the final game world. The puzzle pieces are not very difficult to locate, but most times are impossible for Tim to reach. This is where the gamer must use his/her noggin and figure out how to use the unique time manipulation elements available to Tim in each world to gather the missing puzzle pieces. For example in room 2 - “Time and Forgiveness” (I don’t remember the game having a Room 1), Tim can only rewind time, but in room 5 – “Time and Place”, Tim controls time by moving towards the left or right on the screen. If he moves towards the right of the screen, he will move forward in time, and move back in time when he moves towards the left of the screen (sounds weird but is awesome to see in action). Now imagine having to defeat all the enemies present all over the screen with this time manipulation scheme in place. Each time Tim moves to the left, the enemies that were defeated reappear as time is rewound and Tim must eliminate them once again.
The fact that I wrote a few paragraphs already and have not yet touched on the amazing graphic of this game speaks volumes. In any other game, such visual would take center stage, but not in Braid. It is not the main game or characters that are so spectacular, but the world that these characters interact in. The backdrops look like living paintings. Many times you will find yourself not doing anything, but staring at the gorgeous backdrop as it dances on the screen, enhancing the illusion of a dream. When Tim manipulates time, the background will respond in fashion. It is truly amazing to witness.
I cannot talk about art without mentioning a little something about the music. Just as the art does not overpower the gameplay, neither does the music. In essence the art and music are essential ingredients used in the recipe that is Braid.
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Braid is not perfect, no game is. Braid’s downfall is that the game is rather short and considering the asking price of 1200 MS points, it should have been a bit longer. This fact is aggravated by the lack of any real replay value as once you did figure out how to gather up all puzzle pieces, the game offers little reason to replay the game (there is a time mode unlocked once you complete the game, but this mode actually removes from the cerebral fun of the game). But the game experience is not about quantity, this is about quality and there are very few games that can boast the shear enjoyment value of Braid.
I would recommend this game to everyone. I do not care what style of gamer you are; you have to try out this game. In every generation there is a song or movie that transcends genres, and can be enjoyed by all (just like The Dark Knight is doing so at the box office presently). Braid is such a game.