Braid – Review

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Review by: Justin S.

After much procrastination, I’m finally able to add Jonathon Blow’s Braid to my list of completed games. Braid seems almost universally praised, and upon completing the adventure, it’s easy to see what the fuss is all about.

As far as downloadable games go, it’s one of the top in its class. I wouldn’t sell that honor short, because there have been some amazing DLC games this year, including Mega Man 9, World of Goo, Geometry Wars 2 and Lost Winds.

Starting with the looks, the art style is beautiful. As a 2D fan, this artistic representation of a classic 2D side-scroller is stunning. On screen, and in all its high definition glory, Braid plays out like a moving painting. To put it simply, Braid plays like a moving work of art.

Painting or screenshot? It's hard to tell, but this is a screenshot.

It's hard to tell, but this is a screenshot.

But, focusing on its visual elegance would sell the title short. Braid’s story unfolds via various books throughout the game. The books give bits of backstory about Tim, the lead character, and his love of a girl who has escaped him. His goal is to find her, and recapture her love, or so one of the many interpretations of the story goes.

Let’s drop the story stuff for a minute though, because while it’s deceptively thought provoking, there’s an element that I feel brings the mood altogether, and that’s the music. There are a few key design decisions that help piece together a title for better or worse, and music is absolutely one of them. Thankfully, Braid completely delivers, and is one of the most recent examples of a truly excellent soundtrack.

Braid delivers on all fronts, from gameplay to the excellent score.

Braid delivers on all fronts, from gameplay to the excellent score.

The music is arranged at times to make you feel triumphant, at other times to make you aware of the trying adventure ahead, and others, it’s truly depressing. It is classic, elegant, and quite honestly, it’s beautiful. I’ve been an outspoken whiner of mostly forgettable videogame music since the SNES era, but Braid fully delivers with a truly noteworthy selection of tracks.

If you haven’t noticed yet, I haven’t brought up the gameplay at all. That isn’t a knock, and it certainly isn’t a setup for me to segue into a list of cons, but it’s a testament to the overall experience of Braid. It’s a title that transcends the typical “gameplay is everything” train of thought, and blends all elements of gaming, where no one feature seems more important than the other.

Based off screenshots, one might assume Braid is a platformer. It is not. While there are platforming elements, and Blow throws more than a few nods to the eternally classic Super Mario Bros., Braid is a puzzle game. You’re on a quest to collect various pieces to puzzles directly tied to the story. To get these pieces, you’ll have to tap the resources of your brain quite often. Using various forms of time alteration, such as rewinding, fast-forwarding and slowing time down, you’ll often have to manipulate the environments and its creatures to leap to seemingly unreachable heights.

Buy it. Beat it. Love it.

Buy it. Beat it. Love it.

After much delay, it’s nice to finally understand what people have been raving about for so long. As a natural born skeptic, it’s easy to be a doubter, but Braid really is that good. The brilliant ending I’ve heard so much truly is brilliant, if not completely genius.

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