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Married Gamers Review: Braid (XBLA)

by Chris Brown

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Braid is an puzzle platform game that will be on the tongues of many video game award presenters later this year.  This may even be a game that may cause some critics to rethink their ‘games as art’ argument.  Braid is a beautiful looking game with it’s soothing music, the ethereal worlds, and pleasant ambiance.  On the face of it, Braid does a lot of the same stuff that popular platformers have done in the past, but there is so much just under the surface that gives the game deep meaning and importance to the games industry.   

Braid’s protagonist Tim is out to find a missing Princess.  To that end, Tim travels to different worlds and solves painting puzzles in his quest for the princess.  Tim begins in World Two which in itself is an indicator that something is awry in the Braid universe.  In this epic adventure, Tim employs time in different ways to capture pieces of a puzzle scattered throughout the six worlds.

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The control scheme for Braid is very easy to learn, however deploying the reverse time features and timing jumps take some enjoyable mastery.  This is not an easy game the first time through, and much of the joy in this game comes when the player solves a particular hard path to attain a painting piece, or successfully assembling a World’s painting.  The level of detail is vitally important to making one’s way through the different worlds.  Knowing how to properly make use of the time feature, knowing when to jump on certain creatures or features can lead to either a giant smile of satisfaction or the anguished groan of frustration.  Thankfully in Braid, the player can not die.  If you make a fatal mistake, simply press the blue skittle (the X button) and rewind time back in the good old days when your character was still very much alive.

The story is to some the weakest portion of Braid, but only if players don’t spend the time reading the dialogue presented in a series of books that open when Tim passes up in the lobby of each of the World.  Braid is a game that teeters on the sublime.  There is a thread in the story that brings players into the interpretation of the ending of the game.  It is a very personal story with a protagonist that reminds me of the fallen heroes of Thomas Hardy or William Faulkner.  Yes, this is a video game that really does meld the universe of entertainment and art destroying the petty debate of whether a downloadable game is worth fifteen dollars. 

It’s not often when I come across a game that makes me think of a video game in literary terms, but Braid is deserving of it.  Barring the use of a walk-through, Braid’s gameplay should keep players happy for several hours.  The achievements are rudimentary but this is a game you’ll play not for gamerscore boosting, but because the game is so compelling.  For this reviewer this is the best game on the Xbox Live Arcade, and stands at the top of my list of favorite game experiences so far this year.

Braid is now available on the Xbox Live Arcade for 1200 Microsoft points and is rated E for Everyone.

Married Gamers Report Card: A

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