Sunday, August 24, 2008

Braid is bold

Microsoft promised to provide hit after hit this summer on the Live Arcade, and so far they have delivered. Geometry Wars 2, Bionic Commando: Rearmed and the upcoming cooperative slugfest Castle Crashers are all worth your hard earned spacebucks (Microsoft points). However, one game seems to stand out above the others. I'm talking about Johnathan Blow's time-bending platformer/puzzler titled Braid.

The game is indeed a platformer at heart, but the real innovation comes in the ability to manipulate time in order to solve puzzles and fix mistakes. Now I know that rewinding time is hardly a new element of video games, but this is not a "Blinx: The Time Sweeper" quality game. Braid does everything well including gorgeous hand-drawn characters and backgrounds along with a wonderful musical score. I've hummed the tune from World 2 for the last several weeks. The story is also a strong point in Braid. The life of Tim and his Princess is surely one that will have you thinking ahead.

Let's get back to the gameplay. The game is pretty much the standard Mario-esqe 2D platformer of yesteryear. A quick jump on an enemies noggin' will take them out. A simple rewinding of time will fix any booboo that Tim might get from a foe. This obviously means that you cannot "die" in Braid, but the solving of puzzles is the focus point here. There is plenty of challenge to be found.

Obviously the manipulation of time is crucial in solving the games puzzles. The real treat is that each world has a different gameplay tool that you must learn. For example, if you rewind time in World 5, a shadow clone of Tim will appear to act out the motions that you had just previously done. You are given a ring in World 6 which will slow everything down in a small radius. The smart implementation of these tools makes it easy to look forward to the start of a new level.

Braid is a hard game to put a length on, mainly because a few of the puzzles could have a gamer stranded for hours. It took me around three hours on my first playthrough for those wondering. The replay value is pretty good for a Live Arcade title, as Braid features a speed run option. The challenge time to beat for the full game is 45 minutes, which is cutting it close.

I strongly recommend Braid to any puzzle/platform loving gamer with an Xbox 360. The title is fairly expensive by Live Arcade standards at 1200 points ($15 US), but is more than worth it. The game will appear later this year on the PC, and I'm also crossing my fingers for an eventual PSN release. Braid is a solid 4.5 buttons out of five.

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