I opened the door nervously, and was greeted by a city bright with flames and the figure of Tim, a small man standing in the shadows as the word 'Braid' burned bright in the sky above and faded away. So began my journey in one of the strangest puzzle platformers I have ever played, but boy am I glad I did.
The mechanics of the game are actually pretty straightforward. You run, jump, and most importantly, rewind time in order to collect 12 puzzle pieces from each area of the game. Using the ability to rewind time, you must work out the puzzle to getting each puzzle piece in each portion of the level. Sounds kind of easy, doesn’t it?
It’s really not. Worth noting is that each area of the game also has a different catch to the way you use your powers. For example, after rewinding time in one level, a shade of Tim will reenact whatever actions you just performed while you go about your own tasks, allowing for some clever simultaneous work in order to solve certain puzzles. Another power allows you to slow time in a single specific area, regardless of whether or not you’re actually using your time-spinning capabilities. It’s these alterations to your powers that make the game go from interesting to difficult, with several areas taking me figurative ages to work out. Then again, I’m pretty bad at puzzles.
Above all else, where the game really shines is atmosphere. Never let it be said that a 2-D platformer can’t provide players with an enchanting backdrop, as Braid is one of the most gorgeous games I have ever played. The background is almost constantly moving, with clouds alternately obscuring and revealing towering skyscrapers, castles, backyards, skyscapes… Combined with the melancholy music that runs throughout the game, it’s difficult not to be moved in some way by Tim’s curious game of hide-and-seek with the princess who is always just out of reach. “Your princess is in another castle!” is likely familiar to many already, but the game manages to put a clever spin on the classic phrase as the title goes on, and Tim's interactions with the messenger gradually shift in a surprising way as Braid goes on. It’s a small detail, but one of many that goes a long way in stirring various feelings of remorse and nostalgia in the player as you slowly but surely work your way to the finale.
I’m honestly not sure what sort of person will find Braid most appealing. Fans of puzzle-platformers will feel right at home, but gamers who enjoy a good narrative are just as likely to enjoy this mesmerizing tale, regardless of how they choose to interpret the narrative. Regardless, Braid is a game that slowly works its way into your heart and stays there. It's no wonder this game is still seen as a hallmark indie title, and it's easy to imagine people will continue talking about the game for years to come.