Despite not actually being that long ago, it feels like an age since Braid was first released on Xbox Live Arcade in August, 2008. Now just over a year later, the game has since seen releases on PC and Mac, and now it's time for the game to become available to PlayStation 3 owners via the PlayStation Network. In the time that's passed, does Braid still manage to retain its initial charm and complexity?
Players control a man named Tim who is searching for a princess that has been snatched by a monster. Not much is divulged about their history, but Tim wants to try and make amends for something that happened in the past. As players progress through the game, small parts of story are revealed to players at the start of each level, and what initially seems like a simple premise quickly turns into something much deeper. Oddly enough though, the story is actually quite minimal with regards to the game as a whole. It focuses on some pressing issues, but players could miss out altogether if they skip the optional sequences.
Fortunately, the actual gameplay of Braid does make a story pretty circumstantial. The game, of course, features some fairly generic platforming elements such as the role of jumping. However, it's the extensions of this that make Braid an extremely unique experience. By pressing the Square button in conjunction with either L1 or R1, players can wind back time and reverse everything they've done during that stage. This essentially means the player can't die, but frequently dying isn't where the game's challenge appears, it's in the puzzles. Certain objects throughout levels are seemingly unaffected by the time manipulation, and players have to use this to progress through levels.
Later on even more functionality is added to the puzzles, such as the ability to create duplicates. These allow players to repeat actions previously undertaken by creating copies of themselves. It allows the player to effectively work with themselves to solve puzzles. Players are also given a ring which slows down time in a circle around it. The functionality of these various time-changing effects can make for some exceedingly complicated puzzles, and upon finding a way to succeed, there's a great sense of accomplishment. However, there is a sense of irony involved, as most of the puzzles are entirely optional.
The majority of puzzles exist as a way to gain access to jigsaw pieces scattered throughout the world. In order to fully solve a world, all these pieces must be found and then assembled into a 4 x 3 piece jigsaw puzzle on the level-select in each of the rooms. Upon doing this players are awarded with one more world which reveals a bit more story, but again, it will probably leave most players wondering what they actually accomplished as far as Tim's story goes.
Visually the game has quite a unique art style. The music has an equally unique feel, as it is deeply affected by the various time changes. It feels completely dependant on the actions of the player throughout levels. The overall composition of the game feels very 'fairy tale' as the environments and enemies seem hand-picked from this style. It's quite a joy to look at, although there isn't a massive amount of variety when it comes to enemies. Quite a few times players will square off against the same bosses.
Despite its imaginative construction, Braid does have quite a limited replay value. Once players have experienced the full story and obtained all the puzzle pieces, there isn't really anything to do other than doing it all again. Of course obtaining every piece is optional, but not doing so would make for an extremely short experience. There are leader boards available for each of the worlds, and these register how long players took to complete each level, but essentially that is all there is to come back to the game for.
Braid takes a very deep approach to story telling, encouraging players to think more about the actual dialogue as opposed to just spoon feeding it to them. It's compelling and intriguing, and the open-ended nature of the game encourages a new kind of puzzle to solve. The actual gameplay and puzzle solving elements are truly brilliant and it makes the game a joy to play. There are a few slight grievances with regards to the repetitiveness of some elements, but it's a small issue when stacked up against the qualities the game possesses.