Braid – Review

braid-box-artwork

Developer: Number None Inc, Hothead Games
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Release Date: Aug 2008

Braid Trailer

Hey, remember in my last review I mentioned I was going to play Braid? And now, here I am reviewing it? That’s continuity! Pretty professional, wouldn’t you say, JOB MARKET? Or are you still annoyed that I don’t think games like Pokemon or Grand Theft Auto are any good? That’s it, isn’t it? That’s why you won’t let me be a brain surgeon, or a fireman. All of these years I always thought it was because of the smell that emanated from my knees.

Braid is one of those games I set out with the intention not to like, not just because everybody else likes it, the number one reason not to like things. But also because at no point did it jump out at me as being very interesting before I played it. I read articles, I saw trailers, I ate crisps (they were nice), but it never appealed to me much. Call me shallow, but the way a game looks is the first thing I notice before I start chatting it up in a bar while keeping my eyes averted from….what was I saying? Looks! It’s fine and pretty and everything, but so is the packaging on most washing detergents. I wouldn’t frame those when I still have the Mona Lisa freshly stolen hanging beside some S Club 7 posters in my bedroom.

The big selling point from what I’d heard was that the ending of this game was supposed to be mind- googly-boogly-blowing, and that sets off all kinds of hateful alarm bells echoing in my over-sized head. Braid, you crafty bastard, I see what you’re up to here! By leaving triple chocolate fudge at the bottom of the ice cream cone, you make players forget that the rest of the experience is just made up of shaving cream! Well you won’t fool me, you can’t M. Night Shyamalan your way out of this! I’ll expose you for what you really are, and make other players remember stuff, and see things, and be generally groundbreaking, and seriously job market, how are you not lapping this up?

You play as an office drone called Tim, which for me is immediately confusing because anytime I can’t remember a character’s name, I call him Tim, which made me think I’d forgotten his name, and thus I looked up his name to find it actually was Tim, which made me think I’d forgotten his name and argghhHHHHH! In any case, Tim is looking for his princess, because that’s what you do with a princess, it’s not like they have kingdoms to rule or anything, and so he is searching to get her back. Why he’s wearing a suit and tie is a little confusing, I can’t imagine that’s suitable attire for all the platforming he does. But then again, Sonic the Hedgehog is completely naked apart from his shoes, so I guess player attire is something just left to monkeys on the development team.

The main maguffin with Braid is the ability to manipulate time, and I immediately predicted that this would be limited to either slowing down time or making it go in reverse. Why can’t a player who manipulates time be someone with a never-ending supply of lethal clocks to throw at his enemies? That counts as time manipulation, and would afford the player a near limitless amount of one-liners such as “TIME to die!” or “It’s MURDER o’ clock!” Anyway, as I started the game, I was satisfied to see that I was right, as always, shortly before the game pulled the rug out from underneath me. I have to admit, Braid uses time manipulation in ways I’ve never seen before (are you happy now, Braid?!). One level in particular I liked has time progress as you walk from left to right, and reverse when you walk from right to left. Mastering the moonwalk on this level causes the entire game to cave in on itself, turns you in a frog and transports you to feudal Japan.

But while Braid has some good ideas, it seems a little afraid to use them, like the living antithesis of George Lucas. The game is divided into five worlds, and each world has a unique time mechanic working through it. But it never mix and matches, and the game is over the very second every idea has been exercised just a little bit. In a way, I’m kind of glad that they took this approach, because whenever I got stuck, the game felt like an encouraging parent waiting patiently for a child to put the square block through the square hole and giving them a jaffa cake and some cheese when they finally succeeded. If it had mixed up the puzzles, I get the distinct impression that the game would have changed from patient guide to irritable dick, kicking aforementioned child in the face for not solving world hunger after being handed a stick and some Marmite.

Even still, the game itself is over far too quickly, I cleared it in about 2 hours, and felt no rampant desire to play it again. There are speed runs of certain levels, but you don’t really gain anything from this as the real meat and potatoes of the game is in puzzle solving, which no one really likes to rush, unless you’re a chess master with no life at all (as opposed to a gamer, we all know how wild and unrestrained their social lives are). The only other reason to replay the game, I’m told, is to make sense of the many books that litter the game worlds. These books have some kind of loose story running through it about Tim’s relationship with the princess, but I stopped caring pretty quickly about the plot as it made almost no sense to me. Besides that, this is a game, made for playing! If I want to read, I’ll pick up one of those old fashioned Kindles that are made of paper!

Now, at this point I should mention that I AM going to ruin the ending to this game, as it was ruined for me long before I played it, and if I suffer, you all suffer. Besides, it’s been out for over 3 years now, if you haven’t heard the ending, you clearly live in some kind of hole where fanboys can’t reach you. I think this hole is called ‘outside’. So the main twist with the game is the fact that the Princess is actually trying to run away from Tim, possibly because he’s a communist, possibly because she’s into older men, but most likely because he is very much the ‘bad guy’. And while the twist itself is sort of intriguing, it is the way it is revealed that blows peoples minds. I won’t ruin that for you because I still have a shred of decency left in me, but only because I absorbed it in a recent bout of cannibalism.

I hate to admit it, but Braid does have a pretty good ending and I suppose it deserves the hype surrounding it. What I don’t like about it is how the rest of the gameplay rarely gets a mention in reviews, general speculation or gaming forums (not that I’ve ever frequented one of those, goodness no, SHUT UP), when it actually stands up pretty well on it’s own. Overall, I had fun with the gamebut it could have done with an extra world or two. I know it’s only €9.99, but I could buy Final Fantasy IX for that price, and that’d last me for weeks, and I’d play through it again because it’s so good.

 As selfish as it sounds, I probably would have rated this a little higher if I’d been the first or only person to play it, because it’s reputation preceded it and not in a good way. Even though I’m sure this isn’t the case, I got the impression that if Braid was a person, it’d be that friend you have who always seems to be doing a little better than you in every respect, who occasionally rubs this in without meaning to, and the fact that they’re so nice to you all the time makes you hate them that much more because you can’t openly say to their face “I wish swift death upon you via an octopus made of fire!”, because then you’re the bastard, and everybody likes Braid, so why would you say that?

Rating: 8/10

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Published in: on December 23, 2012 at 10:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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